Ms. Pieta Brown is bringing her “artist in residence” show called “This Land Is Your Music” back to The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City on April 14th, 2012. In a similar fashion to the last two the show will feature Pieta as the headliner with other artists with local ties opening and a gallery exhibit.
This year, the event has been condensed into one show– but it is a powerhouse bill shared with The Pines and is a weekend show. Pieta’s set will be with a backing band that she is calling The Sawdust Boys– which is what she called her backing band for her recent tour of Australia. The Sawdust Boys are JT Bates and Michael Rossetto, who are conveniently also part of The Pines. I’m sure we’ll see Bo Ramsey as part of one or both band’s sets. Bo stopped by somewhat unannounced for the recent Pines show at CSPS and brought the house down with an unexpected solo song!
In the past Pieta has used these shows as a way to work out new material in a live setting– The Mill is a long-standing familial venue for the Ramsey’s and Brown’s and their associated friends. The audience for Pieta’s shows are by far some of the warmest and welcoming I’ve seen and impromptu sit-ins by friends and family are par for the course.
It’s hard to believe that it already has been over a year since Pieta Brown hosted her first artist-in-residence at The Mill Restaurant. That show was three Thursday night shows in November last year (see my reviews for: 11/5, 11/12, 11/19). Next to the Daytrotter Barnstormer shows, these were some of my favorite shows of 2009– very intimate and special. The stage lighting and design by Stan Crocker was a great touch– an eclectic little living room. Pieta was using these shows to try out some live band configurations– solo, duo and full band. To help bring some awareness to the art scene in the area, she set aside the room normally reserved as the green room as a gallery which was really cool, too. The only disappointing thing to me about these shows was the lack of audience on a couple of the shows. By the 11/19 show, it seemed like word had gotten out about these gigs. But, mid-week shows are always hit-or-miss in Iowa City, even when school is in session.
Pieta is bringing This Land Is Your Music back to the Mill for two shows in December– Saturday 12/4 and Saturday 12/11. The tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and the proceeds will again be donated to Friends of Hickory Hills and Iowa Public Radio. Doors will be at 7PM Here are the details:
Saturday, December 4. Pieta Brown performs a solo set. Her special guest will be Iowa City trio The Vagabonds. The art in the gallery will be done by Stan Crocker and Sonya Naumann. Sonya Naumann has a really interesting photography project called “Thousand Dollar Dress” that maybe we’ll get to see some of in the gallery.
Saturday, December 11. Pieta Brown & Terraplane headlines. We don’t know exactly who is in the band, but Bo Ramsey lists this show in the tour section of his site. Alexis Stevens will open. The gallery will have works by Jamie Hudrlik (who happens to be the very talented daughter of Iowa City photographer Sandy Dyas who showed photographs last year).
If you follow my blog with any regularity, you know that I follow the Eastern Iowa music scene fairly closely– especially its rich folk and blues tradition. One of the guys who has been around Iowa City for a while and has established a kind of legendary career is Dave Moore.
Moore’s music career starts in the early 80’s in Iowa City hooking up with Greg Brown– supporting him on tour, recording and his frequent visits to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion radio show. In 1984 he won a blues and folk festival contest which provided him the studio time to record his first record Jukejoints and Cantinas which began his relationship with Red House Records. In 1990 he released his follow-up Over My Shoulder. In 1994 he started work on his third release which was interrupted due to losing a daughter in infancy. He took a break from the record and playing for a while, choosing to stick close to home and family.
In 1998 he picked up work on the album again, this time pulling in area musicians to help bring vision to the recording sessions. Bo Ramsey stepped in at the producer’s helm on the sessions which included Rick Cicalo on bass, Steve Hayes on drums, and David Zollo on piano. “Nothing against non-Iowans,” Moore said in a 2000 interview with Maureen Brennan. “I just think it really felt right. These are all the people I’ve been playing with. They all have families, most of them have kids; even the person who did the photographs (Sandy Dyas) is local. It kind of solidified in that direction when Bo Ramsey and I began to work together.”
The resulting record– Breaking Down to 3— which was released by Red House in 1999 is a strong work which benefits from the “Iowa Sound” that Bo and the guys brought and is a record that I consider to be essential to any collection of this regional scene.
Dave Moore will be playing two early sets at The Red Avocado restaurant in Iowa City on Saturday 3/20/10. The party starts at 11AM with two sets of tunes from Moore– one at 11:30AM and one at 1:30PM. At 3PM there is a reception for area photographer Sandy Dyas and her work on exhibit at the Red Avocado that goes until 5PM.
Click Here for the Red Avocado Page on the Spring Party.
Click Here for the Facebook Event for Dave Moore & Sandy Dyas at The Red Avocado.
Thursday night, November 19th, was the last of the three shows that comprised Pieta Brown‘s Artist-in-Residence at the Mill Restaurant in Iowa City. Each show had different opening acts and gallery exhibits, and Pieta used these shows to try out different performance configurations. The first show was a solo acoustic show, the second was a duo show with Bo Ramsey, and this show was a full-band show. The band, dubbed “Skyrocket” was Bo Ramsey on guitar, Steve Hayes on drums and Jon Penner on bass. Effectively this her “Dream #9” band with a swap of drummers from Jim Viner to Hayes. The opening act was Dustin Busch, whose photographs were in the gallery and who joined Pieta on stage as well for the first show. The gallery for this show was an installation of Sandy Dyas’s photographs.
I was looking forward to this show because I really enjoyed seeing Pieta with a full band back in June and this is as close to her records as she can sound live. I think she has really come into her own as a songwriter, musician and performer since her self-titled debut in 2002. Certainly her solo, duo and trio performances are the style that is associated with her, but fronting a band on stage is a new mode for her, and one I hope to see more of because, frankly, I like the drive of the drums behind her songs. Talking to her after the show about it, I get the idea that she doesn’t want to put too much focus on the full-band configuration over the other forms. She isn’t going to tour the full band, I’d say– if only because of the complicated logistics and economics of touring a full band.
Dustin Busch aka “Dusty B” opened the show with a solo acoustic set. Dustin’s set was comprised of covers and original songs which showcased his “hill-country” blues style. Dustin’s amazing slide guitar style was coupled with a characteristicly mush-mouthed vocal delivery which reminded me of R.L. Burnside or T-Model Ford. He had a microphone pointed at his feet so that his foot stomping could be picked up. I was really impressed with the set– I’d like to see him play again sometime when he’s in the area. I had a great conversation with him after the show about old blues artists– its clear his passion is in this as he possesses a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of this topic. I could have talked to him for hours! I managed to capture his set-closer which was an instrumental cover of Al Murphy’s “Quail is a Pretty Bird” with my iPhone which you can see below. This song is typically a fiddle tune, but Dustin transforms it for guitar.
Because the stage was occupied by more people, it left less room for the neat stage props, so Stan Crocker created a new set incorporating some of the original props, but included a steer skull and an interesting blanket of lights you can see in the above picture. I wish I would have gotten a wide-angle shot without the band– it was really cool.
Pieta brought out her new Reverend Flatroc electric in Rock Orange, although in these pictures under the red lights it appears that the guitar matches the pink in Pieta’s outfit. She was playing it through a Fender Silverfaced Twin Reverb, which according to an interview with Nick Stika I read with Bo Ramsey in Premier Guitar, is actually modded to a blackface circuitry. This means that it is a later Fender tube-based amp from the CBS period, but has been modified to the same circuitry a pre-CBS “blackface” spec. (sorry about the guitar gear geek stuff…).
The set was great, and included a run of songs that were very suited to the full-band experience. It was pretty evident that the Bo/Steve/Jon backing band was a good choice– they play together very frequently and it shows how easily they can be dropped into a setting like this. The crowd started warming up to the band and some people started dancing. I’ve said it before– I really like hearing Pieta with a full band– the energy is palpable and infectious.
Pieta was her typical humble and gracious self– thanking people for coming out and thanking the Mill for letting her try her “experiment” and stated that she hoped to be able to do this again.
This show’s art exhibit was one that I was really looking forward to– the Sandy Dyas installation. She utilized the backroom to its fullest with a sort of “mini” installation of her “Heaven & Earth” exhibit which will open at Simpson College in Indianola, IA on January 11th and will run through February 5th. She is using the walls as a larger canvas– if you will– where she is hanging photographs in groupings in relation to each other– the juxtaposition of which offers an interpretation of the subjects wider than the individual photos. Graphic arts is about the use of space, and this exhibit will be an interesting and compelling exercise.
After it was all said and done, these shows accomplished what Pieta set out to do– she got an opportunity to work out some of her material in different stage settings– a sort of warm-up to the touring she will be doing in support of her Shimmer EP and the upcoming full length this year on Red House. She also used these shows as a way to show the community of artists that exists in Eastern Iowa. I moved back to Eastern Iowa to follow a career opportunity, but I was also very excited to come back to the area to see the music and arts scene I grew up around. I hope that Pieta attempts another series of shows like this– there are a lot more artists and musicians who could benefit from the exposure Pieta could bring to them in this setting.
Pieta Brown and Skyrocket Setlist:
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
In My Mind I Was Talkin’ to Loretta
You’re My Lover Now
I Don’t Want To Come Down
Rollin’ Down The Track
Lovin’ You Still
How Many Times
Red Apple Juice
Looking the World Over (Memphis Minnie cover)
Dustin Busch Performing “Quail is a Pretty Bird”
Pieta Brown and Skyrocket performing “Hey Run”
Click Here to see my full flickr set of pictures from the show.
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 second This Land Is Your Music show on 11/12/09
As previously announced, November brings a special “songwriter in residence” at The Mill in Iowa City by Pieta Brown called “This Land is Your Music : Pieta Brown & Friends” which is a series of three shows on November 5, 12, and 19 which is described as “celebrating Music, Land & Community.” Each of the shows will center around Pieta’s music with her playing in solo, duo (with Bo Ramsey) and in a full band configuration. In addition to her set, there will be an opening act and there will be an exhibit in the “back room” at The Mill featuring the art of a local artist.
November 5th: Pieta Brown solo with opening act Alex Ramsey. Alex is one of Bo’s sons and brother of Benson Ramsey of The Pines. Alex has provided piano to the last couple of Bo Ramsey releases as well as The Pines. The exhibit will feature artwork by Zoe Brown, who is Pieta’s sister and provided the artwork for Pieta’s last EP Flight Time. The exhibit will also feature art by Dustin Busch. Dustin is an Iowa City stallwart having been playing solo and also part of Kelly Pardekooper’s Devil’s House Band.
November 12th: Pieta Brown with Bo Ramsey, with Bo Ramsey solo opening. This will be interesting as I’ve never seen Bo as a solo performer. I have a bootleg from a couple of years ago where he was touring with Greg Brown and he opened solo and it was really cool. The exhibit will feature art by Codi Josephson who runs Home-Ec Workshop in Iowa City. This will probably be the CD release show for Pieta’s new EP Shimmer produced by Don Was, which comes out that Tuesday, 11/10.
November 19th: Pieta Brown and Skyrocket, with Dusty B. (aka Dustin Busch) opening. Dustin Busch is a former Iowa City musician who is currently the guitarist in the Tucson group The 17th Street Band. The exhibit will be a collage of work by local photographer Sandy Dyas. Sandy’s book “Down to the River” is a collection of pictures of Eastern Iowa musicians including Bo Ramsey, Pieta Brown, Kelly Pardekooper, Greg Brown and others. The book comes with a CD of songs from these artists and is well worth seeking out.
Any way you look at this, this is a really cool event and it is wonderful that Pieta is giving back to the community that fostered her career. If you have the opportunity to see any of these shows, by all means, don’t miss it!
Click Here to visit the Mill calendar which will have information on how to purchase tickets.