This is another post in which I write about someone I’ve seen before. I feel like there have been a lot of those but maybe I’m wrong? There have probably been less repeats than there have been originals but maybe there have just been a lot lately. I feel justified on this occasion though because, despite the fact that I’ve seen Gregory Alan Isakov twice this year already I’ve yet to see him headline a show so when I saw he was playing at Chautauqua I really couldn’t pass it up. Plus, I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey Foucault, who opened for him, so you see it really couldn’t be helped. Now, you might wonder why I’m justifying myself to you internet. It’s probably because I like you and I want us to be super best friends, or maybe I just needed a rambling intro to this post and justification was the best I could do. You’ll never know for sure internet what lies in the depths of my mind. Now on to the music.
A brief apology for a lack of completely grainy and terribly composed pictures in this post. I’m on a strange computer and can’t access them right now. I hope to get them up eventually.
I really love Jeffrey Foucault, he’s the kind of solo artist that lives directly in my musical wheelhouse. Part folk, part country blues, all beautifully lyrics and haunting vocals. The man is just an incredible musician that doesn’t come to Colorado nearly often enough. I saw Foucault open for Chris Smither ar Swallow Hill a few years ago and he was so good that I went to the merch table at intermission and bought two of his albums. That’s a pretty rare thing, that music is so good I must own it instantly. In the years since he may have returned to Colorado but if he did he wasn’t playing in any place I was aware of so I haven’t seen him since. Which is a shame because I’ve listened to his albums many many times and they never got old. Fortunately for me he became friends with Gregory Alan Isakov.
His music is powerful, and moving and exceptionally well written. Several of his songs could just as easily be poetry, which, to me, is the mark of a great songwriter. If you could strip it down, take away all the music and put it on paper and people would still be moved. To me that is a well written song. Not that the words are all he has going for him. He also manages to get more sound and more power out of a single guitar than any man has a right to. The power of the guitar coupled with the beauty of the words leads to exceptional music, the kind of music that people everywhere should be listening to. Seriously, with as good as he is I have no idea how this guy isn’t more famous than he is. Even if he isn’t going to become more famous he should at least come to Colorado more because what he does will always be appreciated in the musical environment we have here.
I owe additional thanks to Isakov for a particular part of this show because one of my favorite songs by anyone ever is Northbound 35 by Jeffrey Foucault and before he played it he said that Isakov had played it during sound check and reminded him that he had written it. Had that not happened we would not have heard it and while the show still would have been good, I would have felt it was missing something. So, yeah, good work Mr. Isakov. And speaking of Northbound 35, you’ll find it embedded below. Hopefully you like it as much as I do.
So what can I say about Isakov that I haven’t already said before? The man’s music is transcendent, beautiful, and moving. It’s also about as serene as music can be. It often has this sort of other worldly quality that sets it apart from other music, It’s also got this unique sort of olde timey (yes, so old timey that the old gets an e on the end. )I think that part of this comes from the fact that Isakov, (if his website, stage props and album artwork are to be believed ) has a certain affinity for old things, turn of the century things, and that affinity shines through in his music creating this new yet old feeling to everything he does. It’s pretty wonderful.
I’ve said before on this blog that I wanted to see Isakov headline because I wanted to be in a room full of people that were there for his music when he played and that’s what I got at this show. The crowd was quite, respectful, and raptly hung on every note, lyric and word. Those facts alone made this better than either of the other performances I saw from him this year. Also adding to the performance was the venue. Chautauqua is just the right size for him, his voice and his music fills the space perfectly and it just fits. Which isn’t to say that he couldn’t impress at a larger venue, he can, but his music seems tailored to small and medium venues.
Something else that, I feel, attributed to this show was that it was a homecoming. He lives in Boulder, some of the people playing with him I’ve seen in other local bands. He was on his home turf, playing for family and friends as well as fans. Homecoming shows just have a certain quality to them, perhaps it’s the joy of being home after so much time spent on the road, perhaps it’s know so many people in the audience, perhaps it’s just the feeling of driving familiar streets on you way to the show or spending a night in your own bed. Hell, maybe it’s all that. All I know is that there is something about the homecoming show that puts it a step above the road show.
I feel like all of these words really amount to one thing. See Gregory Alan Isakov. See him soon. His music will move you and you’ll be the better for it. Seriously, I implore you to see him. Do it. Right now. If you can’t because you’re at home reading the internet then just to the next best thing and watch the videos below. Then go see him after that.