Live Gig Source added 17 new photos — at CSPS Hall.
Rising star Logan Ledger opened with a set that reminded the audience just how good traditional country can be. Then John Paul White and his band proved why he won several Grammies as part of The Civil Wars. Friday, November 3, 2017 ... See MoreSee Less
Live Gig SourceWhen it comes to the World Music scene, Mali (bonus points if you know where it is without Googling) has developed a reputation for producing many outstanding performers. I'm not sure what it is about this West African nation (OK, I gave it away) that helps nurture world-class musicians, but I have my suspicions. It's a nation with an ancient history but is also torn by civil strife and hardship. The people of Mali experience first hand the sort of things that writers of protest songs in the USA may sing about, but only from the perspective of spectators.
Habib Koite is a great songwriter, but you won't find a lot of protest in his music. (In fact, I find that artists from Africa who do sing about problems besetting their countries do so in a more positive, encouraging way than Americans tend to do). As with many other African performers, his music is engaging in how it embodies a sense of joy and hope.
Habib and his band Bamada offer an engaging mix of Euro-American and Malian styles. Acoustic and electric guitars, and electric bass mesh seemlessly with traditional Malian percussion instruments, and in a real nod to modern technology, traditional African woodwind sounds played by keyboard. The combination is sublime, and carefully crafted to make sure all elements compliment each other in a balanced way.
A lot of bands do this. A lot of audiences hear it, nod, clap, enjoy it, and then after a few songs things tend to become repetitive. This is not the case with Habib and his band. As with many musicians of this style, extended intros lead to long songs that involve a lot of instrumental breaks. There are times where this approach can lead to a bit of repetitiveness, at least to the ears of Western listeners who don't grasp some of the subtleties of African music. The reasons for the approach many African musicians take comes from centuries-old traditions as to the purpose of the music.
What is so engaging about Habib's music is he understands how to present his songs in a traditional Malian “format” while incorporating Western styles in a way that is universally appealing. Ethereal strains from guitar are punctuated by the Tama, or “Talking Drum”. A modern, 6 string banjo is used as the tradiitonal N'goni would be. The keybord stands in for the marimba-like Balafon while percussion combines Western style footpedal base with Calabash and other drums.
It all works together to take songs written in blues, Latin and pop styles and elevate them to a unique level that is both highly dancable yet contemplative at the same time. In fact, it's this quality that almos demands Habib's songs run longer than American songs tend to. Listeners get into a groove, an experience of the music itself that causes them to set aside everything except the song and just,(as pretentious as this sounds) be the music.
I think that is what really sets Habib apart: he can do so many things musically without any sense of pretense. He and his band genuinely enjoy just making the best music they can, and the audience picks up on that right away. They certainly did Saturday night at CSPS Hall, and I'm sure everyone is probably hoping Habib will return soon.
Live Gig SourceIf you like your Country music “traditional”, with straightforward lyrics and no glitzy producers' gimmicks, you will love Michaela Anne. She and fiddle player Kristin Weber graced the stage at CSPS Hall. Hearing her songs (and some of the covers she did) with just the simple strains she coaxed from her Gibson and Kristin's uncomplicated fiddling didn't feel in the least like we were missing out on anything.
The strength of Michaela's lyrics, along with her singing style, are enough that I think too much backup would distract from listening to how she engages life as a songwriter. (Michaela does perform with a larger ensemble, but I really think at a venue such as CSPS Hall, that would have been overkill.)
Traditional Country is supposed to take some complicated life issues and express them in “working folks” terms. Whereas a folk or alternative songwriter might weave a tapestry of words and delving into esoteric thoughts while sipping tea in a song about a break up, Country is supposed to declare “Hey that sucked, now hand me a beer”.
That's exactly the sort of feel the audience encountered with some of Michaela's songs, such as “Bright Lights and the Fame”. Like any good lovelorn Country song, it addresses a sad subject with an upbeat musical style, and speaks of how attempting to hang on to a Country singer boyfriend didn't work out because she couldn't compete with his career. Michaela sings of how she knew she couldn't compete with his life on the road, and that was that. Hand her a beer.
Even her choice of covers shows her grounding in traditional Country, with songs such as “Your Cheatin' Heart” performed in a way that would make Hank Sr. proud.
As someone who's always preferred straightforward Country to some of the crossover style, slickly-produced songs that turn into hits, but you forget what they were about, I loved seeing Michaela Anne prove there are still those who want to stick to Country music's roots. I think if she keeps going, Michaela is one day going to be on the same sort of lists that Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and EmmyLou Harris populate. When Michaela Anne returns to CSPS Hall (and I'm sure she will) don't miss her.
Live Gig Source is committed to documenting live music events by taking and sharing exceptional concert photographs. We provide images for artists, venues, and the media while also maintaining a living archive on our website. Our goal is to capture musical memories that matter. George Burrows
Everybody's saying music is love Everybody's saying it's, you know it is, mm Everyone, yes, everyone Everyone's saying music, music is love Everyone's saying that music is love, everybody's saying it's love Put on your colors and run come see Everybody says that music's for free Take off your clothes and lie in the sun Everybody's says that music's for fun
David Crosby Atlantic Records 1971 "If I Could Only Remember My Name.. ... See MoreSee Less