Sunday, April 06, 2008

Josh Harty/Michael Young/John Statz; April 6, 2008; Café Montmartre

Josh recently stepped out of the Mickey’s Tuesday night line-up and claimed in a mailing list missive that this would probably be his last Madison show for quite some time. I figured I should probably go; besides I was curious about the two other musicians on the bill. I had attempted to go to Montmartre the night before to see two of my other favorite local singer songwriters, Vid Libert and Marty Finkel, but didn’t get in because the headliner Why? had inexplicably sold the place out. Why indeed, I had seen them before and found them extremely tedious and rather grating. But that’s beside the point. Crowd wasn’t much of a problem tonight, and it was relatively sparse until Josh’s friends showed up late just in time for his set.

I had reviewed opener John Statz’s debut CD “Dusk Came Slowly” years ago for Rick’s Café, but had never seen him play. The fact that I remembered the disc being ponderous and dark didn’t quite match the happy-go-lucky demeanor of the boyish Statz. His new disc, the light-hearted “Our Love Was Made for Canada,” seems to be more in character. Many of the songs in his set tonight, which seemed a little long for an opener, came from that disc. He started the set on the banjo, which I am always a sucker for, before switching to guitar. Before playing one of several songs about World War I, he explained that he wrote so many songs about that period because he had studied it extensively in school. Well, they do say write what you know.

Playing second, Michael Young was the out-of-towner on the bill. Though he currently lives in Minneapolis, he peppered his set with amusing stories about growing up in Hibbing MN. “Skunky” was a favorite childhood game which involved a rolled up black T-shirt, a length of string and a stripe of masking tape. It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out the fun that could be had with that. Perhaps his best story was the one about nearly setting a fire in his back packet during a show when his brass slide made the connection on a 9 volt battery. As a musician he was much more of a guitar player than a singer, in fact only a handful of his songs had words. Reminding me of a less flashy Preston Reed, his instrumentals were even more interesting than those with lyrics. A good thing since the majority of his songs were wordless.

Ever since I met Josh, over three years ago, he has been working on his new record. A series of pitfalls have met the several attempts but he swears it is ready to go now. “A Long List of Lies” will be released for download on tax day April 15, a fact Josh suggested will make the day a happier occasion. Actual physical copies should be ready five or six weeks after that. He seemed in good spirits joking throughout his set, though he seemed a bit miffed that no one actually laughed at his jokes. It wasn’t our fault, it was a Sunday night after a long weekend, and, well, honestly they weren’t that funny. The songs however were terrific. While there weren’t many surprises in his short set, I’ve been hearing these songs for three years remember, a cover of Willie Nelson “Spanish Angels” was a nice addition. While I probably won’t be downloading it on tax day, I’m looking forward to the day when I have a copy of “Lies” in my hands.