Tom Cochrane/City Winery/Jan. 8, 2018
Tom Cochrane was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and lived in various parts of Manitoba and Ontario for most of his life. He purchased his first guitar at age 11 by selling a toy train set, and began performing across Canada by age 20. He briefly composed movie soundtracks in Los Angeles, but unable to earn a steady income, Cochrane returned to Toronto, where he drove a taxi cab and labored on the loading dock of a department store. He joined the rock band Red Rider in 1978 and served as lead singer and main songwriter for more than 10 years. By 1986, the band was billed as Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Cochrane launched a solo career in 1991. Since 2002, Cochrane has reunited periodically with his former Red Rider band mates for concert tours. His sixth and most recent solo album is 2015’s Take It Home. Cochrane currently lives in Oakville, Ontario, but spends winters part-time at his home outside of Austin, Texas.
Tom Cochrane’s tour continues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first post-Red Rider solo album, the multi-million selling Mad Mad World (actually released 27 years ago). The City Winery concert was Cochrane’s first performance in New York in 10 years, and so he performed a two-hour show featuring Mad Mad World and highlights from throughout his career. The unique feature this time was that he was accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar and by an accompanist guitarist, Bill Bell. The mostly bare stage gave the appearance of a folk music concert, but the tea-sipping Cochrane poured intense energy into his vocals and strummed his guitar wildly like he was back in his arena days. With such a minimal backdrop, there was little to disguise the breadth of Cochrane’s catalogue and his dedication to his craft. Only under these circumstances would one come to understand that Cochrane was a songwriter first and a rocker second. If “Life Is a Highway,” as he sang in his best-known song, that path was filled with sharply insightful lyrics and a dedication to a passionate delivery.
The Washington Squares/City Winery/Jan. 10, 2018
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tom Goodkind played bass in a garage-rock band, U.S. Ape, and booked music acts at popular New York City new wave venues. He started collaborating with Bruce Jay Paskow, formerly the lead guitarist in the Invaders. In 1983, they brainstormed with Lauren Agnelli, who played in Nervus Rex, wrote about music for a local newspaper, and waitressed in a popular rock club. Fueled by Agnelli’s free drinks, they committed to revive the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s and named the venture the Washington Squares after the area’s emblematic park. They had little knowledge of folk so they bought old records, resourced veteran folksingers, and sent Goodkind to research folk music at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The Washington Squares released two albums in the 1980s, but split when Paskow died in 1994. Previously unreleased recordings are planned for release, the most current being 2018’s pending Monsters of Folk Vol. 2 Sessions 1985 – 1987.
Not counting a little-publicized set at Sidewalk in February 2017, the Washington Squares performed the band’s first official concert in 25 years at City Winery, this time featuring Goodkind, Agnelli, bassist Mike Fornatale and drummer Billy Ficca. Still wearing matching beatnik-era striped shirts and black berets, the Washington Squares played a style evocative of the folk artists of the Kennedy era, but updated twice with the band’s original Reagan-era grievances and now newly-charged Trump-era discontent. The Washington Squares opened with a mirror of Peter, Paul & Mary‘s “Samson and Delilah” and ended with a mirror of the Kingston Trio‘s “Greenback Dollar,” but with jangling guitars and soaring harmonies throughout, the set ended up sounding more like electrified 1960s pop than folk. Although born of rough times, the Washington Squares delivered the songs in a rather light-hearted manner. Even the band’s original social commentary, “You Can’t Kill Me,” inspired by the assassination of gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, now seemed to have an uptempo twist. For the encore, the band brought on stage musicians Peter Yarrow, Michelle Shocked, and Richard Barone, along with poet Anne Waldman, for a rousing revival of Pete Seeger songs. In today’s political and social turmoil, perhaps it is as appropriate a time as ever for the satirical follies of the Washington Squares.
Dorothy/The Bowery Ballroom/Jan. 10, 2018
Guitarist Sam Wofford of the Remedy heard his cousin sing in 2013 in Los Angeles. Dorothy Martin had a powerful, bluesy voice. Wofford introduced her to the leader of his band, Mark Johnson, and Johnson’s production partner, Ian Scott, who together imagined her singing in front of a blues-rock band. Rounding up available musicians and naming the band Dorothy, the team cut “After Midnight” as a music video in 2014, and this launched a career. The band generated a local buzz with several singles, then a 2014 EP and a 2016 debut album, Rockisdead. On May 5, 2017, Dorothy released “Down to the Bottom” as the lead single from the second studio album, which will be released in 2018. Dorothy presently consists of Martin, guitarists Nick Maybury and Eli Wulfmeier, bassist Eliot Lorango, and drummer Jason Ganberg.
Charting a forward-looking path, Dorothy performed 10 new songs and only four older songs tonight at the Bowery Ballroom. Ironically, though, the overall sound was a throwback to classic rock of decades gone by, highlighted by searing vocals and fuzzy, charging guitar riffs. Contrasting the music’s gutsy approach, Martin sang and spoke between songs about the positive power of sweet love, revealing the singer’s tenderness and possible vulnerability. Above all, Dorothy’s performance showcased the strength, range and intensity of Martin’s grand vocal prowess. What was lacking was the visual, however; the stage was so dark throughout the set that it was challenging for the majority of the fans to see more than a red or blue silhouette of the performers.
Anderson East/The Bowery Ballroom/Jan. 11, 2018
Michael Anderson, now known professionally as Anderson East, grew up in Athens, Ala., where as a boy he sang in church and had his first solo when he was about seven years old. His father gave him a guitar when the younger Anderson was 11 years old. In the seventh grade, he wrote his first song, called “Brains,” and performed it at his school talent show. He began experimenting with the recording process when he got a four-track recorder, and later, during his college years in Murfreesboro, Tenn., he went further and studied music engineering. Two years later, he moved to nearby Nashville and released two indie albums, the first in 2009 as Mike Anderson and the second in 2012 as Anderson East. He broke into the Nashville music scene by writing songs for others and working as both a session musician and a recording engineer. As he collaborated with other artists, his music and concerts reached a wider audience. East’s fourth album, Encore, was released the day after the concert.
At the Bowery Ballroom, several of Anderson East’s verses may have hinted at a sliver of country twang, but despite its Nashville origins, overall his music was not country music by any means. While strains of Americana were embedded in his music, East was a gritty gospel-like rhythm and blues crooner and his band rocked, tempered on a few songs by a string quartet that East introduced midway through the set. Saying he was especially proud of his new album, East performed 10 of its 11 songs, with only five songs in the set from his earlier works. The songs rode pop melodies, but the arrangements were big and full, with 12 musicians booming with power and energy. East’s rich, soulful and mercurial vocals whispered and roared, at all times capturing a fervent honesty that presented him as a regular blue-collar guy with a rustic musical style. This was earthy and spirit-filled heartland music that defied the conventions of Nashville’s music machine.