Yesterday began on a pretty depressing note. Groggy and cranky after a night of poor sleep, I noticed, just as I was about to leave for work, a kitchen full of inky footprints (which led to inky footprints in the living room, where a very inky dog sat chewing on an ink pen). Long story short, I arrived at work very late with ink-covered hands, and the day went downhill from there. Everything changed, however, at the end of the day, and I spent the evening being reminded of two very important truths:
1. People are awesome. Waiting for me when I returned home from work was an unexpected package from the very wonderful Deanna Gauthier, who sent me her entire collection of Fruits Basket manga, and the anime series as well! Now, this is a person I’ve only interacted with online, and the only reason we know each other at all is because she went to graduate school with a mutual friend. She lives way out west, we’ve never met, and yet here she’s sent me this big box of manga that I otherwise would not have the opportunity to read anytime soon. Deanna, you are incredibly generous, and seriously awesome. Thank you so much.
2. Music is awesome. The planned awesomeness for the evening, and the reason why I have not yet dipped into that marvelous box of manga, was a trip to Boston to see British singer-songwriter Tom McRae at Berklee College of Music’s Cafe 939. I’ve been a fan for a while, but this was my first time hearing Tom play live (Paul had seen him once before). The evening was even better than I’d imagined.
Tom McRae is somewhat known back at home, I believe, but horribly under-appreciated over here, and though the cafe has a nice sound system, and is very well-run, I was depressed to see that he’s playing such small venues in this area, and that even this place was not full. When my husband found out I’d be blogging about this concert today, he said, “Beg. Please beg.” And so I will. Tom McCrae does not have nearly enough fans in this part of the world, so please, follow the jump and allow me to beg your attention.
Michael Greenberg is a proficient musician and not a bad young songwriter, though he needs to learn to stop thinking about all his cool musical gadgets when he is onstage, and focus on really expressing himself through his songs instead. His music was pleasant, but there was no feeling coming through, so it could never become more than that.
Steve Reynolds is fantastic, and a perfect fit as an opener for Tom. His dry banter, rich songwriting, fabulous guitar-playing, and Dylan-like voice go perfectly together, and I look forward to delving a little deeper into his catalogue. His most recent album, The Carnival Papers, was produced by former Frames guitarist, David Odlum, and is available for sale on iTunes or at CD Baby.
Now on to Tom McRae. Tom’s songs are generally dark (or at least melancholy), musically interesting, lyrically incredible, and though I’ve found his studio albums pretty mesmerizing, he really shines in live performance. His singing voice, understated and moody in recording, soars onstage, cutting through the stillness with emotion and clarity. In last night’s performance, he was accompanied only by his own guitar and cellist Oliver (Oli) Kraus (music starts automatically), and honestly I kind of wish I had an album to listen to with just that lineup. Oli’s cello is the perfect companion to Tom’s vocals and songwriting, and the two of them perform together seamlessly. It is a beautiful thing to behold.
Now for the begging. Tom McRae needs more fans. Unfortunately, I don’t have the kind of resources available for selling him to you as throughly as I’d like. I’ve been told that Tom has issues with file-sharing, and I will respect that. Sadly, most of my favorite songs of his, mostly from his album All Maps Welcome, don’t seem to be available online in any form, so I’ll go with what’s out there.
Tom has some tracks available on his MySpace page (again with the automatically starting music, a practice I really dislike, by the way, if you hadn’t gathered that from all my warnings), where you will also find links for purchasing his cds, as well as a couple of videos. One of those I’ll also share here, which is a performance of his song, “Got a Suitcase, Got Regrets,” on Italian television, including Oli and a small orchestra. It’s quite lovely.
There are quite a few live performances of Tom’s available on YouTube, though most of them have either poor sound quality or overly-dominant audience singing, so I hesitate to include them. I did find another nice television appearance, however, this time “For the Restless” on France’s “Cult” TV, where he plays with both Oli Kraus and pianist Olli Cunningham.
And one shot at a live concert video, “End of the World News (Dose Me Up)” in Brussels:
Tom has tour dates coming up the next two weeks in Montreal, Toronto, and New York, before heading over to the west coast. Check out his schedule for the full list! If he is playing in your area, I highly recommend checking him out. You will not be disappointed.
Yes. I am begging you.
Tom also keeps a blog, McRaetheism, which is pretty interesting reading.
On a final note, mostly because I find it kind of hilarious that this exists, and to bring this entry full-circle, I give you a Fruits Basket manga fan video, set to Tom McRae’s “Vampire Heart.”
Hee. Enjoy. :)