Some days are like a gift from the music gods. Today was one.
It began with a road trip, always a fine time to listen to new music, and for this drive, I had two new CDs.
But not just any CDs, These were both advance copies from musician friends: Dave Watkins' debut CD and Paul Ivey's "This is the Hovercraft."
Since I'd been given Dave's first, I started with it.
How could I not fall in love with a CD with a song called "Marshall Street"? Hello, J-Ward Girl here.
And, as a porch-lover, don't even get me started on "House That's Mostly Porch," which decisively kicks off the album.
For that matter, how could I not be enamored of Dave's unique dulcitar playing and looping?
His soundscapes were the ideal music to accompany me as I drove 60 mph down a mostly deserted road.
Creating endless melodies and rhythms, adding in other instruments and occasional voices, his album is a post-rock lover's roadtrip wet dream.
And like any great post-rock CD, it has that one achingly beautiful but oh-so-short song ("In Case the World Ends") that makes a fan glad that someone makes this kind of music for the sake of giving your heart something to swell about.
Paul Ivey's CD brought back the energy and word play of really good late 70s and 80s New Wave.
Paul is such a talented guitar player and his voice has the sincerity and condescension of one who has an opinion on everything (hmm, funny I should like that so much) and a romantic's heart somewhere deep down.
"Gosnell's Hope" is Paul at his sweetest and "Look Out, Optional Claude!" is the oh-so-short song I want to hear in a club and watch everyone fall in love with it.
"Crushed Glass Pastry," which I've had the pleasure of hearing live, rocks and shows Paul's guitar chops, always a good thing. Favorite lyric: "You're only sorry cause you couldn't get away with it."
After three hours in the car listening to such terrific music, it was a good thing I had more in store. Otherwise, tonight would have been a let-down.
The Listening Room had a meager crowd until five minutes before showtime and then the floodgates opened.
Starting a little late (highly unusual for the LR), Richmonder Matt Lisk got things going by dedicating the first song to his Mom, a fairly regular LR attendee.
After a song where he whistled to replace the other guitar part his band would normally do, he dedicated "Sara's Song" to his sister.
His voice reminded me somewhat of David Gray's and he did several songs on piano rather than guitar.
In a nod to LR founder and local favorite son Jonathan Vassar, he even covered "A Match Made in Heaven."
As the first band to do a repeat performance at the LR, Philadelphia's Birdie Busch (with Todd from Hoots and Hellmouth on upright bass) brought her beautiful voice and lively stage banter back to RVA.
She was halfway through her set before she noticed the people seated on the side and said, "If we were Bruce Springsteen, we'd have a walkway to you."
Comic pause. "Maybe on our third visit," she laughed, before covering Neil Young.
An audience member yelled out (against the LR rules, but the crowd hadn't been reminded to keep quiet tonight. Ahem, Mr. Payne), "Anyone ever say you remind them of Joni Mitchell?"
A Jewel joke resulted, but the implication was clear. Her dulcet tones and heartfelt songs clearly drew from Mitchell and other early female folkies.
It was a shame that the first two sets had run long because a good portion of the audience left after their set, no doubt because it was a school night and getting late.
Those who stuck around for New Yorker Annie Crane's set were rewarded with a unique voice, despite the singer/songwriter having caught a cold from her sister.
She had just come from a songwriting workshop for high schoolers, teaching them about the songs that migrated from the old countries to the New World, and especially Appalachia.
Many in the audience got goosebumps when she sang a traditional Irish song a capella, a song like the kind her mother had sung in her childhood.
Her voice had just a bit of twang to it, leaving the listener with the sense that she was walking a fine line between Americana, folk and country.
Comparisons have been made about her voice to Emmy Lou Harris and Gillian Welch, both apt. Just a shame that more people didn't get to hear her.
In a nod to today's god-awful humidity, both the Philadelphian and the NewYorker made comments about the heat. Naturally, it never occurred to the Richmonder to state the obvious.
It's July, right?
Humidity reigns (although as the clerk in the grocery store noted to me today, "If it rains, it's just gonna feel worse.").
Humidity aside, for me awesome music reigned today, start to finish.
I should probably offer up a sacrifice to the music gods.
If I had a Jewel album, I suppose I could just break it and toss it on a funeral pyre.
But I don't, so I'll just say thank you, oh musical ones, from the bottom of my tone-deaf, music-loving heart.