A few days ago I went with some friends to a songwriter show in Herndon VA. The performers were Jonathan Byrd plus Doug & Talisha Williams.
We weren’t very familiar with these artists, so we were just there to check them out with our ears open. Jonathan Byrd started the show and sang a couple lively and upbeat numbers. Right from the start, he had a sweet, mellow, pleasant voice, and his guitar picking was clean and strong. he definitely picked in the smooth bluegrass style of folks like Norman blake. It sounded like he was miking the guitar and wasn’t plugged in, which of course always sounds the best. And his mellow warm vocals really got the songs across. Lots of air in the sound, nice and quiet, yet we could hear all the picking and singing.
After the first upbeat numbers, Byrd went into some more reflective and poetic material. It was all well-written and well-performed. He is obviously an experienced writer and performer There is an interesting mind at work behind these songs, no doubt.
Then Doug and Talisha Williams took the stage. They were going for a more conventional country style. She played bass and sang most of the leads, and he plugged in a small-body acoustic guitar and played Tele-flavored nashvilled leads.
I must admit that my mind wandered a lot while the Williams were playing. Their material wasn’t quite my taste. I like to hear a more poignant chord progression, something a little poetic or crafty in the lyrics. They were just cranking out the I-IV_V with lots of volume in a small room. I think they would have fit better in a honky-tonk bar than in a quiet songwriter-oriented venue. Maybe they just had too much volume going in the PA. Or maybe Talisha was getting up onto the mike too much when she was hitting some hard notes. But this is all just a matter of taste.
Jonathan byrd was definitely the more polished of the two acts. His songs really intrigued me. I was low on cash that day, so i didn’t cruise by the piles of CDs for sale. but I think I will listen to some of his stuff online to maybe find something to order. I’ll definitely try to keep up with him so I can hear him again soon.