Yesterday evening I attended a house concert featuring Tracy Grammer. Susan, hostess with the most-est at Lunazoot House Concerts, was really excited about Tracy coming to play. Susan is a huge fan of Tracy’s and has seen Tracy play to crowds of 20,000 people. The crowd for Saturday’s show wasn’t quite as big, but there was a modest 40-or-so in attendance in Susan’s living room that night.
As with nearly all of the house concerts I’ve attended, I wasn’t previously familiar with Tracy’s music. As I go to more house concerts, I’m learning that describing someone as a “folk singer” doesn’t really tell you a whole lot. The folk singers I’ve heard have had so many different sounds. I really don’t know how to describe them, because I don’t feel like they really fit into one genre. The common elements seems to be one or two performers with stringed instruments (usually guitars, with the occasional violin or cello) or keyboards.
Tracy stuck with the guitar Saturday night, and she was a masterful player. Between her voice and the guitar, she filled the space with her music and the attendees swaying in their seats. During the first set, she played mostly songs that Dave Carter wrote when he was still alive and they performed as a duo. Tracy was masterful in weaving the stories behind the songs into her set, and the songs had me tapping my feet, laughing, or swaying, depending on the tune. One of the songs she played was in 11/8 time, which I wasn’t even aware was possible. Before the song she said that Dave had been a mathematician, among his other talents, so in the interest of weaving his talents together he created a new genre of music with this song: math folk.
During intermission, one of the guests asked Tracy about the money musicians make from Pandora, Spotify, and other streaming music companies. I was surprised to learn that the artists make next to nothing from those services. Lesson? If you hear someone you like on one of those services, go buy their CD, preferably from their web page. Tracy said that an artist with 1,000 strong fans could make a living, which gives me hope for all of those great artists touring around the country (the world!) right now to share their art and entertain us.
After partaking of some delicious potluck food and some delicious (non-alcoholic) hot apple cider during the intermission, Tracy moved us into the second set. It had a very different feel from set 1. Tracy started off by describing how she wasn’t much of a song writer. She said that she was a good song starter, but she could never get the hang of finishing songs. With that, she was still convinced to join a song writing project this year: Real Women, Real Songs. Twenty-one women were challenged to write one song a week based on a prompt for an entire year and post them to YouTube/Facebook. Tracy admitted that she’d only made it to week 17, but she shared some of those songs with us during the second set.
I really loved those songs. I don’t want to poo-poo the songs she played during the first set, because they were really great too. But there was something about these songs that just really resonated with me. The one she wrote to the prompt “satisfy” that she dedicated to her father, who died from cancer, got my water works going pretty hard. (I think my crying-during-house-concerts average is somewhere around 85%, which I don’t really consider a bad thing.) Soon after that one, she played one that she wrote to the prompt of “vulnerable.” This one was about how she may have made the different men that have been in her life feel vulnerable with her pushing too hard and insistence of truth. Geez, THAT doesn’t sound familiar at all (*this is sarcasm*). I’m hoping she records the songs she’s written this year.
Tracy ended the night with “Gentle Arms of Eden.” It’s a song about evolution, in the Darwinian sense of the word, but it can certainly be applied to other areas of life too. The entire audience was singing along by the end of the song.
Another lovely night at a house concert. Another artist that I might not have learned about if I hadn’t attended.
I still can’t speak highly enough for house concerts. They are fun, you will hear great music, you will eat great food, and you will meet inspiring people. You might cry, but it’ll be those good, cathartic sorts of tears.