Cover me: Yorn (center) at the Egg.
PHOTO: Chris Shields
has a lot riding on his new album, Nightcrawler. Oh, hes
certainly got his ass covereda co-writing credit on
the latest multiplatinum Dixie Chicks record should keep him
out of the poorhouse for, oh, lifebut his own career
as a performer has been rocky. His 2001 debut, Musicforthemorningafter,
was a minor revelation: Critics and fans alike lapped it up,
and rightfully so; it still holds up on the winning combination
of great songs, smartly appointed bedroom-pop production,
and Yorns everyguy charm. But the follow-up, Day I Forgot,
turned out to be an uninspired rehash, with very little to
offer in the way of new ideas.
So with Nightcrawler, Yorn had the option of trying to reconnect
with those who jumped ship, or just playing to the core audience.
And while the records got its moments, Yorn sounds like
he went for the base hit when he should have been swinging
for the fences.
someone who would seem to be at a make-or-break point, he
sure doesnt act like it. Looking every bit the Jersey
boy in a buttoned-down denim jacket and jeans (the Texas tuxedo,
if you will), the unassumingly handsome Yorn took to the stage
on Tuesday to a barely two-thirds-full Hart Theater, with
London-via-SoCal group Minibar serving as his backing band
(and opening act, in a serviceable 30 minutes of strummy pop-rock
that hewed a bit too close to Gin Blossoms territory for my
provided an attractive cross-section of Yorns best material
and prominent influences. To wit: Wistful Nightcrawler ballad
The Man was a late-set highlight, and Musicforthemorningafter
tracks Murray and Closet were crisp,
fun reminders of that albums strengths; covers of songs
by Junior Kimbrough (a rollicking I Feel Good Again)
and the Smiths (There Is a Light that Never Goes Out,
merely so-so) bookended the set. He wisely chose only three
from Day I Forgot, thankfully ignoring one fans strident
requests for that albums Burrito, a shit
song if ever there was one.
fans ate it up. The crowd was far from sold out, but every
ticket-holder was apparently a huge fan of the Yornor
at least his backstory. One guy, presumably between gulletloads
of Heineken, insistently and repeatedly shouted Syracuse!
At first, Yorn smirked and recognized the shout as a nod to
his alma mater; by about the fifth time, he just looked up
from tuning his guitar and muttered Yeah, I went there.
hes got his audience, and theyre gonna stick with
him. Which is good, because the hardcore Yornheads probably
didnt care about petty things like sound quality, which
was splendid in the house, but rendered murky by the bands
four-guitar (!) arrangement. Minibar singer Simon Perry reduced
to the role of secondary acoustic guitarist (chew on that
idea for a moment) and rarely given the opportunity to sing
backup (although bassist Sid Jordan did a fine job on that
front). And Yorns college buddy and longtime sideman
Joe Kennedys nifty guitar licks were often lost in the
also dismissed the idea that playing four covers in a 20-song
set was a bit muchbut it was. He admitted to not being
shy about [his] influences, but why not let those
influences show up in the original music? You can hear Dead
Flowers any night of the week at an open mic. Play one
of your own, damnit.
Heath, and Holler
Bank Music Hall, March 10
three top fiddlersIrelands Martin Hayes, Scotlands
Alasdair Fraser, and Appalachian-style fiddler and banjoist
Bruce Molskyappeared at a half-full Troy Music Hall
along with accompanists Dennis Cahill on nylon-string guitar
and Natalie Haas on cello for an exuberant celebration of
the fiddles journey from the lands of the thistle and
shamrock to the Great Smokies and Blue Ridge Mountains.
the common complaint that fiddle tunes often sound too much
alike, I wondered how the performers would tackle the challenge
of playing an entire evening of them without including several
songs for variety as Celtic bands usually do. As it turned
out, they kept the show fresh through frequent changes in
lineupeach fiddler would solo, play with either or both
accompanists, or huddle in pairs or a trio bowing madly away
with both backup players accompanying.
was Martin Hayes, 45, of County Clare, whose trademark is
slowing down the normally quick Irish dance tunes, with Chicago-born
Dennis Cahill skillfully backing on guitar. As the deadpan-faced
Cahill looked on, Hayes bantered with the audience and then
sat down and played a slow, modal air, The Wind-Swept
Hills of Tullah. He followed it with a pair of jigs,
The Cliffs of Mohr, and the first of several unidentified
fiddle tunes played that night. Hayes tone was sweet,
his intonation accurate, and like many Irish fiddlers, he
used the upper half of the bow the most.
Cahill was then joined by Bruce Molsky, 52, for a pair of
tunes spanning the Atlantic: the Irish reel Joe Banns
and the Appalachian breakdown Billy in the Lowground.
As Hayes took the lead, Molsky demonstrated second fiddle
playing by providing droning harmonies on the bass strings.
In the second tune, Molsky alternated between unison and harmony
the first set was Alasdair Fraser, 52, from Clackmannan, Scotland.
Fiddle-cello duets, Fraser explained afterwards, were popular
in 18th-century Scotland, played some hornpipes with Hass.
Scottish fiddling is closer in sound to classical violin than
its Irish or Appalachian cousinsFraser was the only
fiddler to use vibrato, for exampleand his style was
well matched to Hasss flawless cello.
set saw the only low point of the night, an original by Fraser
called Valley of the Moon, which had a vacuous
jam-band-type interlude between two more traditional-sounding
tunes. The music went back uphill from there, though, when
Fraser resumed his usual fare. He offered a set of reels that
included Jenny Dang the Weaver. Molsky shined
on the old-timey standard Cotton-Eyed Joe, and
Hayes and Molsky played Irish and Appalachian versions of
the same tune, Colemans March.
went with the venerable old tunes, and the moments rolled
away until the last chord of the full groups encore,
Blackberry Blossom, handed the audience back over
to modern times.