Reaching Altitude: Sunday Salon #3

First time was a washout due to the hurricane; second time was an excellent if intimate gathering despite the lack of subway service. The third week of the new Sunday Salon series at Zirzamin was the best yet, with contributions from both the new and established vanguard of New York songwriters and players. As he did the previous week, cellist Calum Ingram kicked things off, this time with a trio, playing his raw, high-energy blend of blues and funk, this time beginning with an intriguing jazz waltz groove.

John Hodel is not a polished musician but he is unsurpassed as a storyteller. His inimitable sense of humor refuses to quit. The Bukowski of the NY acoustic scene knows his subject matter like the bottom of his glass and he is authentic oldschool New York to the core. This time out he treated the crowd to his classic, surreal, dead-accurate Tuesday Morning in a Bar and the chillingly aphoristic Love Has No Home.

Jon LaDeau, an adept blues guitarist, followed with the distantly ominous Stonewall, a southern gothic travelogue of sorts, along with a couple of other bluesy tunes. The Salon’s very own Lauraly Grossman, a cellist by trade, picked up her gorgeous resonator guitar and revealed that she has a beautiful voice with brassy edges and knows her way around an oldtime swing tune.

Anthony Haden-Guest, who has a new collaboration with Canadian gothic rocker Lorraine Leckie just out, ran through his latest snarkily savage lyric, this one a kiss-off to someone. He dared the sound guy to accompany him on piano, which was either an unfortunate or brilliant idea depending on what your tolerance is for out-of-tune piano and rehashed Ran Blake licks.

Leckie then took the stage for a wickedly deadpan take of her classic Don’t Giggle at the Corpse as well as twisted versions of Getaway Car and one of the Haden-Guest collaborations, Bliss, a spot-on portrait of an old couple who have completely lost it in more ways than one.

Pretty much everybody agreed that the star of this evening was Kelley Swindall. The Americana songstress wowed the crowd with a couple of brutal new murder ballads, the second one long and mysterious with a wicked payoff. Swindall is southern by birth and sings with a charming natural twang but also a persistent unease: you wouldn’t necessarily expect nuance in a murder ballad, but that’s what she gave them. And she knows her blues on the guitar too.

The guest spot afterward was by Viking. Viking’s real name is Victor. He’s from Texas, and he doesn’t have a website (for a laugh and not much more, you can google “Texas viking”). He’s a good guitarist and a good pianist as well. He opened with a twisted number about a guy on a crack or ecstasy binge and the nice people (REALLY nice, actually) who took him in. From there he found the inner Buddy Holly in Roky Erikson’s Starry Eyes, then did a skeletal, full length version of House of the Rising Sun with all the lyrics and drove home how absolutely morbid that song is. He also took a terse and purist stab at R.L. Burnside’s Penitentiary as well as a Hank Williams tune. Viking’s quirky deadpan delivery gave the songs considerable extra menace.

The Sunday Salon happens every week starting at 5 PM at Zirzamin, the lowlit subterranean music parlor in the old Zinc Bar space on Houston and LaGuardia. The public is always welcome to come out and spectate, and admission is always free. This coming Sunday’s featured guests at 7 PM are Coney Island noir chanteuse Carol Lipnik with brilliant pianist Matt Kanelos, performing some of the songs from their haunting Ghosts in the Ocean project.

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