29 July 2008

i'm goin' where there's no digression

in the spirit of blogging in the moment... some quick jots on tonight's show at the world cafe with jimmy dale gilmore, once described, as he proudly related to us, as "a man who never met a digression he didn't like." an alleged undersung granddaddy of alt-country (as a member of the semi-mythical trio the flatlanders), a silver-haired folk-blueser more hippy than hillbilly, best known among many (including matt, who got me the comp) as smoky the pacifist bowler from the big lebowski, with an understated, mildly pinched but resonant warbly voice, in moments recalling the grandeur of (fellow lubbock-ite) roy orbison.

also, jenny scheinman, who has a slightly harsh look about her, and sang newly-minted folk-style songs with a soft, hypnotic calm, about pine and cedar boxes and hallelujah and other things too fleeting to latch onto. (later on, during the main set, she took the mike again for jelly roll morton's "whinin' boy," which was considerably more direct and dynamic than anything in her set proper.)

she - a violinist well-known in instrumental ("jazz" - she said the word almost with disdain) circles, but here a fiddler true and blue - and the two guitarists who backed her also formed gilmore's backing trio. there was a slightly awkward onstage dynamic marked by a certain amount of hesitancy from adam levy, of norah jones' band, who'd just joined the lineup a matter of days ago, and the subtle efforts by robbie gjersoe, a longtime gilmore sideman, to keep the group on track, while jimmy himself rambled genially and aimlessly ("what if i actually said something important?... what would that be like?") not that the performance was sloppy - it wasn't; these guys are pros, and scheinman and gjersoe's playing in particular was rife with tasty licks and chops - but it was easy to imagine how much more compelling a set like this could have been with a truly tight and seasoned band.

the show got a good deal more engaging and varied, and looser, about a third of the way through jdg's set, when he began playing others' tunes (among them butch hancock, lefty frizell,
and harlan howard) instead of his own, which he described as not as good, but "just good enough." jenny, politicly, begged to differ on that point (he later described hers as "strange", with melodies always going in places his mind couldn't quite understand)...but i'd have to agree with him on that assessment, as well as on his trumpeting of his own excellent taste. the show itself, and the impression of gilmore's artistry that i gleaned from it, runs roughly along those lines: not necessarily brilliant or exceptional - though this is not to discount his entirely endearing onstage personality; he himself is certainly something to cherish (his rambling ways make one wonder what he was like in younger days) - but plenty good enough, for sure, for a good enough time.

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