Songwriters abound downtown Thursday
Touring artists Jessica Fichot and David Williams come to Solar Culture, Red Room
Thursday night brings two double bills to downtown. Los Angeles-based chanteuse Jessica Fichot will play with Gabriel Sullivan at Solar Culture, and Band of Annuals members support songwriter David Williams, who will be joined by Amy Rude at the Red Room.
Choosing between them is a tough decision; music fans may want to wander back and forth across the three blocks that separate the venues.
Jessica Fichot and Gabriel Sullivan at Solar Culture
Singer-songwriter Jessica Fichot brings her unique blend of Parisian chanson, jazz, gypsy music and pop to Solar Culture Thursday. Born in the US to a French father and a Chinese mother, Fichot grew up in the cafes of Paris. She holds degrees from the School of Audio Engineering in Paris and from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.
"Le Chemin," recorded in 2007, is a mixed bag. The album opens strongly with the Parisian gypsy jazz of "Le Grenier" and "Un, Deux, Trois (1,2,3)," laden with mandolin and Fichot's brisk accordion work. The songs are personal, but swinging. On the third track, "Le Velours et la Soie," Chinese music brings its odd intervals to bear on the layers of sound of the song, which opens with what seems a kind of Gilbert and Sullivan chinoiserie; while the song is ultimately cut from "la soie," French for silk, it is clear that various musical traditions are folded into the song's melody, just as silk itself traveled the long, multicultural Silk Road west from China across Asia and Europe to France.
"Los Peces En El Rio" adds another world music destination to Fichot's map, using that same swinging accordion to suggest Latin American music. While other moments on the album falter a bit into sentiment and a kind of cuteness that diminishes the power of Fichot's sweet mezzo-soprano and stray into more conventional territory in terms of arrangement, like a bilingual version of "Dream a Little Dream," Fichot's signature sound, a gypsy jazz with an inherent joy, dominates the record.
Opening the show is local singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Sullivan, who will be joined by his Bajo Turbato compadre Chris Black on violin and accordion. Sullivan's gruff, Sonoran baritone should provide the perfect counterpoint to Fichot and band.
David Williams and Amy Rude at the Red Room
Utahan singer-songwriter David Williams cites the desert as a major influence on his work. He loves the works of Edward Abbey, and there is a sun-stroked slur to the renderings of his songs; with titles like "How To Win a Gunfight," the western as locators are obvious, and the songs fairly straightforward folk ballads.
At other moments, Williams pushes the limitations of the traditional balladeer with distorted guitars, slurring, rollicking rhythms and a more irruptive attitude, as on rocker "It's a Man's World."
"Echo," perhaps Williams' strongest track, resumes a fairly traditional arrangement, but its sense of metaphor and image suggests a Dylanesque, symbolist pose: "I feel your skin/ drapery falling on the bone frames/ with a ticking heart from your third birthday/and your first time writhing on the back seat."
Williams will be joined by members of fellow Salt Lakers Band of Annuals, and Amy Rude and Heartbeast open the show. Band of Annuals and Heartbeast have met before; a double bill in the summer of 2008 was one of the more memorable concerts of the year. There is a natural chemistry and connection between these two acts, and knowing the tendency toward improvisation that has become Red Room tradition, some cross-pollination by members of the bands is likely.
Disclosure: Maggie Golston is a volunteer at the Solar Culture Gallery.