Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Calley Bliss and Angie Gillis @ the Sapphire Room (Riverside Hotel) (5/25/13)

I would've liked to have attended this year's Ranch Fest, but I needed to stay around Boise this past weekend.  One of my oldest friends graduated from BSU, and no way in hell was I gonna miss his celebration party.  It worked out well overall: the party was fun times (the morning after, not as much), and the open spot in my Saturday schedule gave me the chance to check out this Idaho Songwriters Association show.

There were about thirty-five people in the Sapphire Room when I arrived.  The official count of the evening was ninety, a number that my own count bore out.  Very respectable.

Local musician Angie Gillis opened the show.  If you've seen her tending bar at the Red Room, you know that this is one smart, tough dame (got good taste in music too: I remember her putting on Exile On Main St. one night).  Anyway, I was glad to find that these qualities carried over into her music.  Her breathy vocals may have reminded some of my indie-centric brethren of Cat Power, but her plainspoken, no-bullsh*t lyrics were much closer to Loretta Lynn or Miranda Lambert.  And actually, her singing had plenty of spunk in it too: on one number, she adopted a nice, sarcastically girly screech to emphasize the middle finger that she was giving some guy stupid enough to tell her how a woman should behave.  Gillis came off as a little nervous--she had to turn away from the relatives sitting up front at one point--but her voice, words, solid country tunes and good sense of rhythm still earned some loud cheers and whistles from the crowd (and not just her family either).

Up next was Calley Bliss.  With her polished jazz-pop tunes and yearning, thoughtful lyrics, Bliss went down much smoother than Gillis did.  She had her share of piss and vinegar, though: she capped off her first set with a sweetly, sensibly strident anti-Monsanto number ("Let's bankrupt those suckers.").  The populist in me also appreciated the opening sing-along of U2's "MLK" (Bliss thoughtfully provided the lyrics on slips of paper) and the guest spots that she gave her music students (she wasn't just being nice; some of those kids could play).  But whatever your feelings about her politics, her vocals could not be denied.  Warm, strong, low and lustrous, Bliss's voice may not be the most beautiful that I've ever heard, but it's definitely in the ninetieth percentile.  Throughout, bassist Tom Jensen and pianist Dustin Wilson provided sensitive support.  It's just a shame that I found out about her so late--she'll be moving to New York soon.

You can find info on Calley Bliss on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Rich O'Hara, Martha Hopper and the Idaho Songwriters Association.  If you like what you've read and would like to help keep it going, click the yellow "Give" button and donate whatever you can.  Even $5 would help.

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