The last two weekends in St. Louis have been a folk fan's banquet and a big ol' Martin guitar love-fest t'boot. March 21st brought John Gorka and Susan Werner to the Sheldon Concert Hall. I've been a fan of John's since hearing him on the Legacy compilation CD way back in 1989. He, Cliff Eberhardt, Pierce Pettis and Bill Morrissey restored my faith in "folk" or "singer/songwriter" music that year. His lyrics were sad and a bit wry, with deceptively simple melodies woven through the mood. Susan first came to my attention through a little concert series put on by Jill Stratton at Washington University in the mid '90's. I was instantly attracted to her wit, (or as she puts it, "smart mouth", amazing musicianship and vocal range, and common experience (raised Catholic, played guitar in church, had to run away from it, yet still strangely drawn). Double bills are never long enough, especially at the acoustically perfect Sheldon. With such a growing catalog to choose from, there'd be no way to cover them all. But John managed to sneak in "Angel With Your Hair" and Susan did "Movie Of My Life" so it was all good by me. And as a special treat, we got to see them play together at the end of each other's sets. It was fun and joyful for them as well as for the audience.
While Michael Peter Smith from Chicago is part of an older school of folk, with comtemporaries like the late Steve Goodman and John Prine, his brand of sometimes funny, sometimes sadly haunting acoustic music fits right in with Gorka and Werner. His songs have been covered by Steve Goodman, Jimmy Buffett, Suzy Boggus, Trout Fishing In America and the Clancy Brothers among others. Michael played March 28th at The Focal Point. Armed with his trusty D-35, (that was EQ'd to perfection!) he did not disappoint. Fan favorites like "Sister Clarissa", "Panther In Michigan", "Famous In France" and my favorite, "Zippy", kept the audience singing, crying and laughing from start to finish.
So next time you hear about how horrible the ticket prices are for the "big" concerts, how far away you have to sit, how much you have to pay for parking, how people talked through the whole show... Support the smaller tours instead. Up close, personal, gratifying and worth every penny. Leaves you enough change to have dinner out and buy a CD, too. They'll even sign it for ya, just ask.