Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fur Dixon & Steve Werner At McCabe's 7-15-11 Concert Review

Last night Fur Dixon & Steve Werner put on a phenomenal show at McCabe's in Santa Monica. The room was crowded even though the authorities had put the fear into people about driving during what they're calling "Carmageddon" - which is the time while the 405 highway is closed. The 405 was still open during the drive to the show, and though it was rush hour on a Friday (when traffic is usually at a standstill everywhere in L.A.), we got from North Hollywood to Santa Monica in fifteen minutes. Thanks, terrified people, for not being on the road.

Steve Werner joked right at the beginning of the concert about the whole traffic scare, "What are they going to show us that we haven't seen already?" He also said that they made it from the valley to Santa Monica quicker than ever before.

Fur Dixon & Steve Werner did two sets. The first set was basically their new album, Songs Of The Open Road Volume One. They played all of the tracks from it, though not in the same order as they're presented on the CD. Songs Of The Open Road is an album of covers - their first such recording, and it includes a lot of great tunes. Some of the songwriters that Fur & Steve covered on that album were in the audience, including Randall Lamb and Dan Janisch.

They opened with "Southbound," a tune written by Doc Watson and Merle Watson. This is also the song that opens the album, and it was a great choice to start the evening. After that tune Steve talked about how great it was to play at McCabe's, "where all my favorite people play. Now I can be one of my favorite people."

Fur Dixon introduced "Dreary Black Hills," a traditional tune, by saying it is "the way folk music, in my opinion, is supposed to be done."

After that song, they introduced the band. Brantley Kearns was on fiddle. Fur said that his presence gave them legitimacy. Brantley has played with David Bromberg, Dwight Yoakam and Rick Shea, among others. He also played fiddle in the Robert Altman film McCabe & Mrs. Miller (which of course qualifies him as one of the coolest people on the planet). John "Groover" McDuffie was on pedal steel. John has played with Rita Coolidge and The Psychedelic Cowboys, and is also a songwriter. Paul Marshall was on stand-up acoustic bass. Paul Marshall will be familiar to music fans as the bass player for I See Hawks In L.A. He also, back in the day, sang with The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Yes, that Paul Marshall. All of these musicians play on the new CD as well.

Otoño Lujan joined the band on accordion for "De Colores," and stayed for the rest of the first set. (He also plays on Songs Of The Open Road.) "De Colores" was played with an incredible amount of passion, and was the only song of the evening not sung in English.

During the intro to "Do Re Mi," Steve mentioned that his birthday had been the day before - July 14th - which is also Woody Guthrie's birthday. Of all the songs presented on the new CD, "Do Re Mi" is the one that Fur Dixon & Steve Werner have performed the most often, and they always do a great job with it. Steve has said before that it is his favorite Woody Guthrie tune.

They ended the first set with "I Cannot Settle Down," which Fur Dixon dedicated to her mother, who was in the audience. Fur credited her as being the source of her travel bug. After that song, a birthday cake was brought up on stage for Steve. He joked that there were twenty extra candles on it.

The band then took a set break, and invited the audience to partake of the cake. (It was delicious, by the way.)

They opened the second set with "Ventura County Line," one of my favorite songs from their first full-length CD, The Pearl And The Swine (2006).

Before "Homesick For The Highway Blues," Steve asked to hear everyone's yodel. He then generously judged the collective yodel "Excellent," which got a laugh from the crowd, who knew better. "Homesick For The Highway Blues" is from Fur & Steve's 2009 release, Travelers. They played several songs from that album during the second set, including the absolutely beautiful "Summer's Gone Again." Steve played harmonica at the beginning and end of that song.

In introducing "Scars," Steve joked, "This song is called 'Scars,' and it goes out to anyone who has it comin' to him." Steve also joked during his introduction to "Brother Tumbleweed," "This song goes out to every crusty old dude in here."

Throughout the night, but especially before (and during) "Journey To Another Side," there was a lot of sweet joking around between Fur and Steve. Fur said that a man cleaning around the house is sexy, but Steve said he wasn't going to fall for that. He thought instead of being sexy it was exhausting. And on the line "You and me and things that last the test of time," Fur gave Steve a playful kick. Fur sang "the ripe old age of 95" instead of "65." And on the line about "big underwear," Steve cheered, which got a laugh from the audience (and band members, for that matter). Otoño Lujan returned to the stage for "Journey To Another Side," and stayed for the rest of the second set and encore.

The audience sang along with "Backroads And Blues Skies," an old favorite from The Pearl And The Swine, and "Friends Around The Fire," a newer favorite from Travelers. (As a side note to Bob Dylan fans, Scarlet Rivera plays fiddle on the album version of "Backroads And Blue Skies.")

The encore was an excellent rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" - complete with all the verses, not just the ones deemed nice enough for radio back in the day. Steve Werner has said before that this song should be our national anthem, and I completely agree. I encourage folks to sing this song whenever the current national anthem is played. Sing it loudly.

Set List

Set I
  1. Southbound
  2. The Dealers
  3. Prairie In The Sky
  4. Dreary Black Hills
  5. Waiting For The Hard Times To Go
  6. I Like How I Feel
  7. De Colores
  8. Clay Pigeons
  9. Do Re Mi
  10. I Cannot Settle Down
Set II
  1. Ventura County Line
  2. Homesick For The Highway Blues
  3. Summer's Gone Again
  4. Scars
  5. Journey To Another Side
  6. Brother Tumbleweed
  7. Backroads And Blues Skies
  8. Friends Around The Fire
  1. This Land Is Your Land

After the show, Fur Dixon and Steve Werner signed copies of their CDs.

By the way, though the 405 wasn't supposed to close until midnight, we found it closed at 10:48 p.m. We ended up taking Santa Monica to Coldwater Canyon, and there was no traffic whatsoever. Thanks again, terrified people, for staying off the roads and out of our way. But you did miss a fantastic concert.

McCabe's is located at 3101 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, California.

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