This Land is Your Music Show #2 at The Mill in Iowa City 11/12/09 (review)

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Last week I posted about the first of the three This Land is Your Music shows at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City featuring Pieta Brown and selected regional artists. Last week’s show featured Pieta in a solo acoustic setting. This week’s show featured Pieta in her most common live configuration– in a duo with Bo Ramsey. This was a show I was really looking forward to as it also had Bo as the opening act as a solo acoustic performance, which I hadn’t seen before!

As much as I look back fondly on the bar-rocking Sliders days of Bo, it is really interesting to see the “gentleman bluesman” identity Bo has adopted in the last decade or so. Seeing Bo on stage sitting down with his acoustic guitar in trademark attire of suit, boots and straw hat recalls at once both Hank Williams and Robert Johnson.
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Bo’s music translates favorably to an acoustic setting and his guitar technique and chops are just as impressive as his electric ones. The song selection for his set spanned his entire career dipping back to the 80’s with “Back No More” and “I Don’t Know.” He pulled out “555 x 2”  from Down to Bastrop which drew a favorable crowd reaction. We were also treated to his cover of “Sitting On Top of the World”  he recorded for his blues “tribute” album Stranger Blues and my personal favorite from last year’s Fragile, “Buffalo to Jericho.”

Bo also performed two new songs– both of them co-written with Pieta Brown. “No Place Like Home” and “Going Back.” “Going Back” is a chanted lament for a simpler time with the repeated phrase “I’m Going Back.” Both songs are good– I’d heard them when Bo played the Mill back at the end of October. Hopefully this means he’s working on another album of material!

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After a very short break where Pieta and Bo huddled in the corner going over the setlist they would play– they started into their set. It’s impressive to think that Pieta and Bo have been performing like this since the beginning of her career dating back to her first record around 2002. Bo as a sideman is a generational tradition started with Bo and Greg Brown and it’s an effective if economical way to perform. It is clearly a comfortable arrangement for both Bo and Pieta and neither of them really overshadow the other.

The set didn’t have much duplicates from last week except for three songs– the new “Faller” which is based on her meeting Tom Petty, “Calling All Angels,” and “Bad News.” The rest of the songs were a good mix of new and old and some choice covers. We also got a new track from the Shimmer EP– “Diamonds in the Sky” which she introduced by saying it was the first time playing it outside her bedroom.

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The highlight of the night, however, was when she called Dave Moore up to the stage to perform five songs with them. He stuck to harmonica for most of the songs adding incendiary licks to “Are You Free”– I wish I would have recorded that! He switched to accordion for the Hank Williams song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

In the backroom gallery was work by Codi Josephson who runs Home Ec Workshop in Iowa City. She showed a collection of print-on-fabric pieces that looked pretty cool. You can see the exhibit in the flickr picture set.

This Thursday, 11/19 is the final show in the series and will have Pieta Brown fronting a full band made up of members of Bo’s band. Having seen her fronting a full band before, I urge anyone who can make it to come out! The first two shows were fairly low-key, but with a drummer there is a good chance people will be out shaking it on the dance floor. The opening act will be Dustin Busch, and the gallery exhibit will be from Sandy Dyas and will be an installation of her photographs– I think it will be based on her “Heaven and Earth” installation at Cornell College. Doors are at 7PM, show is promptly at 8PM and admission is $10– the proceeds of which go to support Public Radio, KCCK, and the Friends of Hickory Hill.

Bo’s Setlist:
Sitting On Top Of The World (Big Bill Broonzy cover)
No Place Like Home*
Going Back*
Tell Me Now
555 x 2
Back No More
Buffalo to Jericho
I Don’t Know

Pieta’s Setlist”
How Many Times
Prayer of Roses*
Even When
Loving You Still
Rollin’ Down the Tracks
Bad News
Faller
I’m Going Away Blues (w/Dave Moore) (Frank Stokes cover)
Are You Free (w/Dave Moore)
Diamonds In The Sky (w/Dave Moore)
I Don’t Want to Come Down (w/Dave Moore)
I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (w/Dave Moore) (Hank Williams cover)
Calling All Angels
I’m Over You
Red Apple Juice (standard)

Click Here to visit the Mill Restaurant Website

Click Here to read my review of the first This Land is Your Music show on 11/5/09

Click Here to read my review of the third This Land is Your Music show on 11/19/09

Click Here to view the flickr picture set.

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