Prior to this show at Club Passim, I had seen Dietrich Strause play with a couple of other bands which were fairly different from each other -- one bluegrass, the other traditional British folk -- so I had no idea what style of music he would play with his own band. I was not concerned, however, because he has a stellar reputation in the Boston music scene.
Strause took the stage with his guitar and trumpet, playing the guitar more than the trumpet. He was joined by Lyle Brewer on lead guitar, Jef Charland on bass, and Dominic Billet on drums. Brewer and Charland are local, but Billet traveled from his now-former-home of Philadelphia, en route to his new home in Nashville.
Strause is probably best known as a songwriter’s songwriter. He is teaching a songwriting class at Passim’s music school that begins soon if it has not already. He knows what he's talking about, too. How can you go wrong with a song about the unsinkable Molly Brown that has lines like these: "She spent the winter before wearing just a pinafore”, “She had an iceberg up her sleeve”, and:
She’s unsinkable, unbreakable
how unthinkable, how unlovable
I am to her.
I think it is interesting that, at this show, his music sounded more country than anything else, yet on the album I purchased (Little Stones to Break the Giant’s Heart) the songs sound more pop to me. I loved the difference.
Strause is quite at ease in front of an audience. At one point, he forgot the words to one verse of a song he had not sung in a number of years, and he had no qualms about taking the liner notes from someone who had bought the album. Nobody minded the blip.
His band is fabulous. Brewer is a well-regarded guitarist. He was given the solos and leads he deserves and showed us why he has the reputation he does. I knew Charland’s name but had never seen him perform. He is also a fine player who I will see again. Billet is an excellent drummer; maybe I will see him in Nashville next year.
Strause's tendency to play both guitar and trumpet is an interesting combination, and I enjoyed it. He is not the first player I have seen who plays both stringed and brass instruments. I pondered whether the trumpet was the first instrument he learned as a child, and if, when he got older, he decided to learn guitar as well.
At any rate, singer Annie Lynch accompanied the band on vocals for a few songs, and also opened the show with a short set of original songs. She told us she hadn't played out for quite a while, although that wasn't completely obvious. .
This was a delightful show that highlighted both quality songs and skilled instrumentation.