words & photos by Chris La Putt
I spent all of Friday night checking out three very diverse and entertaining shows at Joe's Pub (literally three separate ticketed shows, one after each other). First up were the bluegrass band The Steep Canyon Rangers from North Carolina. They were quite a force to be reckoned with, even without their occasional band member and comedian Steve Martin who joined them the last time they were in New York City.
The quality of their harmonies were impressive, especially in "Sylvie", like a more simplistic Dirty Projectors, but not at all plain acapella style. As one reviewer
writes, "the Steep Canyon Rangers again demonstrate that a band can be musically innovative while reaching into the past. Like other younger bands, Steep Canyon Rangers straddle the blurred edges of traditional and progressive bluegrass; that they do so as successfully as they do is a testament to their continued and expanding appeal." The ended their set with a song dedicated to Tiger Woods entitled "Lovin' Pretty Women" which you can see in the video below along with more pictures and the recap of more of the night...
From bluegrass we jump to the realm of folk-pop with a tinge of jazz as I heard Sophie Madeleine open the second set of the night. Armed with ukulele and a sweet voice, Ms. Madeleine has caused quite a stir on the internet with her cute and infectious videos about beards and love on facebook. Her live work is more serious and shows quite more than the silliness in those youtube videos. The first song of her set was entitled "Stars" which hints at this songwriter's heartaching ability to write vivid love songs.
Headlining the sold-out second set of the night was the very soulful Kristina Train. Coming out of the curtains with a grin, Ms. Train looked genuinely surprised at the number of people waiting for her to perform selects from her first album Spilt Milk released by Blue Note Records. Her strong and rich voice during "No Man's Land" enveloped the crowd at Joe's - it's reminiscent of the blue-eyed soul singers of the British invasion (appropriately, she and Duffy share the same producer).
The final set of the night ended strong with the booming vocals of New York-based soul/R&B/Funk/country singer Alice Smith which also begins her two week residency at Joe's. A lady who refuses to be classified, this Grammy-nominated singer's lyrics are as complex as her sound.