Sunday was a rainy New Jersey day filled with great original music, starting at Roxy and Dukes in Dunellen with Rick Barth’s Acoustic Singer Songwriter Showcase, featuring an amazing set by my buddy — and “Shenanigans” bandmate — Fil Wisneski, followed by our trip to the Watchung Arts Center for the special event hosted by our good friend Bob Cole, another Shenanigans member: a concert by Tracy Grammer and Jim Henry to celebrate the release of Grammer’s new CD, Low Tide.
On behalf of Bob, Fil introduced Grammer and Henry to warm applause from the packed house. They launched right into “Shadows of Evangeline” and played for 105 minutes straight, interweaving old favorites from the Dave Carter/Tracy Grammer repertoire as well as an old (“Drive In Movie Picture Show”) and a new Henry song. The set consisted mainly of the new songs from the superb Low Tide, starting with “Hole,” which drew thunderous applause.
As Grammer took us on a journey through these wonderful stories and songs, she often referred to a project she was invited to join called “Real Women, Real Songs,” which she credits with helping her to break through some songwriting barriers. In fact, six of the songs on her new CD had their origins in this unique project.
She spoke to us about themes such as optimism (“Forty-Niner”), in her hilarious tale of her experiences staying at a free casino hotel for one of her gigs, and negativity (“Mercy”), in terms of the negative self talk that we all sometimes allow to block us from whatever it is that we need to do.
We were also treated to the in-depth story behind “Good Life,” which, although poignant, provided some of the biggest smiles of the day. This girl has a sharp and very enjoyable sense of humor. The entire crowd joined in on the Carter/Grammer song “Gun-metal Eyes,” written from the point of view of Native Americans defending their land. Later, one of the high points of the show was when Grammer and Henry performed the classic “Tanglewood Tree,” a lovely duet with beautiful harmonies.
On a personal note, I was hoping to hear my favorite track from Grammer’s new CD, “Daffodil Days,” which was not in the set. However, I was struck by how “Ordinary Town” (Carter/Grammer) sounded as if it was written about my hometown in Limerick, many miles and a lifetime away from this rainy American Sunday.
The concert closed to a standing ovation amid pleas for more, which resulted in us being treated to the Townes Van Zandt classic “Pancho and Lefty,” performed beautifully, with the entire crowd joining in enthusiastically for the grand finale of a perfect musical day.