Live Gig ShotsIf ever a woman personified some of the lyrics to Billy Joel's “She's Always a Woman” I would say it would be Carsie Blanton on stage (and undoubtedly offstage as well). She's been described as “affable and brash”: By her own admission, she falls in and out of love easily and often (and yet her songs about break ups lack some of the depressing, “my life is over” tone of many lost-love songs). She works hard at not being pigeon-holed into a single genre of music because, as she puts it “I think making music is like making love: if you only know one way to do it, you must not be very good at it. ”
Above all else, while she takes her music seriously, she doesn't take herself so seriously that she comes across as pretentious. That, gentle readers, makes the whole experience of seeing Carsie Blanton on stage all the more enjoyable. Just Carsie and her Gibson ES-320 accompanied by Joseph Plowman on upright bass was the sort of minimalist setting to let her voice and her lyrics shine.
(With apologies) experiencing Carsie in concert is akin to the “Ogres are like onions” analogy from “Shrek”. Her banter and backstory for her songs comes across as though she is a Party Girl who just wants her life to go from one fun time to the next, without giving a s*** about what happens. Then when you really listen to her lyrics (which I found refreshingly simple yet thought-provoking) you realize that between the parties, she thinks a lot about what life has to offer, and what she can learn from the fun times. She really does give a s***.
Carsie mixes genres constantly, and it's good that she does. Sounding like she's channeling Bonnie Raitt, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and others (depending on the song), her vocal versatility doesn't overshadow the intelligence of her lyrics. Even the title track from her latest album, “So Ferocious” reflects a mind and personality that looks at life and says “I can be sweet and tough at the same time.” when other people think it has to be an either/or proposition.
Perhaps that's why there is a hint of irony in what Carsie offers. She has a lovely, lilting “little girl” sort of voice that leaves you unprepared to hear lyrics like
“I guess your mama didn’t raise you right
and you wanna take it out on me
you’re just a bully lookin for a fight
but you didn’t know that I could be
SO FEROCIOUS! “
But then her heart and insight come into play,
“cus the stuff that makes you strong
ain’t what you take - it’s what you give!”
That line pretty much sums up what Carsie Blanton is like in concert: she gives stuff that shows how strong she is, and a lot of it.
Live Gig ShotsThe bio page for The Giving Tree Band speaks of instruments calibrated to sacred tunings and a “new age outlaw sound”. So what exactly does that mean when seeing them in concert? Well, you hear elements of:
The Band, The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Blue Oyster Cult, Yes, Bruce Springsteen, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Giorgio Morodor, Genesis, The Byrds, Willie Nelson, The Eagles, Gram Parsons, Woody Guthrie, Cream, The Highwaymen, ...and... there's even a touch of Garth Brooks, The Rolling Stones The Allman Brothers and...oh hell I lost track anyway.
Let's just say this quintet from Illinois should be listed as a definition of “eclectic”.
And that is very, very good in the way they do it. Which is, free of cliches and forced or contrived combinations of musical or lyrical elements that broadcasts “We're trying to be different because we aren't good enough to succeed otherwise”. These guys know how to take what they like of music from several decades and weave it all together in a way that left me thinking “What the heck DID I just hear” in a very enjoyable way.
That's the thing: The Giving Tree Band in concert is a lot of fun. You'd think a band with a website that talks about sacred tunings and positive vibrations would be a bit more, shall we say, sober-minded in their stage presence. Nope. The Brothers Fink, (E and Todd) Norm Norman, Charlie Karls and “Z” want their concerts to be a party. A positive, hippylovepeaceandharmony party, but a party nonetheless.
That's the sort of music they offered up, and that's the response the audience had.
The first set was pretty much straight forward 70ish sounding folk/rock with the above mentioned The Band, The Dead and OMD edge to it. Then things took a definite turn at the beginning of the second set as they started out with a new age, cosmic high sounding intro and first number, with swirly effects on keyboard and guitar and no real beat to speak of. Then things started rocking again.
Then there was the hula hoop. (I told you these guys like to party.) By the time she graced the stage with her winsome, sexy and dazzling moves, it was a “normal” part of the show. Or maybe a different show, merged together with the main show. Then there was the acoustic set, pretending to be an encore when in reality it was a fine, short set all on its own.
The sound man and some of the regulars in the audience all said it was one of the best shows they've ever seen at CSPS Hall. I have to agree. It made me think of a sort of “Mini-Woodstock” condensed into a single night with a single band. I'm looking forward to reliving the experience when the Giving Tree Band returns.
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So many beautiful photographs coming your way soon! Stay tuned for articles + photo galleries of Wanderlust & Frendly Gathering via Live Gig Shots | Here's a little sneak pe^k, because I can't wait! 1,300 photos to sift! Also, be on the lookout for a special release article soon, featuring one of Burlington's very best - Navytrain - in anticipation of Twiddle's Tumble Down July 28-29 <3
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Live Gig ShotsTinsley Ellis is one of those performers with tons of “street cred” that the average person frowns in thought for a moment when his name is mentioned. “I've heard the name, I'm not quite sure where”.
Do the names Warren Haynes, Widespread Panic, Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Otis Rush, Albert Collins and Buddy Guy ring a bell? How about the “Blues at the Crossroads 2” tour. Tinsley has shared the stage with these and many more artists, offering up some of the sweetest Southern style blues one could hope for. He's from Atlanta, GA, and is unapologetic about his style of blues being Southern (make sure the “S” is capitalized) blues/rock.
Tinsley played before a smallish crowd at CSPS Hall Wednesday night, but in fairness he was competing against some other shows in Cedar Rapids and the “Corridor”. Those who were there were Served, in a big way, from the moment Tinsley started the intro to his first song.
From his intense, slightly ragged voice to his even more intense, flawless guitar playing, Tinsley offered up a sublime, classic blues experience. He's the sort of blues artist who basically plays a duet with himself, his vocals and guitar trading and interweaving melodies and simple riffs before he launches into in a solo that would make a lot of guitarists either practice until their fingers bled, or switch to playing bass.
He's a bit deceptive as well: when singing, he'll stick to the sort of simple, straight-ahead riffs a la B.B. King, but when it's time to solo he brings the heat with flurries of notes balanced with Banshee wails that prove he knows doing so is about the music, not just showing off his own chops.
The highlight of the evening for me was when Tinsley used the whammy bar on his 1959 Stratocaster together with a wah-wah pedal and it actually sounded cool. I've heard others do this, and it ends up sounding like either a cliché or a frightful mess. If you play guitar, you know what I mean.
Both Tinsley's vocals and playing dominate the stage in a way that makes you realize that if he were on stage with anything other than a bass player and drummer it would detract from the Blues Nirvana that is Tinsley giving it his best. (He actually does tour with a larger ensemble as part of the “Blues is Dead” tour which focuses on the blues and R&B songs performed by the Grateful Dead).
Therein lies a key to what Tinsley offers on stage. The Dead are well known for performing concerts that could run for hours as they ventured into extended instrumental jams. His 2 sets at CSPS Hall reflected that method, and I got the feeling he had to force himself to wrap up the concert when he did. Perhaps because it was a week night and he realized some people had to get up early for work?