Toe-tapping country night
Sacramento, CA 95814
There was no sawdust on the floor at downtown pub Fox & Goose last Friday night. And no chicken wire was strung where the musicians set up to play, either, to keep them safe from beer bottles hurled. What passes for country music in Sacramento has a different feel than country in other places, like Bakersfield.
Rich Driver opened the evening. Driver is more of a singer-songwriter, and he looked the part—cap, horn-rims, neatly trimmed beard, casual shirt and jeans, Taylor acoustic guitar. His singing carried a warm rasp, illuminating his wry observations with a delivery rooted in such ’70s cafe bards as Jim Croce, with a hint of Harry Nilsson; his guitar playing often touched on a subtext of jazzy chords and funk syncopation.
Driver had pulled in a contingent of a dozen or so friends, who’d crowded the front tables near the stage area. Most of them seemed pretty familiar with his songs. “I’m a joke without a punch line, you’re the song without a voice,” he sang while standing, slightly pacing, his toe tapping. His crowd ate it up.
Richard March followed. He had a problem. He’d played a gig earlier that day in Colfax with the headliner, former local Amee Chapman, now of Santa Cruz, and because March was on his motorcycle, he’d let Chapman transport his guitar. She was outside, with a locksmith, the guitar and her keys secured inside the van. So Driver loaned March his trusty Taylor, and March commenced to steer the evening more toward Nashville.
Most of Driver’s friends had gone, and seated at the front table were three women, gossiping loudly. The song finished, March stepped up and introduced himself, shaking their hands. The ploy worked momentarily, but a few songs later, they were back to gabbing.
But March persevered. His original songs, like “San Francisco,” tend to be more folkish than overtly country, somewhere between John Hartford and Merle Haggard’s more philosophical side. March dipped into Nashville standards, like Jerry Chesnut’s “It’s Been a Good Year for the Roses,” where a twang affectation was apparent, then followed with a story-song with political overtones, called “Obama Road.” Lee Greenwood, this was not.
Amee Chapman followed. March had been touting her wonderfulness, and she’d come backed by the Velvet Tumbleweeds—David Wren on pedal steel, Pat Golliher on bass and Todd Lewis on drums. Chapman strummed an acoustic Gibson and confessed she’d not been feeling well. She was a bit wan at first, but she struggled valiantly, and by set’s end her strong alto was putting the magic to such originals as “Make Up in the Make-Out Room” and “Tattooed Cowboy,” and you could see that victory reflected in some mighty satisfied faces at the bar, smiling into their pints.