Record Store Day was not the buy-a-palooza for me this year that it was last year. The one album I was really interested in this year – the reissue of Vanguard’s Skip James Today! – was unlikely to be available at any of my record stores, and having just lost my day job Friday, spending money on a piece of vinyl I can’t play right now anyway (I have four turntables, and none of them are working properly) didn’t feel like a priority.
What was a priority was getting down to Square Records in Akron to catch in-store performances from Ashley Brooke Toussant and Shivering Timbers.
(Don’t feel bad for me. While I didn’t get the Skip James vinyl, I did pick up the Godfathers’ Birth, School, Work, Death on vinyl for a song. And I met Square Records’ resident cat, Kali. Record store cats are aces. So much less haughty than book store cats.)
Ashley Brooke Toussant
It’s difficult to think of a description of Toussant that does not include the word “adorable”. But while she is a wee thing with a cherubic face and big, blue peepers (two people remarked that she looks like she’s 12 years old – she’s actually in her mid-20s), her sweet voice is strong and her songwriting is beautifully sophisticated.
Accompanied by Chris Wise on electric bass and Joe Linstrum on acoustic guitar, Toussant played a set that mixed songs from her EP All Songs in English with songs from her upcoming full-length album Sweetheart. While she appeared quiet and shy between songs, Toussant was perfectly at ease within her music, singing out loud and clear. Much of her repertoire is of the ethereally folky variety, recalling the mason-jars-and-sepia-toned-photographs sound of some of Over the Rhine’s early catalogue, but Toussant’s sound is touched with influences from around the world and throughout time. Linstrum’s accompaniment often added a Spanish flavor with Wise’s bass providing modern-day weight.
Toussant’s talent is instantly winning, and she was encouraged by enthusiastic listeners to play just one more song at the end of her set, which she did with a characteristically charming smile.
There are five days left in the IndieGoGo fundraising campaign for Sweetheart where you can contribute and help the album release be a great one. Toussant’s whimsical official website is also a recommended visit.
After a taking a break for a snack and a drink and doing some record browsing, I found myself too far removed by Shivering Timbers’ supporters to take any good photos, but I can assure you that they are still just as attractive as they were in January.
Having seen Shivering Timbers just twice now, I feel confident in saying that every show of theirs feels like a celebration with friends. Though the post-song applause started out light as the band warmed us up slowly, favorites like “Noble Duke of York” and “Crooked Old Man” quickly brought out the clapping and whooping from the crowd packed into the now-steamy record store. The biggest reaction came in appreciation of the band’s usual show closer, the bring-the-house-down “Evening Prayer”. But they had a surprise left for us with a new closing song, a calming lullaby to see us out.
Shivering Timbers are adding more and more shows to their schedule all the time, including a gig with Neutral Uke Hotel at the Grog Shop in Cleveland this Friday. This is definitely a band to catch live.