Sunday, April 27, 2008

Joe Ely & Joel Guzman

We had the opportunity to attend two consecutive shows by Joe Ely & Joel Guzman as they tour in support of their latest collaboration: Live Cactus!. The first show was Thursday April 24th at The Birchmere and the second was the following night in Easton Maryland's Historical Society Auditorium. Both performances were outstanding and displayed the immense talents of each artist. The shows were also an example how the technology acronym KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) also works in the music world. There was just Mr. Ely on the guitar and Mr. Guzman on the accordion. Nothing else. Obviously the high cost of transporting a band was also at work but together, they have tremendous chemistry - and they never practice. Basically Ely starts a song, and Guzman waits a few seconds, picks up the rhythm and melody, and joins in. After a moment, Ely steps back so that Guzman takes center stage, and then they join forces. This process was repeated for both slow ballads and fast packed trains songs. Their version of If You Were A Bluebird was the best I've heard and during White Freightliner Blues and Boxcars, Guzman imitated train whistles and mimicked Ely on guitar as they played side by side. Improvisation at its best.

Each night we listened to tales of Lubbock and a combination of Ely's and Butch Hancock songs: Letter to Laredo, Billy the Kid, Boxcar, All Just To Get to You, If You Were A Bluebird, The Road Goes on Forever (Robert Earl Keen), She Never Spoke Spanish to Me and its sequel She Finally Spoke Spanish to Me. They paid their respects to Townes Van Zandt by playing the fore mentioned White Freightliner Blues and on Friday night Tecumseh Valley. And each night they saluted Billy Joe Shaver by playing Live Forever, which Ely learned when Shaver asked him to play it at his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Of the two performances, the second was slightly better. It could have been the informal nature of the venue or the addition of a few of our favorite songs Silver City, I'm Gonna Strangle You Shorty, and If I Could Teach My Chihuahua to Sing. It could have been that both Ely and Guzman seemed more relaxed the second night; having a day to rest from the stresses of air travel and security lines and\or the affects of sipping a locally produced wine, St. Michaels Winery Gollywobbler Red. It may have been the three encores. Or it may have been the experience walking the short distance after the show to get a late night drink and having Mr. Ely walk in and sit at a table nearby. It was definitely a pleasure watching him cheerfully sign CDs and being completely comfortable in that environment. Its also nice to see Mr. Ely skip more established venues and play in a small town - thanks also to the efforts of Mangold Entertainment. We eagerly await both Joe Ely and Joel Guzman's return to the mid-Atlantic. If you can't wait - Live Cactus! illustrates the type of performance we heard.

1 comment:

bostig said...

a very nice review. Wish I had been there.