Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Acoustic Cafe Series ends
with Amy Speace, Brooks Williams

Brooks Williams and Amy Speace closed the spring portion of the long-running Indy Acoustic Cafe Series on Saturday, perfoming in the cozy theater of the Wheeler Arts Community Center in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Speace, promoting her 2011 CD "Land Like a Bird," opened the show, entertaining the nearly full house with ballads that touched the heart and soul ... and with anecdotes -- even if they had nothing to do with a song -- that made lovely vocal interpretations even more enjoyable. One narrative that had no song associated with it was the story of how Speace's grandparents met and took a liking to each other almost immediately, but delayed plans of marriage for many years because her grandmother had family to look after.

In another, she divulgied having "sort of a crush" on Verizon Wireless' commerical "face," Paul "Can you hear me now?" Marcarelli, whom she said was recently fired by the communications company. She used that story to transition into "Change for Me" off the new album, making a point to repeat the lyric "Can you hear me now?" and coaxing the audience to sing along.

In a third tale, she related how folk icon Judy Collins had planned to sing "The Weight of the World," a Speace composition, at the 50th anniversary Newport Folk Festival in 2009 and announce to the audience that Speace was its composer. Just as Collins was about to say Amy's name, Speace said, Peter Seeger -- who was off to the side -- distracted Collins, who then traded good-natured barbs with the dean of America's folk singers. When Collins returned to the microphone, she launched into the song, apparently forgetting to tidy up her song introduction by mentioning Speace's name. Well, it's out there now -- even if only here. True, it's not the Newport Folk Festival, but at least I didn't skip the most important part (Amy did say she's "good" with Collins, who later recorded the song on her 2010 "Paradise" CD; in fact, Speace was the first artist Collins signed to her Wildflower record label. Speace did joke that it's just Seeger she needs to settle with).

Williams, a Statesboro, Ga., native who now lives in Cambridge, England, followed Speace to the stage. He's a wonderful singer and songwriter, but his guitar-playing is what captivates -- and validates his inclusion as one the Top 100 Acoustic Guitarists of all time as listed by DigitalDreamDoor. Williams' "Guitar Player" album also is on the site's list of Top 100 Acoustic Guitar Albums of all time.

It was a delight to see him let loose and flow as the guitar licks and riffs rolled off his fingers with the savvy of a maestro. His immersion into the music, hopefully, will be evidenced by the selection of images I took from Saturday's show and posted here.

Like Speace, he has a deft on-stage manner with the audience, and delighted everyone not only with several blistering blues solos (I can only say "wow"), but a medley of short instrumental riffs from famous rock songs, from Hendrix's classic "Purple Haze" opening to the Who's signature "Overture" from the rock opera "Tommy." He joked that if he integrates a few more of those into the medley, it might be worth a full show.

Williams' website says he has a new "Live Blues EP" (this should be very interesting) just out and that it should be available at concert sites this month. I didn't see it at Saturday's show, but maybe it hasn't quite made it out yet. Williams' career spans several decades -- and 17 CDs.

Mark Butterfield, the Indy Acoustic Cafe Series operator, is hoping to return a fall season to the Series, starting in early October. Acts he's said he's planning to schedule include John Gorka, Nils Lofrgren and Sophie B. Hawkins.

To see complete galleries from the show, follow these links: Brooks Williams -- Amy Speace.








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