It’s easy to forget that our scene is more than young maniacs burning venues down after midnight. Truth is: Gen X is still out and about making music that matters.
For the most part they’re in bed before the witching hour — there are children to wake in the morning. The bottle of whiskey has been replaced by a more moderate glass of sangria. Covers of “Back in Black” may more accurately be re-titled “Back to Salt and Pepper” — but that doesn’t mean they can’t rock in a sensible fashion. After all, this is the generation that formed the glory years of the long defunct Boathouse. They flocked in droves to slam dance in front of the Ramones. Husker Du. The Pixies, et al. If they’re not out there moshing today? Well.. Old bones don’t heal like young bones. Dig?
Where older bones excel, however, is in craftsmanship. The kind of tasty, subtle playing Who We Are Not’s centerpiece guitarist Joe Talley exhibited at Cafe Stella last week doesn’t come without effort. It takes years of practice and polish to make it look that easy. Half of a husband / wife duo, Talley has a thing or two to teach the up-and-comers, and it shows in some strikingly clever arrangements. Backed by the steady hand of Dave Hufstedler on stand-up bass along with some funky keyboard work through Vincent “Biggs” James (who is usually on lead git, but taking it easy following some surgery.) Joe weaved a thoroughly enjoyable evening of Folk tinged, Adult Alternative music.
Vital to the band’s mix, however, is Joe’s wife: Pamela Jo Sward. Pamela has been in and around our scene for as long as I can remember — and the chemistry between the two of them is what makes Who We Are Not work. While she’s perhaps noted for her back-up vocals with Roots-Reggae band, Ever-G — her work here is reminiscent of artists like Dar Williams or Sarah Harmer blended with Jazz stylings and Folk riffing. For fans of a particular stripe, there are echoes in Sward’s vocal approach of Margaret Becker.
Who We Are Not has enjoyed great success as they continue their bluecollar approach to making it. They were awarded Best Emerging Artist at last year’s Veer Awards, and not too long ago were tapped to open for REO Speedwagon. There’s an earnestness to the songwriting here that I find endearing, and I have a great deal of respect for Joe Talley’s playing. If I find myself wandering into a coffee-shop one early evening where they’re grooving? I’ll hang and enjoy the show. Cafe Stella has been increasingly beefing up their music calendar with an eclectic mix of bands and solo artists of late, adding to a weekly lineup that includes noted Jazz player Woody Beckner and an assorted cast of rotating guests every Thursday night.
Verdict: A solid group for grown-ups. Folky, jazzy, singer-songwritery.
Give ’em a listen over at Who We Are Not.com. Or check them out at their next gig for the Tidewater Friends of Acoustic 5th Annual Music Gathering at the Barry Robinson Theater & Fine Arts Center, Sept 10th from 4-4:30pm.