Music Review
Belle of the Blues
Lisa Biales

belleblues_cvrThey did it again. Co-producers EG Kight and Paul Hornsby captured another set of tracks that feature Lisa’s wonderful voice but don’t short the listener one bit in the sound behind it. Back in 2012, Kight, Hornsby, and Biales hooked up for Just Like Honey which contained some Biales and Kight originals but consisted largely of tunes written by or associated with a number of Biales’ influences. Those influences are not totally ignored here, there’s a tune written by Memphis Minnie and another that Bessie Smith made famous, but Kight wrote or collaborated on seven of the eleven songs on Belle of the Blues.

As they did on on Just Like Honey, Tommy Talton (guitar) and Bill Stewart (drums) appear on every track with Tommy Vickery and Johnny Fountain splitting bass duties to bound out the core trio of backing musicians. This line up is frequently augmented by the likes of Pat Bergeson on harmonica, Ken Wynn on guitar, and Randall Bramlett on organ. Kight adds some vocal and guitar help and Hornsby plays piano on several tracks. Something that I thought a nice touch, although it only shows up in the digital version of the track listing, is the identity of featured musicians in the titles. Examples are “Sad Sad Sunday (Featuring Tommy Talton & Randall Bramblett)” and “Belle of the Blues (Featuring Pat Bergeson)”.

Despite all the talent involved in writing, recording, and playing, this is clearly a Lisa Biales album. Her voice is out front and in control of every song from the sultry “Sad Sad Sunday through the raucous “Bad Girl”. She even takes charge of “Trouble”, a song firmly associated with Kight (she wrote it and made it the title track of a 2000 release) in a way that, while it won’t make you forget EG, will sure make you remember Lisa.


botbcdr1botbcdr2In Nashville, the Long Players exist solely to deliver live performances of entire albums. Individual songs may be rearranged to fit specific performers but when they do an album, they do it all and they do it in the same sequence it once appeared on your turntable. That’s the way I first heard Belle of the Blues. At Friday’s CD release in Oxford, Ohio, Lisa started things off by performing all eleven songs “just like the record”. I believe it was also the official debut of the quartet she’s calling the Belle of the Blues Band and with which she will be preforming other shows in the coming months. I won’t claim that this group (Bill Littleford guitar, Dave Mackey drums, Noah Cope bass, Chuck Wiggins keys) is better than the high powered crew that did the studio version, but I can report that they are mighty good and the performance was not wanting in any way.

botbcdr3A short break followed the album then the group returned to do an assortment of songs from Lisa’s repertoire. One was a Jimi Hendrix tune that Lisa has been performing at least since 2010 when she included it on her Closet Hippie CD. As a result, I got to hear the Little Wing solo performed on accordion for the first time ever. I liked it.

Saint Paddy’s Eve

Guinness at Arnold'sEven though there was lots of rain Friday night and into Saturday morning, the weather guys were claiming it should stop in time for the noon start of Cincinnati’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. I believed them enough to head downtown and not only did the rain stop, the sun broke through the clouds more than an hour before step off time and some pretty serious warming got underway. At Arnold’s, the Guinness parade pictured at right was going on long before I got there and would continue throughout the day.

2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati

2013 St Patrick parade in CincinnatiThis parade has followed many routes over the years. Once upon a time, it actually started near Arnold’s but had not been very close is several years. Today’s route passed just a half-block away on Sycamore after running north on Eggleston and — quite briefly — west on Central parkway. The parade is always led by the statue of Saint Patrick seen in the first picture passing the recently opened Horseshoe Casino. The casino wasn’t the only “new” thing on the parade route. At the last minute, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which had marched in the parade last year, was booted. Well behaved but very vocal protesters stood at the turn onto Sycamore.

As often happens, I hadn’t been paying attention. The first I’d heard anything about this was back at Arnold’s where I struck up a conversation with a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The parade is organized by the AOH. Yes, he said, he would be marching but it was a “terrible route”. He decried the fact that the parade would not go through “downtown”, by which I assume he meant Fountain Square. Then he seemed to somehow blame this “terrible route” — a phrase he used several times — on the fact that “we won’t allow gays in the parade.” That could hardly be the case since GLSEN’s banishment became known only Friday but the move did not go over well with city officials. As reported by The Huffington Post, several withdrew from the parade in their own protest. I guess I should start paying attention as this clearly is not the end of the subject.

2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati2013 St Patrick parade in CincinnatiThere was plenty of  normal parade stuff including what must be one of the largest groups of Irish built cars in the world.

2013 St Patrick parade in Cincinnati2013 St Patrick parade in CincinnatiI’d climbed to the upper floor of a parking garage to get that shot of the DeLoreans and, while there, pointed a long lens toward Arnold’s. It obviously remained busy during the parade and was even busier after. The second picture is in Arnold’s courtyard where I managed to find a spot at the back to listen to the Cincinnati Glee Club perform a medley of Irish tunes. Sláinte!


Fifth Street Brewpub, Dayton, OHOn top of the parade, my weekend plans included a Saturday night concert in Oxford and a Sunday afternoon book presentation in Greenville. Between the parade and the concert, I stopped by the open house at Fifth Street Brewpub in Dayton. This is the first co-op brewpub in Ohio and only the second in the nation. I can now honestly tell people I own a brewpub.

Golden Inn, New Paris, OHSouthern Comfort Bar & Grill, New Paris, OHAlthough I could have driven home between each of these events, I made it a little easier by spending Saturday night at one of my favorite independent motels. The Golden Inn is on the National Road near New Paris, Ohio, and more or less half way between Oxford and Greenville. Lea Ann Golden, who runs the place with husband Jeff, mentioned a new restaurant in town and I tried it out. No pictures but the meat loaf and okra were excellent.

Michael Johnathon & Lisa Biales at Big Song Music HouseMichael Johnathon at Big Song Music HouseThe concert was at the home of Marc and Lisa Biales, a.k.a. The Big Song Music House. The performer was Michael Johnathon of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. I really do need to get to the show in Lexington but this will do for now. Lisa has appeared on the show and tonight she opened and returned near the end for couple of duets. Another great evening of music in the Oxford countryside.

Wilmington’s Denver and Murphy

dandm1I live about thirty miles from Wilmington, Ohio. It’s where my daughter lives as do some very close friends. The nearness of my own bed means there’s hardly ever a reason for me to spend the night there and the willingness of friends and family to put me up means there’s really no need to resort to commercial lodging in any case. In fact, when I first mentioned I that intended to spend a night at the General Denver Hotel, I was met with incredulity. Why would anyone, I was asked, want to stay in that old place when they could stay in a nice warm no-cost bed just a few blocks away? Fortunately, they know me well enough that there wasn’t a big fight when I explained that I wanted to stay there precisely because it was such an “old place”. I did realize, however, that the warmness of the available bed was stressed because my friend’s parents had once nearly frozen while staying at the GDH and that the temperature of my room would be a hot topic, so to speak.

dandm2I’ve mentioned the General Denver in this blog before. It’s where I’ve eaten, in addition to several other meals, my last four Thanksgiving dinners. I wrote of the one in 2011. It was built in 1928 by Matthew Denver who named it for his father, James Denver. James was born in Virginia and seems to have dropped off his parents, and eventually his own offspring, in Wilmington while he went out west to became the Governor of the Kansas Territory, a Civil War General, and enough other high profile things to warrant having the city of Denver, Colorado, named after him.

dandm4dandm3The General Denver Hotel was certainly a high toned place when it opened but it wasn’t alone. The ten year old Murphy Theater stood across the street and the nine year old courthouse was barely a block away. The courthouse and theater had cost $300,000 and $250,000 respectively. It was a pretty classy neighborhood and still is. All three buildings remain in use today. In fact, it was an event at the Murphy that allowed me to finally justify a night at the Denver on Saturday. Lisa Biales, who I’ve also mentioned in this blog, performed there as a New Lyceum Circuit artist.

The guy who the Murphy’s named after was a pretty high profile fellow too but he built the theater himself rather than waiting for the next generation to do it. Charles Murphy was born in Wilmington. He worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer and Times-Star newspapers and the New York Giants baseball team before becoming a team owner himself. The Chicago Cubs were his from 1906 through 1913. The Cubs have won exactly two World Series in their long history. Both — 1907 and 1908 — were on Murphy’s watch.

dandm5dandm6Matt and Jim and Chuck are still in town. I stopped by Sugar Grove Cemetery to see them before checking in to the hotel. There are large family markers — the Denvers have a truly impressive Washington Monument style obelisk — surrounded by smaller individual ones. Finding them took some luck in addition to the FindAGrave clues but I could now be a guide if the need ever arises.

dandm9dandm8dandm7Checking into the General Denver involved signing a real register. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve never signed one before but I certainly can’t remember ever doing it. My friend, John, met me in the bar and, although I did eat dinner there and had good intentions, lively conversation made me forget to take a picture. I did get a picture of breakfast. I had the Denver Bake which is simply a casserole version of a Denver omelet. It seemed super appropriate to eat, as I Tweeted at the time, a Denver omelet in the hotel named for the man that the city that the omelet was named after was named after. Both meals were good and the from-the-menu breakfast is included with the room. That elevator is the original with manual controls that must be operated by a trained professional (i.e., essentially any member of the hotel staff). I took a ride before I left and found it very smooth. Like most hotels more than a few years old, the The General Denver is reportedly haunted and I’ve mentioned the heating problems of the past. I saw neither ghosts nor frost during my stay and thought my room rather comfortable.

dandm10The bartender had suggested that, if the concert audience was small enough, it might be placed entirely on stage as had been recently done at another show. I didn’t give it much thought and John and I walked across the street as show time neared with me thinking we would simply take our reserved seats. The bartender’s prediction had indeed come true so our last minute arrival put us in the last rather than the first row. That was hardly a problem, though, as the last row on the stage put us at least as close to Lisa and violinist Doug Hamilton as the front row on the floor would have and the setting was clearly much more intimate. Lisa was just getting over a cold she had been fighting for several days but you would not have known that from her voice which was spot on. I think this was probably the first time I’ve seen just the two of them perform which may explain why Doug sang a bit more than I’m used to. Nice addition. Of course, both handled their instruments masterfully and the duo delivered two great sounding sets separated by a short break. Anyone with even slightly sharp eyes may have noticed that Lisa Biales is not listed on the marquee in my picture of the theater. That’s because I didn’t get around to taking the picture until Sunday morning after the sign had been changed. However, her name can be seen on an enlarged section of the photo at the beginning of this article.

Roads, Women, and Cars

Dayton Road MeetI’d have probably been overpowered if they had all been present at the same time, but, over the course of the weekend, I managed a “road meet”, an all female concert, and a gathering of killer cars. The photo at the right is of the “road geeks” who participated in the “road meet” which was in Dayton, Ohio.

“Road geeks” are different from “roadies”. “Roadies” are attracted to old roads and the culture around them. “Road geeks” are attracted to newer roads and to their design and construction. Neither definition is perfect and the groups certainly overlap. I’m a mainstream “roadie” and a fringe “road geek”. Most in the picture tend to be the other way ’round.

The difference is illustrated by a couple of events from Saturday. One of the participants is planning a drive to and from California in the near future. It was one of the things we chatted about over lunch. He mentioned that the return trip would be more leisurely and relaxed since they would be covering only 500-600 miles instead of the 700-800 of some of the west bound days. My target range is something like 150-200 miles a day. The other event was the “clinching” of a road. “Clinching” means traveling the full length of a road. I’ve clinched a few; Route 66, Lincoln Highway, US-62. I-675 is a quarter-circle expressway on the south east edge of Dayton that the whole group “clinched” on Saturday. I believe that’s the first interstate I’ve ever “clinched” and am certain it’s the first I’ve done intentionally.

Dayton Road MeetDayton Road MeetFor the most part, though, the differences are a matter of degree and both “roadies” and “road geeks” are very friendly people who enjoy roads and each other. There are certainly some “roadies” who would cringe at the thought of looking over the recently reworked I-70 & I-75 interchange from a park bench but I’ve now seen members of both groups roaming around the former Dixie Highway & National Road intersection with cameras clicking. The sign being photographed is the “Crossroads of America” sign. The title has no shortage of claimants but both of these intersections are legitimate contenders. The DH and the NR, clearly major highways of their day, morphed into US-25 and US-40 respectively. I-75 is the interstate era successor to US-25 and I-70 is the successor to US-40.


EG Kight at Big Song Music HouseFrom Dayton I headed over to Oxford, Ohio, for another show at the Big Song Music House. This one featured “The Georgia Songbird”, EG Kight. As she has for the other shows I’ve attended here, Lisa Biales, who owns Big Song Music House with her husband Marc, opened with a few tunes. Then EG  took the stage and, in the intimate setting that seemed to fit her perfectly, entertained us with both music and conversation that triggered many smiles and several chuckles. Of course, smiles were not restricted to the time between tunes. EGs humor frequently shows up in her songs, too.

EG Kight at Big Song Music HouseEG Kight at Big Song Music HouseLisa is close friends with both acts, Ricky Nye and Ronstadt Generations, that I’ve seen here in the past and she joined each of them a few times during their performances. EG and Lisa are certainly friends and EG produced and contributed to Lisa’s most recent CD, Just Like Honey, but it’s probably the musical similarities that makes their performing together something special. Both have powerful and clear voices, they both know their way around a guitar, and both are capable of delivering both real and lyrical winks. Lisa joined EG several times, both with and without her guitar, and the two powerful voices combined to produce some pow-pow-powerful harmonies.


Ault Park Concours d’EleganceI took an overnight break before heading out to my third event of the weekend, the 35th Ault Park Concours d’Elegance in Cincinnati. In years past, I’ve parked as close as I could (which never seemed to be very close) and trudged up the hills to the Concours. This year a friend and I took advantage of the free offsite parking and shuttle. Not a bit of trudging and the fact that the shuttle buses were air-conditioned was deeply appreciated after we had walked all over the grounds and were heading back to the car.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’EleganceThere were plenty of “normal” concours vehicles like Duesenburgs, and Hudsons and brass era cars such as the 1914 Packard above, but the title of this year’s event was A Century of American Power so there were also some cars on display that you might not immediately think of when you hear Concours d’Elegance. Prominent among these were 1960s & ’70s muscle cars and dragsters from the same period.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’EleganceAult Park Concours d’Elegance

 

 

 

Prime examples of Detroit muscle are the 427 CI 425 HP V8 in a 1964 Ford Galaxy and the 426 CI 425 HP (for insurance purposes) V8 in a 1963 Dodge Polara. That’s Cincinnati muscle in the third picture. The 44 CI 26.5 HP I4 in a 1951 Crosley Hotshot might not seem like a symbol of …American Power but it was a Hotshot that won, through handicapping, the first Sebring Endurance Race in 1950.

Ault Park Concours d’EleganceThis picture might make you think that texting while driving was encouraged back when the  alphabet was smaller but it is actually the push-button transmission controls in a 1958 Edsel Citation.


Carey Murdock Mansion Hill TavernThis is something of a bonus. Carey Murdock is another singer-songwriter I learned of through Josh Hisle. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. I came close to connecting with him there last Christmas but missed and actually met him for the first time tonight as we both walked across the street to Mansion Hill Tavern. Carey had prearranged a stop at Mansion Hill as a “featured guest” which essentially means a half hour slot at a regularly scheduled blues jam with lots of musicians waiting to form groups and get some stage time. This is obviously not the best showcase situation but Carey handled it well and the crowd seemed to like him. I definitely did.

Music Review
Just Like Honey
Lisa Biales

Just Like Honey CD coverI read somewhere that Alannah Myles recorded her 1989 hit Black Velvet in a hot un-air-conditioned room to make it feel, and therefore sound, like “Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell”. The result was something that could be described in a single word and which fit that word, sultry, in every dimension. Lisa Biales didn’t forego climate control to record Just Like Honey but she did get some help from the south and she did nail SULTRY — dead center and in capital letters.

The title track comes from Nashville song writers Cameron-Beck-Kahan.There are a couple Biales originals, a couple from the CD’s producer, EG Kight, and a Biales-Kight collaboration. Most of the remaining material comes from some of Biales’ musical influences and that was a conscience decision by her and Kight.

If you ask Lisa to name her influences, you best not be in a hurry. The list of female singers she admires and draws from is a long one and includes many who are no strangers to sultry themselves. She doesn’t get to all of them here but she does cover some biggies. There are tunes by Memphis Minnie, Bonnie Raitt, and Candye Kane plus songs written by others but firmly associated with the likes of Ma Rainey, Etta James, and Odetta. And by “cover” I don’t mean “copy”. I mean celebrate and interpret.

A goodly chunk of that “help from the south” I mentioned comes, of course, from Kight, a.k.a, “The Georgia Songbird”. There’s a big dose from Paul Hornsby and his Muscaline Recording Studios in Macon, Georgia, and Capricorn veterans Tommy Talton, Marshall Coats, and Bill Stewart (guitar, bass, drums) contribute their share, too. In fact Talton, supplies a song, Watch Out Baby Don’t Cry, that quickly became a favorite of mine. Talton, Coats, and Stewart form the core group for this CD but others, including Hornsby on keys and Ken Wynn on guitar, show up here and there.

So we have some highly talented musicians, an accomplished producer and engineer, some original material, some material “borrowed” from the best, and maybe even a little of that “slow southern style”. That’s a mighty fine foundation for Lisa’s clear and powerful… and sultry… vocals. Just Like Honey is the name of the CD and of a song that’s on it. It’s also a pretty good description.

The CD is here and Lisa’s website here.


I’ve mentioned a few of Lisa’s live performances in this blog including a couple in April where she and Ronstadt Generations traded “guest appearances”. Ronstadt Generations have just launched a Kickstarter project looking for help with their second studio CD. Check it out here.

Parisians at Play

Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues BandThough far removed from their natural habitat, these Parisians appear to be well acclimated and enjoying themselves. And so is everybody else. Local boogie woogie master Ricky Nye makes at least one trip to France each year and, for the last three years, these fellows have been returning the favor. Using the name Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band, they do a few shows in and around Cincinnati and I’ve managed to catch one of them on each of the visits. The first two years, it was at Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, where they performed Friday night. This year I missed the Rabbit Hash show but saw the group on Saturday at the Big Song Music House. This is the remarkable venue that Marc & Lisa Biales have created near Oxford, Ohio, and which I visited for the first time just about a month ago.

Paris Blues BandThe Paris Blues Band, which doesn’t really exist without Ricky, consists of Simon Boyer on drums, Thibaut Chopin on bass, and Anthony Stelmaszack on guitar. Chopin and Stelmaszack both sing and, as you can see, both play harmonica. Ever hear twin harmonica powered locomotives steam across a stage? Killer!

 

Paris Blues Band with Lisa Biales and Doug HamiltonThe excellent Ville Du Bois, recorded in Paris, is the group’s only studio offering to date. (Wrong! See note below.)
I apologize for being unfamiliar with a collection of live recordings that is also available. They are doing quite a bit of recording while in the States and that includes some with Biales. The songs they recorded together were used as openers for both sets and violinist Doug Hamilton even joined in for a couple of tunes. There will definitely be a new Ricky Nye and the Paris Blues Band studio CD available before too long and I’m sure those tracks with Lisa will appear somewhere somehow someday.

Simon BoyerThibaut ChopinAnthony Stelmaszack

 

 

 

Ricky NyeIt’s a good thing when Ricky pushes himself back from the piano in a move that looks a little like something Jerry Lee Lewis might do. It’s an unintentional signal that some extra hot keyboard action is about to take place and it’s kind of rare. Maybe it was the band or maybe it was the acoustic (rather than electronic) piano but there were three or four of those moments tonight and one that ended with Ricky standing as he joyously worked the keys. Fortunately for those seated just a few feet away, he stopped short of sending the bench sailing as Jerry Lee often does. There’s a little better view of the 1930ish Wurlitzer Butterfly Baby Grand here.

Paris Blues BandI left my camera in the car until intermission so all of the preceding pictures are from the second set. But it was during the first set that Lisa surprised everyone, including Thibaut, by filling in on bass while he played harmonica. In another “If you want a picture really bad, I’ve got a really bad picture” moment, I tried capturing that with my phone.

CORRECTION: I somehow missed a second studio CD but Ricky very politely filled me in. The CD is here and the cover actually looks familiar though some track samples don’t. It shows up at CDBaby with a search for Paris Blues Band though not with a search for Ricky Nye. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it but I’m still sorry and embarrassed.

Big Music in Small Places

Lisa Biales at MontageIt was double good news when I learned that Ronstadt Generations would be performing nearby. Not only was it a chance to see the talented guys from Tuscon, it was a chance to see a venue I’d only heard — and only heard good things — about. Then, when I began to make arrangements to attend,
I discovered that there was another show happening a couple of nights earlier that I was also interested in.

The Ronstadt Generations performance would be a “house concert” on a Saturday at the home of Marc & Lisa Biales. Lisa would be the opener and would almost certainly be joining RG for a few tunes. When I looked at Lisa’s online schedule, I spotted Greenville, Ohio, listed for the preceding Thursday. Greenville!?!? That’s the big city in my home county. I’m there every couple of weeks. This was big news. I have lots of family there and contacted an aunt who I knew would like Lisa’s music. We made plans to attend and my step-mother surprised me just a little by agreeing to go, too. We got there early and ate some rather tasty sandwiches as we watched a sound check and the arrival of other attendees. My aunt has been to several performances at Montage and told us that the acoustics weren’t great and that the place could get pretty noisy. Lisa and friends proceeded to prove her wrong for at least one night.

The music held everyone’s attention and everyone held their tongues. A friend who stopped by our table during intermission commented, “That’s a lot of talent to have in Greenville at one time.” The cellphone picture that leads off the post is from that show. Besides fulfilling the claim that “If you want a picture really bad, I’ve got a really bad picture”, it gives a little idea of the intimate setting and you can see all the players if you squint just right. From the left there’s the Lisa Biales Trio: Doug Hamilton, Lisa, and Michael G Ronstadt. Surprise bonus guests are on the right. The other two RG members, Petie and Michael J, (who Lisa settled on referring to as Poppa Ronstadt) came along and sat in for a few songs. A wonderfully unique and unforgettable evening.

The show was part of the Darke County Center for the Arts Coffee House Series. Although this was my first time at Montage, I have attended and enjoyed other DCCA events (e.g., Eric Bibb, Riders in the Sky). They do good stuff.

Big Song Music HouseThis is Marc & Lisa’s Big Song Music House. In quiet times, the curved array of tall windows on the left provides a relaxing view of the Oxford, Ohio, countryside. Close the big curtain, however, and the view is replaced by the perfect backdrop for performing musicians. Lisa talks glowingly of the land on which the house sits. There are trails, small critters, and two Lovers Leaps (both regular and “Luke-Warm”). I hope to see some of that on a future visit.

Lisa Biales & Michael G RonstadtLisa BialesLisa stepped to the mic at almost exactly 8:00 to get things rolling. One member of the Lisa Biales Trio, Doug Hamilton, was missing tonight so Lisa and Michael G Ronstadt just delivered a great set as a duo. Knowing Lisa would return now and then to sing with the Ronstadts made letting her go after just three songs at least acceptable.

Ronstadt GenerationsThe music was barely paused as Ronstadt Generations took the stage. Not only does Michael G get to sit while everyone else stands (a major cello plus he likes to point out) but he often gets to sit while groups of musicians form around him. Oddly enough, this was the first time I’d seen the official Ronstadt Generations live and in person. I did see them in 2010 but without Michael G. Of course, musicians of this caliber make great music whether they’re in their “official” grouping or not.

Lisa Biales & Ronstadt GenerationsRonstadt GenerationsSure, there was some overlap between Saturday’s show and what
I heard on Thursday but there were plenty of differences, too. Thursday was Lisa’s gig and the Ronstadts, other than Michael G, were featured guests. The situation was basically reversed on Saturday. But the guests got ample stage time in both concerts. The picture with all four musicians was chosen to give some hint of how much fun the performers were having and of how intimate the setting was. The heads in the front row (where I sat, on the right, for the first half of the evening) show that the audience gets quite close but the room, though fairly full, never felt crowded.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite. Lisa Biales with special guests Ronstadt Generations or Ronstadt Generations with special guest Lisa Biales. Thank goodness those two lineups will never be playing across town from each other on the same night.


Gary Sugarman at Essencha Tea HouseThis is Gary Sugarman, a neighbor of mine who likes to play guitar and sing. A few years ago, he hooked up with a couple of friends who liked doing that, too, and they had a good time playing and singing and occasionally entertaining small groups. Things changed a little when they added a drummer but they were still having fun. Next came a bassist and that “we’re a band” moment. It was still fun but not quite as much and the fun was sometimes offset with something that felt a little like work. Gary is still part of that band, the Creekyknees, but decided to try performing solo for the first time. He’s approaching it cautiously and debuted today in the small Essencha Tea House. It holds about twenty and was seeded by a half dozen friends. I made it for his second set and liked what I heard. So did his other friends plus some ten or so people who didn’t know him at all. Will Gary be soloing more in the future? Don’t know. Did he have fun? Absolutely.