When Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies introduced "The Stars of Our Stars" as "the big single" from the group's latest album, declaring, "It's being played on the radio everywhere," drummer and kid brother Peter Timmins responded with an ironic rim shot.
It's true that the Junkies aren't superstars -- certainly not on Washington-area radio -- but the audience at Wolf Trap on Sunday was happy to welcome them to what Margo vowed is her favorite venue. The group responded with its usual mixture of warm intimacy and chill-inducing atmospherics.
The soft-voiced Margo doesn't get compared to Grace Slick very often, but that's who she evoked on "No Long Journey Home," a spellbinding, commanding rocker featuring Jeff Bird's maniacal wah-wah mandolin playing. Bird later blended his harmonica with Jaro Czerwinec's piano accordion and the guitar of Michael Timmins (another brother) to bring stately elegance to the old Grateful Dead number "To Lay Me Down." But the magic the group weaves wouldn't be nearly as strong without its lead singer, whose delicate performance with Michael of "A Horse in the Country" was matched by the passionate, full-band blues of "Oregon Hill."
Another veteran performer, Shawn Colvin, opened the show, exhibiting, like the Junkies, a fresh approach to sometimes familiar material. Colvin tried out a new song -- "I don't feel like it's quite finished" -- about a woman facing an unhappy world. It was so beautifully structured and elegantly finger-picked, it didn't need another thing before, one hopes, being played on the radio everywhere.
-- Pamela Murray Winters
Grace Church Bach Festival
Soprano Rosa Lamoreaux is surely the jewel among Washington's early-music singers. Beyond her gleaming, spot-on high notes and cascades of silver-toned runs, she possesses an intelligence and scrupulous musicianship that pay dividends in all the music she performs.
Lamoreaux sounded in top form singing with the ensemble Arco Voce in a Grace Church Bach Festival recital on Sunday. She was clearly more temperamentally suited to the simple devotion in an aria from Bach's Cantata BWV 80 and to the flirtatious joy in Monteverdi's "Quel squardo sdegnosetto" than to the cynical edge in Frescobaldi's Aria di Passacaglia or the complex tumble of passions in the Vivaldi cantata "Lungi dal vago volto" -- the latter two works breezed by in a blur of pert smiles and bright-eyed poise. But everything was sung with gorgeous sound and stylistic acuity.
Violinist Elizabeth Field was no less sensitive to baroque style in two Bach violin and harpsichord sonatas. If fast movements occasionally brought her to the edge of her effective technique, Field's lithe tone and supple phrasing made the solo line dance gracefully above Steven Silverman's bustling, architecturally sure harpsichord playing and Stephanie Vial's appealingly throaty work on baroque cello in the Sonata BWV 1019. The Sonata BWV 1014 again found Field faltering in rapid-fire passages but finding the heartfelt melancholy in this dark piece.
-- Joe Banno