Mountain Stage: Carrie Rodriguez, Brooke Waggoner, Trixie Whitley, Iris Dement, Bruce Cockburn

Last night’s Mountain Stage featured Carrie Rodriguez, Brooke Waggoner, Trixie Whitley, Iris Dement and Bruce Cockburn. With such a powerhouse lineup, it’s no surprise the show sold out before the doors even opened.

Carrie Rodriguez’ 2008 Mountain Stage set was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended, so I was excited to see her return to my beloved venue. No one woman should be as pretty and gifted as Carrie Rodriguez. Her face and voice are equally gorgeous, her songwriting is top-notch and she’s a multi-instrumental virtuoso. She was accompanied last night by a single guitarist, Luke Jacobs.

Carrie opened with the high energy “Devil in Mind,” playing her violin like a rock guitar. She followed that with the mellow, swaying song “Lake Harriet,” which she called her “ode to the Minnesota man.” The beautiful love song “Get Back in Love,” a tribute to her guitarist’s parents, was the highlight of her set. Carrie asked the Mountain Stage band to join her for her new single, “I Cry For Love,” and ended with the sweet ballad “I Don’t Mind Waiting.”

Carrie Rodriguez’ fifth full-length solo album, Give Me All You Got, will be released January 22, 2013. You can download the new single, “Lake Harriet,” by signing up for Carrie’s email list at her website and watch the video below.

Carrie Rodriguez Official Site

Buy Carrie’s Music @ Amazon

Julie Adams and the Mountain Stage band took a turn covering Ron Sexsmith’s lovely “Speaking With The Angel.”

Brooke Waggoner, a striking redhead in a bright red dress and black boots, took the stage and piano next. I loved Brooke’s sophomore album, Go Easy Little Doves, but had never seen the classically trained singer-pianist in concert before. I had tickets to see her at Mountain Stage in the winter of 2010, but a snow storm canceled the show. I’m so glad Brooke chose to visit earlier in the season this time.

Brooke has one of those rare, flawless voices that sounds exactly the same live as it does recorded. Her voice and melodies have an unusually haunting and delicate quality to them, yet she’s not afraid to add a dark edge to certain songs.

Brooke and her band blasted the stage like it was a rock arena. This girl is going to be a huge star. At least, she should be. She played all new songs from her upcoming album, each more astounding than the last. It was like someone put the best, most impressive elements of Little Earthquakes-era Tori Amos and The Dresden Dolls-era Amanda Palmer into a blender. She was my favorite act of the night and I wish she’d played an extended set.

Brooke Waggoner’s next album, Originator, will be released in early 2013. You can download the first single, “Ink Slinger, at Rolling Stone.

Brooke Waggoner Official Site

Buy Brooke’s Music @ Amazon

Belgian singer Trixie Whitley had no difficulty following in Brooke’s wake. Trixie is a jack-all-trades kind of artist, having been an actor, dancer, DJ and musician. Her recording resume reads like a Who’s Who of the music industry, with names like Me’shell Ndegeocello, Robert Plant and Marianne Faithfull. Trixie was by far the most entertaining member of Black Dub when I saw them perform at Mountain Stage in 2010 and one of the standout covers on the recent Fleetwood Mac tribute.

Trixie opened with an atmospheric piano melody before picking up an electric guitar for the harder “Gradual Return,” a rock song with almost psychedelic riffs. She switched to an acoustic guitar for a bluesy ballad about a Mexican town, then slid back behind the piano for the love song finale, “I Breath You in My Dreams.” Every song was completely different, yet equally captivating. Trixie’s soulful, versatile voice rivals Adele.

As I posted last month, Trixie is offering a free, legal EP download via Noisetrade (see the end of this review) and her solo debut, Fourth Corner, will be released January 29, 2013.

Trixie Whitley Official Site

Buy Trixie’s Music @ Amazon

Strangely, Grammy-winning folk singer Iris Dement was probably the most famous of the performers and the one whose music I was least familiar with. She counts among her fans and collaborators Merle Haggard, John Prine, David Byrne, Natalie Merchant and the Coen Brothers. Her songs have been featured in various television shows and movies, and she herself played a small role in the film Songcatcher. But, to put it politely, her lengthy, dry banter and high pitched whine were not my cup of tea. The older folks in the audience seemed to like it, but I wasn’t the only younger person in the crowd yawning and checking my watch.

Iris Dement Official Site

Buy Iris’ Music @ Amazon

Thankfully, Mountain Stage pianist Bob Thompson soothed my frayed nerves with “Stardust.”

Finally, Bruce Cockburn. I’ve seen the Canadian folk master perform at Mountain Stage so many times over the years, I’ve lost count (last night was his 13th time at the venue). But it’s never enough.

As quiet and unassuming as the man is, there is no question that Bruce Cockburn and his music are legendary. I often wonder why Cockburnesque isn’t as overused a musical adjective as Dylanesque, but then I can’t think of any artist that can be compared to Bruce Cockburn. His live performances are even better than his recordings. There’s just something so likable about his humble demeanor and so captivating about his folk songs.

Bruce started with an older instrumental, then played “Call Me Rose” from his most recent album, Small Source of Comfort. He closed with the quaking, gut-renching “Put it in Your Heart.”

Bruce Cockburn Official Site

Buy Bruce’s Music @ Amazon

Brooke Waggonor and Trixie Whitley were the only performers of the night who didn’t stick around for the group finale. Carrie Rodriguez, Iris Dement and Bruce Cockburn joined host Larry Groce and the Mountain Stage band for a cover of “If I Prove False To Thee.”

Brooke Waggoner – Ink Slinger (mp3 download page)

Bruce Cockburn: Small Source of Comfort

Canadian folk master Bruce Cockburn will release Small Source of Comfort on March 8th. Inspired by his travels to everywhere from Brookyn and San Francisco to military bases in Afghanistan, Cockburn’s thirty-first studio album has been called “a collection of songs of romance, protest and spiritual discovery.” His trademark blend of rhythmic folk, jazz and rock is here mingled with elements of Celtic and Middle Eastern music.

With lyrics like “passing through the iris of the world,” Cockburn continues to be as much a poet as he is a musician. Haunting violin snakes through his signature folk pluck in the opener “Iris of the World.”

“Call Me Rose” has a Dylanesque swagger and tells a bizarre story of reincarnation. The tune is sung from the perspective of former U.S. president Richard Nixon, who has been reborn as a poor single mother of two struggling to get by in a housing project.

Jaunty jazz meets bluegrass with what sounds like a splash of Celtic folk in “Lois on the Autobahn,” one of several grand instrumentals on the album. “Comets of Kandahar,” which Cockburn describes as “Django meets John Lee Hooker,” is another noteworthy instrumental.

The bluesy hum and clang of “Five Fifty-One” is a standout, while the quiet ballad “Driving Away” gives Cockburn the opportunity to show off his crooning skills.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below…

Pre-order @ Amazon

Bruce Cockburn Official Site
Bruce Cockburn MySpace