JOSEPH PARSONS & ROSS BELLENOIT
De Engelstede, Engelbert NL
December 13th, 2009
Going to a concert without a little bit of adventure on the way, that hardly ever happens. On this Sunday the good new bus company takes over from the bad old one, in two Northern provinces. At the bus station I see the brand new buses, there's a shift change, so one driver is explaining to the other how the new bus works. We don't have to pay, that's nice! When too many bleeping sounds are heard from the cockpit, the driver stops the bus to sort it out and then everything goes smoothly. The connection is still bad though, riding into Groningen I literally see the other bus pass us by - as in 'bye-bye'. But the shops at the train station are open, so I easily kill time reading a couple of music magazines at the book shop. After almost an hour I can continue my journey to Engelbert. As I've never been there before, I ask the driver to tell me where I should step off. Well, he gets into an animated conversation with one of the other passengers and oops... forgets all about it. Rural area, very dark and somewhat foggy, so I can't really figure out where I might be. But when the clock of the bus shows me I should have been in Engelbert by now, I ask the driver. And... you won't believe this: he actually turns the bus on somebody's driveway, goes back and drops me off right in front of De Engelstede!!
De Engelstede turns out to be a delightful very old café, not much has changed in eighty years. Probably alarmed by the big bus stopping up front, Joseph Parsons immediately walks to the door to greet me. It's so good to see him again, last time was more than three years ago already - with Tom Gillam at De Witte Bal in Assen (scroll down for the review). And this very wet Fall often reminded me of the similar wet Fall of 1998, when I first saw Joseph play and became a fan immediately! Tonight Joseph plays with Ross Bellenoit, he is also featured on that great new 2-CD "Slaughterhouse Live". But first there's time for a delicious dinner and some conversation, while owner Jaap plays a CD by a band of local heroes: Taneytown. I make sure to get a copy of Joseph's CD "Falling" and have it autographed, together with "Slaughterhouse Live". Joseph appreciates the airplay - well, it's probably been the first time I played a full double CD in my shows 'RadioGirl' and mostly 'Music Hall Live!' Speaking of: in walks Thomas Kaldijk, he also loves to play Joseph's music in his show 'Blueprint' (Radio Parkstad, Veendam). There are not many people here tonight, but these are the real music lovers! Jaap's set-up is more of a 'living room concert' and he happens to run this great place, there's even a Marilyn Monroe statue in the corner, perfect scenario...
The first song is "Tell Me Hello", very appropriately. Ross plays lapsteel on this one - I love lapsteel... Joseph plays his acoustic guitar, he looks good and happy, still at least ten years younger than he really is! I've seen many of his concerts over the years, always the highest quality, from rocking with band to intimate acoustic performances and this feeling of being in the living room with friends on a quiet Sunday evening inspires him to be more personal than ever before. He tells a funny story about meeting his wife (he married the mother of his son earlier this year) and plays brand new "Heartbeat Away", he tells about growing up in the South, followed by the song "Taken By Surprise" and asks if anybody has a request. Not yet. So he goes on with "Shades Of Gray", Ross puts down his electric guitar and plays lapsteel again. On beautiful quiet "Anyone" he does tricks with the tremolo and on "Heavens Above" he even plays both instruments: the electric guitar plus a lapsteel solo! Wow, this is such an impressive song, about Hurricane Katrina and 'a guy who's trying to get back into New Orleans'. Joseph -with his great voice- can basically do anything, the ballads, the uptempo rock numbers and the intense personal stuff. "You Lied", that is one of his best older songs - it grabbed me right away, way back when... A drink spilled by Ross ("Man down!") causes a funny intermezzo, when Joseph does an imitation of the stage, drowning in whiskey.
The song "Sun Gonna Shine" was written when Joseph visited a friend in New York and watched children playing from the apartment window. Followed by a rousing "King Of Baltimore" and "Sitting On Top Of The World", written during a stay with Elliott Murphy in Paris, Elliott even helped him finish writing the song. Everybody holds his or her breath during the introduction of "Dume Room", it's some kind of relaxed rap over acoustic guitar and lapsteel, going back to the time when Joseph was eighteen and took his sister's car for a road trip from New York to Los Angeles. It could just as well be a story from a movie... And the "Dume Room" lapsteel solos, wonderful. The gentlemen have to skip the drumfill that originally starts off "Shine", the story is touching: Joseph says that people who are true to themselves, not pretending to be anybody else, have a certain glow, a shine around them.
When Joseph asks again for requests, I ask for "Shy", my all-time favorite Joseph Parsons song. I leave it up to him if he plays the '5am-version' or the 'solo-version'. He says he has probably played it once live, I tell him about that time in Amsterdam - with the band, like ten years ago. His memory goes back only nine years! I'm also pretty sure he played "Shy" that very first night I saw him in Hamburg. Anyway, he plays my request and I'm totally happy! Ross is smiling from ear to ear, improvising on his guitar - he obviously loves it when he can learn a new song. "Children In The Sun" is also accompanied by a personal story about growing up, being a bit of a bad boy... "Myriad Of Things" is another old song, that recently received a new treatment. Now the lapsteel solo gets its own applause. Oh yes, a lapsteel can rock like any electric guitar! Ross will be leaving for snowy Philadelphia tomorrow morning and the last song is "Skipping Stone", about the life of traveling musicians, being away from home, meeting fine new people and being sad again to leave in the morning.
Joseph jumps from the stage and makes it a point to shake everybody's hand to thank the music lovers for coming out. Very nice, more artists should do that... even Elvis shook hands! As Joseph and Ross still have a long drive back to Hamburg ahead of them, there's not much time left to talk. But there's a promise that Joseph will be back in the Spring. Anybody who wasn't here tonight, definitely missed out on something special!! I'm lucky: Thomas is kind enough to give me a ride and I wave at Joseph in the parking lot: no more bus for me tonight!
'Thanks!' to Jan Janssen for the pictures.
Written by Johanna J. Bodde - December 14th, 2009 - for Insurgent Country, Germany.