Concert Highlights–Cindy Lee Berryhill and Al Stewart at City Winery, 6/14/2016

Cindy Lee Berryhill alluded to her difficult recent past at the beginning of her opening set Tuesday night at City Winery when, leading into her forthcoming album The Adventurist’s track “Somebody’s Angel,” she invoked “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” the 1969 hit by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition that was written by Mel Tillis and is about a paralyzed veteran of “that crazy Asian war” who begs his wife not to go out on the town.

“I didn’t understand it when I was a kid,” Berryhill said, quoting the lyric “And if I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground/Oh, Ruby, don’t take your love to town.”

“Where was she going? The bowling alley? An Al-Anon group? There are any number of things she could have been doing besides having an affair!”

Berryhill has said that The Adventurist “bookends” with her 1994 album Garage Orchestra in that the first album documented the beginning of her relationship with her late husband Paul Williams and the new one its end: Williams, a prominent rock journalist who was a founder of the seminal rock magazine Crawdaddy!, died last year after many years of debilitation from a severe brain injury following a bicycle accident.

Ruby, Berryhill came to realize, was, much like herself, “a caretaker.”

“That’s not an easy way to go,” she said, adding, of caretakers, “It’s not an easy life—they deserve a song.”

Hence, “Somebody’s Angel.” But she noted after that she had “no regrets,” and had started the show with “a downer song” in order to progress to the more hopeful fare included on The Adventurist.

“You have to eat the healthy stuff first,” she explained, “then the Coca-Cola with ice cream.”

She later brought up her longtime friend Lenny Kaye, who produced her 1989 album Naked Movie Star. Kaye played acoustic guitar on The Adventurist’s “American Cinematography” and the Velvet Underground classic “Femme Fatale,” which was written by Lou Reed—Reed being part of Berryhill’s acknowledged “triumvirate” of key influences, the others being Patti Smith (Kaye has forever been Smith’s guitarist/collaborator) and Brian Wilson.

Berryhill was opening for another influence, Al Stewart, who sang his hit “Time Passages” at Kaye’s request. For his part, by the way, Stewart was quite engaging, particularly in stories like the one about playing places like Tokyo and Rome and hearing wives complain to their husbands that they thought they were going to see Rod, not Al Stewart.

Stewart also brought a nifty merchandise item: a poster pattered after the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover and featuring some 200 people and things associated with the lyrics to his songs–historical, if I heard correctly, and being hard of hearing and sitting in the back and Stewart not having a loud voice, I’m not 100 percent sure. He definitely said that only one person had been able to identify all but one of the figures, and he might have said that he himself couldn’t identify at least 30.

YouTube Discoveries: P.P. Arnold and Bonnie Owens

Thanks to my pal Chalkie Davies–the legendary photographer of 1970s/’80s U.K. rock musicians–for posting a video of The Faces’ hit “Tin Soldier” last week as a memorial tribute to keyboardist Ian McLagan.

“It doesn’t get better than this,” rightly testified Chalkie, whose comments on Mac made my appreciation piece for read so well.

I’m posting the clip here, not just for Mac and the Small Faces—the band that became more famous in America as The Faces when Rod Stewart replaced Small Faces lead singer/guitarist Steve Marriott–but for P.P. Arnold, a former Ike & Tina Turner Ikette who was most successful in England in the 1960s, when she backed artists like the Small Faces and also had her own hits.

As incredibly charismatic as Marriott was, it’s hard to keep your eyes off Arnold in “Tin Soldier.” Restrained next to Marriott’s unbridled passion, Arnold is nevertheless mesmerizing: the way she gently smiles and dances off to the side and away from her mic, then comes in when it’s time to sing the chorus, reminds me of maybe the best backup singer I ever saw, Bonnie Owens.

Bonnie, who was married to Buck Owens and then Merle Haggard, stayed with Merle onstage after she divorced him and likewise stood behind him dancing and smiling—until it was time for her to sing harmony parts, “blurt harmonies,” as she called them when I told her how much I loved them.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a great example on YouTube that wasn’t part of a long concert tape. But here she is, late in the game, singing a classic Hagg hit next to him.

And here’s an example of Arnold’s solo work, on the original hit version of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut is the Deepest”: