2010 The Charleston Gazette Review: Mountain Stage

2010 The Charleston Gazette Review: Alejandro Escovedo, Lost in the Trees & Felice Brothers at Mountain Stage

2010 The Charleston Gazette Review: Alejandro Escovedo, Lost in the Trees & Felice Brothers at Mountain Stage
By: V.C. McCabe

A small but very enthusiastic crowd greeted Sunday night’s Mountain Stage performers.

Two Gallants singer Adam Haworth Stephens gave the show a solid start with chiming, harmonica-accented songs from his folk-rock solo debut, “We Live on Cliffs.”

Wheeling native Mollie O’Brien and her guitarist husband Rich Moore were a big hit with the locals. After twenty-seven years of marriage, the folk duo has finally released their debut studio recording, “Saints and Sinners.” The album includes a wide range of genres, instrumentation, and musical styles. Whether singing their own original songs or covering classics by Tom Waits, Jesse Winchester, Harry Nilsson, and George Harrison, the supercouple liven things up with splashes of jazz, blues, gospel, and cabaret.

However, it was N.C. folk orchestra Lost in the Trees that dazzled the crowd during the first hour with their enchanting, multi-instrumental circus. Composer Ari Picker charmed the audience by temporarily abandoning the radio microphone to “connect” with them before leading them in a pretty sing-a-long.

Texan singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo and his band, The Sensitive Boys, kicked off the second hour. A legend in the folk community, he was named “Artist of the Decade” by “No Depression” magazine and deemed “his own genre” by “Rolling Stone.” He counts among his more famous fans Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Calexico, director Jonathan Demme and, to Escovedo’s consternation, former president George W. Bush.

Escovedo began his musical career as a punk-rock guitarist in the 1970s, gradually moving through rock and country during the decades that followed before experimenting with a mixture of Americana, folk, and rock in the 1990s. Embellishing thunderous rock arrangements with delicate classical instrumentation, poignantly personal lyricism, and a heartfelt vocal style, Escovedo created his own beautifully distinctive sound.

Escovedo’s magnificent set was heavy on the noise, centering on songs from his recently released tenth solo album, “Street Songs of Love.” “Anchor” depicts love as a weight that may hold a person down, but also prevents them from drifting away. The instrumental “Fort Worth Blue” is a tribute to musician Stephen Bruton — a longtime collaborator of Kris Kristofferson and former Mountain Stage guest. Escovedo also played two songs co-written with Chuck Prophet: “Down in the Bowery,” which was affectionately inspired by Escovedo’s angry, punk-lovin’ teenage son, and “Always a Friend” from his previous release, “Real Animal.”

As the unofficial headliners of the evening, The Felice Brothers provided a fantastic finale. Their music is full of haunting beauty, wild tales, and eerie anachronism. They played several songs from their 2008 self-titled album and 2009’s “Yonder Is The Clock,” albums that span American history from Wild West to The Great Depression. The band’s skilled musicianship, on-stage chemistry, and lead singer Ian Felice’s gritty, Dylanesque vocals made even the most somber of their songs enthralling in person.

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