What is SeMi Bluegrass? It's a meeting place where live music fans in Southeast Michigan gather to exchange information about the live music scene: show reviews, cool venues, band profiles, product reviews and more.
Articles, news, reviews and band profiles welcome.
Email to: SeMiBluegrass@gmail.com

If you're looking for the South East Michigan Bluegrass Music Association (A fine group of Bluegrass fans in South East Michigan) you can find them at http://smbluegrass.org/

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pure Listening: Younce Guitar Duo wsg Miriam Pico @ Johnny's Speakeasy

A One-Of-A-Kind Place
     I am continually amazed at the quality of live, local music in South Eastern Michigan.  From spectacularly talented bands, to world-class venues, the music scene is as vibrant as Nashville, Memphis or Austin--if you know where to look.  Somehow, one of the very coolest of these venues has stayed under my radar until now.  This video explains Johnny's Speakeasy better than I ever could.  Owner and host extraordinaire Johnny Williams has created something wonderful in his basement.  Sure, anyone can build a stage in their basement (although, this is one COOL basement), hook up a sound system and decorate with quirky/cool memorabilia, but to create a true masterpiece of listening enjoyment obviously required the hand of a master.  When Johnny invited me to come see the Younce Guitar Duo play there, I was not prepared for the journey I was about to undertake.

Jerry Younce and Ray Shamma
   After introducing myself, and grabbing a great, comfortable seat (ALL the seats there are great by-the-way), the band came on stage and launched into a full-throttle, high-energy, driving version of a Santana instrumental.  The absolute musical talent on display was obvious from the first note.  However, I was quite taken aback by how intently every single person in the room listened to what they were doing.  You could almost see and feel the crowd connecting with the music.  And the band responded, pumping up the energy and throwing it right back at the crowd.  As the song ended, there was the briefest moment of stunned silence followed by enthusiastic applause.  Their hour-long instrumental set of mostly original music mixed with quality cover tunes only got better as the night went on.

Ryan Younce and a wee bit of Ty
     The core of the band is Father-Son duo Jerry and Ryan Younce, who take turns supplying the rhythm and lead guitar parts--Jerry on a Taylor steel-string guitar and Ryan on a spectacular nylon-stringed guitar.  Both guitars have a distinctly unique sound, and both men play with a distinct style.  Like so many of the bands I like, their musical style defies categorization.  If I was forced to call it something it would be "Jazz Folk Rock with a Latin/Flamenco Twist"...but that doesn't really do it justice.  Jerry plays with a blended thumbpick/hybrid fingerstyle approach and leans ever-so-slightly towards the melodic end of the solo spectrum, while Ryan alternates between classical finger-style and flatpicking styles with a slightly sharper, faster, more staccato approach to his solo work.  They both flow so easily between rhythm and lead that the listener is often unaware that they have switched.

A great night of music in a special place--perfection!

    Backing the band this night were bass player Ray Shamma and Younce Brother/Uncle Ty Younce on percussion.  Shamma played a beautiful wood electric bass with some terribly cool inlay work--a true work of art.  While I usually prefer a stand-up bass in acoustic settings, he was able to play subtle yet interesting bass lines that somehow fit perfectly with the music, relentlessly driving the band forward and pushing the energy to the limits.  Ty on the other hand is EXACTLY what I like as a percussionist behind an acoustic act. With a cajon kick-drum, two small mic'd bongos and a trio of small cymbals he is able to subtly blend sounds to perfectly complement the music.  He has an extraordinarily light tough, especially on the cymbals--sometimes, there's no front attack at all, the sound just seemingly swells up from nothing and rings with bell-like clarity through the woodsy guitar sound.  I also loved that he had a large "kit" of various sticks, strikers and brushes he used in addition to his hands--often switching multiple times within a song to get the perfect sound.  Truly one of the finest percussionists around!

The lovely and talented Miriam Pico
     After a short break singer-songwriter Miriam Pico took the stage.  I'm usually not a huge fan of the "single woman singer-songwriter" sound.  I could not have been more impressed by what she brought to the table.  Her songwriting is some of the best I have heard, with great stories, strong emotions, catchy vocal hooks and a poignancy that can not be taught--it must be earned through hard work and dedication.  She has an effortless rapport with the crowd with an easy-going personality and a quick smile.  Her voice has a perfect mix of deep soul and clear highs, mixed with an ever-so-slightly breathy quality to give it character.  Perfectly matched to the classic jazz ballad, she nevertheless effortlessly moved between her own songs, jazz standards and rock/pop covers from the Beatles, Jackson Browne and Led Zepplin.  Her signature song "It Is What It Is" (download this on iTunes, it's the best 99 cents you'll ever spend) involved a bit of crowd participation.  As the chorus wound around to hook, the crowd enthusiasticall joined in singing "It Is What It Is"...on cue...in time...and in perfect harmony.  It was amazing, and the beaming smile on Miriams face let everyone know she was as shocked--and pleased--as they were!  The night concluded with Miriam joining the Younce Guys for a short set of standards and cover tunes.  This was a special performance, in a remarkable setting, surrounded by people who share my enthusiasm.  I can't wait to go back!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your source for information about the Southeast Michigan (SeMi) Live Music Scene. News, Venues, Reviews...a community about us, for us and by us. Please consider contributing an article: semibluegrass@gmail.com