Friday, February 27, 2009

CR Avery and Friends
The Rivoli
Toronto ON

CR Avery passed through town for a quick hit at The Rivoli last week. He's on his way to France for a tour-by-train in the month of March before he graces Toronto with his prescence again on April 25th, appearing at Hugh's Room.

He was joined onstage by a gaggle of friends, some poets, others musical acts, all artistes.

The show opens with a couple poems from the host of the Toronto Poetry Slam United Brotherhood of Kiwanis B'rith. Or maybe just the moderator of the Thin Book Club; Dave Silverberg. In his 'break the ice' role he left us with a haiku. Gotta respect the haiku as an art form. Less is more.

(Let me digress here and insert my favorite haiku, penned by the Bard of Salford his'self, John Cooper Clarke:

The sweet sounds and slinky red dress of Christina Maria followed. Paired down to just the two girls they dropped three well-received songs on the crowd and made way for Gypsy Eyes, who threw down a beauty that might have been called 'Lost & Unshed Tears', hard to tell, both readings were virgin.

The Undesirables have a more extensive opening set. These road warriors put back an outgoing flight for the pleasure of sharing a bill with CR. For his part CR sat in the first row, fully involved, and didn't miss a minute of their set. It seems the respect is mutual. Nice roots sound to this two-man ensemble. Highlight of their set was a lively version of an original tune, "The Credit River."

White Noise Machine (Mike Smith) closes the first set with a couple new poems...and he only stumbled once.

After a short break Tomy Bewick takes the stage to welcome the crowd to Set 2. The Diseased Disciple his'elf brings a new piece to the mic; the introspective, reflective, Broken Mirrors.
After a brief call out for water he's into his second poem, dedicated to his newborn daughter...or more precisely, the two minutes it took her to come into the world; trepidation, panic, and relief. He nails the moment; "purple, limp..." a roller-coaster ride to purpose.

Soon enough, CR Avery is onstage and warming up with what seems to be a traditional opener, Leadbelly's harmonica driven "Sylvie". A little water indeed.

He follows quickly with a melodious song that might have been called "Like A Train in the Snow."

All worthwhile artists try to push you a little. The interesting one's jerk your chain a bit by calling you in close before they rattle your walls. Jack White's great at this...he'll have you marvelling at his 'by the book' rendition of an old blues tune then take his guitar on a face-clawing solo. CR Avery pulls this off with a soulful version of Lucinda Williams' "Bus To Baton Rouge". It moves effortlessly between a sombre, nostalgic musing and a primal-scream about getting back home.

The sonic level subsides for a spoken-word piece about the coolest cat you'd ever want to meet. No, not Gene Vincent. A smokin' pussy cat.

Still having fun with the audience, CR relates a tale about Anne Murray's lost years, caught in a sapphic fog in East Van, recording a lost album that contained the acerbic "Folk Singer." This song plays like Dylan's "Desolation Row" did the first few times it was heard live. Each verse has you waiting for the closing rhyme, each rhyme leads to laughter. By songs end a good portion of the audience are echoing the chorus.

Toronto rhymestress, Truth Is, steps to the mic for a couple funky, beat driven poems, accompanied on one by CR's street-beat.

The second 'set' opens with a song that would fit into Corky and the Juice Pigs repertoire; it could have been called "Small Town", a tale of growing up in an alternative-lifestyle universe where there is no underground where you can fly your freak-flag.

Tonight's version of "Door By the River" is a 9 minute, audience driven, gospel sing-a-long as CR leaves the stage to whip up the gathered multitude. He's aided by an unknown friend who wails away on the chorus like a Baptist preacher at a New Orleans funeral. CR takes a moment to give a tip of the hat to one of the openers as he drops in this impromptu lyric change: "I'm just a guy in the front row/smilin' ear to ear/ listenin' to the undesirables".

"The Birdcage" is stripped down raw, not what I expected, which, by this point, is what I expected.

The show closes with an ensemble collaboration on "When I'm Gone."

Coulda used another 10 songs but that's just the greedy-ass fan in me talking.

Don't miss this guy when he comes your way.

He respects the art of the show.

Here's the complete set list from the evening...with a few guesses at song/poem titles and some mp3 samples.

Disc 1
Dave Silverberg
T01 Intro
T02 CPR (poem by Derek Brown)
T03 talk - haiku - band intro

Christina Maria
T04 Travel Back In Time
T05 She Will Melt Your Heart(?)
T06 BreakMaker
Gyspy Eyes
T07 Loss & Unshed Tears(?)
T08 That Journey? (Lateef? covered by FatBoy Slim)
The Undesireables
T09 Intro
T10 A Rain Song(?)
T11 The Night Train
T12 talk - jealous rivers
T13 Credit River (fade,edit)
T14 (fade in, incomplete) 2 Days on the 2 Lane(?) (fade,edit)
T15 The Bus Stop Walk
T16 talk
T17 This Town
White Noise Machine
T18 Intro
T19 What If
T20 Job Interview(?)
Set 2
Tomy Bewick
T21 Broken Mirrors
T22 The Longest 2 Minutes/CR Avery Intro

Disc 2
CR Avery
T01 Sylvie (Leadbelly)
T02 Like A Train in the Snow(?)
T03 Bus to Baton Rouge (Lucinda Williams)
T04 We Look Like Our Pets(?)
T05 Folk Singer
Truth Is
T06 Unwritten Love Poem(?)
T07 Questions(?)
CR Avery
T08 Small Town(?)
T09 talk
T10 Door By The River
T11 The Birdcage
T12 talk-heckle East Van Kills
T13 When I'm Gone

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Paul James
Valentines Day Party
Silver Dollar Room
Toronto ON

For two nights last fall Paul James was a guest guitarist on Bob Dylan's NeverEnding Tour. He's been onstage with Bob before...usually for a one-song appearance on a few occasions, though he did do 4 songs in Buffalo in 1999. This time he replaced a guitarist from Dylan's Cowboy Band for 5 songs. Those were the 10 most enjoyable songs I've heard from Bob's stage since Freddy Koella left the tour in 2004. He absolutely lit a spark under the band.

Too bad that experiment ended.

On the upside, James graces the stage at the Silver Dollar Room on a regular basis. This past weekend he held a party for all the ladies and my better-half and I were treated to an enjoyable evening of blues and rock.

He's a Canadian blues icon...which is not unlike being the best hockey player in doesn't get you a lot of press. He's backed the likes of Willie DeVille and Bo Diddley, garnered the respect of John Hammond and Bob Dylan, so ain't no one here going to question his credentials.

Had a moment to chat with him before the show and during the break in sets. He seemed genuinely humbled by my observations of his effect on Dylan's band. Extra interested in the Freddy Koella note as he asked if I knew what he was up to these days. Seems he worked with him at Montreaux in 1992. Small blue world, I guess.

James brings a lot of energy to the stage. He has a preferred move of playing the guitar behind his head while doing a dervish across the stage. Had he done this just once during the fall Dylan stand he'd be a legend in that online community.

During a 9 minute version of Nadine he ventured into the crowd, made his way to the bar, drank a beer while playing with one hand and closed with a bottle-neck slide exhibition. (It was while performing this stunt at the Nag's Head Tavern in 1986 that he found himself beside Bob Dylan...who joined him onstage. ) A crowd pleaser. Can't be a much higher accolade for a musician.

Here's the set list and some mp3 samples:

Disc 1

Track 01 Mean and Evil (Elmore James)
Track 02 Pickin' the Blues (Inst, Elmore James)
Track 03 Gotta Gimme Me Some Of It (Paul James)
Track 04 The Last Clean Shirt (Leiber/Stoller)
Track 05 Up On The Roof (Goffin/King)
Track 06 Good Old Rock N Roll (Paul James)
Track 07 The Blues Walk In (Paul James)
Track 08 Oh ! Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison)
Track 09 Around and Around (Chuck Berry)
Track 10 Lost in the Blues (Paul James)
Ben E King Medley
Track 11 Stand By Me (Leiber/Stoller)/Save the Last Dance (Pomus/Shuman)/Under the Boardwalk (Young/Resnick)
Track 12 Little Girl (Paul James)
Track 13 Nadine (Chuck Berry)
Track 14 Instr Outro/Band Intro

Disc 2

Track 01 Suzette (Paul James)
Track 02 Carol (Chuck Berry)
Everley Bros Medley w/ guest backing vocals from Sweet Sue(T3,4,5)
Track 03 All I Have To Do Is Dream (Bryant/Bryant)
Track 04 Bye Bye Love (Bryant/Bryant)
Track 05 Cathy's Clown (Everley Bros)
Track 06 Sweet Virginia (Jagger/Richards)
Track 07 It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Dylan)
Track 08 Crazy Little Baby (Paul James)
Track 09 talk- Bo Diddley
Track 10 Ugliest Girl In Town/Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley/Paul James)
Track 11 Red Hot Mamma (Paul James)
Track 12 Be Bop A Lulu (Gene Vincent)
Track 13 Bye Bye Johnny/Outro (Chuck Berry)