Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review – Will Scott and Wylie Wirth at 68 Jay St. Bar, Brooklyn NY 4/15/09

The best blues show of the week in New York is typically not found at one of the city’s two remaining blues bars, Terra Blues and Lucille’s. It’s pretty much every Wednesday at 68 Jay St. Bar in Dumbo, just down the hill from the York St. F train. Starting around 8, Will Scott and inventive former Sweet Lizard Illtet drummer Wylie Wirth put their own spin on Mississippi hill country blues, and to their credit, it’s pretty much impossible to tell the originals from the covers (bet on the originals – Scott is taking the style to new and exciting places without taking the soul out of it). For the uninitiated, the hill country style differentiates itself from the more laid-back Delta style in that it’s both dance music and trance music. In the work of the best-known hill country players like T-Model Ford, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, there aren’t a lot of chord changes, the songs often going on for seven or eight minutes, rising and falling with remarkable subtlety for music this raw and primitive-sounding.

 

Last night at the bar an older couple was celebrating their anniversary. Scott told the crowd that he’d known them since he “wasn’t old enough to drink, but drunk enough to raise a glass and say ‘l’chaim.'” Silence. “OK, I see what kind of demographic we have here,” Scott acknowledged, and he and his drummer launched into a haunting, relentless, hypnotic number with a plaintive Kimbrough feel. They’d opened with a swaying stomp with imaginative flourishes from Wirth, who turns his counterintuitive thumps and cymbal washes into a swipe upside your head that’ll bring you out of your reverie. Scott also added a melodic, upbeat rock feel to one of the livelier numbers, stomped his way through a dark, pounding one with a Mississippi Fred McDowell flavor as well as a few with a slide. The most ferocious of these, he said, was inspired by a dream where his grandfather admonished him to get out of the pumpkin patch.

 

In May, Scott is back at his home base on Wednesdays, with additional gigs at LIC Bar on May 11 and May 16 at Two Boots Brooklyn. In mid-June, he’s off on UK tour with the equally captivating Jan Bell. Watch this space for additional New York dates.

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April 16, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Will Scott Live at 68 Jay Street Bar, Brooklyn NY 1/16/08

Will Scott is a real find, with a very high ceiling. He’s been playing Wednesdays at around 8:30 at this remarkably comfortable little corner bar for awhile now. His stock in trade is Mississippi hill country blues, which doesn’t sound much like blues from the Delta: it’s deceptively simple and usually very hypnotic, often set to a fast 2/4 dance beat. Because there aren’t many (if any) chord changes, players color the music with subtle changes in the rhythm, accents and passing tones on the guitar. Scott has masterful command of the style. For an artist playing idiomatic music, to say that it’s hard to tell the difference between his originals and his covers is high praise, and sometimes it was hard to tell. Other times it wasn’t, because Scott uses the style as a springboard for his writing and adds a lot more chords (and a lot more tunefulness). Running his acoustic through a little Ampeg amp and backed by an excellent drummer with an equally good feel for this kind of music, if you closed your eyes, it was as if T-Model Ford and his sidekick Spam were holding down the beat in some rundown Mississippi shotgun shack. Except that it was really cold outside.

Scott opened with what sounded like a tribute to Junior Kimbrough, thoughtful and meandering but with considerable minor-key bite, in the late, lamented bluesman’s trademark style. Most of the songs he played afterward – again, it was difficult to tell what were his and what weren’t – were short and fast. Scott’s fingerpicking was fiery, fast and effortless, and so were his vocals. He sings with a drawl, but like his playing, it sounds effortless and authentic, not like the legions of trust-fund children from New Jersey playing Pete’s Candy Store, pretending they’re from the deep South. Maybe it works for Scott because his voice is strong: he’s not exactly afraid of the mic. “In case you were wondering, this show was brought to you by whiskey,” he joked. He was already working on his second glass of Jameson’s by the third song of his set. “It’s a multinational corporation.”

It’s not often that we run across someone who under today’s circumstances might actually be able to reach a national audience. At this point, even most indie labels are keeping nonconformist musicians at arm’s length. But there always seems to be an audience for the blues, even if it barely qualifies as blues and it’s played by beerbellied fifty-year-olds from Westchester who think Eric Clapton is a bluesman. Being white, Scott could probably make a living introducing sedate suburban audiences to the music he loves so much, for $25 a ticket, at places too fearful to book someone like, say, R.L. Burnside. He’d be perfect on that bill coming up at the Town Hall next month: he’s a whole lot more interesting than Cephas and Wiggins. When he moves on to that sort of thing, let’s hope he doesn’t forget he got his start in New York playing a midweek residency at a tiny, laid-back little place in Dumbo. That’s where he is for the moment. You should see him sometime.

January 16, 2008 Posted by | blues music, concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments