FROM BLIND OWL RECORDS: MRS. HENRY PRESENTS THE LAST WALTZ
review by Les
This two-disc release from San Diego band Mrs. Henry and an array of friends, recorded at The Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, is a tribute to the eponymous 1976 swansong concert by The Band well-documented in the 1978 film by Martin Scorsese. The track listing follows its setlist closely and the care with which Mrs. Henry tends these covers is sincere, if not always sung on key. Their version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, that epic channeling of a poor Southerner at the end of the Civil War bemoaning his lost cause, is well rendered, as is Helpless, Up On Cripple Creek, and the other classic heavy radio airplayer The Weight.
Its attending crowd at The Belly Up this night sounds fairly enthusiastic and didn’t take too much encouragement to cheer the old favorites. But like the original members of The Band who were Canadian (except of course Levon Helm) it’s maybe a bit contrived to hear them identifying with songs about impoverished nineteenth-century post-war life in the Deep South when Rancho Santa Fe is just over the hill. At least in the 1970’s The Band had an audience that was rife with the fresh trauma of the draft and slaughter of the Vietnam War. Mrs. Henry Presents The Last Waltz impresses me as not really a genuine emotional response so much as a casual tour through nostalgia.
With 17 tracks on disc one and 14 tracks in disc two, all the recorded live in the saloon, Mrs. Henry is undertaking a task that would set a high bar for any band and I commend them and their on-stage guests for accepting the challenge. Fans of all here, as well as Robbie Robertson’s original group and Scorsese’s documentary, might enjoy it well.
This CD is set to drop July 12 on Blind Owl Records.
Lisa Carver is legendary in the indy music and alternative-literature world. She’s toured and been written-up all over the planet, is known to readers of The New York Times, has been a columnist for Vice News, and authored perhaps a dozen or so books.
I first became aware of Lisa Carver 25 years ago — 1994 I think — through a publication called Factsheet 5, which had chosen Lisa’s self-published fanzine Rollerderby as an editor’s favorite. Factsheet 5 was a magazine published as a compendium of reviews for the hundreds of independent publications during the early 1990’s desktop-publishing revolution as home computers became initially affordable widespread. From her provincial backwater hometown of Dover, New Hampshire, Lisa interviewed up-and-coming pop stars and/or strange and obscure ones such as Fabio, and Courtney Love, Vaginal Davis, Cindy Dall, Boyd Rice, Nick Zedd, and GG Allin, among others. I think Beck was in there too.
Lisa became famous in the indy music scene starting with her band Psychodrama in the mid-80’s and then Suckdog during the early-to-mid-90’s. By the end of her night’s performance in Suckdog she would often be nude on stage. Suckdog consisted of her husband the French performance artist Costes and Dame Darcy, a graphic artist, banjo player and cartoonist, and Cos the Shroom. There were often ad-hoc band members Lisa would pick up along the way to fill out the ensemble cast of punk rock sceneters. What she would do onstage was not really music so much as a kind strange of opera where her band would work out obtuse psychological issues with the help of the audience’s entertainment. Since it was rumored Lisa would get naked during the show people would show up just to see this crazy skinny blonde-haired blue-eyed girl with a nice body do her thing. There was always plenty of drama in her song-skits, whatever you’d call them. You can buy a book called SUCKDOG, A RUCKUS which details the band’s complete history. It’s got lots of photos (adults only, please) and by the way I’m selling copies of it HERE.
Lisa Carver’s days of being naked on stage might be behind her but the drama and energy of her live performances remain. See it for yourself on June 29th at Peter D’s, a neighborhood karaoke bar on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, San Diego, where she’ll be performing three short skits with audience participation from her latest book I LOVE ART. Jeff Schneider from Arab On Radar will also be performing as a 15-minute spoken word reading of passages from his book PSYCHIATRIC TISSUES about his time in the band.
Watching Lisa’s career through her various marriages, relationships and artistic endeavors has always been entertaining and educational for me. She’s around five years younger than I but I’ve considered her kind of an older sister type due to her steadfastly independent focus on publishing, performing and being a writer no matter what life throws at her. She’s an author, a mom, and a free-thinking individual that’s difficult to hem-in. Seeing her again will be nice.
A bit of background on the venue: the man who started the bar Peter D’s in the 1970’s was an iconic San Diego barman and a legend in his own right. Don Luster, who named the bar after for son, Peter, was “the singing bartender” in San Diego in the 50’s and 60’s. Earlier in life out as an aspiring singer-songwriter on the East Coast, after serving in Korea with the U.S. Army, he had the chance to sell one of his songs to Elvis Presley who offered to buy it from the emerging crooner. Don turned down The King in favor of keeping the rights to “The Lonely G.I.” as he planned to launch a singing career of his own. Fate intervened and as Don’s young family grew and working cocktails lounges behind the bar afforded more consistent income than the music business.