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Empire of Sound: Savannah Music Festival week 2 highlights

  • Sounds of Kolachi at Savannah Music Festival (Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell/courtesy SMF)
  • Sounds of Kolachi at Savannah Music Festival (Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell/courtesy SMF)
 

Empire of Sound: Savannah Music Festival week 2 highlights

10 Apr 2017

It was yet another great week of the Savannah Music Festival. Here are some highlights: 

Sounds of Kolachi 

Sounds of Kolachi, which is an old name for Karachi, Pakistan, opened a rather wonderful double bill with Hiss Golden Messenger two nights in a row. 

Sounds of Kolachi is unique. They marry eastern traditional music with western traditional music on a bridge built from rock ’n’ roll. Young and talented, they have a deep appreciation for rock with a heightened sense of their country’s rich musical traditions, taking pride in the delivery of a fresh sound. 

This translates as a musical embodiment of global sounds that reaches a tonal harmony between different musical thoughts and approaches to creating sounds. Ostensibly, they sound like Phil Collins and The Police, if those musicians were from Pakistan and India, respectively. 

This show was delightful and spiritually refreshing. I was reminded of the week I spend as a Buddhist. That was a good week. 

Hiss Golden Messenger 

M.C. Taylor has been around for a while and is the epitome of a professional musician, while also being a little bit of a malcontent. He sincerely asked the crowd if anyone knew his music, thinking, I suppose, we were all there for Sounds of Kolachi. Actually, I was there for him. Sounds of Kolachi was just icing on the cake. 

He did have high praise for Savannah, a city he’s played several times before. And once it was established that he had fans in the crowd, by a show of hands at his request, he seemed to relax into the show a little more. Which made for a better performance. 

Hiss Golden Messenger has been Taylor’s most prolific and popular project to date. Taylor, along with his longtime collaborators, coursed through several tracks from 2016’s “Heart of the Levee,” as well as some of his older tunes.

Midway through the set, Taylor turned to what he called “a professional rehearsal of new music.” In his interview with Do Savannah, Taylor said the group was gearing up to record a new album and are testing out some new material on the road.

As they played through a groove-filled soulful Americana tune, I got excited. “Heart Like A Levee” was an intimate, often beautiful self-portrait of strong songs, but this new material has a broader reach for Hiss Golden Messenger. We’ll probably have to wait until 2018 or 2019 to hear the recorded versions, but I think this band’s next album might be the best work they’ve put out, based solely on the couple of new tracks they played. 

Aside: Years and years ago, I formed what I call a two-song rule. If an album has at least two good songs, typically the entire thing will be worth buying. This was in the days before streaming took over the music industry. This rule only disappointed me twice over the years.

Nikki Lane/Parker Millsap 

Nikki Lane is a legitimate country-western star of the old order, but with fresh feeling. I am a new fan. The crowd was dull, though, and I think that drained her performance. I hear tell, she’s had some trouble with her voice of late, which was evident in some deep coughs. Probably just a cold. She still managed to sound amazing. I would love to see her play The Jinx, as one fellow patron of the concert also pointed out. 

Parker Millsap is an extraordinarily talented musician who falls into a category of musicians I think are extremely talented, but don’t take enough chances in their songwriting. If Millsap pushed himself to be more daring, he would produce some really great rock ’n’ roll. Still, this was a fun show overall.

Into the Romantics 

The perfect cure for a country-music-PBR-tequila-whiskey hangover is beautiful and exceptionally handled chamber music, in a church at 11 a.m. on a Friday. 

This programming included a composer I was not familiar with, but I’ve since fallen madly in love. Gabriel Faure’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G minor, Opus 45 is a truly exceptional piece of chamber music. Cellist Keith Robinson, who I first saw in week 1 at the Brahms vs. Tchaikovsky concert, put on yet another great performance. On piano, Simon Crawford-Phillips was notably fantastic. This was a great education in chamber music. Look out for the recorded version of this concert if you missed the live version. 

Justin Townes Earle 

Justin Townes Earle's show was really fantastic. Earle is an original who harps on all the great influences of American roots musician. One thing that made the most notable impact on my listening experience was his playing style. 

Earle used a blues-based, finger-picking style typically identified as “alternating bass” for most of the night’s songs. Creating a bass line on the two lowest tonal strings (the top strings on a guitar) with his thumb, Earle seamlessly wove a bass line through his songs with chord and lead structures created with the rest of his fingers on the bottom (higher pitch) strings, making it sound like several instruments were playing at once. It’s an incredible style that has foundations in some of the earliest guitar music made in this country and Earle is a master. 

The other great note here is that Earle didn’t use his own guitar for this performance. The airline he flew in on lost his guitar. In a last-minute scramble, a rather beautiful Martin was presented for use by local singer/songwriter Jon Waits. Earle approved and treated it like is own for the night. This is one of those little behind-the-scenes stories that happens all the time in a community where all the musicians work hard to support each other, for the most part, and share a common sense of forward motion. 

Joshua Peacock is a freelance writer for Do Savannah. He studied playwriting and music at the University of Iowa. Contact him at joshua.rpeacock@gmail.com.

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