May 02, 2009

Kenny White and Cheryl Wheeler

I've been so busy of late - between work and yoga and everything in between - that I have not taken advantage of the pretty incredible variety of acoustic music available in the local area. There is the Sounding Board, Vanilla Bean, The Space in Hamden, various Nature Centers, colleges, coffeehouses. Last night, Zippy and I ventured out to the WWUH Music for a Change series to see Cheryl Wheeler. Unexpectedly ran into some friend there (Hi Robin! Hi Arlene!)

The surprise of the evening was the incredible NYC singer-songwriter and musican Kenny White, who opened for Cheryl, as well as backed her on piano and vocals during her set. I've not come across him in my travels and listenings. Initially, he seemed to be mining the same ground that Randy Newman does - a kind of New Orleans honky tonk pianist with a fierce combination of humor, sarcasm, and razor sharp wordplay. But as his set evolved, he got deeper and more complex - I was catching glimpses of Dan Bern, of Bob Dylan, and, at last, those early Bruce Springsteen songs with Roy Bittan's piano work. I was, in a word, enchanted. Enough so that I bought his two most recent CDs (and will get the next one, because several of the songs he played that I loved have not yet been recorded / released)

It is not often that an opening act gets a standing ovation and comes back for an encore, but he did, and not just because folkies are filled with love and kindness. He brought it, he earned it.

Cheryl Wheeler was also in fine form. She opened with Quarter Moon, which set me to crying immediately. Consider myself lucky because it's not even on her website list of Songs at Recent Concerts (which is a pretty awesome feature). Zippy was totally enchanted by her (even as he struggled to make out some of her non-stop, hilarious, between song banter. Cheryl has always been one of my faves - she bounces between the funniest and lightest songs ever, and the deepest, most beautiful poems of love and life.

I've seen her at Falcon Ridge a few times (never a particularly good place to really sit and listen to a particular artist, since I am usually so busy) and perhaps once or twice else. So the concert was a rare and delightful treat. Perhaps it is my recent state of mind (yoga, enlightenment intensives, getting older) but I was smitten by Pointing at the Sun, a new song and also the title of her new CD.

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