I can't remember the last time I caught a weeknight show that began and ended before the sun went down. But this was the case on Tuesday, May 12, when I had a chance to check out Richard Shindell's early evening set at the Evening Muse. The songwriter would have removed his sunglasses, if not for the glare of daylight peeking in from North Davidson.
The audience was tiny, and much older than the group that would later shuffle in for Eilen Jewell's 9 p.m. show. Seated among a half-dozen graying couples, shirts tucked in and likely in their 50s, I felt somewhat out of place. The dude in front of me was rocking an American flag button down. But no big deal. After all, it was my 54-year-old father who had turned me on to Shindell.
When you're always on the lookout for new music, the well oftentimes will run dry. And when the well runs dry, sometimes you need a trusted source for a breath of fresh air.
For years, ever since I began listening to music, that trusted source has been my dad. I remember locking myself in my room as a 12-year-old, memorizing every word to Cat Stevens' hits compilation, Footsteps in the Dark: Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.
The album was a 'borrowed' item from my dads collection and to this day it's followed me from apartment to apartment, city to city, well into adulthood. Now, Stevens is finally recording songs as Yusuf Islam that is, when he's not hitting up Coldplay for loose change and my father's taste in music remains as influential as ever.
When I look back years from now, Dan Fogelberg, Jackie Greene and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will most certainly go down next to 'don't rely on credit cards' as some of his best fatherly advice.
The Shindell find was clutch, and with all due respect to Flyleaf (and fans closer my age), the Muse was the place to be on Tuesday. Since relocating with his family to Buenos Aires, the Jersey-native rarely tours in the States. If you're fortunate enough to catch him, you'll find a beautiful, handcrafted approach to songwriting.
Shindell hooks you with storytelling, his songs soaking with imagery and told through the eyes of adopted 'main characters.' His voice is part-James Taylor, part-Michael Stipe with a hint of Irish folk. Performing solo in Charlotte, the flat-picking Shindell was supported only by his trusty acoustic and a jet black Irish bouzouki. His rendition of "Balloon Man," off his new record Not Far Now, is one I'll remember for quite some time. And by the end of the show, I had forgotten I was the youngest guy in the room.
So good call, dad. Keep 'em coming. I'll bring home that Cat Stevens album on Memorial Day.