Here’s our take on some of the most noteworthy Savannah Music Festival events taking place over the next 7 days. For a complete schedule of the 2007 SMF, see their official site at www.savannahmusicfestival.org. Tickets to all SMF events can be purchased online, at the SCAD Box Office, or by calling 525-5050.
The resurgence of interest in Old-Time U.S. mountain music has birthed scores of acoustic acts which base their sound around brittle “high and lonesome” vocal harmonies and deft fretwork on such traditional instruments as fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, guitar, banjo and upright bass.
The best pay tribute to the glorious, earthy past of these Appalachian pocket symphonies while nudging the genre ever-so-slightly into the present day. This group of female musicians exemplifies that devout —yet progressive— dynamic. Their new CD was produced by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, and while this show (proudly co-sponsored by Connect Savannah) was one of the first at this year’s festival to sell out, a few tickets can often be had for face value at the door, so it’s worth showing up early just in case. Wed., 7:30 pm, Orleans Hall (201 Barnard St.).
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion
This massive classical music undertaking is being touted as one of the most impressive and logistically-difficult concerts being mounted at this year’s showcase. For many, however, it may not carry the same cachet as some of the more “hip” bookings. Yet, all signs point to this being one of the very few “can’t miss” performances. Drawing on the combined talents of the Pacific Chorale’s John Alexander Singers (a select chamber group from Southern California), Musica Angelica (the Golden State’s premier period instrument orchestra) and the Wiener Akademie (an internationally celebrated Austrian symphony specializing in lesser known works), this work presents the Biblical text of Matthew 26-27 as a recitative — but also adds arias and ariosos which give commentary on the original narrative. Tickets range from $25 to $65. Thurs., 7 pm, Lucas Theatre.
Shawn Mullins/Randall Bramblett Band
This double-bill of underrated Peach State singer/songwriters (both of whom have flirted with stardom and maintain devoted cult followings worldwide) is one of the few SMF shows this year which comes even close to rocking. Kris Kristofferson acolyte Mullins hit the big time in ‘98 with the smash, platinum-selling pop hit “Lullabye,” and just released a fantastic LP on Vanguard that finds him embracing a classic folk-rock sound for the first time in ages. Bramblett is a gospel, blues and jazz-influenced multi-instrumentalist who’s been a member of the famed Southern fusion act Sea Level, played with Steve Winwood and Traffic, Gregg Allman and The Band’s Robbie Robertson. He’s “a songwriter’s songwriter” with an amazing voice and a gift for soul-baring lyrics that linger. Tickets are $20. Thurs., 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm, Orleans Hall (201 Barnard St.).
This power trio of bass, drums and electric guitar will realign your spine with their elastic, irrepressible grooves. The core of the world famous Funky Meters who practically invented modern-day New Orleans soul, their shows appeal to fans of greasy R & B as well as those who love to get lost in the jams of improvisational rock acts like Phish, Widespread Panic and The Dead. Simply put, these are some of the baddest cats on planet earth. And if that wasn’t enough for you — guitarist Brian Stoltz played on Dylan’s benchmark 1989 LP Oh Mercy! Tickets are $20. Fri., 8 pm & 10 pm, Orleans Hall (201 Barnard St.).
“Steamboat Bill, Jr.” - LIVE
For this screening of Buster Keaton’s ground-breaking 1928 silent slapstick comedy (you know, the one where the house almost crushes him by an inc and a half), a live, improvised piano accompaniment will be provided by Rick Friend, one of the pre-eminent practitioners of this most specialized field. Co-sponsored by Connect Savannah, this $20 show’s already sold out, but you know the drill. Sun., 3 pm, Jepson Center For The Arts.
SMF Mass Choir & Bignon
The last time gospel icon James Bignon came to town to conduct this All-Star conglomeration of Savannah’s best church choirs and soloists, the turnout was much less than expected, for no obvious reason, yet it had little impact on the caliber or energy of both the exhilarating performance he summoned from them, and the one he brought forth himself. Now, this event has moved to a smaller venue, and one can only hope this $20 show will be packed to the gills. Sun., 7:30 pm, St. John Baptist Church (The Mighty Fortress).