Tim Fite and the Watson Twins
Adouble bill of pasty hip-hop prankster Tim Fite and Louisville-by-way-of-Laurel Canyon sirens the Watson Twins might seem an awkward match, but at the Rock & Roll Hotel on Wednesday, both acts benefited from the unlikely company. Two impressions: 1) Contrast is good; 1a) neither is ready for headliner status yet.
Fite is a bug-eyed, orange-trousered enforcer of mirth -- a little Beck, a whole lotta Pee-wee Herman. Because his baroque, sing-songy raps are best in moderation, Fite wisely peppered his manic 45-minute sideshow with video-reliant interstitials ("What Dogs Eat") and led the crowd in an aerobic "tour of the human body" that felt cribbed from "Sesame Street." Some indifferent (and quickly abandoned) acoustic strumming was the only halfhearted thing he did. His real accompaniment came from the trio of Fites who "performed" on a projection screen behind him, and from his laptop. At first he came on like a sixth-grade teacher moonlighting at a birthday party, but the way he threw himself bodily into his performance demanded that attention be paid.
Chandra and Leigh Watson's set of languid, rural pop took an opposite arc, beginning casually and trailing off. Backed by a rock trio, the sisters frustratingly alternated singing lead, rarely joining their voices in the close harmonies they used in giving such rustic color to Jenny Lewis's "Rabbit Fur Coat" album. The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" sounded great reborn as a country ballad, but also called out the dreary competence of the Watsons' originals. The volume of chatter in the bar rose steadily as the twins sang. When a pair of ladies who look and sound as beautiful as the Watsons fail to captivate a cozy room, something's missing.
-- Chris Klimek
David 'Honeyboy' Edwards
David "Honeyboy" Edwards received a luxe gift at Blues Alley on Wednesday night in recognition of his contributions to the recent Grammy-wining album "Last of the Great Mississippi Bluesmen -- Live in Dallas." He took home a new Gibson Les Paul guitar, courtesy of the manufacturer.
Still, the 93-year-old musician seemed perfectly content playing an acoustic guitar during the opening set, accompanied by Michael Frank on harmonica and Scott Shuman on rhythm guitar. (Shuman, who has a recording studio in Falls Church, also was honored by Gibson for overseeing the Grammy-winning release.)
Edwards tends to stick to the basics, playing 12-bar progressions in standard tuning and often in the key of E. (He even plays bottleneck guitar in standard tuning.) But like many country bluesmen, he's developed a distinctive sound. During a performance that sometimes evoked his early guitar role models, including Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson, he drew on an idiosyncratic assortment of skittish runs, fitful rhythms, boogie-driven bass lines, chromatic turnarounds and sliding chordal propulsion.
Fortunately, Frank, who has recorded Edwards for his Earwig record label, has been playing alongside the bluesman long enough to anticipate most of his moves. The two musicians made for a soulful pairing, with Edwards singing "Big Fat Mama," "Going Down Slow," "Sweet Home Chicago" and other tunes in a low, rumbling voice. If Frank had had his way, Edwards would have shared more than one amusing anecdote with the audience. A little prodding, though, wasn't enough to deter the bluesman from doing just as he pleased.
-- Mike Joyce