John Platt’s On Your Radar March 11, 2014

OYR-March-poster1The March edition of On Your Radar featured The No Fuss and Feathers Roadshow, Cricket Tell the Weather, and Mike Laureanno on Stage 3 of Rockwood Music Hall. At 7pm, when the show began, it was to have led off with Mike Laureanno.  However, Mike, on his way down from his home in Rhode island, was somewhere in Connecticut on a stalled Amtrak train. John Platt shuffled No Fuss and Feathers into the lead spot. They sandwiched two short sets, with Cricket Tell the Weather in between. Mike arrived just before the show was to have ended at 9pm. As luck would have it, the next act wasn’t scheduled until 9:45, and he was able to perform four songs.

The No Fuss and Feathers Roadshow features two solo artists, Karyn Oliver and  Carolann Solebello (formerly of Red Molly), plus Catherine Miles and Jay Mafale of The YaYas. All three women belong to the large New York area collective known as “Chicks With Dip,” who recorded the album, Joni Mitchell’s Blue: A 40th Anniversary Celebration. Within that larger group, they gravitated toward each other, having found a particular affinity with each other’s voices. Jay provides percussion and lead and rhythm guitar as well as harmony vocals. No Fuss is intended as an in-the-round performance, each supporting the other’s solo work (or band, in the case of the YaYas).  As Carolann said to John Platt, in the pre-set interview, “We get to have a band!” Their voices are a rewarding mix of different qualities. Karyn Oliver’s sharper Nashville/blues-tinged vocals offset Carolann’s more round, country/folk quality and Catherine’s softer folk/pop sound. We were treated to a wide variety of styles. The group supported Karyn as she sang “Water” “Slip Away With Me,” and “Weeping Willow Road” from her Magdalene album.  The group backed Carolann on “Hound Dogs In August” from her Threshold CD and “Falling is Easy” from her latest album, Steel and Salt.  Catherine and Jay (her husband) took the lead on a jazz/funk song, “Little Scars,” and were supported by the others on “You Should Go” and All These Gifts,” both YaYas compositions.

Cricket Tell the Weather, a progressive bluegrass band, was first seen by most of us at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artists Showcase. Songwriters Andrea Asprelli (fiddle) and Jason Borisoff (guitar) are joined by banjoist Doug Goldstein and bassist Jeff Picker. They combine traditional bluegrass style with original compositions. One in particular, “Let it Pass,” written by Jason who handles the lead vocal, seemed much folkier than bluegrass. Touted as a wish for the bitter 2014 winter to be over, it was a bit premature, as the temperature would plummet to single digits (with wind chill factored in) within the next 48 hours. It was warm in the cellar stage 3, though, as the band continued their “pre-CD release” show. Their set heated the room up with numbers from their upcoming album that included “No Big City,” “Remington,” “Rocky Mountain Skies” and one of my particular favorites, “Embers from Afar.” We’re eager to see this group many times more, going forward.

John Platt left word with Mike Laureanno to notify him as soon as he entered the premises. Mike was swiftly rushed to the stage and after a (very) brief introductory Q and A from John, dove into his repertoire. The songs didn’t simply stick with his latest release, a very fine album, Pushing Back Wintertime (there’s that wishful thinking again). Mike started off with one not on the CD, “Maria,” a playful jest directed at the compassionate mother of Christ, who, in a joke preceding the song (and illustrating it), was letting sinners into heaven through the back door. Mike then sang a song, “Let Go,” a tribute to the late Jack Hardy, founder of the Fast Folk Musical Magazine, with whom he performed for 12 years. The song that followed, “Better Off Without the Rhyme,” was also not on his CD. He’d just written it for his wife this past Valentine’s Day. A lament for lost love (as his love songs sometimes are), it could have been written by Jack, it was so close in style. He finished up with “Little Red-Winged Blackbirds,” which metaphorically called out  the U.S. government, or all governments who fudge statistics to suit policy. Jack would have approved.