The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #48623   Message #731007
Posted By: JedMarum
16-Jun-02 - 03:09 PM
Thread Name: Bill Staines House Concert Review
Subject: Bill Staines House Concert Review
My wife Louisa and I went to see Bill Staines last night at a pleasant, 'homey' little house concert venue in Wiley Texas - just a few miles north of Dallas. We have tried to make a few of Bill's shows over the last couple of years and have never been able to solve the scheduling issues until this week - so we were quite looking forward to catching one of our favorite singer/songwriters in concert. As it turned out; it was a doubly nice place to see Bill - in an intimate, friendly environment with a roomful of devoted Bill Staines fans. Since we've had some Bill Staines "conversations" here at Mudcat, and since we've been talking about some of his songs in recent days, I thought I'd pass on a few words about the show.

Bill stood at the corner of the large main room, with an unobtrusive spot light aimed at him from somewhere in the loft of the large A-frame house and sang unaided by sound systems for a couple of hours. We were an audience of no more then 35 or so, seated comfortably on sofas and molded plastic or wooden chairs - no one sat more then 25' from the performer. The rest of the home was darkened. He sang a set, told a few stories and took a half hour break. He finished the show with a 30 minute set including an encore. Louisa and I left before the song circle started (we'd a long day working the garden) but I gather the folks typically play 'til the wee hours following these shows.

Bill played a great show of music, almost exclusively his own - and had audience members singing along on nearly all choruses (in fact many of the verses too). I have to admit, I couldn't help but sing along all night! Bill is a warm performer, very much laid back - and even though I'm sure he's told many of the stories and song introductions time and time again - his monologue sounded as fresh as if it came off the top of his head. In a roomful of strangers, he's an easy spirit and treated all of us with the comfort of an old friend.

As a guitar player myself, I watched Bill's left handed, up-side-down style and found myself trying to understand how he's adapted so well this method that seems so difficult to me. I could see that he indeed does, as it sounds, flat pick primarily on the upstroke - so it sounds just like a right hander down stroking a chord - and that he does indeed pick out a string bass line with his middle and index fingers, matching what others do with their thumb - and like many other guitar players, Bill uses his thumb for wrap-around the neck fretting - but rather then fretting for bass notes, he uses his thumb to top off the high string notes. Bill is a fine guitar player and treated us to some great picking and singing all night long.

Over the years as I've listened to my favorite Bill Staines songs, I have always appreciated his optimism. Throughout his lyrics and his melodies, he approaches blues stories, traveling tales, even sad romantic subjects with an underlying positive feel - "I love the living with every breath, and I love to sing the blues," and as I sat there last night enjoying the stories and songs and (subconsciously) analyzing his guitar style it hit me; Bill has a warm bounce and dancing giggle in his left hand! His finger style just bubbles and laughs with every note - it isn't just his lyrics. The road can be hard, and life can be challenging to all of us, but Bill Staines' optimism, his 'quiet faith in man' is evident in everything he presents to an audience - and we respond. We've responded to his singing and his songs for 35 years or so. Here's wishing for many many more!