Monday, March 12, 2007

Townes Van Zandt Tribute at Lee's

To me, Townes was one of the best singer/songwriters in America, who lived too short a life before he flew out of here for good. Several groups payed fine tribute to him celebrating his birthday at Lee's last Wednesday, including local singer/songwriters Nikki Matteson and her band the Ruemates (featuring Rich Rue). Matteson sings like an angel, plays guitar like the devil, and traversed 3 disparate styles of Townes' with ease, making them her own in a good way, starting with a personal fave, Flyin' Shoes. There were members of Tuesday's Robot, a few bands I'd not seen before (always fun to see new bands), and Bernie King, the organizer of this event. King had a fun stage presence with a gravelly voice like Tom Waites, at one point singing/rapping to an African percussion song, sounding like . . . Steve Kaul said it best: a Nigerian Leonard Cohen. King's great, and I definitely plan to check him out at the Kitty Kat soon! Also playing was Rich Mattson, who quipped Ol' Yeller would've played, but they didn't remember whether Townes was with Lynyrd Skynyrd or that musician with Bruce Springsteen, or . . . natch, he played solo, and nailed Townes. Matteson's songwriting oft reminds me of Townes and he proved this, with his new song "Snow Don't Fall," which like your usual poignant Townes tune, made me shed a tear or two. (At a certain point during the 12 or 15 bands, I needed to take a break from three plus hours of relentlessly sorrowful songs, and hoped there wouldn't be a headline the next day "50 people go home and commit suicide after Townes Tribute"). Then it was the Liquor King (or was it the Brass Pig?) as Dave Babb (Front Porch Swingin' Liquor Pigs) paired up with Brass Kings' Steve Kaul. Their guitars together were so tightly in sync, you couldn't wedge a pick between 'em. They do the best version of To Live is To Fly, rivaling Cowboy Junkies. Then Kaul, with his macabre sense of humor selected to do a weird song he heard on a cassette during a dusty road trip, about a youth finding a bone, digging it up, it becomes a skeleton and they go on a thieving spree. Kaul said hearing this blew his mind, and perhaps it would ours. Yup. Babbs and Kaul are absolutely terrific together, and I most highly recommend you check them out when they duo again, such as when they host this Tuesday's FREE! Cedar Cultural Center Open Mike Night.


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