Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A D.C. Tribute to Allen Toussaint

In 2004, BandHouse Gigs began producing concerts where various D.C. area musical performers come together to pay tribute to a well known national or international artist, with the proceeds often going to area charities. A few of the concerts BandHouse has produced were tributes to Nils Lofgren, Nick Lowe and Bob Dylan. The latest concert in this series was last Saturday's tribute to Allen Toussaint.

In the history of American popular music, there are several legends who have worked primarily behind the scenes. But, their contributions to music are just as important as any of the performers who are front and center in the public eye. Allen Toussaint is one such legend. Toussaint is a New Orleans native who began writing songs, performing and producing records in the 1950s. By the early 60s, Toussaint had written and produced hits by numerous artists, including Ernie K-Doe ("Mother In Law"), Lee Dorsey ("Working In The Coal Mine"), Irma Thomas ("It's Raining" & "Ruler of My Heart") and Chris Kenner ("I Like it Like That").

Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, Toussaint continued to write, produce and record with artists as diverse as Jerry Garcia, Gladys Knight, Robert Palmer, Glen Campbell and the Meters recording his songs. In 2006, Toussaint recorded The River in Reverse with Elvis Costello.

Saturday's Toussaint tribute concert at the Barns of Wolf Trap featured more artists than I can list here, so I'll hit some of the highlights. (Not that there were any lowlights. And, to clarify, Toussaint was not in attendance.) The show opened with the Nighthawks, before moving onto acts such as Junior Cline, the Grandsons, Mary Ann Redmond and Tommy Lepson. Caz Gardiner made her first appearance of the night with the Grandsons. Gardiner was a real treat and the best pure singer on the bill.

Early in the second set, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members the Orioles hit the stage and fired up the crowd with a version of "Mother In Law". Other second set performers included Eric Scott and Jon Carroll. The Junkyard Saints delivered a high energy mini-set that gave way to the entire cast coming back to the stage to wrap up the show.

This is the second BandHouse Gigs show I've attended. (Last year, I attended the Nick Lowe tribute.) Both shows have been very good, with some of the performances being near classic. You can't go wrong attending one of these tribute concerts, particularly if the artist who is the subject of the tribute is one of your favorites.

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