In the last concert of the 2011 season, Micah and Jean-Paul Vest’s Last Charge of the Light Horse played at the Deepwells’ Mansion for Acoustic Long Island. The night started off with an over the top comedic spoof on the new I-phone apps, revealing a side of the host Dave Dircks that proved he’s ready for prime time standup.
Micah, a young performer, with a wonderful rich voice and an affable style performed the first set with charm and poise. His songs very quickly, while covering the themes of romance, lost love and regret, all seemed to blend into one another indistinguishably. There were none of the highs and the lows that you would expect from a musician who truly does have a voice, a rarity in the folk world. Yet instead of using the full range of what is undoubtedly there, he often sang at the top of his register as if to authenticate emotion, rather than take us on a musical emotional roller coaster ride. His rendition of Killing me Softly probably gave the first clear indication of what he could do with a song even though who can top Roberta Flack. His final song, coauthored with his college roommate was more textured which made me wonder if collaborating might lift him out of a musical rut where he can chart new territory and reach a wider more deserving audience.
Jean-Paul Vest’s Last Charge of the Light Horse brought to Acoustic Long Island one of the best shows in a long time. I don’t know why I thought of Lou Reed sings Tim Buckley or if the comparison is apt, but it stuck with me. Jean-Paul Vest is one of the more intelligent song writers out there. He has the poet’s true gift of turning the mundane, the ordinary, the daily ups and downs of life that we all face and transforming them into heartfelt songs. An ATM machine, the automobile, New Years Eve, all instantly become poetic images and iconography that resonate for the listener in a manner that only a gifted artist’s brush can accomplish. Jean-Paul Vest has a rich palette from which to draw which is contrasted, almost ironically, by his monochromatic singing style. I wondered at times if his bassist, who joined in occasionally could have added more detailed harmonic richness. Regardless, the band was top notch, totally in sync with each other and with Jean-Paul Vest looking like a cross between Buddy Holly and James Dean. The music was driving and exhilarating. Instantly, the audience was transported into a better place through lyrics that were consistently rich and haunting, self-reflective and honest. Each song honored the daily human struggle that wears us down in our pedestrian lives, but which are desperately in need of recognition and edification. Songs like Get Away Car and The Second Time Around and The New Year all deserve second and third listens because there is something to be learned not only about the artist, but about yourself.