Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Idaho Songwriters Association Open Mic @ the Gamekeeper Lounge; The Thomas Paul Band @ Neurolux (12/18/12)

I wound up being much busier this night than I'd planned initially.  I'd already marked down the Matthew E. White/Thomas Paul show at Neurolux on my calendar when I caught wind of a show set up by the Idaho Songwriters Association.  I'd been eager to check out something by this organization for a while--they tap into a part of the music scene around these parts that doesn't seem to get as much attention as the younger bands do.  When I heard that folk legend Rosalie Sorrels was going to drop by and play a little, that clinched it.

I counted a little over forty people when I arrived at the Gamekeeper Lounge.  Unfortunately, Rosalie Sorrels didn't make it down: I overheard some folks saying that she got snowed in and couldn't make the drive to Boise.  That was too bad, but the eleven musicians that I did see didn't leave me with much reason to complain.

Musicians Who Played:

Steve Eaton--The ISA's head honcho kicked off the proceedings with a pretty decent song about loving your fellow man (he'd started thinking about it, he said, because of the school shooting in Connecticut).  He also talked about how he and other musicians had set up the ISA because they'd grown tired of trying to play over bar chatter.  That's something I can readily sympathize with (I've written more than once about wishing that audiences would stop talking during shows).

Bob Kohnke (with Don Cunningham)--This gentleman's strong, straight-ahead vocals, sly harmonica and sharp original blues tune went over very nicely.

Zack Tyr--I knew I was gonna like this guy when he said that he'd come down to see how many people he could piss off.  However, no one seemed offended by his uproarious put-down of Tim Tebow entitled "Jesus Loves Me Better Than He Loves You."  Quite the opposite, in fact.

Johnny Shoes--A last-minute addition to the list (someone else had signed up but hadn't shown up).  He played a pretty good Merle Haggard-esque original about the true holiday spirit (no b.s. commercialism, caring for the less fortunate, etc.).  Not sure what was up with the bandage on his left hand, though.  Hope it's okay.

Bill Rector--This gentleman's pleasantly jazzy tune and funny, oddball lyrics got some support from a whistle/mouth-trumpet solo courtesy of Steve Eaton.

Monelle Smith--With her warm, low voice, I'd have listened to this lady sing the menu.  Her driving, minor-key tune sounded much better than the menu, however.  It also added a nice touch of rock to the proceedings.

Casey Russell--He was most likely right: you probably won't hear his Christmas song about Santa Claus eating Viagra-laced cookies on the radio.  That made me even happier to hear it here.

Mike Cramer--In addition to running the soundboard for most of the time that I was there, this gentleman got to show off his rich, sonorous baritone and a smart, slightly off-kilter tune about a ladies' man going to seed.  Title: "Throwin' Noodles at a Wall."

Dave Starr--His sprechgesang sounded a little creaky, and his song about Kent State shooting victim Allison Krause could've used some trimming (though admittedly, most any song on this topic will probably sound prolix next to "Ohio").  Still, you had to give the man points for having his heart in the right place.

Lee Penn Sky--I've known about this guy for a while, and I'm glad that I finally get a chance to write a little about him.  His rich, soulful baritone, clipped strumming, Dylanesque harmonica and greedhead-bashing lyrics went over very well indeed.

Pat Folkner--Before he played, I overheard Lee Penn Sky insisting that he did NOT want to follow this lady.  A wise move: Folkner's tender, gorgeous voice and detailed, devastating Civil War-themed ballad could've put Joan Baez to shame.  Truly stunning.

Tim Swanson (with Lou Armstrong)--Poor guy: his first time out here and he had to follow Pat Folkner.  He managed just fine, though, with his catchy number about kissing off an ex.  Lou Armstrong's slick fills and soloing helped too.

Kristina Liming--She was pretty nervous--in addition to playing her first gig ever, she was playing her first song ever.  However, between her smart lyrics, memorable melody and breathy, quietly aching singing, she acquitted herself in fine style.  Hope she keeps it up.

Wilson Roberts--This gentleman has been around for a while--he and Steve Eaton chatted about playing gigs together for twenty-five years.  It surprised me, then, that I hadn't heard his ultra-catchy tune about a good woman's love giving him strength a million times before.  Damn impressive.

Part of me wanted to stay longer, but I'd made arrangements to see the Neurolux show and didn't want to miss it.  I'd found out earlier in the day that Matthew E. White had cancelled, but Thomas Paul was the man I really wanted to see anyway.  Paul's solo acoustic version of "Waiting for the Miracle" at the Record Exchange's Leonard Cohen Birthday Bash had blown me away, and I wanted to check him out with a full band.

I counted about sixteen or seventeen people when I got there.  The crowd would build to a respectable enough thirty-plus by the time that the Thomas Paul Band played their second set.  A big chunk of the audience seemed to be there to support Thomas Paul's bassist, Bob Nagel.  Use your friends wisely, that's what I always say.

The Thomas Paul Band took the stage around 9 pm.  Between Bob Nagel's fluid, Claypool-worthy basslines (the man was wearing a Primus shirt), Louis McFarland's muscular drumming and his own clean, wiry guitar and thoughtful, soulful croon, Paul sounded as impressive with a band as he did solo.  They powered through two sets--the second of which featured Boise Philarmonic flutist Jeffrey Barker and was broadcast on Radio Boise--with a winning mix of jazz, blues, funk and country.  The crowd spent most of both sets in their seats, but they cheered warmly.  Pretty good stuff.  Definitely wouldn't mind seeing this group again.

You can find info on the Thomas Paul Band and the Idaho Songwriters Association on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

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