Monday, December 22, 2008

Lori Mckenna and Stephanie Chapman at Club Passim

Never let a little rain or snow stop you.

Friday night's performance of The Halfway House Club was canceled because of the snow. Sue and Lee had tickets to see Lori McKenna's solo set at Club Passim, so as soon as I got the email that I had the night off, I called Sue and asked her if I could horn in on the two of them. The show was still on--probably the only thing in Boston/Cambridge that wasn't canceled that night. I knew the show had sold out a long while back, but figuring there would be a bunch of no-shows I banked on getting a ticket at the door.

Yeah, it was blowing pretty hard, but...In Arizona there had been a few days of what I like to call weather. There was one day that everyone stayed hunkered in the hostel, even those like Sue and me who had cars. Sue and I think alike though. We can sleep when we're dead, and we're not going to let anything get in the way of us seeing something. We're both always wondering what's around the next corner. And if we're uncomfortable or cold, well, at least we're uncomfortable or cold in Arizona, or France, or Thailand or name your spot on the earth.

That day, Sue, Tetsuya, a traveler from Japan, and I jumped in the red hot Mustang and in the rain saw a volcano and a lava field. I touched and held cinders in my hand that had spewed out of the cone a thousand years ago. I saw pueblo ruins tucked on tiny ledges in Walnut Canyon. I walked on the Painted Desert, and smelled it and the mixture of sage and chaparral smelled like walking in the apartment on a cold rainy day with a pot of soup simmering on the stove. I visited a Wuptaki, a settlement that was quite the cosmopolitan setting 900 years ago. I felt the earth breath there. I did. I felt wind rush out of a crack in the earth, a sensation that I can best describe as having your head out the window of your car at 69 mph.

If we had let a little rain stop us, Sue, Tessuya and I never would have these experiences, these memories that hopefully forged us just a bit more into better people.

So, Friday night, even when Lee waffled a bit because of the dangers of the roads, I said to hell with it. Just that day I had finally had my snow tires put on the truck and loaded twelve hundred pounds of sand in the bed for ballast. I had put it off, I guess hoping against hope that bad weather never would hit, or at least I wouldn't have to deal with it. A human trait, isn't it, to try to wish away the bad, the inevitable?

So Sue and I saddled up and drove over to Lee's in second gear, and then drove to Braintree and parked the truck and hopped on the T, and there were more than enough tickets left.

Stephanie Chapman, opened, accompanied by husband Nathan Chapman, a very accomplished musician with a very mellow buttery voice. Sweet and personable with a friendly stage presence (she and Nathan are related, first brothers and sister then by marriage; see what I mean?) she's from northern Virginia and he's from Nashville. Her songs are steeped in the Nashville sound, and the album she was selling that night, This Song Is To You, is pretty much pure Nashville sound, a fine selection of happy, kind of rip-roaring songs with the expected topics about love with a hint of bittersweetness, the cute little turn of phrase (I put you on a pedestal but it's time you got down) that you could dance up a storm to in a country bar.

The weather was the hot topic for both performers. Chapman kept telling the audience how great they were for braving the storm to see them, but when you think they came all the way from Nashville to play that one little club in Cambridge, they were the ones who should have been thanked.

McKenna then came on stage and played a lot of her hits and favorites off Glamorous and Bittertown. I've never seen her solo before, and it was a pleasure. The next night she was backed by a band, and unfortunately I missed that night, but just her alone with that huge voice of hers is worth seeing. She's tiny, tiny. You look at her and wonder how the heck she squeezed out those five kids she's always talking about. And you wonder where the heck that huge voice resides in that little body. It's actually better, because by herself you can see just what an amazing talent she is. Her songs are so tight, although sometimes her lyrics about clotheslines in the backyard and how great her husband is can get just a bit tiresome, for me at least. But that's her; that's her life and that's what she writes about.

She is an absolute great lady, too. After the show I had a chance to talk to her a bit about what's up next for her. I'm one of those fans who thinks Glamorous is just okay. Warner Brothers and Nashville have been very good to her. Warner got her name out there, and Nashville introduced her to a bunch of like-minded artists who she can work with. You get the sense talking to her that she's a very smart and shrewd person, and knows what she need to do to further her artistic career. She said she and Warner would be parting ways, but that they are parting with no animosity. It would be nice to see her with a smaller, independent label that will really work with her and invest in helping her grow her career and help her where she wants to go artistically.


savvymegs said...

You don't know me, but I was googling Lori McKenna and Passim and came up with your blog. I was at a Lori show the same night (the earlier one) and was wondering - how did you get to talk to her??

John Greiner-Ferris said...

lol...she was just standing there and i went up and started talking to her...she came across as a very nice, smart lady....

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