Some talented songwriters have set their sights on Providence recently, a couple live and one on film. Let’s dig in.
King Richard. No, he’s not a local artist, but 35 years into a stellar career, Richard Thompson — that most English of troubadours and miraculous guitarist — has decided to tip his hat to Providence, with a couple of new projects that deserve mention. First, there’s a DVD, Live in Providence. Released on the SpinArt label, the disc was filmed live at Lupo’s on July 23, 2003. And while the venue doesn’t factor much into the film, the idea that Thompson would choose (the second) Lupo’s for his first concert DVD is telling. It was a colorful venue (though not as colorful as the ol’ old Lupo’s) and is now sorely missed. But that’s neither here nor there.
The DVD features recent tunes such as "One Door Opens" and "Crawl Back (Under My Stone)" alongside some Thompson classics: "Tear Stained Letter," "Walking On a Wire," and "Shoot Out the Lights." His band here is, characteristically excellent, with Pete Zorn on horns, mandolin, guitar, and vocals, Rory McFarlane on electric, and upright bass, and Earl Harvin on drums.
The DVD is tricked out with extras as well: a Videowest’s "Guitar Player" Session from 1981, a live performance from the British TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1984, and ripping renditions of "Uninhabited Man" and "Persuasion" from Austin City Limits in 2001. Thompson has also peeled a CD EP off of his Providence visit, also on SpinArt, featuring "One Door Opens, "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," "Tear Stained Letter," and "Crawl Back."
Watching (or hearing) Thompson perform, how he can hold a rowdy audience spellbound with just a guitar and voice, you begin to understand the sheer power of his talent. He’s dazzlingly inventive as a guitarist and he’s compiled a body of songs that can stand with anyone in his generation. Best of all, 30 or so albums removed from his debut with Fairport Convention, his creative well shows absolutely no signs of running dry.
AH, Anders! On Friday (the 4th), White Electric Coffee (711 Westminster Street. Providence) is featuring a terrific performer that some of you may already know. Anders Parker led the band Varnaline until last year and before that he was in Space Needle with one-time Providence musician-dude (and ex-Scarce drummer) Jud Ehrbar. Parker always had good songwriting chops. The last Varnaline album, Songs In a Northern Key (Artemis, 2001), was met with nearly unanimous approval. Varnaline was more or less Parker’s alter ego and on his debut solo album, Tell It To the Dust (Baryon), he picks up where he left off. The album resonates with folk, roots, and rock authenticity, ranging from deepy affecting acoustic melodies to more aggressive moves. His show at White Electric Coffee will most surely be a lower key affair, with the ’mericans and Area C grabbing the opening slots. The show starts at 7 p.m. and will be over at 10; the cover is only $5. Call 453-3007 for details and go to www.andersparker.com for a sampling of some tunes. Great stuff.
WHOA, Nell! By popular demand, singer-songwriter Nell Bryden returns to the Tazza Caffe on Wednesday the 9th and the 16th. These performances will include songs from her upcoming self-titled EP on 157 Records. Bryden’s on the rise these days. Performing Songwriter, a stuffy but tasteful mag, calls her "stirring and sexy," and she’s been compared to Tori Amos and Fiona Apple. It’s worth checking her out before the buzz really builds.
The February 9 show is with Todd Martin. On the 15th, Leslie Helpert will share the stage. Both start at 8 p.m. There’s a $3 cover at Tazza and it’s located at 250 Westminster Street in Providence. Go to www.tazzacaffe.com or www.nellbryden.com for more details.
YESTERDAYONCEMORE. I have a little two-song sampler in my hand by a band called the Redwalls. If you check your local listings this week, you might see in small print that they’re playing Lupo’s with the Dresden Dolls and Regina Spektor on Saturday (the 5th). It’s easy to overlook; they’re a new band without much name recognition. But that would be a mistake, because the Redwalls sound about as good as any new band I’ve heard in quite some time. They’re currently on tour with Keane, which might give scenesters some idea of the quality of the outfit.
According to the band’s website bio, the young quartet, which is barely out of high school, "attempted to embrace the ‘sounds of today’ but found that they were more drawn to the sounds of their parents’ record collections. ‘If we could go back and visit certain sessions,’ [the band offers], ‘ "Please Please Me," Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde, [and] Etta James would be among them.’ " Their sound, already heard by a small audience on their Universal Blues indie debut, calls to mind White Album-era Moptops, mid-’60s Dylan, the soulful swagger of Stax, and classic Kinks all in one bundle. The production is outstanding and vintage in a big-budget kinda way. Capitol Records liked it so much they’ll be releasing their major label debut in June. Big things will happen for this band. Get in on the ground floor.
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