Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart; June 4, 2009; Darlene’s House
As president of Madison’s folk society, Darlene has plenty of opportunity to book house concerts; she just doesn’t do it very often. So when she told me a couple months ago that she had confirmed Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart for the beginning of June, I wrote it on my calendar. Sure, I was curious to see how other people hosted house concerts, but mostly I was lured by the knowledge that Darlene and her sister cook all day to provide the appetizers and desserts for her shows.
I’d tried providing snacks at my first couple house concerts, but it just never seemed right since my shows feel more like those at a venue than in a basement. However, in Darlene’s kitchen with the early evening sun streaming through the windows, it didn’t seem wrong at all. Besides they are much better cooks than I am, I will definitely be asking for the amaretto cheesecake bar recipe.
The basement of her spacious home is long and narrow allowing rows of six chairs to be set up. Since these are also the chairs she uses for the summer series Folk on State, all of her chairs actually match, giving it a more professional look than my mismatched collection. Local musician Tracey Jane Coomer supplied the PA which featured a terrific sounding Bose stick, which is well worth its price tag but which I couldn’t even think about getting for the basement. It sounded great, I was comfortable, well-fed and had a beer in my hand, too bad the music was a bit of a disappointment.
Stacey Earle (sister of Steve) has a sincere country charm whose sugary sweetness started to grate just a little by the end of the show. I now know where her nephew Justin picked up his Ladies-and-Gentlemen style of banter. For the most part though, her clear, pretty voice with its hint of twang and simple songs were easy enough to watch. Her musical partner and husband Mark Stuart didn’t fare as well. His ingratiating banter filled with jokes that just weren’t funny (yes, we did get it) was slightly annoying, but it was his illusions of grandeur as a guitar player that I’d had enough of by the end of the night. While they were not quite as terribly as the Mighty Wind-esque couple at the Black Orchid who forever ruined “Somewhere over the Rainbow” for me, I was having flashbacks.
The couple has been playing together for the last eight years but recently announced that they would start playing separately. That should work out well for Earle, Stuart on the other hand… well, he has his Mel Bay guitar technique video to sell, maybe that will be enough.