It's amazing how powerful simplicity can be. NOne-time Spirit of the West member Linda McRae's Songwriters In The Round event, which she hosts at Vancouver's Railway Club but imported to Ted's for a one-off Monday, was precisely as billed -- a bunch of singer/songwriters gathered onstage taking turns showcasing songs. But the sum of the parts was tremendous.
McRae, seated at stage right, kicked things off, explaining the procedure before dishing a sweet, country-tinted rouser. She then passed off to Skydiggers Josh Finlayson on guitar and Andy Maize on vocals and percussion, who together decorated the room in roots rock while spinning a goofy yarn about performing in England for the queen mum.
Such levity was good, because Andy Stochansky was up next, and we were about to be flattened.
When he's fronting a full band, Stochansky's disarmingly romantic lyrics and soft soprano are easy to overlook, but delivered alone with acoustic guitar, both are devastating. His first song of the night was so moving that it tranquilized the bustling crowd into disbelieving silence. Yowza.
The mood shifted as the next in line, Starling member Danny Michel, punched in with a whimsical and surprisingly clever tune that segued perfectly into McRae, who was next up at bat.
Back and forth down the line it went, while James Gray -- the hardest-working guy of the night -- added improvised fiddle and accordion to each performer's bit. Michel seemed to benefit most from this arrangement, probably because Finlayson and Maize were already operating as a duo and Stochansky's ballads stopped everyone cold anyway.
A simple concept, beautifully presented.
SONGWRITERS IN THE ROUND, at Ted's Wrecking Yard, July 31. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 60. Rating: NNNN