JASON PLUMB AND THE WILLING with REID JAMIESON , JESSE BELL SMITH and HOWIE BECK at the Rivoli, November 28. Tickets: $10 Attendance: 110. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
When you get four acts on a bill for 10 bucks, it kinda makes renting a movie seem silly. Sure, it rained all day Friday (except for that hour or so when it became wet snow), making even a diehard fan wanna curl up around the tube. Still, the Rivoli was bustling with soggy-jacketed, frizzy-haired folk who were there to see Jason Plumb of the Waltons belt out his country stomp.
Plumb comes from a place where the trucker hat isn't this month's fashion statement - it's a way of life. He can write a near-perfect country rock song, as his tenure in the Waltons demonstrated, and on his own he's no slouch. The Regina boy and his Saskatchewan backing band, the Willing , took care of business in a perfectly shiny, professional manner.
The strength and passion of his songs belie Plumb's laid-back demeanour onstage, and the four members of the Willing worked well to flesh out the spirit he evokes in his fervent yet muted delivery. Every tune was tight. In fact, they were all perfect. Which got me thinking.
Neil Young is famous for dumping entire recording sessions because they sounded too good. The mistakes, the imperfections of his backing band, Crazy Horse, were what gave them their magic. As Jason's set came to a close, I couldn't help thinking how much better it might have been had the band allowed themselves the occasional fuck-up. The intensity that comes from a band having no idea what to expect from their leader often makes for the best shows, and the lack of risk involved here was the only thing that kept this really good show from being an awesome one.
Howie Beck , whose acoustic strumming and emotional vocals confirmed his status as an artist on the rise, kicked off the night. Alt-country Canadian slacker Hayden joined in for a duet, offering complementary guitar and a sullen harmonica and vocal that worked well with Beck's sweet vox.
Guelph's Jesse Bell Smith followed, and was clearly scared shitless by the big-city crowd. Her sparse songs and buck-naked arrangements hid well below her powerful voice, which seemed more closely linked to the Dust Bowl blues than to the hipsters she was singing to. Interesting, if still somewhat underdeveloped.
In a few short bars, local Reid Jamieson stole the show with heartfelt songs delivered with teary-eyed emotion against excellent acoustic guitar-picking. Jameson's voice has that angelic quality that leaves you rooting for him to come out on top. Add witty between-song banter and there's no doubt that his true calling is the stage, not some downtown record shop.
And it's good to know there's someone else out there under 50 who wears slippers.