A 'Train Wreck' -- in the best sense of the words
On the surface, John Platania and Kendel Carson have little in common.
Platania started playing guitar professionally a mere 40 years ago. Carson is a an up-and-coming 22-year-old Canadian fiddler/singer who just released "Rear View Mirror Tears," her very first solo record.
He is a cool and consummate pro, whose impressive pop resume includes Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor and Randy Newman and a new record of his own, "Blues Waltzes and The Badland Borders" (with contributions from Lucinda Williams, Alejandro Escovedo and Tejano star Ruben Ramos). She is a classically trained violinist who was once the featured guest soloist with the Victoria Symphony and a member of the acclaimed National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
What they have in common is Chip Taylor, who will be sharing the stage with Platania and Carson tonight at The Iron Horse.
Taylor, an amazingly versatile songwriter who penned the hit ballad "Angel of the Morning," as well the garage band favorite, "Wild Thing," encouraged both Platania and Carson to make new records and join him on tour.
Platania has played a supporting role to Taylor and his most recent stage partner, Carrie Rodriguez, on record and on the road. It was Taylor who pushed the guitarist to take a step into the spotlight.
"The vision began with Chip about five or six years ago maybe more. He thought it was time I had my own solo album," recalled Plantain. "Chip's concept was essentially for me to have an instrumental album but not strictly instrumental ... hence the cameo vocals. I never saw myself as a solo instrumental guitarist. There are enough axe-slinger albums out there. I definitely had no ambitions to add to that genre. So I kind of fought the idea at first."
Carson, on the other hand, recently struck up a friendship with Taylor, Rodriguez and Platania at a festival in Canada and soon found herself in a studio with a master craftsman.
"After some e-mail and phone exchanges with Chip talking about songwriting, songs and just music generally, he invited me to come out to NYC to do some writing and cut some demos during a break in their touring schedule. Chip is an incredibly prolific songwriter -- and when I arrived, he had already written some songs for me to sing (they're all on the record). We wrote a couple songs together and went into the studio not knowing what would come of it ... but the few days in studio are all there on 'Rearview Mirror Tears.'
"We did the whole album pretty much live, all playing together -- I was singing and fiddling into one mike in the control room. ... It's all a bit crazy really, thinking about it. So there wasn't really a decided vision going into it -- it's more the combined efforts of all the great players on the session, the great songs and just ... whatever you hear."
What you hear is some vibrant roots/country, not unlike the work of Taylor and Rodriguez. The album highlight is "I Like Trucks," a playful and sexy Taylor tune, tailor made for Carson.
"We were talking on the phone and somehow it came up in conversation that I really like trucks," recalled Carson. "I grew up in Calgary where a lot of people drive pick-up trucks ... and my older sister who I just idolized as a kid loved trucks -- and guys with trucks. I did too. Anyway, I show up in New York, and Chip hands me a mini-disc saying 'Look, this might be a totally silly song, you might think it's too dumb. I don't know.' I look at the label, and it says 'I Like Trucks.' I laughed pretty hard ... and knew that I was gonna like it."
Platania has a much longer history with Taylor, and their synchronicity has been sharpened over time. "It's intuition," he said. "It's difficult for me to verbalize what happens. I don't think about it much. I just listen and go with the flow. If it's not working, Chip will say so. I just have a tremendous respect for Chip's music, and he trusts that I will do what's right for his songs. In terms of my CD, he gave me the space to do what I felt I needed to do to get the songs and my playing across in a way that was comfortable for me."
The Train Wreck Revue tour will have all three onstage in what promises to be a spirited song swap. "We each take turns leading the band doing things from our respective CDs," explained Carson.
"It's really a lot of fun-off the cuff, loose, but always pretty inspired," Platania added. "Though I don't particularly like the limelight, I'll be stepping out of my support mode to play a couple of selections from my CD, as will Kendel. The lion's share of the performance will be coming from Chip front and center with Kendel playing playing some great fiddle and lots of duo singing with Chip. Of course the night wouldn't be complete without our renditions of 'Angel Of The Morning' and 'Wild Thing.'"
Dave Madeloni writes a music column for the Arts & Entertainment section. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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