Review: Doug Paisley @ The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY 11/8/2011

Last night, I had the great pleasure of catching my acoustic hometown hero—Doug Paisley—at one of Brooklyn’s most intimate and welcoming venues. Sharing the bill with Bela Fleck’s significant other, Abigail Washburn, at Brooklyn’s Bell House, Paisley paired well, offering his sparse set of wanderer’s tales and minimalist guitar work to a crowd of attentive listeners. The Toronto native even commented at one point that it was eerie to hear silence of that sort in New York City. And though I had my fancy new DSLR on hand and intended to take it for its maiden voyage into the world of concert photography, I realized quickly that I could only shoot between songs as the shutter sound could be heard across the entire room. Pin drop type silence.

This was my second time seeing Paisley perform in almost as many months, having caught him on his recent tour with freak folk outfit Megafaun. I also hold the rare feat of having seen the guitarist perform to a crowd of no more than eight in a basement pub in London, Ontario—the same night I became a lifelong fan of his. Whether it’s eight or fifty, Paisley performs a similar set, combining his troubadour-like persona with nimble guitar lines that nod to a gentler-handed Garcia and classic country pickers like Doc Watson.

But what draws the crowd in to a level of attentiveness rarely seen at concerts in this city, are the songs. His 2010 release Constant Companion, was named “one of the finest singer-songwriter driven LPs of 2010” by Aquarium Drunkard and received high praise from countless others. The songs have a simple kind of sadness that tell of the journeys and hardships of the road, for example his cover of The Stanley Brother’s “The Fields Have Turned Brown,” which tells of a boy who leaves home to discover himself against his parent’s pleadings. Each song is delivered with Paisley’s authentic country-style vocal approach, sounding as though he was born to play this music for us. It makes us want to listen.

Living in New York, one has the ability to see great music almost every night of the year. So what is it about one man and a guitar that can make me travel half way across the city to hear him play? I asked myself that question while riding the F train over the Brooklyn Naval Yard, contemplating it until the moment the lights dimmed and that one man appeared on stage. It’s a realness we only find in the best and musicians who are truest to their craft. It’s a sense of integrity that makes an “opening slot” so much more and a life on the road a welcome reality for the performer. It’s a voice, a guitar, the right words and bringing them all together in a special way that very few can.

“Bat Song” (9/24/11)

You can download Doug Paisley’s recent performance opening for Megafaun at Mercury Lounge via NYC Taper.

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