Rockabilly balladeer Barbara Meyer weighs in with strong vocals and fine songwriting, and backs herself on tasty rhythm guitar. Her gig last fall at the Acadia Café was an energized set, so tight it could’ve been recorded as a live album to follow her debut disc Barbara Meyer.
A bit of background: Meyer, who has a Master’s in vocal performance and studied at the University of Iowa, signed on in 1999 with the Twin Cities’ seminal Afro-Cuban rockers One World. The band, as bands tend to do, broke up, giving way to the New Primitives with founder Stan Kipper inviting Meyer to sing on “Bring Me Down,” to this day a crowd-rousing favorite off the album New Primitives. Somewhere along the line, Barbara Meyer decided to go for hers, enlisting Kipper and Rich Mattson to help produce Barbara Meyer.
The Acadia Café has recently moved to Cedar-Riverside. Read Joel Grostephan’s article about the move.
She threw down stone-cold serious at Acadia Café, backed by Kipper (timbales, backing vocals) and One World cohort, monster bass guitarist Bill Hulett. The set mostly was culled from Barbara Meyer, including “Does It Always Have To Be About You,” “Kick,” and “Louisiana Shuffle.” Each selection drew healthy applause along with a whole lot of hooting and hollering. Even so, the sultry gem “Watering The Dead” was a standout, featuring some of the prettiest cornpone since Roy Orbison. Meyer’s wizened delivery of sharp lyrics over compelling country-rock goes along these lines. “We went to Utah looking for some fun/ Took bikes and camping gear and headed for the sun/ Thought we were ready, but we hadn’t yet begun/ Watering our dead in Moab.” And then there was “Jeep,” a raucous delight bemoaning the death-by-fire of her beloved automobile.
Meyer sang and played like an angel. Her backup burned. You really had to be there for “Wisconsin,” when Meyer broke out, “Wildlife strapped to the back of a car as we drive past the Cheese Chalet/ These are some of the sights to see on the Wisconsin motorway/ Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby, and that’s what you get here/ Hearts on sleeves in every corner of the state and lots of cheese and beer.” The song’s chanted chorus goes, “Wisconsin, you got the Packers and the Dells/ Wisconsin is where the Heartland swells/ And everybody loves their neighbor so well.” The song’s a bluegrass-jug-band-spawned goodtime jam.
Not that the night was a total success for yours truly. Someone’s two kids, from the minute they got there, kept running around, bumping into furniture and, every once in awhile, banging into my knees. When Meyer hit the stage, they were still racing all over the place and finally ran me out. Which worked fine: I simply picked up and sauntered backstage—where, it turned out, I could hear better and at the same time keep from cussing anybody out over their children.
Can’t guarantee the kids won’t show up, but I do bet you won’t be disappointed as Kipper and Hulett join Barbara Meyer at the 318 Café in Excelsior on February 20.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.