Sunday, June 19, 2011
Tommy Santee Klaws - LIVE AP Review - Majestical Roof Stage
It is no exaggeration that Tommy Santee Klaw's music literally takes you away to some other place. Now, where that place is clearly depends on the individual listener's minds eye but the eyes and minds of the audience at the Majestical Roof Stage in Pasadena (part of the Make Music festival) were wide and smiling and somewhere else. Their folk music is at once raw yet sophisticated, arranged with acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass, violin, percussion and an array of musical accents provided by Donna Jo. Like Felix the cat with his magical bag of tricks, she pulls out a seemingly endless variety of accompaniments - a tiny toy drum kit, toy piano, a baby xylophone, slide whistle and things I can't even assign a name to. While, this, at first glance looks like more of a quirky stage affectation, it certainly is not. Each sound further enhances the evocative music they are creating.
At the center of all of this is Tommy and apart from the fact that the songwriting is superb, his voice is central to what is happening here. Throughout the set, his vocal style had a patina of sadness and yearning. Like Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit or Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Tommy's voice with one plaintive wail can embrace your heart. Songs like Straight Lines and Through the Woods seem rooted in early American folk music but you can hear the heavy down beats of Irish ballads as well- like the downtrodden foot steps of turn of the century immigrants. The songs have a timeless powerful quality and often times swell with a wall of harmonies provided by Jason Boles (mandolin), Sam Seree (percussion) and Donna Jo. Tom Paige anchored the songs with his upright bass and the violinist (Chrysanthe Tan) created stirring melodies.
The wonderful thing about live music is finding new personal discoveries. During Tommy Santee Klaw's performance a young woman had made her way to the front of the audience, right next to me and bobbed to the songs. She was in the moment and loving the songs so damn much that I thought she was a friend of the band or at least a fan of the band. In between songs I asked her if she knew the band and (wide eyed and smiling) she told me that she had never seen them before but that she thought they were absolutely amazing. I knew, at that moment, she and I were feeling the same thing.