Wednesday, August 29th, 2007
Come On, Come Out
Strange contrast in musical experiences Tuesday night. Within the span of two hours I went from simple in-store performance from a veteran performer making a comeback of sorts to an industry-only showcase in a ritzy lounge featuring an up-and-coming young artist in a coming out party of sorts. And then I went home, ate a frozen pizza and did laundry.
The former was Mark Olson, in town for a show at the El Mocambo in support of his solo debut The Salvation Blues and offering up a teaser via a half-hour set at Soundscapes. I hadn’t heard anything Olson had done since leaving The Jayhawks but he eased me into things by opening with “Over My Shoulder” from Tomorrow The Green Grass. The band obviously sounded different but the song still sounded as lovely as it did when I first heard it over a decade ago.
Olson himself has obviously aged but his voice still sounds great. And as befits someone whose personal life has gone through the turmoil that his recently has, it was good to see him with the demeanor of someone who’s just come out of a long, dark tunnel and is learning to take joy in life again. The new songs reflected that vibe and didn’t sound a bit out of place alongside his ‘Hawks material though he still knew what everyone wanted to hear and finished off with a nice reading of “Blue”, a classic song if ever there was one. And while the touring backing vocalist/drummer filled in ably, you couldn’t help missing Gary Louris’ harmonies – the forthcoming Olson/Louris album, due out next year, can’t come soon enough.
And as soon as the in-store was done, it was time to zip across town to Club 279 on the top floor of the Hard Rock Cafe at Dundas Square where A Fine Frenzy was playing a private showcase during an off night from opening for Rufus Wainwright. I enjoyed listening to Alison Sudol’s debut record One Cell In The Sea enough when reviewing it to accept an invite to said shindig and to be reminded of how weird music industry events are. Grabbing a spring roll and drink from the open bar, I settled onto one of the leather couches in front of the stage and waited for the show to start. Not quite another night at the Horseshoe.
Playing as a three-piece, A Fine Frenzy kept their set short perhaps as befit a room full of industry folk in schmooze mode. Seeing her/them (damned pronouns) live didn’t really offer any new revelations or disappointments relative to my impressions from the record – Sudol’s rich voice and piano sounded great and her sharp melodic sense helped make some of the more generic songs at least very pretty and the standout songs – “Almost Lover” and especially “Rangers” – sound pretty damn spectacular. That Sudol is talented is undeniable – for me, the question is whether she’s got it in her to step out of the adult-contemporary singer-songwriter box and do something really interesting and unexpected. It’s perfectly fine if she doesn’t – a good song is a good song and the world always needs more of those – but if she did it could be really excellent. She returns to town with Brandi Carlile on October 9 at the Phoenix and The London Free Press has a brief chat with Sudol.
That frozen pizza really hit the spot, too.
Photos: Mark Olson @ Soundscapes – August 28, 2007
Photos: A Fine Frenzy @ Club 279 – August 28, 2007
MP3: A Fine Frenzy – “Come On Come Out” (live At MPR)
MP3: A Fine Frenzy – “Almost Lovers” (live At MPR)
Video: Mark Olson – “National Express” (YouTube)
Video: A Fine Frenzy – “Rangers” (YouTube)
Video: A Fine Frenzy – “Almost Lover” (YouTube)
MySpace: A Fine Frenzy
Tripwire reports that British Sea Power will make up for delaying the release of album number three, Now That’s What I Call World War One Joy Division, by releasing a five-song, two-video EP in October to coincide with a short, Toronto-free tour of the east coast. Apparently they don’t seem to think they owe us for that cancelled show last Fall – they’re wrong, of course. We will have our British Sea Power. One way or another.
New York North Carolina singer-songwriter Alina Simone, who has a raw Cat Power meets PJ Harvey sort of angle going on, is in town for a show at Rancho Relaxo this Saturday, September 1 in support of her new album Placelessness. And speaking of being without a place, they need a place to crash.