Take McCabe’s and cut it in half… length and width-wise.
Frame that in a private home in a suburb in the Valley. Add some carpet, stairs in the back, and a large picture window. Throw in a pot luck in the kitchen and you have a pretty good idea of what your Saturday evening looks and feels like when you go to one of Russ & Julie’s House Concerts. Oh yeah… don’t forget the world-class talent.
Last night was Nina Gerber, one of the most amazing and versatile guitarists you will ever see or hear. Period. One of the gents asked her to talk about her guitar, mentioning that the instrument often adds to the tone and sound… “Uh, no…” she said jokingly. But I tell you what. As glorious as what she plays… Kate Wolf’s guitar, built by David Matlin… this is ALL NINA. Her playing can most literally move you… from foot-tapping smiles… to head-shaking awe… to actual heartbreak. I felt tears welling up on more than one occasion, especially during one of her two instrumentals, the stunner “Winthrop Waltz.” This may in fact be one of the most beautiful songs I have EVER heard.
I had the pleasure of seeing Nina play with Karla Bonoff a little while back as they opened for America. And I am beyond myself that I will be missing them on a double bill next weekend at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. It’s a double bill with one of the greatest songwriters of all time… Jimmy Webb. AAAGGGHHH!!!
Her partner in whatever is the opposite of crime this evening, and apparently for the last 25 years, was Chris Webster. Her casual demeanor… hands in the pockets of her blue jeans… is the visual proof of the amazing vocal ease she possesses. Her voice, her range, is gorgeous… never pushing or forcing a note or a tone, but amazingly floating through ballads and blues and even some standards. This is quite the duo. Chris also played a beautiful ukulele, with strumming and finger rhythms that also brought the ‘ol Washboard to musical life. What I love about Chris’ voice is that it is recognizable, but also completely unique. I caught myself trying to put a finger on it several times, but never quite succeeding: Shawn Colvin… close, but no. Roseanne Cash… not quite. Mary Chapin Carpenter… maybe… I can hear that… Chris Webster? Yeah… that’s the ticket!
The evening highlighted many, if not all of the songs from their new (and first) album together, Apple Blossom Lane. It has some originals from each of them, some known, but beautifully restructured covers and some songs from other artists I did not know, like singer/songwriter John Salz. The evening also reminded me to go back and explore some Kate Wolf and the tunes Nina played on with her. I also loved the tunes they did from Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, another artist I was not at all familiar with and who has sadly passed.
Both artists mentioned the community feel of the evening and how important that is. Amen to that. Music IS a community on so many levels, and yes, Nina, it will help with many of the problems and issues that no one else is coming to fix. Thanks to Russ and Julie for creating a place in their home for music to shine. Thanks to the amazing performers who just get it… and give it their all. Thanks to a respectful audience who sang and whistled and came together to form the “Oak Park Community Choir”… even if it was for ONE NIGHT ONLY! This is, quite literally, a musical treasure.
Here is a little taste of the evening… Enjoy “Wild Ride”! (This is from a few years back…)
If you don’t think music has immense power, stop whatever you’re doing. Put on your favorite record and close your eyes… It’s taking you away, isn’t it? Melting many of your problems, even for a few minutes, right?
So go out and spend a night… a day… a few hours… catching live music. This is the best form of meditation and healing out there. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again… if you open your ears and let the music in, your heart and mind will follow. And if your heart is truly open, you can heal the world. Can I get a Hallelujah?! HALLELUJAH!!!