This last Wednesday, the 13th of May, was the first songwriters night at the Rainbow Bistro, a blues bar in the market area of Ottawa. Nice place, with a small but very well equipped stage and a pleasant atmosphere (boisterous bartender :-)
The evening was put together by Chrisophe Elie, who is also playing the Ottawa Bluesfest later this year. He played third, the headliner's position I suppose.
Jill Zmud, from Saskatoon (not that far from my home town of Winnipeg, in prairie terms at least), opened the evening with quite a long set. Her voice gave me the Norah Jones vibe when she was pushing some power, and then reminded me of Sarah McLachlan when singing more softly ... at one point she even had a low note that smacked of Tori Amos. A very nice mix of tones. I won't comment on her lyrics as I'm much more of a voice-as-instrument kind of person, but her songs came from her experiences in Saskatchewan and she was able to entertain with some nice stories as well. She's putting together an album here in Ottawa (more at this blog.) As a confirmed female vocal aficionado, this one's on my list.
After a short break, Peter Voith took the stage. He uses his own mike and wires so it takes a moment to set up and tear down. It certainly gives him some power as he really belts out his material, which I quite enjoyed. He is getting married soon and seems to draw a lot of inspiration from his relationships, to great effect. Of the three, his guitar work was the strongest, showing all sorts of range and some incredible power at times. I could not place his voice for quite some time ... eventually Jill and I chatted and she mentioned that she got the John Mayer vibe from him and that clicked with me. Of course, his voice is missing the twist that permeates John's voice -- which I also like by the way. I suppose it's a darkish voice with a bit of breath in it. Smokey might be the right description. I also detected a young Neil Diamond vibe here and there, but without the edge Neil has in his voice. Anyway ... sounded good to me. Peter then left the stage and a longer break ensued while he tore down and a suitable intermission was injected.
When Chris took the stage, the other equipment was in place again and the sound was more subdued, both voice and guitar. But Chris has a seriously driving style to his guitar, constant power ... turned up to 11 if you will. His CD (Deepest Shade of Blue) is in fact much less driving, but then he's got a full band backing him up. His voice was really hard to place, but the heavy political bent to his songs (he sang about both the middle east and Darfour in a fairly short set) and the fairly distant presentation (he holds back a bit from the mike) reminds me a wee bit of Dylan. But by far the strongest vibe I get from his voice is James Marsters ... I know that will sound weird as few people have heard James sing, and most of those only heard him on the "Once More With Feeling" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I kid you not.
Anyway, check Chris out on iTunes. While you're at it, check out Peter as well. Yes, I bought an album from each of them. Jill's not up there yet, but I'll post again when she is.
So ... a fun night. Great music from all three singer-songwriters in a nice bar on a fairly quiet night. The only unfortunate note for the evening was that there was so little audience to see the show. I'm sure it was the Wednesday factor coupled with the fact that this was the first songwriters evening. As I mentioned at the beginning, Chris occupied the headliner's spot, which means he got the thinnest audience of all as people had started to leave (he went on near 11:30pm ... a bit deadly on a Wednesday night.) So does this again prove that nice guys finish last?
I do hope they give it another shot so more people can see it. I had a great time ... I just wish I were more of a drinker ... the half-cut guy who preferred to face the audience and dance suggestively all evening sure seemed to be having fun :-)