Saturday, February 15, 2014

Josh Harty/Paul Otteson/Robby Schiller; February 15, 2014; High Noon Saloon

Josh Harty left Madison almost two years ago, playing a “so long for now” show at the High Noon before he hit the road for a different kind of tour.  His idea- move around the country, pick an area, stay there for awhile and play the heck out of it.  He was in the South, the East coast, the Pacific Northwest and two trips to the UK.  It was a success, but it was a lot of work, and you could tell he was happy to be home.  Of course, he was only home for a few days before he got back in the car and headed to Kansas City for a CD release show with John Statz and the Folk Alliance conference.  Still, he does plan to be back in Madison more or less permanently starting in June.  For now we got this teaser of a show.

The shows he’s been playing across the country have all been solo, so he said it didn’t feel right to play a full band show.  Instead he chose cellist Mary Gaines and multi-instrumentalist Chris Wagoner to accompany him.  Their graceful, classical trained playing has always sounded terrific alongside Harty’s skilled guitar work.  A finger-picking whiz, he can out play almost anyone I know.  Despite the fact that I hadn’t seen him in 22 months (though to be honest, I thought it had only been a year), most of the set was still familiar.  Songs like “Home” and “You Were on My Mind” were like old familiar friends, you know, that I hadn’t seen in awhile, but we picked up right where we left off.  After a three song encore I was surprised when he returned for a second time.  It was welcome though since he ended the night with his terrific cover of Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning 1952.”

Paul Otteson just may have the most gorgeous voice in Madison, a pure and stunning tenor that conveys emotional depths, even if I can’t always understand exactly what he is saying.  It took him a long time to release his first record, February Fables, but he’s been fairly prolific since then.  This was the first time I had seen Audre Rae sing with him, and I complemented after her on how great she sounded.  Not only did she not seem intimidated by his voice (see above) she handled his wordy songs with grace.  And I thought she was only an awesome photographer.  Most people only know Robby Schiller as the voice of the Blueheels.  Those people are missing out.  He has another voice that couldn’t be more different, a little Cat Stevens, a lot of volume.  He doesn’t play solo very often, you are more likely to see him behind the drum kit with Little Legend, so I have him open shows at the house just to see him.  There were a lot of new songs tonight with just a few old favorites.  “Meaner than the Wolves Outside,” the oldest song he played tonight and “Jay Cutler” were (I think) the only two, though he would only play the latter, which he wasn’t sure was still relevant, after being reassured it was still a good song.  Yeah it was me, and it is.

Welcome sorta back Josh, and thanks for the great show.

Robby Schiller

Paul Otteson

Josh Harty


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