Saturday, March 16, 2013

Maria's Benefit Baby Shower @ the High Note Cafe (3/10/13)

I found out about this show a couple of weeks before it happened.  As soon as I did, I marked it down on the calendar.  Local musician Dale Cavanaugh had set up this deal to help out Maria Bahruth, who owns the High Note Cafe and is expecting twins.  As a big fan of the High Note Cafe--they serve good food and host good musicians--I wanted to show my support in my own small way.

I got to the High Note at about 3:45 pm.  There were only eight people when I arrived, but that was okay--plenty of folks came and went over the five hours that I spent there.  I sat in the back, did my best not to drink too much of the free Red Chair and watched Maria Bahruth walk around serving food and chatting with the customers.  Man, what a trooper.

Musicians I saw:

Kayleigh Jack: Aside from last year's Leonard Cohen Birthday Bash at the Record Exchange, I'd never seen her play solo before.  She'd definitely be worth seeing again.  Her sultry, bluesy voice did right by both her well-schooled originals and her sharp covers (who woulda thought that Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" would make such a great bluegrass song?).  Nice little moment: when her brother called in the middle of her set, Kayleigh Jack answered, set the phone on the music stand and kept singing.  Just hope she has weekend minutes.

James Coberly Smith and LeeAnn Town: I'd wanted to see this duo for a while.  Smith has an interesting history, and he's been doing commendable work with his TVCTV show Boise Song Talk (check it out here).  As it turned out, he's not too shabby a songwriter himself: funny, tender, spunky, political in an agreeably strident way.  His smooth, slightly nasal baritone knew how to handle the songs too.  Meanwhile, Town's gorgeous harmonies called to mind Emmylou Harris, and her terse guitar solos called to mind Don Rich or Ron Wood.  She had some songwriting chops as well: her bluesy "Dirt," which mixed gardening with geopolitical conflict, earned some whoops and hollers from the crowd.

Lee Penn Sky: I'd figured he had more good songs than the one he played at that Idaho Songwriters Open Mic.  He proved me right.  Given the circumstances, the heartwarmer that he wrote after learning that his wife was expecting their first kid was especially appropriate (the number of families in the crowd at that point made me smile).  Penn Sky's gritty, rich baritone and good sense of rhythm did nicely by John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" too.  This set also featured Kayleigh Jack on fiddle and harmonies on a couple of numbers.

Dale Cavanaugh: Seeing as how he'd organized this show, I might've given him a pass even if he'd played a whole set of Barry Manilow covers.  His set of John Prine covers worked much, much better for me, though.    I appreciated his dedicating "Please Don't Bury Me" to all organ donors, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I sang along to "Illegal Smile."

Whitaker and Oliver: Glad I wasn't too hyperbolic in my last write-up on this duo.  Mary Beth Whitaker's warm, lustrous voice reminded me once again of Sandy Denny or Joan Baez.  I can't recall Denny or Baez sounding sexy, however, and on a couple of jazzy, insouciant numbers, Whitaker most certainly did.  Meanwhile, Scot Oliver's finely weathered croon and deft, elegant guitar work held up his end of the deal.  Their originals sounded just fine next to their beautiful Bob Dylan and Mindy Smith covers.

Johnny Shoes: This gentleman's dry, friendly vocals and sly, detailed, lived-in songs both sounded in fine form.    I especially liked "Whisper in the Wind," a number about the past and present of Idaho that called to mind Carl Sandburg if not Walt Whitman.  You'll get a chance to hear it soon enough: Johnny Shoes told the crowd that "Whisper" had made it onto the upcoming Boise 150 song compliation.

You can find info on these artists and the High Note Cafe on Facebook and elsewhere online.

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