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Ray Brown

The Red Room At The Grill, Friday, July 14

The plan was to try to see some live music at different venues, and maybe discover some new musicians in a more intimate atmosphere. Seems like a good plan, right? I mean, there are lots of musicians who don't frequent the usual suspects, like Plush or Club Congress, and it's always nice to see some unfamiliar faces.

Sadly, of the three shows I planned on checking out last Friday night, I only ended up catching one. First, I headed down to the Monkey Box to see Redlands, who had canceled due to a scheduling conflict. It would have been nice to have a gelato cocktail while listening to some Seattle-transplanted folk-rock, but this is supposed to be a live review, not a Dave Attell-inspired, Insomniac-like account of where I drank.

Next on the list was the Shot in the Dark Café, formerly Café Quebec, which I've heard has some interesting musicians performing occasionally. But on this night, the café looked a little like a real-life enactment of Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks." It was on to the Red Room, where local singer-songwriter Ray Brown and Redlands drummer Ryan Monroe were setting up. Finally, some actual music for this live review.

We need more places in town like the Red Room, where you can drink a glass of syrah, watch a show and eat french fries at the same time. Brown's first set was just him, singing to the drinkers and diners while working his guitar. Slightly reminiscent of David Grey (who himself sounds an awful lot like early Donovan), Brown's acoustic songs were relaxing and heartfelt. He played Calexico's "In the Reins" and Elliott Smith's "Angeles," both of which retained Brown's own style--it's always a good sign when artists can play other people's songs without compromising their own musical voice.

For the second set, drummer Monroe joined in, and Brown mentioned that this was a relatively new collaboration. While a little more practice will more than likely enhance the combination, it kicked up the energy in the room a notch, and made Brown's songs more audible above the conversations and clinking glasses. There's something to be said, though, about being able to hear conversations and clinking glasses blended with the music. That's really the difference between a club show and a café show--sometimes, you just want to hear music that doesn't leave your ears ringing for hours afterward. And eat french fries while you listen.

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