SAM LLANAS BRINGS REAL MUSIC BACK TO LIFE AT THE ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL, NYC, 9-12-12

Brilliant balladeer Sam Llanas looks deep into the soul of the camera, and sings to the depth of the heart. Photo by Lynn Vala

The Rockwood Music Hall couldn’t possibly be a more intimate venue.  Having arrived early, once the beginning act of the show concludes, we are then entertained by Californian Jason Karaban (the venue was intimate enough that I saw his driver’s license, as well as returned Mr. Karaban’s capo to him after it slipped off the neck of his guitar and out of his hand).

We are also highly chuffed that we will be meeting Mr. Doug Vincent, author of “A Day For Grace” (which will be explored in more detail in a future review, yes, now that we are on our own, no more record store influence, we can review plays, musical instruments, pop culture, the future is wide open, so stay tuned!).  The confusing part for me was, will this be the Sam Llanas solo show, or will it be “A Day For Grace”.  I was confused until I saw the marquee at the Rockwood.  This was Mr. Llanas’ baby.

Another bonus to this excursion to the “city that never sleeps” (if you view my Facebook page, you will see WHY this is the “city that never sleeps…) my best thing to ever happen to me will get to meet one of her collegiate idols, Mr. Gary Tanin.

It can get confusing, so here was our itinerary:

Wednesday, 9-12-12, we arrive and attend the Sam Llanas solo show at the Rockwood.

Thursday, 9-13-12, we interview Mr. Llanas and Mr. Tanin.  We then attend “A Day For Grace” and then interview Mr. Doug Vincent.

Back to the Rockwood show…

The maximum capacity of the Rockwood is 74 people.  Talk about intimate.  When we arrived, there was a female singer, pianist and a guitarist, and you could count the number of people on your fingers.  Then Mr. Jason Karaban (check back for a review of his album SHiFT) took the stage with his animated pianist, guitarist and back-up vocalist, Mr. Jim Boggia.  The duo confuse me, are they a music act, are they a comedy act?  As they get into the show, they are not only a musical act with a comedy bent, but Mr. Karaban has a voice highly reminiscent of one Mr. Mark Mulcahy.  Interacting with the crowd.  Even making fun of Billy Joel!  At that point, they have ingratiated my best thing to ever happen to me.

Pleasant surprise!

I am welcomed by Mr. Gary Tanin and Mr. Doug Vincent, and after some brief chit-chat, I excuse myself from the conversation as Mr. Sam Llanas has taken the stage and I must go to work.  My job?  Bringing you to the show if you missed it, recounting it to the best of my scrawled notes written in the dark will allow.

The show starts with “Cold ‘N’ Clean”, stripped down to Llanas on acoustic guitar and my new jam buddy, Mr. Ryan Schiedermayer on Cajone.  More on that later.  But with acoustic guitar and cajone and jingle strap, it’s full as two people can make it.  But there remains one powerful element.  Llanas’ voice, a potent, emotive instrument in itself.  While his pipes are powerful, his guitar could use a touch more high end.

Percussionist Ryan Schiedermayer plays the Cajon with cajones! Photo by Lynn Vala

Llanas jumps right into “Shyne” from the exquisite album 4.A.M.  YES!  Percussionist Schiedermayer is punctuating Llanas’ impassioned voice.  This is going to be an uncharacteristically short review as I am enjoying this WAY too much.  But Llanas right away states that there will be less talk, more awesome!He immediately lunches into “Something’s Telling Me”, a BoDeans tune from Go Slow Down, which tells me that these two guys have it tight, full, dead-on to fill the room with sound that was created in a band setting!  Sttipping down a song to coustic level is tough.  But Llanas shoots Schiedermayer a look that suggests someone made an error.  Damned if I can hear it.  From my edge of the stage, it was tight to the end.

“A Dangerous Love” starts with Llanas alone, but Schiedermayer joins in and it immediately becomes powerful.  Llanas has a vocal timbre that is deceptive.  For a moment, I thought Schiedermayer had joined him on vocals, I could have sworn I heard two vocalists, Llanas is THAT good.  Llanas sings that the music sounds good…

You bet it does!

The builds into the choruses propel the dynamic upward towards a break down that frames Llanas’ impassioned vocals.  When Llanas is alone it sounds great.  When Schiedermayer joins in, indescribable as it just blows up!  They end with some punches of the chords and beats.

Damn, I am gonna have to get me more Sam Llanas stuff…  BoDeans too I guess…

Next up was what many consider to be (speaking of the BoDeans) their biggest hit, 1995’s “Closer To Free”.  I may have to agree a this does rock.  It swings, it rocks, call it what you will but before you label it, WATCH OUT!  Llanas even comes close to a Yodel (and thanks to Jewel, nobody likes Yodeling) but this sounds good!!!  They sort of muddy the end but who cares, this was a rock-out.

For the next tune, Llanas calls an audible.  Whatever was planned, they are playing another BoDeans tune from the album Resolution “617”.  The lyric ‘fight about me’ hits close to home.  But a lot of Llanas’ music hits you where you live.  I detect a trip on the first Bm Llanas grabs, but he is human and that’s what’s so great about live music.  It’s honest, human, and real.  You’ll never hear that humanity in pop music today because it is either being played on a computer that has been programmed and edited to perfection, or the act is managed by the Jackson 5 clan’s father Joe.

Gotham’s newest dynamic duo! These guys rocked the Rockwood… Photo by Lynn Vala

This is still too too good.  Before the last chorus, Llanas pulls a little vocal acrobatic during the line “I miss you sometimes”.  His voice is so earnest.  BRING IT!Back to territory I am familiar with, 4.A.M.’s “Cherry-O” (a great song) we are presented with love and revenge.  A great stop break before the verses is installed.  I should be writing more but I am just enjoying these songs so much…  Half of me wants to cover this, half or me wants to watch his chord patterns and learn them.  They stop break again and I dig the arrangement with the stops.  Chilling is the last line, right to the very last word when he whispers, ‘me’.  Lovely.

But now, it is as if Llanas has read my mind, the title track to 4.A.M. is up, I will be right back after this song, it is one of my favorites and I will be damned if I don’t take this opportunity to learn it.

Forgive me if it seems I am not reporting the full story, but this is my first exposure to Llanas live, and I want to experience it as opposed to JUST reporting on it.  But the impassioned vocals Llanas emits make it hard not to note.  But my joy turns to fear as I feel Llanas is rushing the pace as he had admitted they were pressed for time.  I could listen to this song all night.  The crowd shuts up (finally)! Amen…

He’s right, you know…

Also from Go Down Slowis “Feed The Fire”.  You would think that the title would set the mood all in itself.  Not even close.  Llanas’ raspy tone has pushed the room temperature up about 10 degrees.  “Lay down, lay down lay down, feed the fire…”  Sexy!

Ryan Schiedermayer stretches out on cajon during “A Beautiful Day”. Photo by Lynn Vala

I am all in at this point and I am nabbed!  Schiedermayer catches my eye and notices me drumming along.  Red handed!  But the groove is contagious.  People with two left feet could dance to his playing if there were room in the club!  Oh yeah, by now, this place is packed!!  Odd thing is, Llanas is setting the meter, toes are tapping, hands are clapping, Helen Keller could dig Llanas and Schiedermayer’s groove!

We all need to cool down a bit now, and Llanas knows it.  To cool the room, he brings us “Two Souls” which makes me look to my best thing to ever happen to me.  She is taking many photos, but as Llanas sings, “I know she’s out there”.  He also sings of eyes as deep as the soul, does he know that his are?  Still it’s the voice, “two souls touching”…  You would think this rough-and-tumble NY crowd would go back to its rowdy ways.  Not so!  They are entranced!  A better balladeer one will not find.

A critic’s job is to criticize, to find fault, point out the good, let the reader interpret what they will from it.  Not tonight.  There is little to find fault with.  Sorry this is so one sided, but when you have as consummate a performer as Llanas, there is nothing I can criticize.

Dammit!

After frightening the audience with the threat of playing the Morris Albert song “Feelings”, Llanas rocks the place out with “A Dangerous Love”.  My research has not yet located the origin of this song.  The lyrics are as hot as the tune, but this jams!  I’d love to find a studio version to keep.  By now, Llanas’ voice is warm, no, smokin’!

Llanas brings the music, the soul, the rock, the roll… Photo by Lynn Vala

The final song (oh no!) is a slow but melodic song called “Still The Night” from BoDean’s Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.  It’s slow but the soul is right on pointe.  Since Llanas is working with Boulder Storyhealers playwright Doug Vincent on “A Day For Grace’ the dance/theater reference seems appropriate.  The slow melodic pining of ‘If I could hold you tonight’ and the vocal ad-libs are drenched in soulful, skillful singing.  But all the sudden this mutates into “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys.

Hold on, didn’t Rick Derringer used to live around here in the 70’s?

Llanas returns to “Still The Night” (thankfully) and wraps up the show by thanking the crowd and ending the song.

A while back, through my syndicated blog, I was introduced to Sam Llanas by producer Gary Tanin (whom I met through the Roger Powell project Blue Note Ridge.  I’d like to thank Mr. Tanin for connecting me to a new music style I thoroughly enjoy.  After the show, on the street in front of the venue, I was fortunate enough to be able to chat quickly with Mr. Llanas, as well as Ryan Schiedermayer as we talked about the cajone, and all things percussion.

Now here is where things get (as if they can) more interesting.  I have been fortunate even further to be privy to being allowed to do a video interview with Sam Llanas and Gary Tanin which is now entering the video editing process.  On the print blog next, we go local with another roots artist, Eddie Randazzo performing right down the road from BouleBlog central at Tripp House in Scranton.  Enjoy and see you next time, and as always, thanks for reading!

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2 Responses to “SAM LLANAS BRINGS REAL MUSIC BACK TO LIFE AT THE ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL, NYC, 9-12-12”

  1. Anthony Musto Says:

    Nice, complete write-up….I enjoyed it.

    Like

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