September Solstice

P.D. Kelley

I’ve enjoyed George Winston’s music over the years and I was thrilled to hear him live at the Rogue last Saturday, September 15th. The stage featured one baby grand piano, one microphone and the simplest of lighting. Out walked Winston, looking like an eccentric professor and carrying a guitar case. The audience responded with enthusiasm and then settled quietly to enjoy the concert. This crowd knew when to clap, when to wait, and there were times one could hear the proverbial pin drop. Winston put on what he described as his “Summer Show” and it was a dizzying mix of modern classical, New Orleans style R & B, as well as what is termed “stride piano”. Think early twentieth century jazz with a dash of boogie, ala Scott Joplin. Winston played some original pieces as well as compositions from his favorite composers. He said he has been influenced by everyone from James Booker and Henry Butler to Frank Zappa and The Doors. In fact, he ended his last set with a stirring version of Riders on the Storm. He finished his first one with a sprightly tune called Sassy played on a beautiful Martin guitar. We were also treated to another guitar number for his encore. As a bonus, he also did a soulful number on the harmonica in mid concert. This supremely gifted musician also seemed to have a fascination for the many sounds a piano can make and he often plucked the internal strings to make notes resonate in interesting ways. At times he made the Steinway sound like a harpsichord using this method. He is also a giving artist with a number of benefit performances and albums to his credit. This night, all proceeds from the sale of his CD’s went to the Josephine County Food Bank. His stage persona was humble and he made several gentle jokes that the audience loved. Near the end of the show he quipped that he had last been to the Rogue Theatre in 2004 which meant that he would return in 2032. George! You’ll be 83. Please come again much sooner than that.

Catch you on the flip side…

Junior, Just Doin’ His Job

P.D. Kelley

On a hot smoky first of August night, the crowd at the Rogue got to have some down-home fun with Junior Brown, billed as an “American Original.” He is that with his custom “guit-steel”, a hybrid double necked electric guitar attached to a lap steel guitar which he makes talk in several musical styles: traditional country, a bit of honky-tonk, some western swing, and near the end of the show, an Albert King blues number that just knocked me out. Then, just to keep up a tradition that his audiences love, he played what he calls his “surf medley”, a combination of early sixties hits like Telstar and Secret Agent Man along with other similar nostalgia that put me back in my living room watching TV as a young kid. According to his official bio he has two guit-steels: Big Red and Old Yeller which I think was the one he was playing this night. And play he can. He is a phenomenal musician and his band is stellar as well. Wife Tanya Rae Brown, played rhythm guitar so fast her hands blurred. She sang some fine backup vocals plus she and Junior did a snappy duet together. All in very high heels. Jon Penner was the solid stand-up bass man and Scott Matthews was on drum, singular. He made a lot of excellent noise using one snare and one cymbal. Brown played some old favorites like “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead” and “Highway Patrol” plus some tunes from his new album, “Deep In the Heart of Me.” He and his band are just a hoot so don’t miss him next time around.

Opening for Junior Brown was Jack Hopfinger, a locally well-known guitarist and instructor who has played for several bands in the valley. He and his strat delivered a pleasing and technically excellent performance with a variety of Americana: pop, folk and country with accents of jazz and R&B. Most songs were original but he did a few covers. His voice is rich as well as mellow and he used it to activate a looper which set the percussive beat. Interesting. Hope he comes back soon.