Good ideas come in threes.
Pearl Street Warehouse hosted the so-called ‘Sweethearts of Americana’ show, bringing together three local country and Americana artists. Namely Karen Jonas (from Virginia), Lauren Calve (from Virginia, based in DC), and Mink’s Miracle Medicine (or Melissa Wright and Daniel Zezeski, from West Virginia).
Pearl Street got increasingly full with Americana aficionados as the night wore on, never quite reaching its full potential. Which is too bad, the show that the three sweethearts and their respective bands put on was an entertaining dive into our region’s local roots and ‘gee’tar strumming scene.
This show was the commencement for a brief tour (they performed three shows in three venues in total under the Sweethearts of Americana banner). Each artist played nine songs, starting with Mink’s Miracle Medicine, for 2-1/2 hours of pleasing to the ears music.
Mink’s Miracle Medicine is both Melissa Wright and Daniel Zezeski from Harpers Ferry, with Melissa on vocals. Melissa told a few stories about the origins of the songs, like how ‘Keeping Score” is about gaming, or “How To Become a Writer” speaks to songwriting. Less obvious origins included “Beautiful Loser”, which she wrote after reading a Leonard Cohen book, and the final song they performed hinted at how solar flares may be manipulating human behavior. Some songs were rich in twang, and felt like old-timey country songs, while others rocked a little more, with influences of punk.
Lauren Calve and her band of four came next, starting us off right with “Polly”, about how women are often portrayed in this genre of music, in this case as Lauren describes, ‘a woman who would surely burn in hell because she liked to go to dances.’ Later she played “Wildfire”, the only love song she’s ever written (because she’s engaged to the guy it is about). She described “Light/Dark” as her ‘Star Wars’ song, and is a low-down blues stomper, maybe the kind of song they’d play in a cantina in Mos Eisley. She also performed the Derek and the Dominos classic “Bell Bottom Blues”, which she described as ‘one of my favorites.’ I concur, and it came off superbly.
Karen Jonas closed out the show, with a rollicking set of songs. She was also accompanied by a sweetheart of a band, with Tim Bray (guitar), Seth Brown (drums), and Seth Warren (double bass). Both Karen and Tim spent a fair amount of energy riffing off each other with joint geetar jam sessions. Karen loves to pepper in references to drinking whiskey in her songs, as well as making food for her children (as in “Butter”). “Suicide Sal”, off her first album, is about a Bonny and Clyde poem. Karen recently released a fourth album titled Lucky, Revisited. It takes classics from her first three albums, and reimagines them in a different style or mood. For example, for “Oklahoma Lottery” the first version (also from her first album of the same name) is a languid story about moving after a divorce during the dust bowl, while the reimagined version is more upbeat and jazzy, and the lyrics are crooned in a livelier, bolder manner. Karen is also working on a new album, and she did play a song from that effort, “Tuesday”, about ‘doing all the things you should be doing, but probably won’t.’ My goal for the day. She finished the evening with two covers, “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine, and “Georgia On A Fast Train” by Billy Joe Shaver, leaving us wistful for more. As a bonus, here is our previous review of Karen from 2018.
If you missed this iteration of the Sweethearts of Americana, take heart that they certainly could re-form for future reunion shows if you ask nicely. And be on the look out for each artist performing locally, they should be back playing live soon.
Mink’s Miracle Medicine
Betty Jo (I think)
How To Become a Writer
Looking For the Water
Bell Bottom Blues (Derek and the Dominos cover)
On and On
Angel from Montgomery (John Prine cover)
Georgia On A Fast Train (Billy Joe Shaver cover)