In reverse chronological order -
Last night I found myself at 1919, the Fells Point dive that has become so beloved by the country & Americana community in Baltimore. That place always makes me feel like I live in a small town, in a good way, and it feels like I have more license to talk to strangers while I elbow my way to the bar. Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith & his band played a great set. The beats are catchier than you'd expect from Americana, and it seems like a few more than three chords, but it's still most certainly the truth. And he bellows it with the kind of firey conviction that leaves a body hoarse and out of breath at the end of the night. Michael is in the process of writing a book about his experiences working in an oil boom town in North Dakota. Watch the kickstarter video, and perhaps like me you will wish the campaign weren't already closed.
Opening for him was Stephen Lee. As I recall, I met Stephen about a year ago when he came to a house concert at our place in Hamilton. Stephen recently decided to relocate from Northern Virginia to Baltimore (pat on back of approval) and is making himself home on the scene here. He's got a sweet voice and classic-sounding songs about heartbreak and redemption.
On Thursday we were scheduled to host the enchanting Kristin Andreassen at our home, but tragically she came down with laryngitis in the middle of a tour to promote her new album, Gondolier. We did hang out for a bit with her touring companion, multi-multi-multi instrumentalist Alec Spiegelman, who I'd seen perform before with Anais Mitchell (<3 <3 <3) and with experimental folk orchestra Cuddle Magic. Since the show was cancelled I headed to 1919 to catch Caleb Stine & the Brakemen, always a surefire good time. The Brakemen are rustling up the fodder for a new album, which they have plans to record at an undisclosed mountain hideaway in New England. They are at 1919 every Thursday in January so go out and see them and throw some dollars in the tip bucket.
Last Sunday I made my first stop at the Treehouse Lounge in Washington, DC to catch the debut show of my friend Ukulele Kaeley. Kaeley has a gorgeous voice & a solid command of it, and she writes songs about the heartbreaking work of peace and social justice. She threw in some Beyonce covers to keep it light, and her stage banter was so entertaining that the bar owner invited her back to do a comedy night later this month. This gal has many talents! The same evening we also heard from a fabulous guitar player named John Lewis. I'm not quite sure how to characterize the music of DC band The Moment -- but it was danceable and certainly a show I'd go to see again.
And last Friday, I was at the Common Ground on the Hill concert to see Bruce Molsky. I learned about his music a couple of years ago and I've been dying to see him ever since. Charm City Junction was there in their entirety, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the front row. I have a growing taste for impressive instrumentals, especially fiddle music, but usually there's a certain point at which my eyes start to glaze over. Not so with Bruce. He clearly has the technical prowess to hang among the best, but he doesn't let his ability get in the way of the raw emotional power of his music. And his voice--there is something about it that feels so unpretentious, natural, down-to-earth.