It must be synchronicity.
I’ve recently discovered a little radio station on the Web – the site is boomerradio.com (can you believe it??) and one of the streams they run is called Acoustic Cafe. It’s not exactly a great station, but it is pretty mellow, and good for them, there’s always some obscurish Van that gets played. Tonight it was End of the Land. Anyways, I was getting tired of all that mellowness (one too many James Taylor, I think) and was going to switch to some live Van. As I was standing up to turn off the speakers, out of who knows where, Darkness, Darkness starts to play.
Remember late ’60s, Darkness, Darkness from the Youngbloods? Jesse Colin Young? You know – the c’mon people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now Jesse Colin Young.
It’s got to be at least 30 years, closer to 40 more like, that the Youngbloods and Jesse Colin Young fell off my radar. Until last night. In Londonderry, New Hampshire, at the Tupelo Music Hall (the owner is a Van fan I’m told).
And it was all very peace and love-like. And mellow. Me and the Acoustic Cafe and Jesse – all being mellow. Five in the band, including Jesse, on lead guitar, and his wife, Connie, on violin and percussion. I didn’t catch the names of the guys on bass, drums and rhythm. I sense the guy on rhythm has been with Jesse for a long time. He plays a good guitar. And a very intense young man on bass. Probably my only complaint of the night is that the violin was too high in the mix during the quieter songs. There seemed to be only two ways to play the violin: loud and louder, so it was a bit of a distraction during some of the contemplative songs in the first set.
Altogether a great show, with songs from all along the way – or so it seemed – he introduced one song, it might have been Four in the Morning, as something from before the Youngbloods, and he did some Youngbloods songs, and some Hawaiian songs, and a couple of songs that were new, and songs like Ride the Wind and Bring Him Home, which I am guessing are from the middle period.
It’s Jesse’s birthday (69th) on Monday, November 22, and the rhythm guy led us in a rousing Happy Birthday song in Jesse’s favor, two days early. We didn’t get to sing again until late in the second set on Get Together c’mon people now, smile on your brother... We comported ourselves admirably on both.
There might have been others but the covers I recognized were two of the interesting highlights of the night. The first was John Lennon’s Imagine and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? Jesse sang the Lennon lyrics, and rhythm guy and Connie sang the Marvin Gaye part, trading one song off the other – and it was absolutely delightful. Then third song into the second set, Jesse picked up his (as he informed the blind among us) eight-string ukulele to do Somewhere Over the Rainbow, with Jesse namechecking Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole, a Hawaiian musician who had a major hit with the song. The reference went right over my head, but Celeste told me afterward who he was talking about. And here I was thinking Judy Garland. It was a great song, a little bit reggae – very nice rendition. Nothing like a good ukulele player. He kept it for La Bamba and then a song he sang in Hawaiian. Later he said, the words to that are “The spirit of the land shall be brought forth in righteousness.” Now, I don’t know what that means, but it sure does sound warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?
Then it was back to his guitar, and the volume picked up for something he described as a Youngbloods song, but I didn’t recognize it – one of their minor hits, I guess – he said it was the only time they got into the whole funk/soul thing – and giving the bass player an opportunity to be really intense. Then a 12-bar blues in T-Bone Shuffle, taking us to the sing-a-long Get Together – even Celeste knew this one – and ending with Darkness, Darkness. A well-crafted second set. Beginning the set with what he called “a new one,” it was just Jesse and Connie on stage, doing a sweet song that might have been called Love Goes On. Then another new one, called Cruising at Sunset. The three ukulele songs worked like a charm, and then it just got progressively faster and louder and more intense (in a mellow kind of way), right up to Get Together, ending with the navel-gazing Darkness, Darkness.
This was the last night of the tour, so if you missed him this time around, you’ll have to wait for the next time. In the meantime, you can go to his website and buy some of his coffee. From his coffee farm in Hawaii.
If Jesse Colin Young had been in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, he would have been the Graham Nash part – not a lot of depth to his voice, and what little there was has diminished over the years. Time will do that. It’s not most people whose voices get better with time, right, Bob?
It turns out that Bob was playing 30 minutes down the road in Lowell on Saturday night and, if you can believe it, I stood Mr. Dylan up to see Mr. Young. I can see Bob anytime, but how often does Jesse Colin Young come to my hometown?
Talking about old white guys, John Sebastian is coming to Tupelo Music Hall next weekend. The show is sold out, but we’ll see what happens.