James Maddock & Vance Gilbert - 04/05/18Thursday, April 05 2018 6:00 PM Doors / 8:00 PM Start
- Front Premier
- Bar Stool
at City Winery Boston
Up close & personal. The closest seats to the artist in the house.
The best singer-songwriters serve the song. The songwriter’s songwriter, James Maddock, who has earned the respect of masterful writers such as Bruce Springsteen and Willie Nile, has built his acclaimed legacy on humbly honoring purity of expression. Many albums in his beloved catalog are elegantly spare, conveying his songs and sentiments in the most direct possible way. But for his latest album, The Green, the songs guided him into recording the most eclectic, exhilaratingly soulful, and imaginatively produced album in his career.
“This is my best album. It’s an upbeat record with really strong songs and a lot of surprises,” the British transplant reveals. “It all happened really naturally. I just listened to where the songs where going and allowed myself the time to give each one a proper sonic home.”
Since 1999, James Maddock’s boldly vulnerable songwriting, honeyed rasp, and distinct folk and Americana aesthetic have garnered acclaim from icons, peers, and tastemaking outlets like NPR, American Songwriter, Relix Magazine, and CMT Edge. Relix notes: “James Maddock possesses the kind of lived-in, craggy voice that would sound authoritative if he were singing the sports pages. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to do that because his compositional skills are a match for his delivery.” His consistency as a recording artist and a captivating live performer have attracted a devoted fanbase engaged and generous enough to fan fund the last two entries in his six-album oeuvre. He’s performed with Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nile, Aaron Comess (Spin Doctors) and David Immergluck (Counting Crows), sang on an album with Susan McKeown, and has built a respected international profile through tireless touring from the Northeast US to Europe to Australia.
Previous to his solo career, James was the frontman for the Columbia Records band Wood. It was in this context that he was first introduced to a mainstream audience when songs from the group’s debut, Songs From Stamford Hill, were prominently featured in Dawson’s Creek. In 2003, Maddock relocated from England to New York, and, soon after, launched his solo career. His 2009 solo album Sunrise On Avenue C won a New York Music Award for “Best Americana Album,” while its follow-up, Wake Up And Dream, ranked among the top albums of 2011 in WFUV’s (NYC) Listener Poll.
The Green truly captures NPR’s accolade that “his timeless songwriting style, which seems to draw from great songwriters of every era, conveys quiet confidence and lovely intimacy.”
The album is bookended by “Once There Was A Boy Part 1” and “Once There Was A Boy Part 2.” Version one has a gospel-folk gait recalling Van Morrison and the more pastoral moments of The Pogues, and version two is a fresh rendition with stately strings and dreamy vocals. The track “Speaking For The Man” recalls the silken soul of Jimmy Ruffin (“What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”). The title track finds James revisiting the political commentary songwriting style of his formative days. And the sleek and euphoric “Driving Around With the Win” and the simmering sensuality of “Let’s Get Out Of Here” are revelations in James’s catalog, showcasing the gorgeous patina of James’s vocals within an ultra modern sophisticated pop context.
The Green was produced by Iestyn Polson (David Gray, Patti Smith, and David Bowie) and boasts a more lush production aesthetic and more ambitious arrangements than any previous James Maddock records. The album features rich gospel-tinged backups courtesy of Cindy Mizelle (Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Duran Duran), tasteful drum loops, elegant string arrangements courtesy of Alan Grubner, and contributions from Aaron Comess (The Spin Doctors), Tony Shanahan (Beck, Patti Smith, Suzanne Vega), and Brian Mitchell (Bob Dylan, Al Green, B.B. King).
This summer Maddock will be taking entries from The Green, as well as fan favorites from his back catalog, on the road. Live, Maddock imaginatively reinterprets his oeuvre to keep it fresh for him and his audience. “I love how songs reveal themselves differently in the live setting,” James says. “I’m grateful I have such a large body of work and an audience to share a creative dialogue with. It’s all a luxury and just a really beautiful thing—I feel very lucky.”
Can something be wry, aching, hysterical, evocative, provocative, fun, beautifully sung, and consummately played all at once? Can it?
That’d be Vance Gilbert and his transcendent new album “BaD Dog Buffet”.
With the generous assistance from a varied list of super-respected guests—including Celtic harpist/singer Aine Minogue, bluegrass boys Darol Anger and Joe Walsh Jr., jazz sax player Grace Kelly, country rock hero Roy Sludge, and guitar mainstay Kevin Barry—this talented man’s musical truth plays out shamelessly on BaD Dog Buffet.
Fully funded by his fans, the record has so far received raves reviews based solely on the material folks knew would be on it Those who know and love Vance have already enjoyed the life-loving capitulation of “God Bless Everyone,” the seething rocker “Nothing from You,” and the tonguein-cheek, happy break-up song, “Out the Way We Came In. “First Ring” is a Vance classic, a banjo love story rooted in folk whimsy, while “Kiss the Bad Boys” sounds like what would happen if Bootsy Collins and Bruce Springsteen were trapped in an elevator and ended up writing a song together. “Unfamiliar Moon,” which some may know as Vance’s signature song—a tune that landed him in the second round of auditions of TV’s “America’s Got Talent”—is revisited here in a pared down version with Anger on fiddle.
Like all great artists, Vance truly happens live. In fact he developed his reputation with his jawdropping, diverse, funny, devastating, and gorgeous live performances. Arlo Guthrie, Anita Baker, the late George Carlin have all requested Vance to be added to their bills.
Vance exploded onto the scene in the early 90’s, with buzz spreading quickly. Who was this multicultural arts teacher knocking them dead at open mics? After opening Shawn Colvin’s 1992 Fat City tour, he took much of America by storm and by surprise. “With the voice of an angel, the wit of a devil, and the guitar playing of a god, it was enough to earn him that rarity: an encore for an opener,” wrote the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in its review of a show from the Colvin tour.
Vance followed with three acclaimed albums for the Rounder/Philo label—Edgewise (1994), Fugitives (1995), and Shaking Off Gravity (1998). Then, Somerville Live (2000), was lionized by the Boston Globe as the disc “young songwriters should study the way law students cram for bar exams,” and New York’s Town and Village called One Thru Fourteen (2002), “lively, eclectic, electrifying and transcending.”
Gilbert then released a duo album with his friend Ellis Paul, entitled Side Of The Road (2003). The Boston Globe described it as “the songwriter’s most compelling work; literate, heartfelt, rippling…emotionally resonant.” The Globe placed the album on its Top 10 list that year.
Gilbert only continued on with three more albums, Angels, Castles, Covers (2006) displaying his vocal virtuosity, with sounds of Motown, the R&B of Al Green, and classic Joni Mitchell. Up On Rockfield (2008) just after a year and a half as support for George Carlin, and Old White Men.
Which brings us full circle to BaD Dog Buffet, the latest in a growing, glowing oeuvre and an evocative catalog created by a cornerstone acoustic artist.