Joan Shelley is a roots musician I first saw singing duets with Daniel Martin Moore at an Emery Theatre benefit. Their voices blended together beautifully and were strong enough individually that I was eager to hear what these musicians, both from Kentucky, sounded like on their own. This week the Joan Shelley album Electric Ursa is being released and she’s going to be do an instore at Shake It Records on Thursday (Oct 2) at 6pm. The event promises an opportunity to hear this musician whose new album just got a good writeup in Pitchfork in an intimate setting and pick up her new CD.
I have a video I want to share of Joan singing a track from her new album, but first I want to backtrack to last weekend, when some amazing music took place in Cincinnati. Of course MidPoint delivered, but for me the most mindblowing concert I saw that weekend (or for that matter for many a year) was the Zakir Hussain performance at the Aronoff. Although I didn’t know what the music was going to sound like that evening, I had a hunch that I was going to be blown away. I wasn’t prepared, however, for this kind of intensity. The smaller Aronoff auditorium (very intimate, great acoustics) was packed, and most of the crowd was Indian. There was a feeling, when the three musicians walked out on the stage and talked to the audience it felt like a homecoming, a reconnection between old friends. That already gave the event a good vibe – and then the band began to play.
Playing tabla, Zakir sat in the middle of the elevated stage, flanked on one side by the violinist Kumaresh Rajagopalan and on the other by the veena player Jayanthi Kumaresh. Virtuosity was displayed by all three musicians, along with the deep expressions of a music that’s spiritual at the same time that it’s quite visceral, as funky in its own way as a James Brown record. And bluesy. Between sets, when I mentioned the superb playing of Jayanthi Kumaresh on veena, Ron Esposito nodded and said, “What’s up with that Mississippi Delta shit?’ Exactly, I thought.
And it only got bluesier. During the second set there were extended solo performances passed back and forth between the violinist and the veena player, and what I heard Jayanthi was some of the dirtiest, most get-down blues I ever heard, without ever resorting to a direct quote or mimic-ization of any old Paramount 78s. Amazing. I haven’t seen Mick Taylor yet, but I have seen Jayanthi Kumaresh. Also, I’ve never attended a concert where an audience was more tuned into the music. For all its solemnity, Indian music involves a lot of tomfoolery, and every time a music made a musical joke the audience laughed (and sometimes burst into spontaneous uncued applause).
I don’t have any footage of that show (wish I did), but I can share a couple highlights from MidPoint. Here’s “The Wrecking Ball” by the superb Cincinnati band The Ready Stance from late Saturday afternoon:
Another highlight (this from later in the night came from the Raveonettes:
And here’s a quick blast of white noise, again from the Raveonettes:
Finally, here’s the title track from Joan Shelley’s new album, Electric Ursa. See you Thursday!