Live Review: John Doe @ Jammin’ Java — 6/14/22

John Doe
John Doe (Photo by Jim Herrington)

In its review of his new album, Fables in a Foreign Land, the site Allmusic praised John Doe for having one of the finest voices in roots music. John’s fine singing voice was on full display when he appeared on Tuesday night at Jammin’ Java with his folk trio, playing songs from that new album, along with old favorites from his solo catalog, hits from his band X, and an eclectic collection of covers that absolutely worked even if you might not have pictured a stalwart of the punk scene performing them.

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Live Review: Jesse Malin @ The Hamilton Live — 6/11/22


Jesse Malin (Photo courtesy Partisan Arts PR)

Punk was a reaction to the increasingly sophisticated nature of rock music, especially the rise of progressive rock in the early ’70s. Punk stripped rock music backed down to its bare essentials, to a fast, hard-charging, guitar-based attack.

It’s not surprising then, that Jesse Malin, who grew up in the NYC hardcore band Heart Attack and later fronted D Generation, later turned to roots rock, becoming widely respected figure and working with luminaries like Lucinda Williams and Bruce Springsteen. Even though Jesse is in his early 50s, he’s still full of fire, and he put a ton of energy into his performance at The Hamilton Live recently, even climbing on tables and chairs to work up the crowd.

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Live Review: Bonnie Raitt w/ Lucinda Williams @ Wolf Trap — 6/10/22

Bonnie Raitt (Photo by Susan Weiand)

I don’t normally begin a show review by talking about an opener rather than the headliner, but I’m going to break from precedent and start this blog by talking about Lucinda Williams’s opening set for Bonnie Raitt at Wolf Trap on Friday.

In the evening’s most emotional moment — and it was an evening full of emotional moments — the crowd rose and gave her a standing ovation when she explained she wasn’t playing guitar because she had survived a stroke late last year. Her band included an additional guitarist to cover those parts, and she had some assistance with with taking and leaving the stage, but she stood, strong and proud, for the entirety of her roughly hour-long set.

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Live Review: Mary Gauthier w/ Jaimee Harris @ Jammin Java — 6/8/22


Mary Gauthier (Photo by Chad Cochran)

Introducing “I Drink” during her recent set at Jammin’ Java, Mary Gauthier shared that she’s now been sober for 32 years.

Five years into sobriety, she started writing songs. At the time, she was a chef with a southern restaurant in Boston, southern the cuisine of her native Louisiana. As unpredictable and boom-and-bust as the restaurant business can be, the music business can be an even more difficult way to make a life.

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Live Review: Daniel Romano’s Outfit @ DC9 — 6/2/22

Daniel Romano’s Outfit (Photo courtesy the band)

Prolific Canadian singer-songwriter Daniel Romano has one of the most interesting, eclectic careers in the music business. Although he’s not yet even 40 years old, he already tackled more styles and genres than most musicians have over the courses of their career. Between his frequent solo releases and his side projects, getting a complete, accurate picture of his extensive discography can prove difficult. (It took no small amount of time to research his setlist after his recent show at DC9.)

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Live Review: Anders Osborne and Jackie Greene @ The Hamilton Live — 5/27/22

Anders Osborne (Photo by Brandt Vicknair)

Anders Osborne cuts a unique figure on the musical scene. A native of Sweden, the longtime resident of New Orleans has become a fixture and even an elder statesman of that city’s music scene. As a performer, his own musical stylings hew strongly to the blues and R&B of his adopted city, with connections to the related jam band scene. (He often plays with Luther and Cody Dickinson’s Hill Country blues-meets-band jam band, The North Mississippi Allstars, as North Mississippi Osborne.)

As a songwriter — which has been, throughout his career, his principal employment — his greatest success has come through the Nashville country music establishment, where he was employed for decades as a staff songwriter, and commuted between the cities. In 2003, Tim McGraw’s cover of his “Watch The Wind Go By” reached number on the country charts.

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Live Review: Rodney Crowell @ The Birchmere — 5/20/22

Rodney Crowell performs at The Birchmere, Alexandria, Virginia, May 20, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Rodney Crowell came to Nashville from his native Houston 50 years ago, apprenticing himself himself to master songwriter Guy Clark. In the five decades since, he’s written songs for Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Bob Seger, and Rosanne Cash, to just rattle off a few very partial list of the folks who’ve covered his songs.

In addition to his solo records, he worked as a rhythm guitarist and backed vocalist in Emmylou’s band in the late ’70s, and the duo reunited in the middle of last decade for a pair of albums that each won the Grammy Award for Best American Roots Album. In 2004, he reunited for a well-received collaborative project with old friend Vince Gill, The Notorious Cherry Bombs. All this is to say, Rodney and his band played for more than 2 hours at The Birchmere recently, and there wasn’t a weak song in the set. As long and wide-ranging as the evening’s setlist was, Rodney could easily have added even more of his songs without diluting the quality of the material.

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Live Review: Chris Smither and Eilen Jewell @ The Hamilton Live — 5/15/22

Chris Smither (Photo by Jeff Fasano)

On the 2014 album A Link of Chain: A Songwriters’ Tribute To Chris Smither, a number of artists who have been influenced by Chris’s music cover his songs. Among them was folk-blues enchantress Eilen Jewell. It only made sense for the two of them to appear together on a double bill at The Hamilton Live recently, giving the audience a wonderfully intimate evening of songs and stories.

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Live Review: Carsie Blanton w/ Lilli Lewis @ The Birchmere — 5/11/22

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Carsie Blanton (Photo courtesy Fleming Artists)

Carsie Blanton grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, and she came to The Birchmere many times as a teenager. Since becoming a professional musician, she’s played the venue several times in an opening slot, beginning with a performance with the late Leon Redbone. Carise recently headlined the historic Northern Virginia venue for the first time.

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Live Review: Eli “Paperboy” Reed @ The Hamilton Live — 5/6/22

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Eli “Paperboy” Reed performs at The Hamilton Live in DC on May 6, 2022. (Photo by Ari Strauss)

If you go back in the history of roots music, you’ll find that genres that are harshly separated today were not so clearly distinct in an earlier time. Up to the ’50s and ’60s, country and folk were closely tied to blues, and the word often appeared in the title of country songs. In the late ’60s and ’70s, there was a distinct overlap between country and the burgeoning genre of soul music, centered on Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. (For a fascinating, book-length study of this, see Charles Hughes’ excellent Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South.)

Eli “Paperboy” Reed has dedicated his career to vintage soul sounds, but as he showed in his performance at The Hamilton Live recently, he’s a fan of old-school country, too.

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