Last night, I was able to catch a Carbon Leaf concert at Ram’s Head Onstage in Annapolis. I’ve seen CL many times, and it was their best show. Though their songs range in style from rock, to folk, to Celtic, to Western, thematically they center around the seasons and cycles of life.
It’s hard to capture the emotional response live music evokes. The night, the drinking, and the good company added to a talented group of singer/songwriters make a special kind of magic. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it becomes an almost spiritual experience.
Carbon Leaf played a perfect blend of old songs, covers, and new songs from their recently released CD, Nothing Rhymes with Woman. The group opened acoustic and a cappella with their song of the lonely traveler in One Prairie Outpost. The audience sang the chorus. It was a like a small group around a campfire in hi-def, and was a beautiful way for the audience to connect with the group right from the start. Their song X-Ray, a charming tribute to childhood summers full of “lightning bugs and locust shells” held the reverence and appreciation adulthood has for a happy youth, and some of the cheekiness of the Beatles’ Dear Prudence, which they also covered. Another Man’s Woman blends humor with longing in the face of unquenchable desire. They sang Pink about one of their young fan’s struggles with breast cancer. Lake of Silver Bells–a Coldplay-esque song–might be the crown jewel of the new CD.
It occurred to me last night, that what makes all artists great–writers, musicians, poets, painters, etc.–is their believability. If an artist attempts to convey something as they think it should be, rather than as it is, the work suffers. Hemingway’s line about writing “one, true sentence” rang in my head listening to Carbon Leaf, because that is what they do. They have a gift for capturing truth in their music. I believe them in every song.
I encourage you to check out their website and try to catch a show some time. They’ll be in New York at the Bowery Ballroom next weekend, and in DC for New Year’s Eve. You won’t be disappointed.