December 12, 2010
Alberta Rose Theater, Portland, OR
Review by Mitch Ritter, Photos by Tom Erikson
Rebounding from the band’s first tour of Germany and returning to a new No’ Po’ (North Portland) neighborhood venue, the refurbished Alberta Rose Theater at the end of a year that was still quite wintry, wet and dark back in March when Blame Sally’s previous Pacific Northwest tour lit up bleak No’ Po’s other showcase jewel Mississippi Studios, surprise was the order of the night.
Touring with two new solo releases of strong personal material from Monica Pasqual, whose This Cold Desire features mesmerizingly textured oil paintings by Pasqual’s mother, noted Mallorca, Spain artist Pilar Pobil, and Renée Harcourt’s brilliant addiction that suggests yet bolder songwriting breakthroughs by the third year breast cancer survivor, as well as an R&B seductive gem of a duet EP by Blame Sally’s other two founders Jeri Jones and Pam Delgado moonlighting as they do in their Bay Area stomping grounds as the Pam & Jeri Show, this tour also precedes a new BS album set for release by Berkeley’s Opus Music this coming spring.
There was no shortage of road-tested newly recorded material to challenge their soaked, shivering and sunlight starved Blame Sally faithful. Opening on a sizzle with Blame Sally’s 2009 spark of desire “Jump Start” the band, including road warrior bassist Rob Strom (bearing the brunt of the Canadian border guard’s wariest questioning in a van full of women on the way to their Vancouver, BC gig), veered into one of percussionista and charismatic vocalist Pam Delgado’s roof-raisers “Trouble.” A wail of carnal temptation barely checked, “Trouble” from the Pam & Jeri Show EP is a collaboration with Jeri Jones and co-lyricist/graphic designer Alicia Buelow where Jones got down good and greasy rocking her electric slide into bluesy bliss. Delgado herself illustrated the magic of Blame Sally’s dynamics working her conga and traps with brushed cymbals on “Jump Start” then shifting into her vocal howl and hand drum crescendo on “Trouble.”
Blame Sally then introduced a new song that may be called “Bird In Hand” featuring piano/accordionist Monica Pasqual (whose new solo album features no less than three “bird” songs in English and Spanish. Tributes or protection after being descended upon by blackbirds at a Yerba Buena Gardens show in San Francisco some years ago? ). Surprise guest Eric Smith, Pasqual’s brother joined the band on mandolin and lap steel slide guitar. Another surprise followed as songwriter Pasqual let slip in her introduction to “Wood, A Hammer & A Nail” that closes Blame Sally’s 2009 album masterpiece Night of 1000 Stars that this gentle hummable ode was written for Jimmy Carter. Pasqual may have been pushing her saturated Northwest audience with her lulling coda “Sweet as rain on a summer night.”
Renée Harcourt led Blame Sally in a song from her new solo album, one written for her daughter Kendall and other “unsung heroes” evoked in photo albums. This song named “Carnival Ride” is an antidote for the selfishness that passes for ‘national sacrifice’ the cult of Ayn Rand that took hold in the Reagan-Bush-Greenspan that tore up social contracts and guided our economy into a ditch two Democratic and two Republican presidential terms later. With its catalogue of nods to those who are the reason she thrives, songwriter Harcourt celebrates without naming interdependence (a Civics class virtue from my grade school years now banished from Sarah Palin’s white wilderness).
After intermission Blame Sally returned to the festive Alberta Rose Theater stage romping through Monica Pasqual’s cathartic “Feel more/Feel more” choruses to her popular gust of San Francisco charm on “Fillmore Street.” With fans behind me calling out requests for Renée Harcourt’s jaunty chemo patient info overload ditty also from Blame Sally’s 2009 album, the wry “(Please) Pass The Buddha” now a cult favorite designed onto the band’s black-humored thermal nightshirts, this fast-paced evening built to another crescendo. Throwing yet another curve, however, string whiz Jeri Jones strummed (with bottleneck slide gleaming on her little fret finger) the opening chords to another rarity, a country roadhouse cover of “Tulsa Queen,” that also featured Jones’s only lead vocal and turned to a T ‘twas. Monica Pasqual’s piano bridge played on a real grand piano provided by Portland’s finest, showed how heartfelt a country standard could be without lapsing into excessive sentimentality.
Jeri Jones was back on a more wicked bottleneck slide guitar lick as prelude into Harcourt’s darker premonition “Severland” the dramatic Daniel Lanois-flavored stroll through a hanging moss netherworld that served as title track to Blame Sally’s 2007 release. Three years sure has meant a world of change. Long may Blame Sally run!
—Mitch Ritter (Beaverton, OR)
Photos © 2010 Tom Erikson 12/12/2010 [www.tomerikson.com]
[edit: The original post incorrectly identified the location of this show. It was held at the Alberta Rose Theater. There also exists an Alberta Street Pub, but there is no Alberta Street Theater. Also corrected the final parenthetical statement to match the author’s intent.]