New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: ben rubin bass

Murder Ballad Mondays Makes a Mean Return to Fort Greene on the 21st

A monthly residency is a sneaky way to keep your fanbase coming out without stating the obvious, that they could always blow off your show this month and catch you next time around. After all, who can keep track of when the third Thursday of the month is going to fall, other than the band playing that night?

A lot of touring artists use small New York venues as an anchor when they’re here – or as a rehearsal room, basically. Barbes is home base to many of the elite among them, most notably Big Lazy (first Friday of the month at 10) and Rachelle Garniez (first Thursday at 8). There are also a trio of good acts using Sidewalk to keep themselves sharp: guitarist Lenny Molotov’s bitingly lyrical original oldtime swing band the Fascinators (first Saturday at 8), Mac McCarty‘s careening folk noir Kidd Twist Band (first Saturday at 9) and the darkly eclectic, avant garde-inclined Lorraine Leckie (third Friday at 11, including tonight the 18th).

This blog’s favorite monthly residency is Murder Ballad Mondays at Branded Saloon. Like Paul Wallfisch‘s late, lamented Small Beast at the Delancey, it’s blogbait. Any lazy blogger can save himself or herself four or five separate nights out and catch several of the best acts in town all on the same bill on an off night that doesn’t conflict with anything. And it’s become a hit with the local Fort Greene contingent.

Last month’s was a prime example: with cold rain pelting the slush outside, torchy noir singer Ellia Bisker and her guitarslinging Charming Disaster conspirator Jeff Morris packed the place and treated folks to a deliciously lowlit, lurid evening. They used to treat the crowd to at least a short set, but lately they’ve been teasing everybody with just a song or two. This time out their contributions were a slinky version of a shadowy, swing-infused new number with some hilarious rhyme schemes as well as Murderer, Charming Disaster’s signature song of sorts, a coldly wary, subtle cautionary tale reminding that the perfect crime has no witnesses.

Jessi Robertson set the bar high right off the bat. Hauntingly resonant, deeply soul-infused vocals fused with lead guitarist Rony Corcos’ similarly lingering, bluesy lead lines and elegantly jangly phrasing. Part of Robertson’s appeal is that her big crescendos sometimes seem triumphant and celebratory when they’re actually venomous, and their first song was a prime example. They also made their way through the bristling underbrush of a folk noir number and closed with a fiery PJ Harvey cover.

Liz Tormes, this city’s leading exponent of murder ballads, brought the ambience down to a blue-flame intensity, mining the catalogs of Peter Rowan and Bill Monroe, her own calmly and murderously alluring repertoire and closed with a stark Elizabethan suicide song. Former Snow frontwoman Hilary Downes sang a calmly brooding version of the Townes Van Zant classic Pancho & Lefty. And Mudville – singer/keyboardist Marilyn Carino and brilliant bassist Ben Rubin – kept the simmeringly ominous ambience going with noir cabaret takes on the Misfits and Tom Waits as well as an even more allusively venomous original.

That’s what makes Murder Ballad Mondays so interesting – it’s taking the concept of songs about killing people far beyond the time-honored Britfolk/Appalachian tradition. The more you know about music, the more you realize just how much we have in common: no matter the culture, people around the world just love to kill each other. And then write about it. This coming Murder Ballad Monday on March 21 starts at 8 sharp and features Charming Disaster, Elisa Flynn – whose rapturously haunting voice is matched by her historically-informed, erudite tunesmithing – and others TBA who will probably be just as good.

Little Genius on the Loose at the Rockwood

At her Soundcloud site, Marilyn Carino calls her new Little Genius album “electronic soul,” but it’s a lot more soul than electronic. Her show Tuesday night at the Rockwood took awhile to set up: with her two keyboards, and her big Gibson hollowbody guitar, and a live rhythm section, it was obvious that this was going to be a real concert, not karaoke. You could compare the former frontwoman of Brooklyn downtempo/chillout group Mudville to Amy Winehouse or to Bjork, but Carino’s a thousand times more diverse than the first one and a lot more focused than the other. Alison Goldfrapp is another singer who comes to mind, but she can’t match Carino for unadulterated, lurid sultriness. And for all the raw sensuality in her delivery, Carino can also be incredibly subtle.

This was a trippy show. The tight, purist rhythm section of jazz bassist Ben Rubin (of Dred Scott’s group) on upright bass and Shawn Pelton (of cinematic noir soundscapers Mojo Mancini) on drums launched into a hypnotic backbeat as Carino spun webs of coldly moody, processed keys that contrasted with the slyly beckoning feel of her vocals. The catchy second song of the¬†night set Carino’s voice against eerie roto organ moving in and out of the mix and a couple of trumpet solos that took it out triumphant and satisfied. Another had Carino building a lazy indie tune out of a single brooding, acidic guitar chord; later, she delivered hushed, suspenseful yet raw gospel-tinged soul over thoughtfully minimalist, echoey Rhodes electric piano.

A couple of the trip-hop numbers, including one that opened with a cascade of rainstorm piano before the textures got all woozy, had a darkly mesmerizing intensity: they wouldn’t have been out of place on the live Portishead album. They hit a cool Jazzmatazz vibe toward the end of the set, a hip-hop artist joining them to elevate the laid-back¬†atmosphere as the trumpet soared. They closed with a deliciously noir, jazzy tune and then an old Mudville song, just bass, drums, trumpet and Carino’s bracing come-hither allure.

As entertaining as this show was, there were unwanted distractions. A pair of drunken Eurotrash couples – a girl at the bar chatting up a much older guy, and a coked-up greybeard by the window with his rent-a-date, talked loudly, nonstop, throughout the concert. Which was too bad – the Rockwood doesn’t usually draw that kind of crowd, especially when there’s a good band onstage.

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