Sunday, June 19, 2011

Now You Know: Justin Roth

Justin Roth is a rare talent--an amazing guitarist, a charming performer and a writer of catchy acoustic songs. Although I periodically get to see him play showcases at Folk Alliance or hear him play a few songs when he is in town for songwriting group, I have not seen him play a full show in a couple years. So it was a rare treat to see his Saturday St. Paul show at the Ginkgo Coffeehouse, celebrating the release of his new CD Now You Know. The new songs are more introspective and moody than his previous work, perhaps due to the fact he wrote and recorded the album while living alone in the Colorado Rockies. Expanding his straight acoustic sound to include more layers of vocals and ambient textures, Justin recorded all the parts himself, including all the additional instrumental parts. I was interested to see how he would approach doing these songs live without any extra musicians or loops or anything. I am happy to say these new songs were just as sweet without the added parts. Here's what he played...

SET 1:
- Trembling Like a Train (been singing this for awhile but it's now finally on an album--one of my faves!)
- Spaghetti Junction (instrumental named after the tangle of highways in downtown St. Paul)
- Out of the Blue
- This Winter (As Justin put it: "This song has lots mini me's singing with me on the record." He joked about cloning himself and then trying to bring all the mini me's on the road with him and trying to figure out how to fit them in his car and not feed or pay them. I think he can forego that because it sounded pretty dang good with just one Justin.)
- Surrender
- She Dances
- Shower With a Friends (hilarious song about conserving water by showering with a friend)
- Fatima's Waltz (a beautiful guitar instrumental he wrote--a fan favorite)

SET 2:
- There and Back Again (his second Hobbit-inspired guitar tune)
- The Siskiyou Line
- Now You Know
- The Last Time
- Forgiveness
- Ones to Hold Onto (Gave a shout-out to his musician friends in the audience, including Brianna Lane, Barb Ryman and me, Mother Banjo. Then he dedicated this song to catching up with old friends. I've always liked this older song of Justin's but the energy and guitar work on this was particularly nice.)
- Dead Horse Trampoline
- Shine

Encore: Love's Not Through With You Yet (a Darrell Scott tune he covers on the the new album)

All in all, a great show. It is no wonder that John Gorka has said: "Now you know-Justin Roth has come into his own."

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