Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Del Suggs & Pierce Pettis: Almost Christmas concert

It’s a north Florida holiday tradition that’s been more than twenty years in the making: singers and songwriters Del Suggs and Pierce Pettis join up for a night or two of song called It’s Almost Christmas. It’s that in more ways than one, occurring somewhere from early to mid December, usually, and including sets of current music by the two men, old favorites revisited, and, for the second half of the show, some really original arrangements of familiar holiday songs, along with original songs of the season. This year the concert took place at The Warehouse, an informal venue in Tallahassee, Florida, where the tables were lit by flickering candles with bits of evergreen around, and the stage was hung with strings of holiday lights.

Danica Winter, one of the musical friends who joins Pettis and Suggs for the gig, remarked from the stage that it was so good to come out every year to do the show and see a mix of people who’d come out every December along with first timers at the festivities. She could have been describing the song selection, too. Suggs, who is one of the best known and best loved performers on college campuses across the US, and Pettis, who records his own songs, tours internationally, and writes material that country and folk artists have covered always have stories as well as song up their sleeves, too, and many was the tale they shared this December night, going all the way back to explaining how the two met while auditioning for a campus coffeehouse gig at Florida State University twenty five years ago -- a gig that neither of them got.

Suggs was thinking back to that time during his set. He recorded his first album not long after, and he’s recently re released it on CD. Hurricane’s Comin’, a song based in his growing up in he Florida Panhandle, was his opener, along with a funny story about delivering papers as a kid as a hurricane was approaching. Rick’s, Break in the Weather, and Wooden Boat were among the favorites he sang and then Pettis took the stage and to offered a mix of material including the title song from his forthcoming album, That Kind of Love, a cover of Jesse Winchester’s raucous comment on southern speech, Talk Memphis, and Miriam, a song in which Pettis looks for Mary the girl and woman behind the icons and statues that represent her now.

Suggs promised “songs that you might think you know, but then...” as he, Danica Winter, Pete Winter, and David Murphy moved into a set of seasonal songs. He was right -- they kicked off with Silver Bells, a classic holiday sing along, done with just enough of a melodic twist to keep you intrigued, and then Suggs introduced “an eighteenth century rock song,” which turned out to be a rockin’ version of the carol We Three Kings, which band and audience had good fun with. David Murphy offered his original song Christmas Gifts, and Danica Winter added her own jazzy song Santa Bring Me Love for Christmas. I Saw Three Ships, Deck the Halls, and Good King Wenceslaus were among the other songs enlivened by fine singing, great playing, and lots of laughter. The musicians brought things to a close with Silent Night -- but not quite. Suggs had broken a string on his guitar earlier while playing his song Wooden Boat and hadn’t played all the verses. Several people in the audience called out to ask him to play the full version, and that became the fitting saltwater music encore to bring to a close this December’s link in the chain of Almost Christmas concerts.

you may also want to see

Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer: American Noel

Winter Talisman

listening to Christmas

Gretchen Peters: Northern Lights

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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