i wonder, am i on your mind?

The Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin played host to the final stop of Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore‘s Dear Companion tour on April 3, 2010. Sollee and Moore, along with Cheyenne Marie Mize and Dan Dorff, played to a criminally small crowd, leading to an intimate and conversational production.

Kentuckians Sollee & Moore teamed up with producer Yim Yames to create an album drawing attention to the effects both environmental and cultural of mountaintop-removal coal mining in their home state and surrounding Appalachia. Throughout the evening, Moore and Sollee shared tales of contaminated drinking water, boulders rolling down mountains into communities, and the deteriorating landscape, framing the context for the music without being preachy. Really, though, the music itself spoke loudest of all.

Opening with “Something, Somewhere, Somehow”, the band’s talent became immediately apparent as they launched into an excellent instrumental outro instead of stopping abruptly as heard on the album version. Mize’s golden voice, especially in combination with Sollee’s bell-clear timbre, gave the harmonies beautiful dimension. Dorff employed himself as percussion on several songs, slapping, tapping, and clapping his way into the spotlight, and Moore brought things back into focus by sitting on the edge of the stage for an unamplified rendition of “Flyrock Blues”. Other songs of note were “Sweet Marie” and “Dear Companion”, based on a goodbye letter written by a trapped miner and the only song on the album to be written for the project by both Sollee and Moore.

Late in the show, the group came together to share a mic and perform a couple of a capella folk tunes, furthering paying homage to the rich musical history of their home. People’s surroundings inevitably influence their creations, and by the end of the night one wondered if the landscape would be the region’s only casualty.

For more info on mountaintop removal, click here.
Check out our photos from the show: album | slideshow.

Something, Somewhere, Somehow, My Wealth Comes to Me, Needn’t Say A Thing, Only A Song, Dear Companion, Flyrock Blues, Try, Sweet Marie, + a sampling of covers & solo work

it’s my own fault what happens to my heart

Meg Baird has quite a set of pipes. On her first solo outing, Baird showcases her vocals with an accompaniment of acoustic guitar and dulcimer and a collection of traditional, covered, and original folk songs.

The album starts out with standard folk tunes, but hits its stride with a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Do What You Gotta Do”. Next, more complex guitar and effects drive along “Riverhouse In Tinicum”, and the album peaks with the memorable track “The Waltze of The Tennis Players”.

Throughout Dear Companion, Baird evokes a feeling of the 70s; her vocals are occasionally reminiscent of Carly Simon, and something about “Sweet William and Fair Ellen” evokes Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” and “You Wear It Well”.

With “Willie O’Winsbury” Baird goes even further back in time, returning to the folk/madrigal form heard earlier in the disc and talk of dukes, knights, and serving men that’s worthy of placement at any renaissance faire.

Baird (or her producers) made a smart move by ending on an a cappella version of the title track that is striking after all the accompaniment and brings out both the sorrow of the lyrics and the superb quality of Baird’s voice.

Dear Companion dropped on 5/22/07.
You can find out more about Meg Baird and hear “The Waltze of the Tennis Players” here.