August 4, 2010

Wonderful Webb Weekend

First, let me say I'm delighted to see a few new followers here at the humble blog.  I suppose if I was a fanatical blogger, I'd be cross-posting all over the place to attract new followers, but, while I do love to write, I'm a bit flat out lately, so things have been pretty sporadic here.  I intend to change that, but for a while longer, it'll be catch as catch, welcome newbies, and I hope to make it worth your while to stick around.

As you regulars know, I do post about hearth and home and thereabouts, but from time to time, I make little forays into other arenas...mostly music, because that is another piece of Life that makes breathing and getting up every day and going out into the world (or staying at home in my own world) worth doing. 

Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing one of my favorite artists perform live, right in front of me, about 15 feet away.  He's a household name in the world of 20th (and 21st) century songwriting and a familiar name to many who are just fans of good, solid, popular music.  Yet he's almost unrecognizable to the average man or woman on the street.  If he walked up to a stranger, I'm pretty sure he or she wouldn't have a clue who he was (although they'd find him a handsome fellow, I'm sure), but if they were alive in the 1960s-70s and you said to them "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" or "Witchita Lineman" or "Galveston" or "McArthur Park" or "Didn't We", it's more likely they'd know the name of legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb.  I've certainly known it for years (yes, since the 60s and 70s) and I've loved the incredible musicality and intelligence of his songs - they were wonderfully sophisticated musically and lyrically, yet completely accessible and singable, a combination of attributes that never fails to grab my attention and hold it fast.

So when the opportunity to see and hear Mr. Webb perform his own works live in a very small upstate New York venue arose at about this time last year, I seized it.  How often does a legend in music perform at a nearby 300-seat venue?  Not very, so how could I not go?  Unthinkable to miss such a rare opportunity.  It was a real thrill to hear him perform and yet, somehow, I knew I had to return for the second evening of a two-night run because I find that's when I can get beyond the "newness" and the unexpected and can pick up on the nuances of the performance, and of the man and his music, to borrow a phrase from that wonderful Frank Sinatra recording.  (Sinatra was a Webb fan, too, by the way, who always introduced him as "that wonderful kid, Jimmy Webb," as the writer of "Didn't We.")

When I saw that Mr. Webb was to return to the area this summer, to another small town nearby, for another two-night stint at an even smaller but very special venue, I knew I had to be there again.  In addition, he had just released, on June 29, his latest CD called "Just Across the River" - a wonderful compilation of some of his best known tunes sung as duets by Jimmy himself and a handful of accomplished friends and much-admired artists like Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Linda Ronstadt, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Brown, J.D. Souther, Michael McDonald and Billy Joel.  It doesn't get much better than that - the songwriter singing his own works with such renowned artists - so I had to go to hear him perform (just on his own with a piano) again.  I wanted to here his stories of these tunes and these artists and whatever else he was inclined to impart to his audiences, because he is a grand storyteller.  

Here's a link to a clip with Jimmy talking about the new CD and a few song clips from the recording.  If you're a Baby Boomer of a "certain age" like me, I think you'll find a whole lot here to make you smile...and sigh over.  If you're a bit younger than my generation, trust me when I tell you that many of these tunes are and will remain the standards of a certain era in American music.  They have stood the test of time and they are well worth hearing anew:

Jimmy Webb - Just Across the River

Yes, I'm mostly a jazz, jazz/pop and standards fan, but, well, you know good music is just good music.  As Mr. Webb said in an interview recently, "There is no drug in the world that makes you feel as elated and empowered as really good music being played right in front of you."

Amen to that...and to the fine musician that is Jimmy Webb.