LIVE: Liz Longley / Barnaby Bright @ Caffe Lena, 8/13/14
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Sarah Craig – who for nearly two decades has served as the general manager Saratoga Springs’ Caffe Lena, the most marvelous coffeehouse on the planet – must have had divine inspiration to book two of the most fantastic singer-songwriter acts in one fabulous evening last week.
The headliner, Liz Longley, was lovely to the ear and to the eye. Though young in years, she presented a seasoned and mature command of dynamics using her voice and guitar prowess. Whether playing a Van Morrison number(which dovetailed into Gershwin’s “Summertime”) or any of the songs from her heartfelt bag of originals, she beguiled the crowd, presenting an exemplary, hour-plus set of captivating music.
But it was Barnaby Bright, the Nashville-based duo of Becky Bliss and Nate Bliss, who were the surprise hit of the evening. No one really knew who they were when Becky asked the audience that question near the beginning of their explosive, 45-minute opening set. Becky met Berklee School of Music grad Nate in Kansas City when she was looking for a saxophonist.
Nate saw a good thing in both a lovely companion and a talented singer-songwriter with an amazing voice, so the two teamed up after he woodshedded to learn the guitar, because when it came to Becky’s style of music, the saxophone was, with the exception of a song or two, not the instrument of choice for accompaniment on a steady folk-music basis.
Well, Nate Bliss blew the socks off the audience with his honest intensity and guitar pyrotechnics, often sounding like two musicians playing both percussion and the six-string guitar at the same time. It was amazing just to witness his creativity.
Becky Bliss’ voice flowed harmoniously through less-than-a-dozen original tunes accompanying herself on either spirited harmonium or ukulele and a percussive tap or two. In fact, she and Nate sounded like a full quartet several times during their wonderfully intimate and engaging set.
There was a crowd of about 50 lucky souls; not bad for a mid-week concert, but it’s a shame that a larger audience didn’t witness this magnificent evening of superior song and musicianship in one of Saratoga Springs’ most venerated of all performance spaces.