Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ellen McIlwaine

I went to a sweet live show on Sunday night at the Yardbird Suite (a local jazz/blues club): slide-guitarist Ellen McIlwaine. When I heard she was doing a show, I jumped at the opportunity to see her live because I'm a monster fan of her cover of Higher Ground. Even though I'm obsessed with covers, I have to admit there are just a handful that remotely come close to matching or even topping the original. In my opinion, Ellen McIlwaine's Higher Ground is one of those. Take a listen.

Ellen McIlwaine - Higher Ground [originally by Stevie Wonder]

I first heard the cover from Fatboy Slim's "A Break From the Norm" CD, which featured the original tracks that he's sampled in some of his songs.

Fatboy Slim - Song for Lindy [samples McIlwaine's Higher Ground]

I wasn't sure what to expect when I went to the show. There weren't regular seats set-up since the Yardbird is sort of an old-school jazz club set-up. I ended sitting at a table by the side by myself as I was about 20 years younger than the average patron there. The concert was a treat since it was a CD release show promoting her new collaboration with Cassius Khan, a remarkable Indian tabla player. I had never even heard of a tabla, so it was a real treat to hear him play and talk about the unique instrument. The tabla is sorta like a drum and the various sounds produced are like its own language and he can the sing the vocal equivalent of the tabla sounds while playing simultaneously. Apparently he is one of the few (or only) artists in the world who can play tabla and sing at the same time. When I get the chance, I'll upload a recording I made of his entire tabla lesson. Fascinating stuff. Although she didn't play Higher Ground, I was not disappointed in the least since she put on a wonderful concert. She has a wonderfully expressive voice and she played some sweet blues tracks. Maybe I'll upload her 10-minute R&B medley too sometime.

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