Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Maynard and the Musties at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 12/14/07

This week has turned out to be Fun Band Week. Frontman Joe Maynard is a hell of a songwriter when he wants to be, which is basically all the time. He may have the outlaw country singer look down cold, but he’s actually a funny Southern literary type (he’s from Nashville originally). The band is called the Musties because Maynard is a rare book dealer. If Kinky Friedman is your cup of tea, or you’re secretly a fan of David Allan Coe (and wouldn’t be so secretive about it if the guy hadn’t been such an egregious racist), Maynard and his band will push your buttons. Tonight they mixed in some new material along with a lot of older songs from his former unit, the retro country act the Millerite Redeemers. Maynard’s approach may be humorous, but he doesn’t mock the twisted characters who populate his songs: there’s an unexpected compassion and humanity there. Starting most of the songs solo on guitar and letting the band jump in about a bar later, he delivered the amusing St. Mary’s in the Toaster (inspired by a story in the World Weekly News about someone who saw the face of the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast), the darkly comedic, Tom Waits-ish Rocky and Bessie (about a romance between a couple of stray dogs in Fort Greene), and his big crowd-pleaser, I Thought I Was Country Til I Found I Was Queer. He also did a heavily reworked version of the very dark Millerite Redeemers song A Lot of Things Happen to Beautiful Girls (use your imagination).

One of the best of the new songs was a murder ballad that Maynard appropriated from some obscure 1920s British literary figure and set to his own melody. It’s told from the point of view of the victim. They closed the set with a sarcastic, apocalyptic new number possibly titled It’s Been a Good Life (as in good life for a couch potato who doesn’t interact with anyone or participate politically in anything, websurfing while Rome burns). The band gave it a long, crescendoing, extended outro, violinist Naa Koshie Mills and steel player Drew Glackin building a beautiful mix of ambient textures rather than doing any extended soloing. The audience loved it and demanded an encore, and Maynard obliged with the Amy Allison classic Drinking Thru Xmas. Tonight was a pleasant reminder that despite the ongoing Losangelesification of New York, there’s still a substantial audience here for the kind of music that makes you laugh, and makes you think at the same time.

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December 16, 2007 Posted by | concert, country music, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Concert Review: LJ Murphy and Band at the Knitting Factory, NYC 12/11/07

Ironic that some of New York’s best rock songwriters – Jerome O’Brien of the Dog Show, Mary Lee Kortes of Mary Lee’s Corvette, and now LJ Murphy – basically play with what amounts to a pickup band whenever they do a live show here in town. Although it’s not all that common in rock, jazz players have been doing this since the beginning. And it works more often than not, undoubtedly because musicians who are good enough to follow the changes and hit the stage without much rehearsal usually bring a lot of imagination and their own signature style. This show was a vivid reminder of how good things can get when you put together a bunch of good players who’ve never played with each other before. Tonight the dapper New York noir songwriter was backed by the hard-hitting drummer from the sadly disbanded garage rockers the Dark Marbles, along with the bass player from Erica Smith’s band the 99 Cent Dreams.  Playing lead was the guitarist from System Noise, who revealed himself to be a terrific blues player, channeling a lot of Hendrix into Murphy’s Stax/Volt-inflected melodies. But it wasn’t Star Spangled Banner Hendri; instead, the audience was treated to a lot of thoughtful, introspective, licks and tersely unwinding solos evocative of the Little Wing/Castles Made of Sand side of Jimi.

Perhaps because the band didn’t get a lot of time to rehearse, Murphy bookended the show with a couple of solo acoustic songs, the tongue-in-cheek Man Impossible and a somewhat drastic reworking of his haunting domestic-abuse saga, Don’t You Look Pretty When You Cry. In between, the band careened through a mix of newer material and songs from Murphy’s latest cd Mad Within Reason. It was a cold night, and Murphy’s guitar had gone out of tune by the time he finished his first song and brought the band to the stage. The crowd was impatient as Murphy retuned: “He’s a musician,” the bass player said sarcastically: shades of Stiv Bators sticking up for Cheetah Chrome on Night of the Living Dead Boys? You never know. This is New York, after all.

Like Marcellus Hall, (recently reviewed here), Murphy sets intelligent, witty lyrics to somewhat retro melodies. While Hall draws on 60s country and folk-rock, Murphy is a disciple of blues and jazz, Ray Charles in particular. At the end of a rousing take of the snide, somewhat caustic Imperfect Strangers, Murphy led the band on an obviously improvised, extended outro as he jammed out the vocals. Later in the set they did a boisterous version of the sharply literate, cabaret-ish minor key blues which serves as the title track to the cd, in addition to a soulful take of the gently swaying, mournful 6/8 ballad that’s perhaps improbably Murphy’s biggest audience hit, Saturday’s Down, a chronicle of how the week goes by so slowly but the weekend is gone in a nanosecond. The band turned their last song, Barbwire Playpen into a blazing rocker, Murphy roaring through his chronicle of a Wall Street tycoon whose “ugly little secret turns up again and again in the barbwire playpen,” where some dominatrix has him by the short and curlies and isn’t about to let him get up anytime soon. Despite a rainy, gloomy evening outside and an unusually sparse turnout – Murphy packed the place the last couple of times he played here – the man was his usual charismatic self and the band was clearly feeding off his energy.

December 16, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments