“It’s nice when I start a show playing the banjo and people don’t get up and leave,” joked Aaron Kleim aka The Quiet Americanafter the opening song of his show. Aaron is a luthier and singer songwriter who made the trip up from Hood River, Oregon to open the show for Cahalen Morrison and Eli West. In the first three songs he played 3 different stringed instruments (banjo, ukulele, six string guitar). His sound set up was a very tiny (and by the looks of it, very old) amplifier that was mic’d just behind him. In his best work shoes, rolled denim, plaid shirt, and vest, he cut a vaudevillian image and played the fine route from songbook traditionals to laconic (feminist) murder ballads.
The highlight of the show was his emergence from the sacred plane behind the microphone to the front of the stage to involve the capacity crowd in an entirely unplugged low gospel chorus: “I’ve got the keys to the kingdom / the world can’t do me no harm." The Quiet American is a perfet moniker for his brand of updated, subdued gospel and country blues, and amplified the dinner theater atmosphere effect of the Triple Door, a perfect venue for Cahalen and Eli’s sound.
I wrote about Cahalen and Eli at length here, but as an addendum to that, I’d just like to point out that their live show (as it should be, I suppose) far surpasses their recorded efforts (which hardly seems possible). There seems to be no end to the range of their vocal or playing ability. The crowd was enchanted by these master musicians/story tellers confidently blazing around their fret boards, moving up and down the scales vocally and harmonically through their lyrical ballads. One song in, after the first mandolin solo, Eli could be seen nodding and smiling at Cahalen as they found, and stayed, in their groove. Even their obsessive between-song tuning (oh, musicians) came coupled with hilarious banter that had the whole theater laughing. Through two hours of tunes on banjo, mandolin, eight stringed tenor, and six string acoustic guitar, Cahalen and Eli covered most of the tracks from their new release, Our Lady of The Tall Trees—confidently adding in fills, slides, and vocal embellishments at will. They also played songs from their first release The Holy Coming Of The Storm. At the end of the show, rioutous applause resulted in a one song encore which some sceaming fan requested be Paul Simon’s "Hearts and Bones", a request that was lost on me, but like everything else last night, they tackled it masterfully.
Interesting note for you uke players: Aaron Kleim has his own two chord songbooks for sale here, and video lessons here. Now get to pluckin!