Enjoy this conversation between Ian Campell and Jake Heggie, composer of the Moby-Dick Opera. The opera had its premiere at the Dallas Opera in Dallas, Texas only two years ago on April 30, 2010. Since then it has been performed to enthusiastic audiences at the San Diego Opera, State Opera of South Australia, and the Calgary Opera. Moby-Dick will next be performed by the San Francisco Opera on October 10, 13, 18, 21, 23, 26, 30 and November 2, 2012.
Since the 1970s I have lived my life to a soundtrack featuring Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Donovan, Procol Harem, The Grateful Dead, James Taylor, The Moody Blues, and so on and on, and, oh yeah, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Traffic, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Cat Stevens — I wish I could click an iTunes “Genius” button right now to finish the list.
Recently I came across another group that I think I will be listening to for years, decades to come, Leslie and the Badgers. The things I love about the music of Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Janis Joplin are what I love about the music of Leslie and the Badgers — great poetic lyrics, a lead vocalist with unbelievable range and expression, and an ensemble of fellow musicians playing a lot, and I do mean a lot, of different instruments. Playing so many instruments enables the group to give each song a fresh, unique sound. Their sound transcends categories, try a mix of country, folk, and rock performed with heart, whimsy, humor, and a desire to communicate. Is there a name for that?
Here is a list of instruments listed on “Roomful of Smoke,” their new CD: saw, marxophone, rhodes, all types of guitar (lap steel, bass, rhythm, lead, baritone, high strung, acoustic, pedal steel), accordion, horns, cigfiddle, timpani, piano, Wurlitzer Organ, drums, glockenspiel, violin, Hammond organ. They play them all, and well. Again from the “Roomful of Smoke” CD, a list of the musicians in Leslie Stevens’ backup ensemble: Glenn Oyabe, Ben Reddell, Travis Popichak, Charlene Huang, Eugene Fillios, Keven Savigar, David Bianco, James Bianco, Mandy Hoffman, and David Ralicke.
Then there is the voice of lead vocalist, Leslie Stevens—beyond words. You’ll just have to listen.
Here’s a video and some links. Go buy their stuff, check out their schedule, see them in person!