Singer makes most of moods
- John Chandler
- Portland Tribune - Features
Ex-Pickett Christy McWilson mines emotional lodes for her warm 'Bed of Roses'
Bed of Roses
For most of the previous decade, Seattle honky-tonk barnstormers, the Picketts, were a guaranteed good time at your local gin mill. Christy McWilson's thrift store Patsy Cline cooing and wailing sent everyone home smiling and sated.
Segueing from intrepid covers like the Who's 'Baba O'Riley' or Tom Waits' '(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night' to blistering McWilson-penned originals such as 'Action Speaks Louder Than Words,' the Picketts brought together country music amiability, rock 'n' roll heat and just a bit of renegade cow-punk belligerence.
In 2000, Wilson went solo, recording the excellent album 'The Lucky One' for Hightone Records. Two years down the road, and McWilson is back with producer Dave Alvin for 'Bed of Roses,' another generous filleting of country, rock and whatever else happened to be lying around.
With a confident bedrock of support laid down by a cast of musicians that includes Alvin, Peter Buck and her husband, Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows (all of whom probably will accompany her on tour), McWilson is free to do what she does best: sing her fool head off.
At the same time, there's more to her method than just impressive lung power. From her embarrassment at being the center of attention in 'Lila Jean' to the angry spitfire in 'Shooting Fish in a Barrel' and the hopeful romantic in 'True Believer,' McWilson's songs reveal evolving shades of character that add up to a complicated and riveting individual.
Her selection of cover material is right on the money: McWilson's duet with Alvin on Moby Grape's '805' is nothing short of glorious, while her apocalyptic take on the Youngbloods' 'Darkness, Darkness' erupts like thunder from the heavens. Her shift from this howling-to-the-skies number to the quietly tender and lovely 'Sheep Song' is enough to cause a neck-spraining double take.
'Bed of Roses' dares to confound the listener with subtleties that are hard to pin down and identify, but overall it's still a warm, comfortable experience. Repeat listenings only make things better and brighter Ñ a guaranteed good time.
Christy McWilson plays St. Johns Pub, 8203 N. Ivanhoe St., 503-283-8520, 8 p.m. Friday, March 29, $12-$15.
A surprisingly sturdy, well-crafted pop album from unheralded Portlander John Amadon, who goes by the unlikely name of Qwee. Having served time as bassist in Fernando's band as well as in the Kinks' tribute band the Young Eduardians, Qwee has developed a flair for graceful melodies and piano-driven, Beatles-esque arrangements. The production from Old Joe Clarks' head man Mike Coykendall is first-rate, and some of Portland's better players (particularly Fernando's former crew) show up to add their 2 cents' worth.
Qwee doesn't have too much on his mind other than bearing up under post-relationship fallout, but on splendid songs such as 'The Bright Moon' and 'She Isn't Here,' he finds an agreeable punch somewhat like a more rollicking version of Elliott Smith.
The union of keyboard flourish and intricate acoustic guitar figures gives the music a needed emphatic shove, especially when he's on the verge of wallowing too long in the melancholy grandeur. Qwee may not be a quiet sideman for much longer after this promising debut.
Qwee plays the Fez Ballroom, 316 S.W. 11th Ave., 503-226-4171, 9 p.m. Friday, March 29, $6.
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