Here’s what happened at the Leo on November 27.
Dave Laskey, the first set performer, offered up several original songs plus two covers. Some memorable moments for me among the originals included:
- “I Have Two Sons.” An autobiographical song about Dave and his relationship with (guess what) his two sons.
- “A Better Brand of Beer.” When writing this one, Dave got by with a little help from his friends in the Songwriters’ Collaborative. Dave’s sense of wordplay was evident: Internal rhymes in many lines and alliteration aplenty.
- “My Name is Luis” Dave’s rant. Undocumented workers are not illegal human beings.
- “Optimism.” Probably my favorite Laskey song of the evening. As he described the lyrics, they are about a person who, given a glass with about 1/4 inch of water in it, will see the glass as overflowing. Dave said that kind of optimism is not in his nature. It’s not in mine either. The hero of Optimism celebrates a day-old, warm, half-empty can of beer, a stuck truck with three good tires, and a wife and kids that aren’t too smart or too good looking either, but that just makes ’em easy to tell apart.
Dave’s covers included the Bob Dylan tune “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” that was mostly based on Shawn Colvin’s cover of the tune. He also, of course, covered Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” If you attend the 5:30 jam/song circle at all, you’ve probably heard Dave lead the group in Wagon Wheel. Spencer Funk and Dave’s brother Tom joined him on mandolin and lead guitar, respectively.
The last two sets featured performers who come in from Oxford and brought a few friends with them.
The middle set featured John Kogge accompanied by Doug Hamilton on fiddle, performing a pretty jazzy (which could also be written be pretty, jazzy) set of songs. Just to give you sense of Kogge’s set, the songs included:
- “Old Rockin’ Chair,” written by Hoagy Carmichael. Here’s the song performed by Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden.
- “Church Street Blues,” covered by both Tony Rice and Norman Blake. John’s version is more jazzy than bluegrass. The lyrics also mention a rocking chair. I don’t know if that has any particular meaning, but there was an early theme here.
- Speed of The Whippoorwill, by the band Chatham County Line. This one was not as jazzy as the others, but it also wasn’t nearly as raw country as the Chatham County Line version.
John also performed one original, The West Coast Rag, written some years ago while he was travelling from Madras to New Delhi, India, while jammed into a rail car with a few hundred other folks. John was thinking fondly of about his imminent return to the States – California, particularly – and girl (of course.)
Lisa Biales, the feature performer for the evening, was also joined by fiddler Doug Hamilton — and a few others. More about that later.
Lisa’s first numbers continued the pretty, jazzy set style that was first set by Kogge. (You following me here?) A couple of early numbers included:
- An Irving Berlin song, ‘If You Don’t Want My Peaches, You’d Better Stop Shaking My Tree” that was un-published and not sung by anyone during Berlin’s life time, according to folks posting here. After his death, it was published by the Irving Berlin Music Company as part of the ‘Lower East Side Songbook’. A two-CD album entitled ‘Unsung Irving Berlin’ was issued a few years ago. On this, this song is sung by Mary Ellin Lerner, Berlin’s granddaughter.
- “Buzzie,” a Biales original about a honey bee, with a musical structure that continued the jazzy sound and lyrics that continued the kind of double entendre featured in the Peaches song.
Biales changed pace when she invited Ricky Nye, famous for his New Orleans Boogie Woogie pianoe, up to the stage for a version of The Cow Cow Boogie. Biales and Nye were then joined by Pam Temple in a cover of the Delmore Brothers “Blues Stay Away From Me.”
Nye left the stage, but John Kogge and Pam (and Doug Hamilton) joined Lisa for one sweet version of the Crosby, Stills and Nash ultimate paean to alliterative lyrics: [audio:https://queencityballadeers.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Helplessly-Hoping.mp3|titles=Helplessly Hoping]The recording was captured on a simple hand-held recorder. I’ve put it here just so ya’ll can hear what they did. That they pulled this off without any rehearsal just amazes me. One of the things that struck me is that you can hear them settle in, and the harmonies become more and more solid as the song progresses.
Lisa ended the evening with original with the message: “Don’t let anyone get in your way. Just keep dreaming the big, big dream.”