Havilah Rand with Phil Sottile and Dave Vaughns at the Blue Horse Gallery
Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Blue Horse Gallery under a beautiful Bellingham evening. Havilah Rand returned to town, standing on stage in red boots, singing Superstar. Phil Sottile providing perfect vocal counterpoint on guitar and Dave Vaughns tapping out subtle percussion on a cajon drum. What was most immediately striking was how seamlessly Phil and Dave wove sonic textures around Havilah’s vocals and guitar. Having recently been out on a mini-tour of the Pacific Northwest, their sense of the interior of the songs, of where and how the spaces opened inside the melody, was subtle and engaging to witness.
Havilah’s voice was full of ache and longing with hidden reserves of strength swelling into the high notes. Phil’s mournful and elemental guitar swells serving almost a form of musical annotation. And Dave’s tapping out a soft time sounded like the ebb and flow of a surf. There were several moments, during the performance of Petrified and Riding on a Train, where it seemed that the audience was collectively holding it’s breath in appreciation of the silence surrounding the song.
Havilah’s music moves across genres with ease, glancing against various facets of jazz, country, folk, blues, to stand alone as a thing in itself. Her phrasing is remarkable, syllables stretched slowly with elegance and laid down against and over each other like braids. This was especially notable on her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love. Something familiar, yet strange, infusing such harrowing lines as "Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin" with new resonance. The song All Night, which is featured in the movie Leading Ladies, was another standout, one of those songs that immediately seems destined to become a standard.
It was one of those nights were you feel privileged to experience such music in such an intimate setting. Exposed wood rafters and a big window opening to the darkening skies, an ancient drum slowing sounding, strumming guitars in strange tunings, and a beautiful voice full of the sweet and rich echoes of an unidentifiable nostalgia.
Appreciation should be given to the Blue Horse Gallery for providing such a warm and welcoming space for performance. The low lighting and rustic ambiance bode well for many more nights of great music.