Monday, November 16, 2009

Jill Zmud launches "as we quietly drive by"

Jill's new CD "as we quietly drive by" is out ... I bought the download version a few days before the concert so I could be completely familiar with her music beforehand. A very nice CD it is ... and I was right, there is a lot of Norah Jones styling to this.
Disclaimer: I'm not a music critic. I don't write music. I have opinions, but to quote William Shatner in his fantastic CD "Has Been", I "don't know jack." So cut me some slack if you don't agree. But just so you know ... I'm right :-)
It's more mellow than a Norah CD ... with a laid back presentation both in Jill's music and voice, but also in the production values. Everything is very nicely balanced ... a little like Azure Ray in that way.

By the way ... Jill wrote every song on this CD and had a co-writer on only one song (Conner Sixten on "late to bloom".) That's some kind of talent ...

The CD opens with "gold", which feels like it is influenced by early Norah. You would be forgiven if you had a flashback to the first time you heard Norah's first CD. (Jill, I apologize if I seem to be harping ... I hope you take this as a complement ... Norah's influence on you seems even stronger than it was when I saw you at the Rainbow ...)

The second song is "shark", her one angry song (if this is as angry as Jill gets, then she's very mellow indeed.) This one is quirky and very interesting. I quite like it ... but I can't help but feel it's influence comes more from someone like Tori Amos. It has that kind of feel.

The third song is "reconcile" ... this one has a definite Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions vibe for me. Very nice slow guitar in this. Note that the rather unstructured sound to the chorus in the middle also has a Patty Griffin sound to it. As the song nears the end you get a bitter vibe though ... the lush sound is interrupted as she makes her plea for forgiveness ... nice. Really nice.

Song four is my unabashed favourite ... "late to bloom" ... this one takes me to Norah's country phase, in fact specifically to her duet with Dolly Parton "Creepin' In" ... except for the unusual twist around 2:45 ... but that bridges back to the main chorus perfectly. The harmonies on this one are rich and lush ... just the way I like them. The video I link below of her performance at the launch party gives some of that feel because she stepped back from the microphone and alloed the audience to join in ... creating a nice, balanced sound. Very clever ...

Song five "east of the line" is a blended sort of sound. Very nice ... some Norah, some Margot (Simmons), very nice. It works in, and in fact ends on, the title of the CD.

Song six is another beauty ... (do you sense a theme here?) ... "wish" ... this one screams Norah, but Jill's softer voice does it real justice where I don't think Norah would ... (but would I *ever* like to hear Norah cover this one ...) The long slow notes build on this one and you can't help but connect to the emotion in this one, aided greatly by the superb background chorus emphasizing Jill's own voice, which grows stronger right up to a softening about a minute from the end, when the song begins a slow, soft waning. Great stuff.

Song seven is "precipice", a clever piano tune. A simple opening melody is repeated throughout, but ends up in several variations ... really interesting. Great harmonies again ... subtle, sweet. This one actually gives me a .... wait for it ... Queen vibe from "A Night at the Opera" ... just for a moment, but I really like that :-)

Song eight is "lost sight of the sea" ... a smooth, mellow song with a nice mix of guitar and keyboards.

The ninth song is "pilot light" ... another piano song. This one opens with a nice simple riff with only Jill's voice and soon she is joined by a cello (I hope ... I'll never live it down if I missed by a mile on that one.) Nice playing, although I suppose it could have been a keyboard mimicking a cello ... the vibrato seems rather consistent. Anyway ... no matter, a really interesting song with great vocals and music.

Song ten is another big favourite of mine ... "water in the wine" ... if you have ever seen the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" then you will recognize the influence on this song. A definite Emmylou Harris / Alison Kraus thing going on here ... and it is excellent. She closed the launch party with it and it was just as good there ...

The final song is "by your side" ... a bit of a mixture of influences ... at times very 60's with the vibrato on the kayboards and guitar and some Sergeant Pepper complexity thrown in for fun. Jill's voice is strong in this one ... (imagine Darth Vader saying that) ... and her backup singers give it a pretty good go as well. A nice way to close it off.

Not a bad song in the bunch ... way to go.

Now ... where was I ... oh yeah, the launch party. Well, I was invited by my friend Jackie, and got a chance to meet her daughter Willow on the drive up. We chatted the whole way, listening to Azure Ray, a wonderful mellow group that has unfortunately met its demise.

We arrived before Jackie, who was up on a mountain with a couple of her hiking buddies (this is a passion with Jackie) and I was stunned by the fact that the parking lot was already full and ther were people walking in from pretty far down the road. I drove into the lot and had to back out all the way (duh) ... then I drover back and forth between the highway coming into Wakefield and the road after the inn. No dice ... so I eventually left it in a parking lot beside what looked like an abandoned building. Hoping no one would tow it ... but it is a small town and the concert was known to be happening.

So Willow and I had a pleasant walk down river road, which really is on the Gatineau River. In fact, the river is about 30 feet from the inn on the other side of the road. Cool.

The fog this evening was *magnificent* ... I caught half a dozen images of the river while we pondered whether to go in yet. There were people outside and it looked pretty crowded (it was.) I rendered them all monochrome, with a little juicy blue for the last one ... just to see how it would turn out. I like it ...

Willow and I could not get over how cool it looked when the fog bank separated the hill from its reflection.

Down the river to the South ...

A dock right across from the Inn ...

Across the river looking North this time ...

And the blue view across the river looking pretty much South-East.

And then we went in ... it was incredibly crowded. Standing room only. A most peculiar thing ... there are a dozen kids in there. They were of all ages and sizes. I was amazed.

Willow and I looked for Jackie and her friends, but could not find them, so we grabbed a piece of the wall near the entrance and waited. After a short while, I spotted Jackie at the entrance, craning to see through the crowd. Willow walked over while I defended the wall, and Jackie mentioned that one of her friends had gone to the bank ...

After a few short minutes, they joined us at our wall ... this was now home base. I met Stefan and Doug and we all shook and hugged and stuff ... Jackie grabbed the first and only round of beers and rum and then the party started.

I was at the end of our piece of the wall most of the evening, right next to a woman at a small table with a very young child. Cute as heck ... curly hair. Well behaved, sweet squared as far as I'm concerned. Only it was crowded enough that I kept bumping into him ... I hope he does not look back at the night he took the beating with my elbows. He did get me back later though ... a shot to the groin as he sttod up or something ... not hard enough to do any real damage, but he let me know that the elbows were not appreciated :-)

Sheesham and Lotus came on after a while and were very entertaining ... they had been at folk fest, although Jackie and I had not seen them on the day we spent there. So they were new to us all, which was fun.

Now before I start showing images and video from inside the venue, let me just point out that this is the darkest concert I have ever attended. A couple of lights for the whole band is all we got. Perfectly fine for the human eye with its logarithmic response curve ... but really, really difficult for a camera. And a small sensor compact to boot ... so I was most thankful that I had brought the Fuji F70EXR and not the Canon G10. The G10 would have been stymied by the lack of light, but the Fuji managed ot capture a few usable images ... at least when processed in black and white. The lighting was also very yellow ... yuck.

Edit: Turns out that the first act was actually "Kim Wempe and Carmel Mikol" ... we were late and managed to catch the first intermission. Oops ... you can read a very short review that mentions all of it here.

So ... on with Sheesham and Lotus. The *second* act :-)

Sheesham on the left, Lotus on the right. Don't ask about the names ... I have no idea :-)

Here's a taste of their skills ... lots of fun and very entertaining.

There was a short break as Jill's band set up and then we were off again.

She sang most of the CD and things sounded pretty good, but the microphone at times sounded a little boomy, which overwhelmed the rather crappy microphone on the F70EXR (audio is definitely its big weakness.) And I found that I could get very few good images, so I started firing the flash and I raised ISO pretty high ... 3200 is nuts on such a tiny (1/2") sensor ... itty bitty. But with the flash, I was able to get some that look ok.

I processed these quite dark ... if you see a mottled background with some detail in it, then your monitor is set too bright. That's likely because you are using a TN panel, the most common panels around these days and not good for photography. Don't sweat it, but realize that most of the noise is not actually above the visual threshold before writing these images off.

My first video of Jill at the inn includes two great songs ... "by your side" and "gold" ... enjoy ...

During the show, someone kept stepping on the cords on stage, causing a horrific loud bass note that sounded exactly like the martians in The War of the Worlds ... the Tom Cruise version. I kid you not ...

Part 2 shows us the wonderful "late to bloom" ... and a sweet tribute to Paul, the owner of the Black Sheep Inn. Jill gifts him a Saskatchewan Roughriders hat at the end there.

I associate the following image with a sweet song like "wish", despite having no clue when it was shot :-)

And here is her performance of "wish" in part 3 of the Jill Zmud Bootlegs ... that gives them some kind of status, doesn't it? :-)

Jill spoke to the audience quite a bit ... she has the gift of patter for sure.

And here is a final shot I was able to get ... more members of the band are included, along with the girl who guested and sang harmonies. I think she lost her voice the day before and had only partially recovered.

I love the way the keyboardist sees me shooting at the bottom there ...

After this, there were two encores after a suitable time away ... the final encore is one of my favourites ... "water in the wine" ... this is a beautiful rendition ... Jill took pains to mention that one of the backup singers suggested its inclusion, and I am really glad she did. You can see Jill hug her at the end of the video ... kudos all round for this song.

Willow and I shared a ride back as Jackie dropped off her friends. More Azure Ray, the streak broken only at the very end when I could not resist playing "Songbird" by Eva Cassidy to show her one of the major female influences in the last few decades.

A lovely evening. Live music like it was meant to be heard ... raw, small venue, in the company of friends.

P.S. If you want to see the concert more clearly, have a peek at blurasis's photostream on flickr. Shot with a Canon 5D Mark II ... that's a lot of hardware when compared with my little pocket cam :-) ...


Lili said...

The audio was actually quite good, better than I had expected from your descriptions, Kim.
Sorry to have been so long commenting, work and health got in the way.
Doing much better now.
Partly because of being tired I have been working a lot more with my cell phone camera, doing the 'digital holga thing'.
When I've felt the need for more serious stuff the S6000fd, being lighter than either DSLR has gone with. I really like B&W I can get with this camera processing the files in Silkypix.

Kim Letkeman said...

Hi Lili, I hope it was nothing too serious. Yes, the audio is adequate ... the G10 smokes it for clarity, but it works. And the reach is magnificent. The video works extremely well ... focus after zoom is quick and pretty accurate, and the noises we hear in quiet rooms are completely inaudible in real circumstances. I will soon be posting the Billy Bragg / Skydiggers concert I went to tonight and the lighting was better with a real sound system ... so these images and videos are far better. The F70 is proving to be up to the task so far ...

Lili said...

Thanks for the concern, just Asthma and what appears to be a mild Flu ( no odd desire to go "oink" tho ;)
My friend finally bought my F60fd only to loose it the next night in a burglary.
I've not yet got the F70, been too ill and busy, again, sigh.
Also I have really been liking the results from the f200 and am reluctant to supplant and sell it for fear it too might end up in Junkie Hands.
Guess they are like Jazz Hands but shakier ;)
I just used my S6000 for some birding, like Kevin C on FTF I found the silent shutter very useful for close range/concealed work (the roof outside my bedroom) Wish they made a Fuji that reached the 600mm-e of my Oly 70-300mm Zuiko.
Bridge/compact cams will not replace DSLR/EVIL's, but they do have their niches don't they?