Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Amber Corby, The Unwieldies, the Crimson Balladeers and Lydia Loveless - the Dive Bar Mar 25, 2014

The Dive Bar continues to combine quality local talent with cool, up'n'coming touring acts. Unfortunately, many of the nights are during the week - wish that touring acts would give us weekends more often, but such is life!

This evening started with Ms. Amber Corby, a local singer-songwriter who has worked alone and with a band and this evening shared the stage simply with her acoustic guitar. She previewed a number of new songs - getting tips from the back of her guitar once in a while - and some unfamiliarity did show at times. Subject matter varied from "Devil Got Voodoo" to "Perfect Murder" (supposedly taken from a roommates' plot to kill their ex) to pro-women numbers like "Vagina Rock" and "Sex". I think these would benefit from a full band as her guitar playing was a bit tentative at times - but again, that might have been due to the newness of some of the material. She did throw in some interesting, new-wave-ish tendencies in her vocals, giving some uniqueness to the mix. Hope to see her expand on what she has going on here. (Sorry, my camera must have just been waking up - better pix next time!)

Of course, the Unwieldies are always a quality act and tonight they seemed especially good - most likely due to the fact that they have been playing an exceptional number of gigs lately. Opening with Rob pounding his bass for percussion, Danielle's voice takes hold of "Everybody Knows" and captivates "everybody"! Tonight most of the set was from their CD, Let's Grow Old and Strange Together, with great tunes like "Shame", "You Never Bet the Devil", "Veronica", "Haunted" and more. Rob is obviously getting more and more comfortable with his stand-up bass and is becoming more animated all the time (or was that the pre-set whiskey, Rob?) and Jack's violin really adds a terrific, multi-layered dimension to this trio that truly complements the melodies. Tom Waits' "Chocolate Jesus" was thrown in this set and the audience really appreciated this one! Great job all around!

It's been a couple of months since I last saw the Crimson Balladeers and I must say that they've grown by leaps and bounds since then. Of course, it may have been that the previous show didn't have quite the same line-up, as this seems to be another somewhat-revolving group of folks, cemented by lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Ben Hale, acoustic guitarist/singer Erik Alesi and bassist/songwriter Ross Lillebo. Tonight they were joined by a new drummer (Rob) and a fantastic pedal steel guitar player, Joel Ferguson, who tended to steal the show with his wild leads. Ben and Erik provide fine harmony vocals, while Ben and Joel harmonize on their instruments, as they rocked through a set of country-tinged rock and Americana. This set was definitely more energetic than the previous set and the audience loved it all! Really well-written songs (including a couple of covers that I didn't recognize), lots of great playing and dynamics and a female guest singer on a rockin' blues tune. Hope that they will start doing shows more regularly now!

Headlining the night was new country/pop up'n'comer, Lydia Loveless and her band of ragged rockers, including, besides the standard lead, bass and drums, a pedal steel/12-string guitarist, who added some unusual textures. Although she has been hyped as a new country singer, to my ears, this was far more pop, in a Matthew Sweet/Mazzy Star kinda way. Lots of energy and attitude though from the gentlemen behind her, who certainly appear to come from a more punk/alternative/grunge (especially in their fashion sense) background than country or pop. Lydia has a fine voice and well-constructed tunes and everyone does their best to entertain. Good stuff, but definitely don't go looking for a country act - at least in any traditional sense of the word. This quintet is out to break the boundaries of the genre!

Thanks again to the Dive Bar for a highly entertaining night of fun and music!