Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Jesse Malin at Coney Island Baby

Raised in Whitestone, New York, Malin gravitated to New York's punk rock scene at age 12. From 1980 to 1984, Malin sang in a hardcore band, Heart Attack, playing CBGB's regularly even though the musicians were only 12 to 16 years old. Four years later, the band split. Malin worked as a gas station attendant, a health food store clerk, and a "man with a van." Malin returned to the stage with the glam-punk band D Generation from 1991 until 1999, and ultimately launched a solo career in 2001. His most recent studio albums, New York Before the War and Outsiders, both were released in 2015.

In October 2018, Malin performed a residency of four Tuesday nights at Coney Island Baby, a rock club he co-owns. He has returned for a residency of three Wednesday nights in January 2019, in which he plays his early solo albums in their entirety. Tonight, on the first of these nights, he and his band (guitarist Derek Cruz, keyboardist Rob Clores, bassist Catherine Popper, and drummer Randy Schrader) performed Malin's first solo album, 2002's The Fine Art of Self Destruction, plus 10 other songs over the course of two hours. Malin engagingly introduced most of the songs with an anecdote describing their origins and situating these insights in the cultural context of the time. Once the music started, however, Malin was a rocket-fueled performer, balancing pure rock and roll energy with heartfelt sensitivity. He ignited the songs by singing passionately, and the band provided the extra power to make the engines blast. The residency continues on January 16 and January 31. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Popa Chubby at the Loft at City Winery

In the Bronx, New York, a 13-year-old Ted Horowitz began playing drums until his parents told him they were too loud. His dad then took him to a Chuck Berry concert, at which point the youth committed himself to playing guitar. Inspired by classic rock and blues guitarists, he started playing in rock bands by age 15. Horowitz's first professional gigs, however, were in the downtown punk rock circuit as a guitarist in a horror-movie inspired show by performance artist Screaming Mad George. In his early twenties, Horowitz also backed punk rock poet Richard Hell. Returning to the blues, Horowitz took on the name Popa Chubby and started the Popa Chubby Band in 1990, which became almost the house band at blues club Manny’s Car Wash. Chubby gained national attention after winning the New Artist of the Year award in a blues talent search sponsored by a public radio station in Long Beach, California, which led to an opening spot at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1992. Since 1994, Popa Chubby has released 26 studio albums, the most recent being 2017's Two Dogs; an anthology entitled Prime Cuts was released on September 21, 2018.

Popa Chubby was an imposing figure at the Loft at City Winery. Fixed to his stool for the entire two-hour performance, Chubby's oversized frame was accented with a shaved head, tattooed arms, a long goatee, and a red bandana that barely tied around his thick neck. To the left of his neck, Chubby's guitar strap displayed a large upright middle finger at the audience. As he started to sing, his husky, soulful vocals were acutely commanding. Then he leaned back from the microphone, grimaced his jaw, closed his eyes, and wailed speedily and fluidly on the strings of his guitar. Original songs and cover songs received similar treatment, flying alternately from clean running guitar melodies to chunks of gritty wah-wah-laden chords. The trio of keyboardist Dave Keyes, bassist Paul Loranger, and drummer Tom Curiano tempered the blues boogie, keeping an eye out for cues from Chubby directing them to lighten or tighten the stride. Chubby's performance did not break new ground, but instead preserved and showcased a species of late-1960s blues rock not often heard anymore. Cubby accomplished this, like much of what he does, in a big and brash manner.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Red Wanting Blue at City Winery

Scott Terry
Born in West Milford, New Jersey, Scott Terry sang in choirs and a cappella groups while growing up in Moorestown, New Jersey. While attending university in 1995 in Athens, Ohio, he formed Red Wanting Blue (also known as RWB). Red Wanting Blue released two albums while the band members were students. After college, the musicians relocated in 1999 to Columbus, Ohio, and began recording and touring full time. Terry is the sole remaining original member of Red Wanting Blue. The band’s current lineup consists of Terry on vocals, ukulele and guitar,  Greg Rahm on guitar, Eric Hall on lap steel and guitar, Mark McCullough on bass, and Dean Anshutz on drums. Red Wanting Blue's 11th studio album, The Wanting, was released on April 27, 2018. Terry currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) held its annual conference in New York shortly after the start of the new year and hosted numerous showcases, some of which were open to the public. One such showcase featured Red Wanting Blue at City Winery. With five artists on the bill, the band performed a shorter set than usual, but nevertheless capably demonstrated the dynamics of a solid rocking heartland band. The band performed eight songs from its more recent catalogue, starting with the newer "High and Dry," in which Terry sang uplifting lyrics in a rich, deep voice: "I want to stand on my own two feet again / And when I mess up / That’s when I hope my friends will pick me up." Overall, the earthy feel-good songs highlighted Terry's rugged, passionate baritone, the band's light melodic arrangements, and a blue-collar sensibility that seemed to say "We are you, and you are we." Maybe that message was an appropriate reminder for the industry professionals attending the performance.

  1. High and Dry
  2. Walking Shoes
  3. I've Got a Feeling It Hurts
  4. Younger Years
  5. Hope on a Rope
  6. My Name Is Death
  7. Finger in the Air
  8. Hitchhiker's Lullaby

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Jimmy & Immy (James Maddock with David Immerglück) at the 11th St. Bar

James Maddock, originally from Countesthorpe, England, sang and played guitar in Fire Next Time in the 1980s and in Wood in the 1990s before going solo and relocating to New York City in 2003. David Immerglück played mandolin, pedal steel guitar, and keyboards with bands in the San Francisco Bay area, including Polymorph, the Mod-L Society, the Ophelias, Camper Van Beethoven and the Monks of Doom in the 1980s and with John Hiatt and Counting Crows in the 1990s. Maddock and Immerglück began performing together as Jimmy & Immy in New York in 2008. The acoustic duo released live albums in 2012 and 2016.

The Jimmy & Immy show at the 11th St. Bar might have been only for those in the know. Both of the musicians have performed in much larger venues, so this informal concert was more like making music for friends in their living rooms. Sitting in chairs, conversing with each other and with audience members between songs, Maddock and  Immerglück did exactly what they enjoyed best. Maddock sang all his favorite songs and played acoustic guitar and harmonica, while Immerglück alternated between acoustic guitar and mandolin. They were accompanied by bassist Drew Mortali.
This set was much more low-key than Maddock's rocking full-band concerts at City Winery, for example. In this sparse setting, Maddock's gravelly voice gave deep texture to his beautiful lyrics, and Immerglück's contributions gracefully added color to the uncluttered arrangements. Like most shows at the 11th St. Bar, admission was free; towards the end of the nearly three-hour performance Maddock circulated the club's tip bucket so the musicians could get paid. They might have earned enough to take a taxi home, but the music they played was priceless.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The 15th Annual New Year's Hank-O-Rama at Coney Island Baby

The Lonesome Prairie Dogs presented the 15th annual New Year’s Hank-O-Rama, New York's longest running musical tribute to Hank Williams, at Coney Island Baby on January 1, 2019. The New York City-based band, led by guitarist/vocalist Steve Strunsky and bassist/vocalist Heidi Lieb, curates the Hank-O-Rama events annually on the anniversary of the country music maverick's death.

Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers interpreted Hank Williams songs for an opening set. After an intermission, the Lonesome Prairie Dogs performed two sets as the house band. Members of the Lonesome Prairie Dogs and local country music artists Travis Whitelaw, Shannon Brown, Monica Falcone, Jack Grace, Cliff Westfall, Tom Clark, Monica Passin, and Lindy Loo Hill sang Williams songs. The Lonesome Prairie Dogs consists of Strunsky, Lieb, lead guitarist Mike Dvorkin, pedal steel player Lenny Kaye, and drummer Jeff Somerstein. Fiddler Greg Holt joined for the evening as he has for the past several Hank-O-Ramas.

Born in Mount Olive, Alabama, Hiram King "Hank" Williams recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that reached the Top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one (three posthumously). He died at age 29 in the back of his Cadillac en route to a New Year’s Day gig in Canton, Ohio, on January 1, 1953. Despite his short life and recording career, Williams is among the most celebrated and influential popular musicians of the 20th century, especially in regards to country music. Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987).

Sean Kershaw & the New Jack Ramblers setlist:
  1. Move It on Over (Hank Williams cover)
  2. Settin' the Woods on Fire (Hank Williams cover)
  3. Honky Tonkin' (Hank Williams cover)
  4. I Won’t Be Home No More (Hank Williams cover)
  5. Lonesome Whistle (Hank Williams cover)
  6. Tear in My Beer (Hank Williams cover)
  7. My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It (Hank Williams cover)
  8. Lovesick Blues (Hank Williams cover)
  9. I’m Satisfied with You (Hank Williams cover)

The Lonesome Prairie Dogs setlist
Set 1:
  1. Lost Highway (Leon Payne cover)
  2. Moanin' the Blues (Hank Williams cover)
  3. I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You) (Hank Williams cover)
  4. The Blues Come Around (Hank Williams cover)
  5. You Win Again (Hank Williams cover, with Travis Whitelaw)
  6. Pills I Took (Those Poor Bastards cover, with Shannon Brown and Travis Whitelaw)
  7. I Want to Live and Love (Hank Williams cover)
  8. Weary Blues From Waitin' (Hank Williams cover, with Monica Falcone)
  9. Cold Cold Heart (Hank Williams cover)
  10. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (Hank Williams cover, with Jack Grace)
  11. You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave) (Hank Williams cover, with Jack Grace)
  12. Alone and Forsaken (Hank Williams cover)
  13. Honky Tonk Blues (Hank Williams cover, with Cliff Westfall)
  14. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams cover)
  15. Mind Your Own Business (Hank Williams cover)
Set 2:
  1. Long Gone Lonesome Blues (Hank Williams cover)
  2. Wedding Bells (Hank Williams cover, with Tom Clark)
  3. Your Cheatin' Heart (Hank Williams cover, with Tom Clark)
  4. Ramblin' Man (Hank Williams cover)
  5. Baby, We're Really in Love (Hank Williams cover, with Monica Passin)
  6. Cold, Cold Morning
  7. Jambalaya (On the Bayou) (Hank Williams cover)
  8. Luke The Drifter (Lenny Kaye cover, with Lenny Kaye)
  9. Kaw-Liga (Hank Williams cover, with Lindy Loo Hill)
  10. Hey Good Lookin' (Hank Williams cover, with Lenny L - karaoke raffle winner)
  11. Family Tradition (Hank Williams, Jr. cover)
  12. I Saw the Light (Hank Williams cover, with all performers)
The Lonesome Prairie Dogs
Lenny Kaye
Greg Holt
Travis Whitelaw
Shannon Brown & Travis Whitelaw
Monica Falcone
Jack Grace
Cliff Westfall
Lenny Kaye & Tom Clark
Monica Passin