Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fort King at Echo Curio

I enjoyed a terrific three night run of shows late last week which began on Thursday, March 11, 2010 with a trip over to Echo Curio and ended with my being blasted right off into outer space on Saturday and I'm still not feeling the effects of gravity yet. But let me focus on one.

Fort King was on the bill at Echo Curio and I was looking forward to a pleasant set of nice, lo-fi indie music. I've seen, heard and admired the song craft of Ryan Fuller in a few different incarnations, first getting to know his music with cello accompaniment, much like the arrangements on his album, Naked Shadows. That led me to compare the moody, ethereal sound of his music to some French film soundtracks of the '70's and '80's. His songs are tone poems with sharp, observant and sometimes caustic lyrics, containing occasional shocks. It reminds of the prose writing of Joyce Carol Oates.

It was when I saw him perform solo at The Parish Room at House of Blues last August, that I could tell the songs stand strongly on their own, retaining their dreamy/harsh duality with only a voice and a single guitar. I'm always impressed with his ability to find just the right vocal level in the mix, which is crucial to appreciating his art.

Imagine my surprise when I got to Echo Curio on Thursday to hear he would be accompanied by bass and additional guitars. Wondering if Fort King might lose the gently symphonic ambiance they achieve, my fears were allayed immediately by the accompaniment of Yvette Dudoit, whose bass drove the music into a new place, similar to the melancholy tone the cello brings, but sharper and less hazy. I liked the new direction very much and loved when she added the occasional vocal phrasing here and there. (She even took the photo above)

Her slide guitar work introduced a nice country flavor to a "Ricky's Lament", and when she and Ryan both played acoustic, they achieved a really magical chiming harmony. Quite an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Yvette even stepped forward at one point to sing a lovely French folk song, with back up guitar by Ryan.

Songs like "Osceola", the beautiful "To the Moon"and the moving "Black Palms" took on new complexions. I learn so much from the musicians I know, and watching Ryan perform in three different versions of Fort King has been so instructive in teaching me about delivery and song interpretation and the many small variations that can utterly change the nature of the piece. And yet the core integrity of the music never changes.


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