Sound Advice: : Blues & Boogie Piano Summit and The Mountain Goats

Upcoming concert previews of note

Nov 9, 2007 at 2:06 pm
Mark Van S

Mountain Goats

"Blues & Boogie Piano Summit" with Ann Rabson, Matrijn Schok and Grega Holtrop, Christopher Rois and Ricky Nye with Bekah Williams

Saturday · Southgate House

What are the things that you can get in Greater Cincinnati but nowhere else in the United States? Since Oprah has blathered on about Graeter's and Skyline has franchised far beyond city limits, it might seem that there is nothing left to call our own. (The Bengals? Meh.) While Boogie Woogie piano festivals aren't uncommon in Europe, where the love of the Blues isn't quite as waning as it is here in its birth country, if you want a full bill of top-of-the-line Boogie Woogie players in the U.S., you'll have to come to the Southgate House, where local specialist Ricky Nye (a veteran of many of those European festivals) hosts the "Blues & Boogie Piano Summit." The event turns a decade old next year.

At the turn of the last century, according to music historian Robert Palmer, the Boogie Woogie piano style — a rolling style, not quite "barrelhouse" but close — first popped up in the South. By the 1920s and '30s, the genre was producing hit records.

Flash ahead to the next millennium and, while not producing charting records anymore (unless Britney decides to go "Boogie" for her next album), the niche style still enjoys a wide audience, thanks largely to the music's infectiously fun lilt. Yup, you can boogie to Boogie Woogie.

Nye's events are always a great way to check out the sometimes subtle differences in these players from all over the world. This year, the concert shines a light on women from the genre. Ann Rabson is a 45-year Blues veteran and member of the popular all-female group, Saffire — The Uppity Blues Women is probably the most widely known artist to play the event in its history. A favorite of the Blues Music Awards (formerly known as the W.C. Handy Awards), her solo music has received eight nominations over the years.

Dutch pianist Martjin Schok heads stateside with singer Greta Holtrop specifically for the festival (and a few side gigs as well — the duo plays Wednesday at Chez Nora with Nye and Friday at Arnold's). Schok is also a fest vet, having played most of the biggies in Europe and several Blues events in the states.

Christopher Rios is the "dude" on the bill (in other words, the only performer without female accompaniment). Rios is from Vienna and was hugely inspired by Hamburg's legendary Axel Zwingenberger; in more recent years, Rios would have the chance to share the stage with his longtime idol.

Ricky Nye rounds out the bill, joined by vocalist Bekah Williams. If you've yet to see Nye perform and you like the Blues, you have no excuse — he's playing somewhere in the area practically every night of the week. Put on your dancing shoes, but leave the smokes at home — besides the smoldering action on stage, this one's a "non-smoking" event. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here. (Mike Breen)

The Mountain Goats with Bowerbirds

Tuesday · The Mad Hatter

In the past three years, John Darnielle — the lone consistent creative core of The Mountain Goats — has become a cross between Mark Eitzel and Stephin Merritt, utilizing a compelling and lushly lo-fi soundtrack while revealing difficult personal truths in a vocal style that suggests Loudon Wainwright III and both Johns from They Might Be Giants. For the 13 years prior to 2004's We Shall All Be Healed, Darnielle had contented himself with writing lo-fi Folk Pop songs that read like musical short stories and detailed the lives of fictional characters with little or no relation to Darnielle's own experience.

After Darnielle formed the Mountain Goats in 1991 while he was still a student at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., he embarked on a prolific run of cassette, vinyl and CD releases, crafted with a rotating cast of members and released through a variety of micro-indie labels (Shrimper, Emperor Jones, Ajax, Absolutely Kosher) that were minimally distributed but widely acclaimed. The longstanding critical buzz finally earned Darnielle a big label contract when he signed to 4AD in 2002 and released the well-received Tallahassee.

The Mountain Goats' We Shall All Be Healed (2004) marked the beginning of Darnielle's autobiographical songwriting phase with a song cycle concerning a group of Darnielle's methamphetamine addicted friends. Healed also signaled the start of Darnielle's association with producer/artist John Vanderslice, who helmed 2005's equally revealing The Sunset Tree; Vanderslice engineer/keyboardist Scott Solter (who has played with Darnielle on the last few Mountain Goats albums) produced last year's Get Lonely, but Vanderslice has taken the reins again on the Goats' next album, tentatively titled Heretic Pride and scheduled for release early next year.

Regardless of who pushes the physical buttons, count on John Darnielle to push all of the emotional ones. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here. (Brian Baker)