A Whoppin’ Good Time
In light of the recent passing on of Porter Wagoner to that big ol’ Opry in the sky, I found myself pondering the top country duet partners. There are none now living who can match the ageless, timeless appeal of Johnny and June, Loretta Lynn with Conway Twitty, George Jones with Tammy Wynette or Porter and Dolly Parton; individually they were fantastic entertainers, but together these duet partners were peerless. Porter’s deep baritone and Dolly’s weightless twang combined for flawless harmonies that were as country as grits and as spiritually fortifying as a day in church.
In the midst of my reverie of the good old days of country, into my hands fell a CD by Eugene’s own Whopner County Country Allstars, a band I’m happy to say basks in some of that old-school country duet glory. Lead vocalists Sara Scofield and J.P. Scofield approach their duets in the same way these past country all-stars did: with impeccable timing, a sense of humor and dramatic gestures.
The local five-piece group is a cover band in style only, writing original songs in the spirit of their musical heroes like some of the aforementioned greats. Together for five years now, they recently released a new CD, Always A Pleasure. Where Sara’s vocals stand alone, as they do on the song “Sittin’ Here,” she brings a barroom country blues vibe. J.P.’s vocals are slowly parsed, each syllable weighty with meaning just like the old country greats, whether apologizing to his grandma for his life gone wrong in “Sorry Grandma” or singing about how he met his lady friend in the “Hoosgow.” The many songs they sing together are good old honky tonk to get the party started.
Porter and Dolly would be proud!
Whopner County Country Allstars, Laura Kemp, Hanna Miller, Free the Banjo Girl and The Side Project play at 8 pm Friday, Nov. 9, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+ show. $6 or free with Grrrlz Rock VIP pass. — Vanessa Salvia
No Cells Allowed
Though they started out playing in a garage in Folsom, Calif., Brown Shoe most definitely is not a garage band. The band describes itself as “ethereal” rock and roll; I don’t know exactly what that means, but listening to the group’s new album, Vanity, Coldplay comes to mind, and maybe Death Cab for Cutie.
In “Low-fi Audio File,” Brown Shoe expresses disdain for the modern day replacement for the swaying lighter:
“Don’t wave your new video phone / It’s not a modern day lighter / It was just a commercial / I know it sounds romantic / To archive this very moment / I don’t want to be some low-fi audio file.”
Brown Shoe reflects on the current state of music and the sad universal acceptance of low quality audio, making a plea to modern youth to put down their cell phones and dance, to enjoy the moment.
As a whole the new album has a melodic feel, relaxing in its essence. If you’re sitting down to study or do homework, Vanity would be a good choice to play because of the flow and beat. When you listen, concentrate more on the music and melody rather than the lyrics (which at times blend into the background). That allows the textural sound to take center stage.
As Brown Shoe hits the stage in Eugene, a wise person would be better off leaving the cell at home but definitely remembering the dancing shoes. Brown Shoe plays with Speaker Rhodes, The Friendly Skies and Machina at 10 pm Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Black Forest. — Anne Pick
Double the Joy
Monday morning writing awaits, and iTunes opens up. Decision time: Kick-ass jazzy standards with a contemporary twist? Or e.e.cummings set to speedy honky-tonk, seriously flipped and sung sideways with a smile? Hey, that’s what the shuffle function takes care of: I can hear both Erin McKeown and Kris Delmhorst in a tumbled joyful mix of strong, individual voices. And then there’s my white-girl ecstatic folkie-dancing when the word comes: Kris and Erin in a double bill at the WOW Hall! Yes.
Delmhorst gained a following on the folkie circuit with 2001’s Five Stories, a masterful album of solidly crafted gems like the creativity-inspiring “Little Wings” and the achingly lovely “Broken White Line.” Songs for a Hurricane came out long before Katrina, but the smartly agonized “Wasted Word” and “Too Late’s Come + Gone” serve as reminders of devastating loss. Delmhorst is working on a new album, but her most recent, 2006’s Strange Conversations, cleverly set various poems to music that fits each poem. My fave might be “Light of the Light,” from Whitman’s “Passage to India,” or then again, it might be “Since You Went Away” from a piece by James Weldon Johnson … or wait … oh hell. Who can choose?
McKeown, who played a big-voiced part in Gabriel Unger’s “Voices on the Verge” tour in the early Oughts, kicked over the traces and went out on her own not long after Distillation, her first album on Signature Sounds, and she records at a fever clip. Lafayette, a rockin’ live album that still can’t quite convey McKeown’s laser beam stage presence, arrived hard on the heels of 2006’s gorgeously brilliant Sing You Sinners. Sinners got McKeown into People magazine, charmed listeners all over the world and was the album with which she finally burst onto the scene in Eugene last February, burning up the boards at the WOW Hall. Along with Delmhorst, she’ll do it again at 8 pm Sunday, Nov. 11, at the WOW Hall. $10 adv., $12 door. — Suzi Steffen