New! Listen to this entry[l1]M[/l1]y favorite song on KPRI’s compilation CD “Live Tracks” is the twangy, folksy piece “Russelville” by San Diego artist Eve Selis. Having never seen her, and human nature being what it is, as I listened to Selis’ big, hearty voice over and over, I developed a mental image of a big, hearty Bessie Smith type to go along with the voice.
The briefest glance at the beautiful, diminutive Selis proves that it ain’t necessarily so.
My Best Beloved and I recently made another trip to San Diego which we carefully scheduled around a performance by the incomparable Jim Earp. Before we finalized our plans, I discovered that Eve and her band would be performing that Friday night so we made arrangements to head south a little earlier in the week to catch her show.
Years back, when I still lived in San Diego, I had heard rumors of legendary live performances by Selis’ band “Kings Road.” Having heard similar praise for her current band’s appearances I wasn’t going to miss the chance to finally see for myself. Eve and company were appearing at Croce’s Top Hat in San Diego’s gaslamp district. The Top Hat is a long, narrow venue with a stage backed up against a 25-foot-tall brick wall, and facing an enclosed dining room with a balcony above. Brick walls being what they are, the band chose to do an all acoustic evening rather than fighting the wall with electrics. When I had a chance to chat with Eve later, she seemed surprised at how emphatic I was that even rockers like “Heart-Shaped Tattoo” translated to acousticism without any loss in punch and appeal.
Eve’s voice on record is powerful and appealing. It’s been likened to lemonade and whiskey and it’s just as delicious as it sounds. In a small, live venue her voice is awe-inspiring, almost, but never quite, overwhelming. Selis (who has shared the stage with the likes of Chris Isaak, Counting Crows, Joan Osborne, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dwight Yoakam, and Jack Johnson) is an exuberant performer who laughs and smiles and dances with the innocence and lack of affectation of a child.
Her band is certainly worth dancing for. Lead guitarist and vocalist Marc “Twang” Intravaia has been with Eve since her Kings Road days. (Twang’s uncommon last name sparks memories of something to do with San Diego’s legendary HomeGrown albums, but my collection is no longer complete and I can’t find anything to explain the mental connection.) His direct, clean playing is a perfect counterpart to Eve’s singing; no unnecessary filler or flash, just all the right notes and nothing more. Amazing player and excellent singer, both lead and harmony.
On the other side of the stage was former Johnny Cash sideman “Cactus” Jim Soldi. Jim’s playing is both fiery and graceful, and like Twang he takes his turns on the lead vocals. His rendition of Cash’s first single, “Cry, Cry, Cry” was a particular thrill for me.
Behind Soldi was pianist Sharon Whyte, who also played accordion (well, it sounded like an accordion!) Delicate when the tune called for it, Whyte’s playing reminded me of Jelly Roll Morton on the faster tunes: rolling and punchy and fun.
Bass player Rick Nash plays bass the way I like to play it – and the way I like to hear it played. Many bass players are just frustrated guitarists who can’t find work so they’re constantly working their chops to show how good they are. That’s not what bass is about. The bass notes are the foundation and anchor for the other musicians, not an excuse for pyrotechnics. Rick was always where he should be, right when he was supposed to be.
Drummer Bob Sale has also been with Eve since her Kings Road days. Besides for a snappy style at just the right volume for that size venue, his voice was a real treat the one time we got to hear him sing.
Selis and her band play regularly all over San Diego so you never have to wait long for an opportunity to see one of the best live acts I have ever experienced. Her web site always has an up-to-date schedule, streaming audio and video, and extensive biographical and musical information. You can also download tunes from the band’s first three albums at Amazon.com, and more from EveSelis.com.
And if I can get this thing started, I’ll be writing a thorough review of Eve’s newest album “Nothing But The Truth” which we picked up at her show.