Saturday, August 13, 2011

08/12/11 The Grand Slambovians

The Grand Slambovians came to Hechscher Park. They are compared to Pink Floyd, but maybe on bad-acid. They’re called hillbilly, but I didn’t hear that. Their costuming, at best is hillbilly bohemian. Joziah Longo, lead singer, heart and soul of the band, while well intentioned in his songwriting skills, was uninspirational as a singer. Their lead guitarist Sharkey McEwen was fiery and inventive, playing some wild earsplitting slide guitar, but never with any memorable riffs. Tony Zuzulo their drummer was equally frenetic almost in the style of The Who’s Keith Moon. Tink Lloyd, who lingered in the background and played accordion and cello, was barely a presence on stage. If nothing else, the band is honest and homespun. They bring intensity and a refreshing self-effacement to the stage even as they attempt to win you over with their energy and the outrageousness. The best comparison for me was to the Ramones, but without the nihilism. Sadly, when it was over, I couldn’t remember a single song, or a single riff that I might want to revisit. For an audience who wants to scream and yell and have an excuse to let their hair down while being bathed in unrelenting noise that never quite crystallizes into a song, this is the group for you. For me, they’re not going to make it to my I-pod.

Monday, August 8, 2011

08/05/11 Little Toby Walker

Little Toby Walker performed in the parking lot of the Hauppauge Library. He didn’t miss a beat. From the moment Toby Walker stepped on stage his fiery fingers began working that guitar—an old Gibson, an American steel, and a twelve string to be exact—as he took us up and down the Delta through the South along highway 66 and up into Chicago, playing Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and more, while also educating us like John Lomax once did, and mesmerizing us with his personal inventiveness (it’s never just Muddy Waters, but Muddy played Toby style) and entertaining us with his personal stories that invariably lean playfully toward double entendre. Little Toby Walker is a Long Island treasure, now living in New Jersey. What makes Toby so interesting and electrifying as a performer is that he’s the whole deal: all ten fingers are moving, the thumb acting as the bass, the index, middle and ring fingers as rhythm and lead, while his left hand is using every fret to perfection, playing the blues or slide guitar, so that if you closed your eyes you’d think there was a full band in session and not the one and only Toby Walker.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

08/03/11 Emi Meyer & Adam Levy

Emi Meyer, a singer-songwriter came to Deepwells to perform her jazz compositions for Acoustic Long Island. Emi, a tall willowy understated performer was simply radiant onstage seated behind a Yamaha digital piano. Her voice was mellifluous. Her phrasing captured all the essential elements of jazz performers that have preceded her. Her piano playing was very much in the jazz tradition. Each of her songs are intelligently designed and well crafted. Yet it was one particular song that she co-wrote regarding the mean streets of New York that really connected with her audience. It’s difficult for a performer to do both interesting things on the piano and with her voice at the same time, either one or the other must be subordinated, but I had a sense that if she were to let go of the piano, walk up to the mike and really belt one out that she would reach that wow level that lingers in the background of every one of her songs. The fact that she is multilingual and sings as beautifully in both Japanese and English positions her to be a true crossover artist in a multicultural world. She has a great future ahead of her.

Adam Levy comes from a storied background of having written for and performed with Nora Jones. His minimalist guitar playing was thankfully augmented by his accompanist, an inspired slide guitarist. His songs are highly introspective and personal. His tender song, Promised Land, an ode to his grandma Jenny, a closeted singer-performer piano player, got the greatest applause. No Dancing, a song about a New York bar that had been recently closed down due to complaints from a testy unreasonable neighbor who detested bars and dancing captured the comic-tragic nature of any business trying to prosper in New York. His song The Heart Collector, that seemed to channel Tom Waits, captured the dark undercurrent of all the broken hearted that people that litter the landscape. A native Californian, he gave voice to the natural beauty of that state that has always represented the last frontier in America in A Promise to California. Given the long list of accomplished performers that Adam Levy has worked with over the years, he is more songwriter than singer-song writer. But that’s fine. Anyone who can make a living in the music business can count himself among the lucky elite.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

07/31/11 The Refugees

The Refugees, a female trio, composed of Cindy Bullens, Deborah Holland, and Wendy Waldman, performed in Hechscher Park on Sunday on the Chapin Rainbow Stage. The three, who brag about having reached middle age, each have a pedigree that any young performer would die for, including working, writing and recording for such luminaries as Vanessa Williams, Elton John, Animal Logic and the Dixie Chicks. Together, with nothing to prove and nothing to lose, they bring to the stage a relaxed professional energy, wonderful harmonies and beautiful songs that showcase their talents collectively and individually. However, their relaxed exchanges on stage come as a two edged sword: the audience loves to know about the performers, but the one minute rule should apply. Anything beyond that becomes fingernails on a blackboard and detracts from their performance. While each song was professionally orchestrated and their harmonies perfectly in sync, almost hand in glove, I wished that they pushed the limits on harmony as the Roche sisters do so inventively or the Dixie Chicks do when they layer sound, because all the gifts and the talent are there to take their songs to the next level. This is a fun trio to see. Talent abounds. Energy is infectious. The music keeps on coming without a single false note.