Fans of singer-songwriters Freedy Johnston, Syd Straw and Chris Collingwood can rejoice as all three performers are set to appear together this weekend for the ‘bantam’ three-date tour called Let’s Revue! The brainchild of Jim Chapdelaine and Lorne Entress of the Connecticut-based Americana veterans, The Shinolas, Let’s Revue! is a one-off ‘residency’ of sorts that pairs the band (which also includes Paul Kochanski and Ed Iarusso) with guest performers for a number of tunes or perhaps an entire show. Past guests have included The Smithereens’ Pat Dininzio, Jon Pousette Dart, and mutual fan (and sometime musical taskmaster), Big Al Anderson. Like Anderson’s old band, NRBQ, The Shinolas have a reputation for their mastery of distinctive American musical idioms such as vintage country, blues, folk and rock ‘n’ roll that spans decades. Collectively, members of the band have worked with a boatload of talent from Les Paul, Phoebe Snow, Ronnie Earl, Junior Wells, to Lori McKenna and many more.
For Freedy Johnston, the Let’s Revue! tour is a redo of last year’s coupling with The Shinolas at SummerWind (Windsor, CT) which was preempted by inclement weather. A 1994 Rolling Stone Songwriter of the Year winner for the hit, “Bad Reputation,” Johnston is both a favorite of, and, a natural guest performer for the band. Along with Johnston is his old pal, Syd Straw, of Golden Palominos fame and an accomplished solo artist, actor and high profile collaborator with folks as diverse as Richard Thompson, The dB’s, Michael Stipe, Rickie Lee Jones, and Van Dyke Parks to name just a few. Fountains of Wayne front man and Western MA resident Chris Collingwood (and unofficial fifth member of The Shinolas) rounds out the trio.
Having a stage full of dynamic players such as Johnston, Straw and Collingwood who are mutual admirers of each other’s body of work is both flattering and plain fun, according to Chapdelaine, who’s an Emmy Award winning composer, recording engineer and producer. But how does the band determine who to work with and what the format of the sets are? “We pick artists whose music we love and who trust us to re-imagine their stuff. We also look for artists who admire each other as well. These guys all have a history with each other. We have a very loose format: set one features each artist individually; some of their hits and deeper cuts. Set two is very collaborative; duets, covers and stuff that’s familiar.” Ultimately, the band’s task is to shape the set within time constraints while spotlighting each artist equally.
Then there’s the self-proclaimed wildcard of the tour – Syd Straw. At press time, the bi-coastal vocalist (and possibly the greatest American interpreter of pop music since Jennifer Warnes) was driving across the country, from California to her home in Vermont. In between dropped cell calls and her barking dogs, Straw was excited to see her old friends and work with The Shinolas but wasn’t sure how things would work. “I’d say that my involvement is tenuous at best! Nothing’s been rehearsed and I’m not sure what’s on the set list! Freedy, Chris, and I are geographically in different points, but we’ll meet up the day before The Kate show (Old Saybrook, CT). See, I really am the wildcard!”
Let’s Revue! Bantam Tour 2013
Freedy Johnston, Syd Straw, Chris Collingwood and The Shinolas, May 31, 8 p.m., The Kate, Old Saybrook, CT; June 1, 8 p.m., The Narrows Center, Fall River, MA; June 2, 5 p.m., SS&C SummerWind Performing Arts Center, Windsor, CT.