Sometimes in this town you get a weekend of music that just leaves you breathless. I’ve heard there are other places like this – Nashville, Austen, and of course the biggies – New York City and San Francisco. But here we feel honored to be blessed by so much talent, so fortunate! On Mother’s Day Weekend, May 10 and 11, 2014, I was honored to hear some absolutely fantastic talent. Had to brush up on my thesaurus to keep from using the same superlatives over and over.
On Saturday night, we went to the Civic Media Center for a concert by Cracker the Box, one of our favorite bands, and a woman named Kathleen Taylor. I’ve reviewed Cracker the Box before, two amazing musicians who create the most extraordinary music on cigar boxes converted into guitars. (Somebody in the audience obviously didn’t believe this – he kept asking, “But what are they made of?” “Cigar boxes, really!”) They had a new drummer, Jared Groom, who was wonderful, kept a low-key beat that allowed Cracker the Box to maintain their distinct style. It’s not easy for a drummer to be subdued :). The band is putting out a new album soon and I can’t wait.
But this weekend was about the ladies! Mother’s Day weekend, and I was thrilled with my “present,” great music. Kathleen Taylor sings, as Glenn Moody of Cracker the Box describes it, “superb Americana.” Actually, I don’t know what Kathleen’s music is, but I do know it’s sweet, funny, snarky and very, very original. The guitarist she played with for the evening was Tom Nelly, who was just fantastic. The song Oh, It’s Hard, was not what I expected at all, but was a wonderful example of her beautiful song-writing abilities (and of course, that gorgeous voice).
Here's Kathleen's song on Youtube - http://youtu.be/afZJ97Eu24M .
The following night, Sunday, was what I hope will be the FIRST ANNUAL (Hint, hint, local venues!) Women in the Blues Concert, with Cheri Cray, Anna Marie Kirkpatrick, Michelle Banfield, Cassie Keenum, Nicole Andre Wagner, Nancy Luca (a Gainesville institution!) and Barbara Armbrecht. Their music was unbelievable.
Anna Marie Kirkpatrick is a new name to me but her performance of Guilty is unbelievable. The perfect blues song – “I find myself in trouble darling, and I’ve got no place to go.”
I was pleased to see Cheri Cray there. I’m used to hearing her husband play guitar for open mic, and she is more known to me for her swing music. But her version of Route 66 was original and fun!
Michelle Banfield is one of my favorite singers. I used to enjoy watching her rip it up with the band Fast Lane. So I was thrilled when she performed one of my favorite songs, Gimme One Reason to Stay Here, by Tracy Chapman. But wow, Michelle gave the original a run for its money. And then she sang a song I wasn’t familiar with, Love me Like a Man, that was fantastic. I should have known she’d be that good.
Nicole Wagner who I also had not heard before was a gifted singer and amazing guitarist. I loved her version of “Middle Age Blues,” although I doubt her veracity. As she sang, “I need a young man to drive away my middle-aged blues” I’m pretty sure there were men in the crowd who would have been willing to assist .Very talented.
Cassie Keenum has this beautiful, powerful voice that makes you do a double-take every time she sings. She’s that good. Her rendition of I’d Rather Go Blind was amazing. And she can rip up Hoochie Coochie Woman with that voice.
Now I know who was the guiding light behind all these performances, one half of the amazing duo, Middleground, Barbara Armbrecht. Barbara is a talented singer and songwriter, and she played guitar for almost everybody, besides performing herself. Barb’s rendition of Nobody Knows You when You’re Down and Out was spectacular, the way blues should be. But her song, Woman Be Wise, was at the opposite end of the spectrum – funny and snarky. She’s a jack of all music. Or should I say a jill.
But for me, the highlight of the evening was when Cassie sang the song Halleluah and the others joined in. What a spectacular performance!
Here’s a link posted by Cassie Keenum to all the songs that were performed that night – Thank you, Cassie! https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjilpSbS80uYXnfa1bZ01i0XvhmaHemM1
More, more, and let’s hope this will be an annual gathering.