Calling Kalamazoo home, Lloyd and the Fellas formed in February 2009. At its concert on December 16, the band performed its own compositions plus a handful of shape note songs from the Sacred Harp tradition. This is music to really listen to – thoughtful lyrics combined with skillful acoustic instrumentation. Lloyd and the Fellas has a promising future and we look forward to hearing more from these talented musicians.
Lloyd and the Fellas
Anyone who has been around the West Michigan blues and festival scene during the past decade is certainly no stranger to the award-winning Blue Moon Blues Band. In one incarnation or another, these folks have been part of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival and WRKR’s wintertime blues series at the State Theatre for years, sharing local and regional stages with the likes of Bernard Allison, Smokin' Joe Kubec, Son Seals, Hubert Sumlin, Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy Johnson… the list goes on and on. Blue Moon was also awarded a WYCE radio “Jammie” for best local blues album debut.
But last Wednesday’s performance at Central Library – show number seventeen in KPL’s ongoing Live Music series – was a unique chapter in this versatile band’s history. With equipment stripped to the bare essentials – share n’ hi-hat, acoustic guitars, piano and all, Blue Moon gave the crowd of sixty or so a chance to hear some band favorites, unique covers and homegrown originals in a more intimate than usual setting. For many of us, this was also the first opportunity to witness the band with its new lead vocalist, Bryan Michael Fischer. What a treat! These guys have grown from an adequate cover band into a true performance powerhouse. WMUK’s Mark Sahlgren (Grass Roots) summed the show up in one word… “Wow!”
Highlights included some rippin’ cover tunes like “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie” (Clarence Smith), “My Babe” (Willie Dixon), “Bring It On Home To Me” (Sam Cooke), and a blistering version of B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone.” The show also featured several band originals, including public debut of the brand new, somewhat Santana-esque “Heart Has Turned to Stone” - a very cool tune. And of course, they dedicated “Miss Ann” to our library director!
“Thanks so much and please tell everyone at the library that we were honored to perform there and we had an awesome time!” – Bill LaValley, Blue Moon Blues Band
Check out Blue Moon CDs from the KPL catalog, and visit the band’s MySpace page for some recent pix and tasty song samples. Be sure to catch the band’s final performance (sniff...) on November 14 at Bell’s Eccentric Café.
And… there’s plenty more music coming at KPL, too… don’t miss a special performance by Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart on November 1st, and be sure to visit (and bookmark) KPL’s music page for highlights of past shows and more terrific upcoming performances.
Blue Moon Blues Band
In some libraries across the country you will still find what is commonly known as a “Listening Room.” These rooms were usually equipped with technology to play the music in the library’s collection. On July 15th the Van Deusen Room turned into a huge “Listening Room,” but instead of listening to something on LP or CD patrons were treated to the sweet sounds of Mark Duval and Two-Track Mind. The super intimate setting allowed concert-goers the chance to absorb the touching and powerful lyrics of Kalamazoo singer-songwriter Duval. The band comprised of Traci Seuss (vocals, guitar), Bill Caskey (bass), and Cori Summers (violin) were tight and entrancing. How often do you get to experience an amazing live show in such a great atmosphere?
Mark Duval, Two-Track Mind
mark-duval-two-track-160http://www.catalog.kpl.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/x/0/0/5?searchdata1=Two-Track Mind%7BTI%7D+AND+Mark Duval%7BAU%7D
Nashville based, Michigan born singer-songwriter, Joe Nolan performed outside under Central's portico to a large crowd of music fans on June 5th. The event was part of the Art Hop and kicked off our huge slate of events to entertain everyone during the hot summer months. Many of the hundreds of people strolling around town stopped to listen to Joe's unique style which is a blend of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. In addition to his performing his own material, Nolan randomly read from some books he brought to the concert. The outdoor show was very successful and proved to be a most excellent start to the music being featured at KPL during the summer!
A capacity crowd arrived early to see Shout Sister Shout on June 17. It’s easy to understand why. Rachael Davis’ silky and sultry voice combined with the rich arrangements and excellent musicianship of Steppin’ In It made for a concert no one wanted to end.
Shout Sister Shout was formed in 2006 by the band Steppin' In It and the singer Rachael Davis, all of whom are well known in the folk scene and who have played double-bills on many occasions. It was their mutual love for old instruments, old radio and old-time jazz that led to Shout Sister Shout (named for a song by Sister Rosetta Sharpe).
This marked the one-year anniversary of concerts at KPL. We kicked off the series in 2008 with Steppin’ In It; Rachael (with Jesse Lee Mason) followed soon after in August, and we're glad to welcome all of them back. Take a look at recordings from previous concerts in our monthly series. You'll also find a great collection of photos from the KPL show on the official Shout Sister Shout website!
Rachael Davis with Shout Sister Shout
On May 13, the Michigan based world, jazz, Celtic, band Millish performed for fans of in KPL's 12th consecutive free concert. The guys are all award-winning musicians and it definitely showed as they skillfully entertained the audience with tracks from their first self-titled CD.
Millish's unique style of music gives the listener a sense of traveling in a place where the best sounds of music throughout the world all merges together.
Check out out the video to see what I am talking about!
Who Hit John? systematically smacked everyone in attendance with their rawkus style of blugrass and old-time country swing at the library on April 29th. The boys entertained a crowd of well over 100 fans at the 11th consecutive concert in the popular concert series. The acts get better each month and this show did not disappoint. It was a night to celebrate not only a great local musical act, but also a community coming together to enjoy fun music. Who Hit John? is an awesome representation of the vibrant music scene in Kalamazoo!
Who Hit John?
Mark Sahlgren treated us to a wonderful concert on March 11, including a display of his collection of vintage Gibson guitars. Mark was joined by two beautiful singers: his Grassroots co-host Lorrain Caron, and his daughter Darcy Willis, of Cornfed Girls.
When we were planning Reading Together activities, we wanted to be sure that there was a concert of music with a Southern accent. One cannot form a complete picture of Rick Bragg’s rural South without a soundtrack. After all, there is a reason they call it country music.
The South’s relative isolation allowed cultural traditions of its settlers to remain alive. What did immigrants bring with them? Maybe a fiddle or guitar — or maybe only words and melodies remembered and rehearsed and handed down. That’s a challenge in any case, but for instrumental music, even more so. How did the fiddler avoid mixing up one waltz with another? The guitar accompanist likely learned chord changes without ever knowing what guitar tablature looked like. (There was little formal training except perhaps at the hand of the Baptist preacher’s wife who also taught piano lessons and made sure every girl learned how accompany hymns.)
And that guitar might have been a cheaply made instrument bought from a Sears Roebuck catalog, or Montgomery Ward. On such instruments, the strings were so far from the fretboard that the new musician had to endure a painful ordeal until thick callouses were developed on the fingertips. Most people hadn’t played finely made expensive instruments and thus no one knew it could be better. Life was hard. Why wouldn’t there be a trial to achieve moments of pleasure?
Many of the songs from the South are about hardship. You can’t think about hardships without also thinking about faith and religion. In Chapter 9 of All Over But the Shoutin’, Rick Bragg recalls the influence of religion and retells some of his churchgoing experiences. He titles that chapter On the Wings of a Great Speckled Bird. That line is from what may be one of the greatest songs of country music, “The Great Speckled Bird.”
What a beautiful thought I am thinking,
Concerning a great speckled bird.
Remember her name is recorded,
On the pages of God’s Holy Word.
The words of this gospel song are attributed to Rev Guy Smith. Recorded in 1936 by Roy Acuff, the song is about remaining righteous amidst the trials of life. The phrase “great speckled bird” comes from a Bible passage, Jer 12:8-9. (For more about the meaning of the song, here’s an interesting discussion.)
I know people have ridiculed country music because of its bounty of songs about hardship, particularly drinking and infidelity. I guess there’s a reason for the stereotypes. Likker, relationships and religion were not insignificant themes.
And that’s why “The Great Speckled Bird” is so emblematic of country music. The irony is that its melody is shared by a song from the 1920s, “I Am Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.” The same melody was later used in the 1952 country hit “The Wild Side of Life,” sung by Hank Thompson (about a wife that strays) and the loud retort from Kitty Wells: “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.”
Mark Sahlgren's Gibson guitars
Local music legend and co-host of WMUK's Grassroots program, Mark Sahlgren, helped celebrate Reading Together by performing music inspired by the Rick Bragg memoirs. Sahlgren was joined by Grassroots co-host Lorraine Caron (Duffield/Caron Project) and daughter Darcy Wilkin (Corn Fed Girls) in a set that featured a wide range of folk, country and Americana.
In addition to the great music, Sahlgren shared with the audience a stage filled with Gibson guitars, including several specifically crafted during the Depression which ties directly to the Bragg books. After hearing the sweet sounds of Caron, Wilkin, and Sahlgren the audience was encouraged to sing along to the final song!
Once again the library participated in the quarterly extended Art Hops sponsored by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. The featured artist was Eana Agopian who was on the 1st Level to display and discuss her mixed media style of art. The Kalamazoo Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra entertained a large crowd of fans in the rotunda area on the 2nd Level. Finally in the Van Deusen Room on the 3rd Level, singer-songwriter Jess Yoakum performed her beautifully crafted folk songs on both guitar and piano.
Almost 500 attended the event, but even if you missed it you can check out the video below. Don't miss our next Art Hop event on June 5th.