Saturday, April 8, 2017

Steve Werner at Platt Library, 4-8-17 Concert Review

Steve Werner
So a whole lot of years ago I was at Amoeba Music in Hollywood, and I noticed a red-haired woman in the folk section, and I thought, “I should go talk to her.” As I got closer, I saw that she had an Ellis Paul CD in her hand, and at that point I was certain I had to talk to her. There was just no avoiding it, you understand. And so we got to talking, she and I, and I recommended a few albums to her, turned her on to some good bands (including Yonder Mountain String Band). And soon enough she returned the favor by turning me on to Fur Dixon & Steve Werner, something I will be forever grateful for. (Thank you, Magnolia!) Their music has provided me with many wonderful nights, and they in turn, introduced me to other musicians and songwriters I might not have otherwise heard. Well, Fur and Steve are no longer together, but both are still performing. Today Steve Werner did an afternoon concert at Platt Library in Woodland Hills.

The show was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., but Steve sat down and actually started playing five or six or seven minutes early, as a little warm-up, and then just kept going. “This is a song called ‘Blackberry Blossom,’” he said. “It’s a song that I warm up on a lot, because it gets my fingers moving. My fingers are old, they need help getting moving sometimes.” Besides being a good musician and songwriter, Steve always manages to make me laugh with his humorous, relaxed and honest banter during shows. “I guess I’m warmed up,” he said after a bit of “Blackberry Blossom.” And then he continued with his set, which was made up largely of covers of traditional folk and country numbers. But before getting into those familiar numbers he played “Glad To Be Here With You.” “This is a song I want you to sing on that you’ve never heard before, so that’ll be easy.” He then taught the audience the chorus. There wasn’t a big crowd for this show, but the folks there did get into the spirit of the moment, and sang along with several of the songs.

They sang along to “Freight Train,” the Elizabeth Cotten song. Steve delivered a really good rendition of this well-known song. He followed that with what he introduced as his favorite Woody Guthrie song, “Do Re Mi.” This is one that Steve always shines on, and today’s performance was certainly no exception. When I was a teenager, I used to listen to this song a lot – it’s on that Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger album, Precious Friend – and it’s one whose appeal has never lessened for me, but has rather grown, especially after I moved to California. I find myself singing this one a lot. Steve then played “Goodnight, Irene,” with the audience joining in. The lines that always stand out for me are: “Well, sometimes I live in the country/Sometimes I live in town/Sometimes I take a great notion/To jump into the river and drown.” I love that Steve Werner has a certain experience in his voice, even a certain amount of heartache, though his kindness seems to be the main determining factor of his vocal delivery. Then, when a woman in the audience asked him if he taught himself how to play guitar or took lessons, Steve joked, “Thank you for thinking that I know how to play the guitar.” He then answered, “No, I taught myself, but it took like forty-five years, so lessons might not be a bad idea.”

The performance was also part lesson in folk music, with Steve mentioning those responsible for each song. He talked a bit about the Carter Family in his introduction to “Worried Man Blues.” And he told the story behind “The Mermaid,” how mermaids were actually a bad omen for sailors, as opposed as to how most people view them these days. (Some friends who made a short horror film about a mermaid would appreciate that introduction.) Steve then did a good version of Jimmie Rodgers’ “My Rough And Rowdy Ways,” including a bit of yodeling. That led to one of Steve’s own compositions, “Homesick For The Highway Blues,” which also featured a bit of yodeling. “If you take up yodeling, you’ll get girls for your entire life,” he told a young guy in the audience during his introduction for the song. It’s always a treat to hear some of Steve’s own material, and he followed “Homesick For The Highway Blues” with another original number, “With The Wind At My Back,” telling the story of how that song came about. “Where am I bound, may I never decide/With the wind at my back and the sun at my side.”

Steve concluded his set with two of the most famous folk songs and one more original tune. The audience sang along to “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” “Reputation Of A Rambler” is a fun song that Steve used to sing often at Fur & Steve shows. “It’s about the good and sometimes bad influence of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott on my life,” Steve said in the song’s introduction. He wrapped up the show with what should be our national anthem, “This Land Is Your Land.” Once again, the audience sang along. And Steve played the verses that are often cut. This was an excellent afternoon of music, and I left with my spirits high.

Set List
  1. Blackberry Blossom
  2. Glad To Be Here With You
  3. Freight Train
  4. Do Re Mi
  5. Goodnight, Irene
  6. Worried Man Blues
  7. The Mermaid
  8. My Rough And Rowdy Ways
  9. Homesick For The Highway Blues
  10. With The Wind At My Back
  11. Will The Circle Be Unbroken
  12. Reputation Of A Rambler
  13. This Land Is Your Land 
"Freight Train"
"Freight Train"
 Platt Library is located at 23600 Victory Blvd. in Woodland Hills, California.

1 comment:

  1. Steve Werner! SO SORRY to have missed it; he makes writing the hardest type of song (Simple but profound) look easy........