Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Matt Keating – Between Customers

As a kid Matt Keating had a summer job working the counter at a 7-11 (next time you dis the 7-11 clerk, keep in mind the guy could someday be one of the great songwriters of his time – it’s happened at least once already). The title of Keating’s new album alludes to that teenage gig and also to a line from the album’s opening song, a ironic tale of missed connections with a trick ending that more than hints at revenge or schadenfreude but turns out simply sad. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, a lot closer to the stark, mostly acoustic Americana flavor of his 2006 Summer Tonight cd rather than the electric clang of 2008’s Quixotic (simply one of the greatest janglerock records ever made.) Sparse electric and upright bass by Jason Mercer and minimal drums by Mark Brotter drums underpin Keating’s judicious layers of acoustic and occasional electric guitar and keyboards. As usual, his lyrics are terse, crystallized and loaded with double meanings that run the usual gamut from bitterness to melancholy to unhinged anger, along with a couple of surprisingly upbeat, even wise numbers

Cut number two on the cd, Daddy’s on the Roof, looks at family dysfunction from a kid’s snidely matter-of-fact point of view, tensely shuffling verse giving way to sarcastically blithe chorus – when everyone around you is crazy, sanity can be a liberating force. The catchy, swinging anthem Louisiana posits the personal as the political, a hauntingly allusive tale of love gone wrong at the end of a Gulf Coast road trip at the worst conceivable time. A vividly wistful Claudia Chopek string arrangement provides the atmosphere for the uneasy lullaby Go Down, a feeling amplified in the Cheeveresque anomie ballad Tree Lined Streets.

A metaphorically charged country-flavored tune, The Writer Next Door reminds how much you have to be careful living in these little New York apartments – you never know who might immortalize the things you regret saying most! Remember When, stately and gospel-tinged, takes where Lennon went with Imagine and makes it personal:

Remember when we could
Listen without ears
See without our fear
Look without our years
Remember when we went
That far
The final cut takes that resolve and turns it into a carpe-diem ballad. There’s also a bonus track, a gorgeously blue-sky acoustic version of St. Cloud, from the Quixotic album. With pretty much every year that passes you can pretty much count on Keating to deliver another first-rate album to add to his substantial body of work: count this among them. Matt Keating will be off on European tour this spring, with a final New York date next month at the Rockwood.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 1/21/10

Back from a trip to Austin, Jenifer Jackson’s got a band together again: Greg Wieczorek on drums and Jason Mercer on a gorgeous Danelectro SG copy bass. A couple of songs into the set, beaming, she announces that she’s rediscovered that she actually likes music. She should, with this band. Her songs are pretty and haunting when she plays them solo; with a rhythm section behind her, they are transcendent. She’s a pretty intense guitarist, and this comes across especially on the Ticket to Ride-inflected Down So Low as she wails on the downstrokes, on the beat. The band has re-energized her.

But this is Mercer’s night. Choice, tasteful pieces of broken chords on the slower, country-flavored ballads; slinky slides and bends on the more rocking songs, and every now and then he winds up a crescendo with few sweetly, quietly boomy chords. It’s a clinic in how to play bass and it’s free.

Boo Reiners from Demolition String Band gets cajoled into playing Telecaster on a handful of numbers and the effect is the same. He knows every country lick in the book, but instead he goes counterintuitive with bends and passing tones and immediately the songs go to the next level, and it’s effortless, or at least it looks that way.

The songs, as they always do, run the gamut – the joyous white soul jangleforest of Suddenly Unexpectedly; the practically noir, nocturnal pop of Maybe; a new country song that would elevate Carrie Underwood’s game to the big leagues if she or someone like her could find it and cover it; and a couple of big, hooky, upbeat rockers to close the set. The unrestrained joy shining in Jackson’s voice makes the contrast even more striking when she turns down the lights. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that it’s cold outside and that there’s a long train ride lurking ahead. In a word, transcendence.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Al Duvall and Matt Keating in Concert 7/21/07

Al Duvall opened, playing a solo set to a small but enthusiastic crowd at a downtown tourist trashpit that shall remain nameless, and stole the show. He plays the banjo chordally, like a guitar, and writes authentic-sounding ragtime songs with thinly and not-so-thinly disguised dirty lyrics. Like the Roulette Sisters (with whom he sometimes performs), he’s an absolute master of innuendo. His biggest crowd-pleaser tonight was called Reconstruction, about a Civil War-era sex change operation. It’s funnier, and more grisly, than you could possibly imagine. Like the early 20th century songwriters he so clearly admires, he has a New York fixation, and a lot of the most evocative material he played tonight was set during that period here, including Steeplechase Bound, about a kid from Greenpoint going out to Coney Island for some R&R at the racetrack, and the predictably amusing Welfare Island (which is what Roosevelt Island used to be called).

Keating followed with an acoustic set, playing guitar and occasional piano, accompanied by upright bassist Jason Mercer (from Ron Sexsmith’s band). Keating’s most recent material has been on the Americana tip, and judging from the mostly unreleased stuff he played tonight, he isn’t finished with that genre yet. This may have been an acoustic set, but Keating made sure his guitar was good and loud in the mix, and wailed, leaving no one guessing how much of a rocker he really is. Of the new material, the most memorable tracks were Saint Cloud, his latest Bukowskiesque set piece, all loaded imagery; Before My Wife Gets Home, possibly the most ribald thing he’s done to date, an oldschool honkytonk cheating song that he played on piano; and the closing song of the set, the vivid Louisiana, inspired by a stop in New Orleans after the hurricane and Brownie’s masterful management of the disaster. He also played the intense, climactic Lonely Blue, which builds from a slow, deliberate series of screechy chords on the verse to one of his typically anthemic, major-key choruses and this went over especially well with the crowd. If the show was any indication, his next album will be as good as his last one, which was as good as the one before that, ad infinitum: living here in New York, we so often take for granted performers that people around the country wait for impatiently for months to see.

The reliably delightful Moonlighters headlined, but we had places to go and things to do; however, you can read a review of an excellent show they did at Barbes last month.

July 22, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment