Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Dina Dean at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 11/8/07

A riveting performance by one of the best bands in town. Dina Dean’s backing unit was the story tonight. Their supple, subtle rhythm section features Botanica’s bassist (playing upright) and a drummer who didn’t waste a single brushstroke. Dean’s piano player was equally minimal and incisive, with a warm, gospel-inflected style, also doubling on lapsteel on the set’s last few numbers. Her lead guitarist embellished the material with style and substance, impressing with some particularly tasteful slide work on one of the songs. It’s always a treat to see a band having as good a time onstage as these guys did, quietly and efficiently: they’re the perfect vehicle for Dean’s richly melodic, slow-to-midtempo blend of 60s rock, old-school soul, gospel and country. And where was this terrific band playing tonight? Not at the horrid Living Room, at least: they were at the Rockwood. Nothing against the space: it’s a great place for listening. But it’s tiny. This band should have been headlining the Beacon or the Town Hall.

As a songwriter (although NOT as a singer), Dean most closely resembles the Blood on the Tracks-era Dylan, a rocker with an effortless fluency in pretty much every style of American roots music. Her lyrics are steeped in history, full of double entendres, clever puns and allusions. This is headphone music, and the sound in the room was thankfully up to its usual high standard so Dean’s casual, soulful alto could cut through over the band. They opened with The Same Grace, a song from her excellent recent ep, driven by gospel piano, and followed with another cut, the gorgeous, 60s throwback Radio Song with its catchy chorus: “She stays up, up, up all night.” The next song was a towering ballad, the Ma Rainey tribute Down in the Dust, chronicling the turbulent life of the legendary singer who found herself out in the cold “when jazz blew the fuse on the blues.” After that, they did a new one, a slow, pensive ballad that sounded like the great lost cut from Blood on the Tracks.

Introducing a rockabilly-tinged number about Billy Lee Riley, Dean explained how Sun Records had to choose between promoting Great Balls of Fire or Riley’s classic My Gal Is Red Hot. With a limited promotion budget, they chose the former and the rest is history. The song crescendoed nicely into a bluesy chorus. The next tune was the highlight of the night, a gorgeously vivid soul/jazz lament that wouldn’t be out of place in the Gil Scott-Heron catalog, pondering where New York’s own soul has gone. After that they did an impressively upbeat piano-driven jump blues song, and the slow, thoughtful ballad Walk Through the Rain, with the piano player switching to lapsteel.

This wasn’t a perfect show: intros and outros were tentative – the band still seems to be getting a handle on some of the songs – and there were guitar and lapsteel tuning issues toward the end of the set. Although that’s to be expected when a band brings their instruments in out of the cold on a night like this. Still, it’s a safe bet this was the best show you could have seen anywhere in New York tonight. Dean’s always been a decent songwriter, but in the months since she put this band together she’s become a must-see. Now’s your chance. Before she headlines the Beacon or the Town Hall.

November 9, 2007 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. The Band:
    Dina Dean: Vocals-Acoustic Guitar-Harmonica
    Gary Langol: Piano-Lap Steel Guitar-Melodica
    Tom Gavin: Electric guitar
    Christian Bongers: Upright Bass
    Massimo (Max) Maiorana: Drums-Cymbals

    Comment by Nicole Marie Richardson | November 11, 2007 | Reply


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