Friday, November 28, 2008

Baby Dee / Paul Curreri / Black Carrot @ The Glee Club, Thursday 27th November 2008

Other worldly. That's the best way to describe tonight's gig. And, I have to say, it's a world I'd much rather live in. It might scare the bejesus out of me at times but it is, at its heart, really a much saner place than the one most of us inhabit right now n'est ce pas? Oh...R.I.P Woolies by the way. As the place that got me started on my musical journey some time back in 1977 (with a 99p Hot Hits tape featuring the tunes of the day covered by various session musicians...hey, give me a break...99p was a lot of money to a 7 year old) I shed, mentally at least, a tear when the death knell was finally tolled. Where this leaves Zavvi (who, I believe, get most of their stock through Woolies distribution arm) only remains to be seen. Anyway, back to the altogether nicer business of the music and, first up, Black Carrot. Tapping into influences as diverse (and downright brilliant) as Robert Wyatt, Captain Beefheart and (in my tattered head at least) X-ray Spex (the horns...listen to the horns) they are the very soundtrack to your nightmares. Lead Carrot, Stewart, in particular has the kind of vocal delivery that could terrify young children (and maybe a few grown ups too) into soiling themselves. This is a very good thing. As I often blab on about, the beauty of music, in all its crazy mixed up diversity, is that it can create such incredible emotions. It takes you places you didn't know existed and Black Carrot make excellent tour guides in a world filled with insane jazz bands, surreal landscapes and lashings of Pilsner Urquell. Go investigate and send me a postcard...carrot shaped naturally.

Next Paul Curreri, whose name I was familar with but, as with so many artists (so much good stuff, so little time...sigh...), I just hadn't got round to checking out. There's a hell of a lot of singer songwriters out there but, from the very first strum, Paul established that special link with the audience that marked him out as something different. It could be the beard (I'm a sucker for beards)but vocally tonight he reminded me a little of a younger (and less grizzled) Seasick Steve (just check out The Wasp...can't you just see Steve playing this?). Like SS he's got that sort of delivery that makes you think singing and playing music is as natural as breathing to him. Even if you only has a passing interest in the newly resurgent Americana or Folk scenes, Paul's an essential listen (I can heartily recommend the bluesy new album The Velvet Rut as an excellent starting point too).

Finally, the lady herself, Baby Dee. Readers of a certain age may well be expecting a quick burst of Let Me Be Your Fantasy here, but this is an altogether different kind of Baby Dee. There can't be too many transgender harp players out there. This alone makes Baby Dee unique. But her playing, vocal delivery, material and warm, self depreciating personality are every bit as special. Hailing from Ohio (hello out there the Bobby Dazzler) she has an operatic quality to her voice that wavers from frail old lady to feisty sea dog. If all this sounds a little extraordinary - it is. I'm in awe of anyone who can play the harp (the guitar looks tricky to me but the many strings has that thing got?), but Dee plucks, whacks and teases something quite magical from hers. Coming onstage in a pair of well worn DM's, quickly discarded to reveal black stockened feet, and with a shock of red hair piled on her head, Dee's an arresting and truly unique artist. Many of the songs concern change, lost (or unrequited love) Not quite sure where the third of these themes comes from but I'm not one for overanalysis. A lot of it is intense, heartbreaking stuff. As a fan of Anthony & The Johnsons and, of course, Marc Almond, I was quite at home with all this. Many people won't be. It's their loss. Tonight was a pure harp set but check out her Myspace page and you'll hear a lot more of the piano material - equally engaging but there's something about the purity of the harp that really suits Dee's style. All in all an extraordinary, and quite beautiful, evening.

Before I go a quick mention for Coventry's Tin Angel Records, to whom all three artists are 'signed'. Any label that releases such a range of unique material deserves investigation and - more importantly - support. Go give 'em some love.

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