the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Jann Arden
eclectic reviews and opinions
Jann Arden (with Billy Mann, Patty Griffin)
14 July 1996
Birchmere (Alexandria, Virginia)
I think Patty Griffin's record Living with Ghosts is seriously terrific, and she was pretty much what lured me out to Alexandria's Birchmere despite it being a Sunday night in a week of just a few too many shows (Thursday Dead Can Dance, Friday longtime DC performer Alice Despard's new band Whirligig, Sunday as described herein, Monday Pest 5000)
Griffin rendered a handful of songs from the record. The live performance showed off her vocal dynamics even better than the record, but I was a little disappointed by the brevity of her set, which included my favorite song "Sweet Lorraine" but not runner-up "Mad Mission." Oh well.
Next up was Billy Mann, who pegged himself better than I could when he pointed out that he grew up listening to two kinds of music -- Philly soul and Philly singersongwriters "like Jim Croce." That covers it all: the rhythmic, occasionally choppy acoustic guitar with just a wee bit o' funk, the dizzying falsetto spirals which came bursting out of nearly every tune, and the lyrics which by turns managed maudlin, wry, cliched and emotionally resonant. He wasn't my cup of tea by a long shot, but he wasn't noxious either. At the end of his set he brought Patty Griffin back up to duet with him on "Tracks of my Tears."
After a brief intermission (typical of the Birchmere), Jann Arden emerged with her 4-piece backing band: Russell on guitar, Mike on bass, Lin Elder (who did some backing vocals on Arden's Living Under June) on vocals, guitar and assorted percussion. I forget the drummer's name -- Mitch? he did a passable Beavis and Butthead impersonation. In the next hour and a half she played the bulk of Living Under June, a pretty fair chunk of Time for Mercy and one new tune, "Wishing That." The band was tight and competent but not especially inspiring; Elder's very breathy vocals were mixed almost as high as Arden's which was a little distracting at times.
Arden's voice seemed in great form, and she was extremely personable with a wicked sense of humor, cracking wise between almost every song. She told us her breakthrough hit, "insensitive" was written 7 or 8 years ago by her next door neighbor. She's going into the studio to start work on a new record in october. And she does a surprisingly convincing Barry White impression.
Apparantly they're touring together for a bit (Arden told us that Patty and Billy were pleasant to share a van with because they were extremely hygenic individuals).
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