New Heathens
23Nov/092

Sweet Zevonathon Review

On Lucid Culture.

Concert Review: The Zevon-athon at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 11/12/09
November 19, 2009 · Leave a Comment

by Richard Wallace

Warren Zevon was an American songwriter whose vocabulary, both written and musical, earned him acclaim from the music press, his peers and his loyal following throughout a 30 year-plus career that ended too soon when he died after a short battle with cancer in 2003. It may have been his Russian heritage that fueled many of his songs with an unforgettably rebellious, muscular, Cossack spirit.

It must have been that same spirit that drove Nate Schweber to lead the cavalry into Banjo Jim’s on Thursday night for the very first Warren Zevon-athon. Schweber, frontman of the New Heathens, pulled together a band of stellar downtown Americana talent to perform a robust double barrel set of Zevon’s material. The audience that packed into Banjo Jim’s shared the small club’s confined, standing-room-only space with the dozens of musicians on the bill, and they reveled all night long, celebrating in the work of an indelible artist.

For this show, Schweber was joined by J.D. Hughes on drums, Alison Jones on bass, Rich Hinman (of the Madison Square Gardeners, among others) on guitar and Andy Mullen on piano, and together they were able to do an outstanding job of recreating the stylish west coast feel of Zevon’s early recordings.

Among the standup performances were Jesse Bates (“I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”), Steve Welner (“I Was in the House when the House Burned Down”), Steve Strunsky (“Mr. Bad Example”) and Andy Mullen (“The French Inhaler”). Schweber and his bandmates added “Frank and Jesse James”, “Mohammed’s Radio”, “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and of course the irrepressible “Werewolves of London.”

But the highlights of the evening may have been the contributions of the female vocalists in the house: Mary Lee Kortes of Mary Lee’s Corvette (“Desperados Under the Eaves”) Charlene McPherson of Spanking Charlene (“Hasten Down the Wind”), Eleanor Whitmore (“Carmelita”), Monica Passin and Drina Seay (“Keep Me in Your Heart”). Each one of these striking performances were done with a remarkable forthrightness and amazing compassion for the material.

Leave it to Zevon. The Excitable One’s foot-stomping numbers are models of boyish swagger. A notorious womanizer, Zevon may have been dead for six years now, yet he can still charm his way through to all the female hearts in a room with his poignantly candid lyrics.

And then Serena Jean Southam (of the Whisky Trippers) belted out “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” and the night was allowed to proceed to its fitful conclusion. Leave it to Schweber, who’d courageously orchestrated the night, and yes, “His hair was perfect.”

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  1. Yea for good reviews but more importantly yea for good hair…

  2. Surely the best night of music in NYC that night but the saddest night for me as I missed it! Posted the article to my online music club – great stuff…do it again!


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