I went to see Willy alone after all, but had a great time and met some cool people.
The first and only time I had seen him before Friday was in the Duck Room on September 12, 2002. My boyfriend at the time had stumbled across Willy in a park in Colorado. Said he thought I’d like him. My jaw hit the floor, and I was mesmerized. Sitting in the front row. I’d never seen someone play the guitar like that before. Playing on both sides of multiple, cut-out and hacked-off capos. Hands walking up and down the neck, crossing over, and hitting the body for percussion. Switching back and forth between styles fluidly on both 6 and 12 string. But he also has captivating lyrics and the voice to deliver them. A storyteller. Since then, I’ve been unable to pay much attention to people like Dave Matthews and John Mayer. It even took time for Jack Johnson to get through the Willy barrier. I was just annoyed that these people had gotten farther, and Willy was better. But hey, that’s just my opinion, and I am sharing it.
He’s got some tunes on his website, but I suggest rooting around for some older ones. I prefer him without the band, which his new CD includes. Look for Jesus on the Grille, Big Yellow Pine, You Stay Here or Unconditional Love if you like an awesome story song. Don’t miss Road Bone (!!!) or Zak’s Tale Part II : Zak at the Bar for blow away instrumentals. A few other personal favorites are Blue Light, Breathe, Mystery, Angry Words, Dirty Movie, Moonbeam, and of course Rita.
If you are lucky enough to see him live, or if you download a live show (which he’s pretty cool with, but I hope you do support him somehow; he’s got kids), you’ll get to hear him make up clever songs on the spot by taking audience suggestions and weaving intricate, silly, yet somehow intriguing tales. My favorite of these I’ve heard is a 1997 recording at the Terrace at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He hails from Milwaukee and naturally has played a lot in Madison. At least I believe it’s the made-up song for the evening. The audience banter wasn’t in the mix, but the song couldn’t be entitled anything but “At the Terrace.”
Friday’s performance was nothing short of awesome. I wasn’t as close, but the Sheldon is such a perfect concert hall. Willy performed a new song (at least not one that has been officially released or heard by me) called Fishin’ Shack. Very funny cheese heads. His storytelling ability made his in-between explanations and jabber all the more enchanting. And best of all, the audience was able to buy and walk out with CDs of that night’s performance (minus the encore song, of which I luckily have three other versions).
Do yourself a favor and check out some Willy. I recommend starting with a purchase of High Wire Live or Willy Porter: Willy Porter.