The audience that turned out for the show on Monday at The Sinclair in Cambridge was small. Both the headliner, Cory Chisel from Appleton, Wisconsin and Boston’s own Will Dailey are capable of drawing much larger audiences, so I’m not sure what happened. Maybe the storm warnings around the area made people nervous about traveling in; maybe it was because it was because it was a Monday show during the Fourth of July week, and people were out of town; maybe it was because the show was not well enough publicized… Who knows? Whatever the reason, the turnout was small. That can really affect the energy of a show, but it didn’t seem to be the case on Monday night. Both acts played great, exciting sets. In fact one might argue the show benefitted from having fewer people in the crowd, creating a more intimate atmosphere and some exciting audience interaction.
As far as I was concerned, Chisel had some high expectations to meet. I’ve been wanting to see him play live since I bought a Windows desktop in 2009 and the music video for his song “Born Again” came with Windows Media Player.
For some reason I fell in love with the song, and immediately went in search of everything I could find that he had ever recorded. It was also then that I began looking for a chance to hear him live. It took four years for me to get this opportunity.
He came out on stage and it set a stark scene. Dark haired Chisel was wore a black hat, black trousers and a black and white striped shirt; Harris wore a black dress. The lighting was simple and mostly white. Chisel really took advantage of the fact that he was playing to a small crowd to interact with his audience, performing a set that was overwhelmingly composed of songs requested by the audience. He stood right at the front of the Sinclair’s four-foot high stage, accompanied by his “muse” Ade Denae on keyboards and, occasionally, Matt Pynn, a rather amazing local musician who played with both bands on both guitar and pedal steel guitar. Chisel seemed to hear everything said in the audience.
Consequently, we were treated to a wide variety of songs including songs he said he hadn’t played in a while, and a new song from the album he’s working on now. Highlights included “Home in the Woods” from the 2008 release Cabin Ghosts (2008), “Born Again,” from the 2009 album Death Won’t Send a Letter, and “Never Meant to Love You,” perhaps my favorite song on his most recent release, Old Believers (2012). In introducing the new song “Since You Went Away,” Chisel said that he’d been listening to all sorts of soul tracks, and it showed in the composition. That’s not entirely new for him. He has a deep, rich, soulful voice, and has somehow managed to write songs that have both a strong earthy, folk element to them; and a soulful, deep sincerity.
Expectations met, I hope I’ll have the chance to see him again soon!
Opening act Will Dailey’s set was a pleasant surprise! He’s a local performer with a growing national profile, about whom I had some powerful misconceptions. I’d only heard a couple songs in passing and my impression was, well, he didn’t make much of one. I’m not a big fan of formulaic pop music, and that’s what I thought he made. Maybe it was because of the album covers, or his look, or an association with tv shows I don’t really like, or whatever, but I just assumed that Will Dailey’s music wouldn’t be my cup of tea.
And then I saw his show on Monday!
Will told me afterward he usually plays with a band, and that he didn’t realize until late that he wouldn’t have his band with him for the show. No doubt he puts on an exciting show when he plays with his band, but he did a hell of a good job solo, too. Moreover, I’m glad I got the chance to see him alone on stage with just his guitar and Matt Pynn on a few numbers. Will Dailey is not a bubblegum pop star; he’s a damn fine guitarist, a showman who can hold his own alone on stage, and a songwriter whose songs are as creative and original as they are catchy.
He’s also a pretty prolific songwriter, and he played a songs from across his catalog, including at least one song, “Sunken Ship,” from a project now in the works. It’s a great tune, as were most of them. By the time that Will got around to pushing what he called his “Compact Laserdiscs” that “nobody even buys anymore,” and the USB bracelets that contain all his releases to date, I was ready to pick up one of each.
I’m rather embarrassed to admit so publicly that I’ve been out of the know, or more accurately, unfairly dismissive, when it comes to this guy, and given that I’m trying to convince you to value my opinions in this site, I probably shouldn’t admit that. But it just goes to show, the only way to judge music is by listening to it! So give a listen to Will Dailey and Cory Chisel. You’ll be glad you did!