Early evening shows let you catch new artists mid-week
(Updated July 6th) Taking a flyer on new artists is great way to expand musical horizons.
Faced with a 8 pm dinner, I was looking for a restaurant with live music.
Singer-songwriter Olivier Jarda and Willie Stratton his opening act, an alt-folk-country artist, made a great evening of local entertainment.
The Carlton Hotel was refurbed a few years ago and has been an upscale venue for bands to perform in downtown Halifax. The Carlton has hosted a steady stream of interesting local and ‘from-away’ music. Notables who have headlined The Carlton include the Ron Hynes, Tom Wilson of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and an up-coming show with Gordie Sampson.
The Carlton doesn’t seem to be wheelchair accessible but I asked and sure enough they had a secret entrance for musicians, staff and people in wheelchairs.
The food was better than Google Places said it would be. My partner enjoyed both a red wine and chicken wrap. My pan-fried haddock and house special potatoes were great. The wine choice was a little short but I left it to the waiter and had two different whites that impressed. Service was attentive and friendly.
Despite encouragement by the manager, the first act was slow to get going. Why do musicians think they need to start late? 9 PM shows are for people who work the next day so get going on time.
Olivier Jarda is a young singer songwriter who heavily works the lyric side of songwriting. During his opening two acoustic songs, backed by the tasteful violin of Rebecca Zolkower, the words were flowing so fast I thought he was a young Dylan.
Then he strapped on his electric guitar and moved into a mellow rock set that reminded me of Jack Johnston. Check out ‘Ship of Fools’ on his Bandcamp site. You can listen to his new CD ‘Good Luck Cartel’ and download it.
With Olivier were Nick Wombolt on drums, Devin Ryan on bass, John Boudreau on keyboards, and Rebecca Zolkower on violin.
Willie Stratton is an energetic alt-folk-country band with 2 banjos, 1 Dobro, Grace Stratton on the floor tom and Kristen Wells on the exotic looking Mexican Bajo Sexto.
Willie Stratton, the lead singer, appears to a fan of the down-home country look of Marcus Mumford. Stratton plays and sings the straight ahead, damn-the-torpedoes folk music that made Mumford and Sons so popular.
“Willie Stratton is a howling, seething cyclone of god-fearing folk music” is how Willie describes himself as a sort of “folk-punk-rage-meets-Jesus.”
Willie Stratton kept your toes a tapping but I kept wishing the singer would relax a bit, cut the howling and play his banjo instead of rough strumming the poor thing. Maybe he was nervous, although he says not.
“I was playing a plectrum banjo would be the reason I was strumming it,” said Stratton in a message. ”That’s how you play that instrument.”
Check out November on Bandcamp where he seems more relaxed and hence more musical, in my mind.
Grace Stratton played a single floor tom with sticks and mallets on the rim and drum head that took the place of a full kit. It reminded me of the old snare and hi-hat that Willie Nelson uses which is right for small venues.
A full kit raises the sound level to punishing levels which is why the house manager told Jorda’s band “no sticks”
I have never seen anyone play the 12-string Bajo Sexto outside of Acapulco or in movies. It looks like a fat guitar but Kristen Wells tuned it down an octave and played bass on it. The effect was intriguing.
Both the drummer and bass guitar player sang harmony which helped the vocals carry the country sound.
Niggles aside, I liked Willie Stratton and so did my partner.
Vocalists in clubs
If I could make a suggestion to all singers who head out to clubs to perform, don’t show up without your vocal pedal. I’ve written about this before and have covered several TC Helicon effects pedals from the inexpensive Voice Live Play to the Voice Live 2. Any of those solutions will make the vocalist pop in front of the band and sound great.
Olivier at least had some vocal reverb to warm up his voice. Guitar players use pedals and their own amps. Why vocalists ignore their gear is beyond me. Patrons come to hear the vocalist not the lead guitarist so get your own gear and get the vocals up front in the mix.