New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: Puss & Boots band

Pat Irwin and Daria Grace Bring Their Brilliantly Eclectic Sounds to an Laid-Back Outdoor Show in Queens

The theory that Sunday or Monday are the new Saturday cuts both ways. On one hand, the transformation of hallowed downtown New York and Brooklyn neighborhoods into Jersey tourist trashpits on the weekend has driven some of the best New York talent to gigs and venues that might seen off the beaten path. On the other hand, for the permanent-tourist class whose parent guarantors have driven rents in Bushwick and elsewhere sky-high, every day is Saturday because nobody works for a living. OK, some of them are interns. But that’s a story for another time. For an afternoon that perfectly reflects the state of the city, 2016 and also features some of the city’s most eclectic talent, brilliant singer Daria Grace has put together a triplebill starting at around 4 PM on July 31 in the backyard at LIC Bar, with ex-B-52’s guitarist Pat Irwin playing his often hauntingly cinematic instrumentals, then a set by Norah Jones collaborator Sasha Dobson and finally a set by Grace’s charming uke swing band the Pre-War Ponies at around 6.. The venue is about a three-minute walk from the 21st St. station on the 7 train.

Last month’s installment of this same lineup was a treat. Grace did triple duty, first joining Irwin on keys (who knew that she was a more than competent organist?), then adding her signature counterintuitive, swinging, slinky basslines to a set by Dobson, then switching to uke and leading her own band. Irwin opened the afternoon with a set that touched on Bill Frisell pastoral jazz, Brian Eno ambience and most significantly, Angelo Badalamenti noir. He mixed slowly crescendoing, shifting instrumentals from his film work across the years with a couple of new numbers, one more minimalist and atmospheric, the other far darker and distantly menacing. By the time his roughly forty-five minutes onstage was over, he’d gone from solo to having a whole band behind him. Dobson followed with a set that drew on roughhewn 80s indie rock, switching from harmonium to Strat as she led her trio – Grace on a gorgeous vintage 1966 hollowbody Vox bass – through a mix of her solo material and a couple of jaunty Americana-flavored numbers from her Puss & Boots album with Norah Jones and bassist Catherine Popper.

It’s hard to find a window of time for sets by three bands; the last time this blog caught Grace leading the Pre-War Ponies was on a twisted but actually fantastic twinbill back in May at Barbes, opening for psychedelic Middle Eastern metal band Greek Judas (who are back at Barbes tomorrow night, the 28th, at 10). Grace’s not-so-secret weapon, J. Walter Hawkes is an incorrigible extrovert and a charismatic showman, but he really was on his game this time out, whether firing off lickety-split cascades on his uke or on his trombone, which he typically employs for both low-register amusement and purist oldschool swing and blues. A real force of nature up there, he spent the set blasting out droll vaudevillian licks, foghorn riffs and serioso latin lines.

Lately Grace has been doing a lot of gigs with iconic latin jazz drummer Willie Martinez, but this time out she had Russ Meissner behind the kit, who had a ball adding counterintuitive hits and accents to cha-cha jazz numbers like Amapola, from the band’s latest album Get Out Under the Moon. As expected, the big audience hit was Moon Over Brooklyn, which Grace delivered with so much genuine, unselfconscious affection for her adopted hometown that it was easy to forget that you could change the lyrics just a smidge and it would make a romantic anthem for any city, anywhere. Romantic songs are usually cheesy and rote and this was anything but. You can get some romance and some sun on the 31st in Long Island City.

Norah Jones’ Puss N Boots – Her Best Project Ever?

Is Puss & Boots the best project Norah Jones has ever been involved with? It’s definitely the most fun. Jones, guitarist/singer Sasha Dobson and bassist Catherine Popper are obviously having a blast playing their devious mix of oldschool C&W, honkytonk and a little retro rock, and all of it is contagious. Which it ought to be. Who would have thought that a group that began as a way for Jones to mess around under the radar would evolve this far? The trio are playing Sunny’s bar in Red Hook tonight, June 20 at 9ish, presumably as a warmup for their big gig at the Bell House (which has been their more-of-less official home lately) on July 15 at 8:30. Advance tix for that one are $25 and highly recommended.

And who would have thought that the three would eventually make an album? They assuredly didn’t record No Fools, No Fun for the money (which might have a lot to do with why it’s so fresh and entertaining). Popper has a money gig with a big-ticket arena rock band. Dobson has her choice of gigs on the jazz or folkie circuit, which Jones will be able to play for the rest of her life. So why do this? Maybe just for the love of it.

You could call this a younger, more irreverent counterpart to the Dolly Parton/Loretta Lynn/Linda Ronstadt albums. Much as Jones gets all the props for her voice, Dobson is no slouch at country and neither is Popper. What jumps out is how good, and how purist, a country guitarist Jones is – and Dobson, who’s just as eclectic and jazz-inclined as Jones, makes a good foil. Most of the songs feature three-part harmonies and they are as energetic and sassy as you would expect. The opening track, Leaving London has the three singing in unison; then they trade verses and max out the rodeo innuendos on Bull Rider, a Freudian shuffle. Dobson gives the ballad Twilight an especially forlorn edge; the group follows with the good-natured waltz Sex Degrees of Separation, which as it turns out isn’t remotely x-rated.

Jones’ garage rock guitar pairs off with Popper’s slinky, soaring bass on the Texas shuffle Don’t Know What It Means. Their live take of Neil Young’s Down by the River sstarts as if they’re going to do Pink Floyd’s Breathe instead (both songs have the same chords on the verse), Popper slinking around during an amusingly primitive guitar solo that the crowd loves anyway. The blend of voices on the slow honkytonk ballad Tarnished Angel are especially fetching until they hit an unexpected joke – no spoiler here.

They do Jesus Etc. as laid-back but purposeful stoner alt-country (sounds like an oxymoron, but you have to hear it). Likewise, they fake their way through the changes on the briskly shuffling, clanging and twanging Always. GTO, a detour toward Eilen Jewell-tinged ghoulabilly, is the album’s darkest and arguably best song. After Pines, a sketchy indie-folk number, the album winds up with the slow honkytonk tune You’ll Forget Me, the only place on the album where Popper actually gets to take a solo, keeping it terse and lowdown. Chemistry and cameraderie is all over the place here – who says supergroups can’t get along? The album’s not out yet so no Spotify link yet – watch this space.