Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Evan Schlansky at Sidewalk, NYC 6/25/08

Evan Schlansky writes great rock songs. He may play acoustic guitar, sitting on a stool with a harmonica slung around his neck, but he definitely rocks. If you hate singer-songwriters, Schlansky is right up your alley. He’s the poster guy for learning how to play guitar: last night at Sidewalk, he didn’t take any long solos, in fact, not a single solo throughout his too-short 40-minute set. But it was clear from the start that this is a guy who knows his blues, knows his 60s music and uses the whole fretboard with a casual effortlessness that typifies his songwriting. For Schlansky, Dylan is the obvious stepping-off point. But – like another great NYC songwriter, Marcellus Hall – it’s the playful, freewheeling young Dylan that Schlansky most resembles. Until he opens his mouth, that is. Schlansky has just a tinge of a sardonic twang in his voice, but it’s there for effect, not affectation.

 

This show was something of a departure, mostly quieter, darker material as opposed to the generally upbeat, bluesy, deviously funny songs that make up most of Schlansky’s catalog. This time out, he played a lot of downbeat, pensive, often outright dark material, the high point being a somewhat eerie minor-key number chronicling the collapse of a relationship: “If this was a job, we’d both be fired…I ain’t no mechanic, but this is barely a car.”

 

Another of the set’s high points was a long, meandering number that he said he wrote in fifteen minutes, an accident of leaving the recorder running while rehearsing. It started out on a wryly amusing note about trying to get ready for a show but being too stoned to remember lyrics, and then went totally stream-of-consciousness. Eventually, he referenced Randy Newman, “before he started working for that mouse.” Schlansky continued that if anyone found that particular line funny, they should immortalize it. So: here it is.

 

He also played a brisk one about driving while high on crack (which does not appear to be something he has any personal experience of) before closing, counterintuitively, with another fairly long, quiet lament. That this guy’s slow stuff gets over as well as it does says something about how good his writing is: it’s hard to think of someone as good who’s as far under the radar as Schlansky. Bands in need of good hitworthy material would be well advised to check him out.

June 26, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

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