Emerging Artists Showcase
Featuring the Talents of Carsie Blanton, Jann Klose,
Catlin Canty and Barnaby Bright - Music on Main Street:
The Barron Arts Center, Woodbridge, NJ - October 18, 2012
By Phil Rainone
There’s something about a human voice that’s
personal. Summoned through the belly, hammered into form
by the throat, given propulsion by the lungs, finally formed
by the tongue and lips, a vocal is a kind of audio kiss,
a blurted confession, and in this case a musical confession.
Every time out it can be crazy-clumsy, as Tom Waits guarantees
on “Jersey Girl;” or beautifully reminiscent,
like Springsteen on “Girls in Their Summer Clothes.”
As symphonic as Patti Griffin’s “Beautiful Day,”
or Tim Buckley’s song about leaving your thoughts
and heartbreak behind like on “Forget Her.”
At The Barron Arts Center this night, Griffin, Springsteen,
Waits, and Buckley were spiritually sitting in the front
row nodding their collective approval. As a matter of fact,
Jann Klose was chosen to sing Tim Buckley’s songs
in an upcoming movie. So that connection adds even more
mojo to the mix.
Opening for what was four half-hour sets with a brief intermissions
in-between, Carsie Blanton opened with her bass player Joe
Plowman. If I were pressed for a comparison, their opening
number “First Kiss” had the vibe of a Patti
Griffin. Carsie’s voice can be angelic, with a hint
of grit, but the bottom line is, she’s strikingly
Joe Plowman played a standup bass that looked like a piece
of finished piece furniture which fit in nicely with all
the hard wood, stained glass windows, and arched ceiling
that the Barron Arts Center is known for.
Carsie introduced “Idiot Heart” as a kind of
funny tribute to Mr. Magoo (60’s cartoon character,
his biggest role was playing Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
He was always portrayed as the poor soul who everyone felt
sorry for). The tune had a kind of low-key rockabilly riff
running though it that had the 90 plus fans almost ready
to get up out of their seats and dance. It didn’t
hit me until the third artist came on, but this was not
going to be your traditional “singer/songwriter night.”
As the show progressed “eclectic” and “obscure”
would work well to describe what we heard.
Carsie played most of her new album Idiot Heart (carsieblanton.com),
and again, like at the David Johansen/Brian Cooney show
the week before, you could almost hear a pin drop during
their performance. “Smoke Alarm” (with lines
like, “Everyone you’ve ever known is headed
for a headstone,” it was actually an upbeat story),
“Back Seat,” “Chicken (the tune had a
nice Wanda Jackson vibe to it),” and “Backbone,”
all felt like old touchstones, even though they were brand
new to most of us. Her phrasing, passionate vocals, and
spirit flowed through every song, and she had a cool sense
of humor to boot. She also offered her new CD as, “Pay
what you what to pay,” which had a lot of people back
by her merch table throughout the night.
Barnaby Bright got their name from back in the Medieval
Times. The Solstice was called “Barnaby Bright”
(they had the band’s name spelled out on a kids light
bright screen-nice touch), being the summer or winter solstice
representing good/bad, light/dark, opened with a midtempo
song that they said was, “One of our few depressing
songs.“ “Highway 9” did not disappoint,
it had some gloom and doom lyrics weaved into the bright
gangly number. What also helped propel the song was its
misery-loves-company was the line, “I want to get
higher than Keith Moon.” Amazing stuff and this was
only their first song!
“Castle Rock” had a slinky Everly Brothers style
intro that turned into an upbeat semi- rocker. Witn limited
space to move around in, our toes were tappin, and heads
were boppin.’ Fun stuff!
They followed that with a Billie Holiday number “Fine
and Mellow,” for which they used a banjo and an acoustic
guitar. Man, you would have never known the song was one
of Holiday’s jazzy, orchestrated showcase numbers.
Barnaby Bright turned it into a sweet, country influenced
number, with the lead singer adding her vocals as a honey-throated
Caitlin Canty opened with “Poor House,” which
had the vibe of a Lucinda Williams tune. It was full of
deep pain and frustration, enveloped by a low-twangy, guitar
run. She took the audience on a trip through her roots (folk,
soul, blues, and whatever she felt like at the time), combining
songs and short storytelling. Each artist had a thirty minute
set, but actually each one could have probably done an hour
or so as it seemed like they left us wanting more after
their final song. Caitlin Canty’ set was inspiring,
as she aspired to bring us to a new musical territory. One
of the most interestingly beautiful lines of the entire
evening was from Caitlin: “You have to separate the
stars from the city light.” Simply amazing!
Jann Klose fired up minimalist leads on his acoustic guitar
that added a ballsy edginess to his sometimes soothing,
sometimes throaty vocal prowess. His backing band was ready
at a moment’s notice to add or subtract for the music.
Versatile, strong, and vulnerable when needed, they could
bring you to the highest highs or lowest lows. At times
Jann’s guitar seemed like a beacon of light, helping
to guide him through each song. It was hard to tell where
the melody was coming from, as both his vocals and his guitar
seemed to be reaching, and stretching to show and to grow
his musical DNA.
The depth of the singer’s voice touches you in places
that are as personal as the place from which it originated.
One of the measures for me for what defines a singer is
the ecstasy of surrender they inspire. They can find our
vulnerability that we thought we had armored long ago. There’s
something about Jann’s voice that’s personal,
yet universal. Songs like “Beautiful Dream,”
“All These Rivers,” or “Waiting for the
Wave,” were performed like they were made to guide
you through the material world with an eye toward a better
place in life.
They covered Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,”
with the dedication of a band that wanted to get it right,
yet, branch out into unexplored territory. When they play
you go somewhere in your mind-you definitely don’t
just sit in your seat.
Usually, when there’s a show featuring all singer/songwriters
you kind of expect at some point for it to start sounding
the same. On this night, the way diversity, complexity,
and simplicity were all woven into each artists set in was
amazing. Four unique, fun, and interesting artists took
us to our heart of hearts.
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