Los Lonely Boys
Looking as if their mama had just busted them mid-mischief, Los Lonely Boys -- aka the three Garza brothers -- bumbled onto the 9:30 club stage Friday flashing sheepish grins and mock-surprised eyes. The sold-out crowd instantly started whooping and laughing at the hammy, good-looking twenty-somethings, who, if they weren't so skilled at bluesy, boozy "Texican rock-and-roll," would make a killer comedy team.
Long-haired, long-limbed Henry sings and plays guitar. Short and bouncy JoJo sings and plays bass. And chubby, do-ragged Ringo plays -- what else? -- drums. And together, the mad-grinning Mexican American sibs, who've been playing together since they were tykes, worked up a sweaty roadhouse vibe via a blend of rock and blues that sounded a whole lot like south-of-the-border Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Playing almost the entirety of their self-titled debut album, and honoring influences with a couple of covers, including Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," the West Texas trio took about 20 solos too many during the two-hour set -- loooong bass and drum wanderings included -- but it was hard to fault them for having so much earnest, eager fun during their first visit to Washington. The screaming women in the crowd, one of whom bounded onstage for a group hug, certainly didn't mind the showoffery.
Making a bid for the title of next great guitar hero, Henry Garza indulged his Carlos Santana fetish on "Onda," tucking in impressive but seemingly endless noodling at the sprawling burner's start, middle and end. Even his ragged harmonica turn on the country-wistful "Hollywood" was a clock-watcher.
Perhaps sensing that the solos were growing tiresome, Henry and JoJo took even more of 'em -- but behind their backs, spinning across the stage, and even one-handed. For roots-rocky hit single "Heaven," JoJo offered Henry a helping hand -- and 15 fast fingers picked away at the guitar at once. It was silly but sweet: brothers, arm in arm, to the very end.
-- Sean Daly
Bonnie Raitt may well be the happiest person ever to sing the blues. "I like singing about being unhappy a whole lot more than being unhappy," she told the audience at Wolf Trap on Friday. And although Sartre famously avowed that "Hell is other people," Raitt seems to find her happy heaven there.
It wasn't just the acclaim of the rain-damp but fervid crowd. It came from Raitt herself, who soared her way through nine songs written by other artists before hitting her own "Nick of Time." While it could be said that the svelte, red-maned rocker made all those songs her own, more notable was her generosity: name-checking NRBQ on a rockabilly version of the band's "Any Old Time," joining keyboardist Jon Cleary on a duet of his swamp-rocker "Fool's Game," and reminiscing about blues mentor Sippie Wallace before a fiery rendition of her "Special Delivery Blues." A trio of quieter songs, mid-set, were equally memorable: Randy Newman's sardonic-imperialist hymn "Political Science" -- which Raitt made a political testimony with an arch rendition and a knowing grin -- an ethereal version of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery," and "Dimming of the Day," dedicated to its composer, Raitt's opening act, Richard Thompson.
She spread the love around to her longtime band, too, offering plenty of opportunities for the members to shine. Not that she didn't glow just as brightly, with that powerful alto and that quick-fingered slide guitar.
Her jubilant version of Oliver Mtukudzi's "Help Me Lord" epitomized the evening. The song is a prayer of the best kind: the sort that empowers the supplicant -- and the listeners -- whether or not any god is there to hear it. A joyful noise indeed.
-- Pamela Murray Winters
McPartland & Cincotti
Marian McPartland's "Piano Jazz," NPR's longest running jazz program, celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater on Friday night by taping a show featuring the British-born host chatting and collaborating with 20-year-old pianist Peter Cincotti.
Why Cincotti was chosen for the special occasion is anyone's guess, though all the press he has garnered in the last year for his precocious musicianship and good looks probably didn't hurt his chances. His vocal and songwriting gifts are modest, but he does have unusually broad piano influences for a musician so young. McPartland was quick to point out the most appealing aspect of his talent: He plays vigorously with "two hands." He sometimes pitted them against each other while saluting Fats Waller with a tempo-shifting "Ain't Misbehavin' " and while teaming up with McPartland for a brisk and invigorating of version of "A Night in Tunisia." The duet arrangements were sketched out on the spot and spontaneously revealed stylistic connections between the pianists. McPartland contributed the evening's most intriguing solo performances: a rare recital of Duke Ellington's Picassoesque portrait "The Clothed Woman" and an original, multifaceted piece written in Cincotti's honor.
The taping was marred by technical snafus, requiring repeat performances and triggering some delightfully wry commentary from the show's host. Indeed, McPartland was in feisty form. When an NPR staffer noted with great delight that he recently found a photograph of her performing for World War II troops, she let fly a zinger: "If you're a good boy, I'll show you those other photos."
-- Mike Joyce