Saturday, October 18, 2014

Until the Songs are Done

I took the A6 - also known as the motorway to the sun -to a yard show.

Since it's Virginia wine month, I began the evening at Pasture for a glass of Cardinal Point Winery A6, the lovely Viognier/Chardonnay blend named after the road in France that links Paris to Lyon, a fact I know only because I poured for Cardinal Point at the Virginia Wine Expo two years in a row.

The restaurant was busy with some people even eating outside on the patio, a treat not to be missed on an October evening.

While I thought the rest of my evening would be spent indoors watching two favorite musicians play, I arrived at the address given to find a crowd gathering in the yard next door.

Following the light and laughter to what was clearly going to be a yard show, I saw a familiar face sitting at the front picnic table and promptly joined the Hat, a.k.a. the man about town, on his bench.

From our perch, we were facing a mural I hadn't seen before of black, white, gray and orange, depicting a quarter moon, a tee-pee and a suitcase dangling from a rope near the top of the mural. In front of the mural were several metal frames on which strings of white and orange twinkle lights had been strung. A lit jack-o-lantern sat in front of chairs for musicians and drums. Smaller lit pumpkins sat on the picnic tables.

It was like a Fall fairyland and an ideal place for a little night time music.

Sitting next to the Hat, I said hello to the Richmanian warbler, waved to the record producer, spotted the long-haired breakout musician, smiled at the fashionable keyboard player and her reclusive husband while smelling the candle burning in the pumpkin on the table behind us (humor centered around citronella versus sinsemilla).

A couple spread out an Indian print blanket and sat down on the grass in front of us Soon a second blanket appeared, then a third and forth, all of the same Indian-type print that used to hang from windows as curtains back in the '70s. Apparently they're back.

Josh Small played first, explaining that he'd set out to write a song about something other than himself and settled on the flower world. Except that when all was said and done, the flower song was also about him.

The man is not only musical, but very funny.

When he was introducing a song about farming, he admitted that while he often wore overalls, he may never have actually been to a farm. "I've been to a couple pumpkin patches," he offered. Invoking Burt Reynolds, he did a Jerry Reed song called "Papa's Knee." One of the great things about a Josh Small set is how eclectic they are.

It had been eons since I'd seen David Shultz play out but, in fairness, he and his wife did have triplets so the man's been understandably busy. He began by thanking Matt, the evening's organizer, saying, "The yard couldn't look more cozy."

While the staff from Lamplighter Coffee across the street dragged trashcans along the sidewalk and traffic from the downtown expressway rumbled by, David played guitar and sang lyrics like, "Would it be so bad to dance until the song is done?"

My answer? Never.

Singing "I can't, can't get away from you," the Hat leaned over and observed, "That's a double negative, you know." I did.

David brought up drummer Willis, who'd arrived straight from a volleyball game (he is kind of tall), and they did "The Farmer," Willis' deft touch on drums and percussion adding a lot to the song and then added in Curtis on pedal steel (which was also draped in twinkle lights) and Jonathan on accordion for Blaze Foley's "Clay Pigeons."

Curtis and David joked back and forth about the limited rehearsing they'd done for this show. When David introduced "Down the Road," Curtis said, "That's the one we jammed on for 16 seconds and then talked about the chords?"

"That's why David Shultz and the Skyline aren't a band anymore," David patiently explained."Because what I really want to do is go to your house and drink wine and talk about music."

Favorite lyric: The best laid plans are the ones that don't require a second thought.

We got a real treat when David and Jonathan brought up the very talented Grant to play mandolin so they could play some Ophelia songs such as "Hunter's Bow." Along with drummer Willis, that quartet had made some outstanding music as Ophelia a few years back.

"It's a sneak attack Ophelia reunion!" someone said. Lucky us.

They did "Easy Prey" but it was the aching of "One Too Many" ("One too many nights together or one too many nights apart") that knocked the crowd off its feet, sounding just as remarkable as it did when they first played it.

David and Grant did "Oklahoma Rose," a song they wrote together and a reminder how well those two harmonize, much like on "Days Go By," a song recorded by Grant's River City Band.

Jonathan's songs never fail to tug at the heart ("I'm on my way to being on my own") and it didn't hurt having Curtis' mournful pedal steel further ripping our hearts out.

They closed the show with "The Butcher" ("I got a quarter of a quart of wine") and sitting there listening to those familiar voices singing to the sky was a reminder of just how wonderful Richmond can be sometimes.

Sort of a musical motorway to the moon on a Fall night.

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