To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
17 messages

Bill Staines House Concert Review

16 Jun 02 - 03:09 PM (#731007)
Subject: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: JedMarum

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!

16 Jun 02 - 03:31 PM (#731016)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Ebbie

Wow. I would love to see him in a house concert. I have heard him in a small venue (a church) but it was amplified.

One of the limitations of a small, isolated community (Juneau has 30,000 people- and no other towns within a hundred miles) is that house concerts are by their very nature, severely limited. Unlike a large community where a performer could conceivably perform in three different venues sequentially, once is about all that's going to happen here.

16 Jun 02 - 05:11 PM (#731057)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: bbc

Nice review, Jed. One of the things I've noticed about Bill's songs is how many other folks have recorded wonderful versions of them. Priscilla Herdman & Jan Mara come to mind. I heard Bill's music from them before I ever heard it from him! Other folks can probably think of other performers who have used his songs. In the 1980's, I heard Judy Cook sing "A Place in the Choir" in her livingroom before I knew a thing about folk music. It's a memory that I'm glad to have!



16 Jun 02 - 08:10 PM (#731143)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: GUEST,Singout/Penny

When my son phoned me just a couple days prior to his wedding to ask me what song I would like to dance to with him, I considered some typically used "modern" type songs, but that just isn't me. I went through my collection of CDs and tried a lot of songs. Finally pulled out Bill's "Happy Wanderer" and chose "First Lullaby." It's a very pretty waltz. I'm certain no one else in the room had ever heard it (this was a very country music group), but it will always be a special moment and song for me.

16 Jun 02 - 11:46 PM (#731225)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Musicman

hey jed.. did you ask him about blue eyed mountain maid????

hope you said hi for me..

i know exactly what you're talking about with his concerts... i saw bill .. the first time in years.. 3yrs ago in Seattle.. house concert.. took my daughter.. indulged her dad..... we sat in the front row.... great evening and my dtr enjoyed it too...

talking with bill after the show.. asked him why he's never come to canada.. vancouver.. he says.. nobody's invited me.. so i invited him... so for the past two years i've hosted bill in vancouver.. he stays with me.. we get to relax.. talk a bit share some music.... (he only plays piano in C#)... this year i've got him for two days... in vancouver and Mayne Island.... looking forward to it.. spending the time.. singing with him.. a real treat....

and jed.. it's easier to follow and understand his fingers when you've had a few drinks......

musicman (paul)

22 Jun 02 - 04:54 PM (#734841)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: JedMarum

paul - I did pass on your regards. maybe next time I'll stay around for song circle and watch more carefully!

22 Jun 02 - 05:25 PM (#734855)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Lynn

I enjoy Bill's music greatly. I heard him twice (at least) at the Princeton Folk Club, which uses a reasonably sized common room for its concerts. I've heard house concerts before, and it surely IS a delightfully different experience.

Bill's songs have made their way around a bit. Before I knew who he was I heard an autoharp player sing "A Place in the Choir" at a birthday party; I wouldn't let the guy out of my sight until he'd taught me the song. As it turned out, his melody was somewhat varied from Bill's. The first time I saw Bill in concert, he started into 'Choir', and I thought...Wait! That's not how it goes! So goes the folk process. Happily, though, if you sing Bill's original melody and the one I first learned together, they make a pretty decent harmony.

Our songs, if they're lucky, develop a life of their own apart from us...kinda like kids.

And so it goes...


22 Jun 02 - 07:03 PM (#734911)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Jim Krause

I've been a fan of Bill's for--oh gosh--fifteen years maybe. I first hear some of his songs from the Grace Family Band years ago.

Finally I got to hear Bill live at Festival at the Old Fort in Omaha, NE back in '97 or '98 I think it was. Even in that big of a venue, his show still had an air of certain intimacy to it. I sang along with every song of his I knew.

23 Jun 02 - 07:20 PM (#735406)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Seamus Kennedy

Jed, I love Bill dearly. and he's a superlative entertainer as well as a musician. We've played together a few times, and had a ball. Ask him sometime about the night in Anchorage, AK outside his motel room at 20 below zero and a bottle of Jack Daniels. This episode took place after we had each given a concert in two different locations. My show finished first, so myself and a friend went to catch the 2nd half of Bill's show. My friend was not a folkie and had no idea who Bill Staines was.One of the first songs Bill did was A Place In The Choir, getting everyone to sing along. My buddy said, "Seamus, you sing that better than he does." And I responded, "I don't think so; he's the guy who wrote it!" I introduced him to Bill after the show, and we all went out for a few cool refreshing beverages. Then my friend went home, leaving Bill and me outside his motel room at 20 below with a bottle of Jack Daniels.....


23 Jun 02 - 08:20 PM (#735440)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Robbyanne

Bill is a treasure! We've hosted him twice in our home for house concerts in Chugiak, Alaska, and it's been a real treat each time. Ebbie - he comes up here each fall for an Alaskan tour - usually October - you might want to consider finding someone in Juneau who would host a house concert. True, it's awfully far to go to Juneau for one gig, but you never know until you ask....maybe he could do a layover in Juneau on his way up or his way back. Last fall, he came to our house about two hours early, so we had a great chance to visit - we talked a lot about the book he's writing, and about songwriting in general.

Seamus - I had to giggle when I read your story about Bill in Anchorage - I can just picture the two of you, shivering in the cold! By the way - your house concert in Anchorage was really fun this winter! I was sitting about three people down from you in the song circle, next to big old Mike Campbell. (I was the Ghost Chicken girl.) Come back soon! Love, Robin

24 Jun 02 - 07:53 PM (#736128)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: kendall

Bill is a treasure alright; a not to be missed indeed.

24 Jun 02 - 08:06 PM (#736140)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Jeri

He played a gig at a venue here in the late 80s. Great concert. Sat around afterwards and sang the first verse to every Eagles song we could think of - in C#. Nobody wanted to go home, least of all Bill. He only lives about 20 miles from me - I wish I got more opportunites to hear him.

24 Jun 02 - 10:01 PM (#736187)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Musicman

yes.. yes.. and yes... great stories all... and yes.. he is a great guy too......

i've hosted bill in vancouver for the past two years.. this year being the third,..... and have a good 24 hrs with him... (this year 2 days).... we go out for supper before the gig and have a wonderful chat.. last year he had a friend of mine and me in stiches telling us stories of various gigs he's done...... people in the restaurant were looking at us funny..... because you all know how bill loves to tell a story.....

the best part was hearing some of his early (i mean really early ) records that a friend in vancouver had... never knew bill could sing that high.. and not in falsetto or yodelling!.. a young voice indeed... (late 1960's recordings, first album "sombody Blue")

anyway.. looking forward to his visit again this year... and as always learning more of bill songs to sing and educate the rest of the folk around here.....


24 Jun 02 - 11:12 PM (#736223)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Jim Krause

I only have one wish. Someday I'd really like to meet him. Shook his hand once, and introduced myself. I felt rather awkward, since I interrupted a conversation he was having with some one else. But I was polite about it, at least.

24 Jun 02 - 11:57 PM (#736248)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: kendall

Folk Legacy has his records

25 Jun 02 - 01:08 AM (#736280)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: Lyrical Lady

I just have to add my Bill Staines story here as well..I met him at a post concert party and he played for me while I sang my favorite songs...we e-mailed back and forth for awhile ... looking forward to seeing him again not just as a performer, but as a friend. He was a very nice person to talk to.


25 Jun 02 - 08:27 AM (#736440)
Subject: RE: Bill Staines House Concert Review
From: JedMarum

Seamus - sounds like a good night!

I noticed that when he asked for requests he was asked twice to play Piney River Girl and he didn't. Beautiful song, I wonder why he didn't play it??