With all the venues located along West Seventh Street in Fort Worth, why would anyone go to a cigar shop like Pop's Safari for live music?
Well, why not?
Even if you're not into cigars, the place has an eclectic selection of comfy chairs, and an even more eclectic assortment of unusual decorations, including a Cape buffalo head on the wall and a large plush tiger atop a white baby grand piano. Even more important: On Saturday night, just to the left of the tiger, were DeAnna Wendolyn and Ron Geida.
A self-described country girl (she hails from Nemo, near Glen Rose), Wendolyn plays guitar and sings mostly original songs in traditional coffee-house (or cigar-shop)/folk-singer style. Just a hint of her country roots is detectible.
Backing up Wendolyn on acoustic guitar is Geida, who in his other life is the lead guitarist for the Villain Vanguard. I've long been a fan, because the man has a talent for making phenomenal guitar work look laid-back and easy. Even without the luxury of a proper band to blend in with, Geida is the consummate pro. He played just what was needed to tastefully complement Wendolyn's songsmithing skills.
"It's nice to have that open rawness factor," Geida told me. "Just the acoustic guitar and vocals."
This night's set was all originals, except for Lonestar by Norah Jones, Push and Pull by Nikka Costa, Building a Mystery by Sarah McLachlan and Jamaica Farewell by Harry Belafonte. Oh, and a sultry version of Happy Birthday for a 96-year-old patron. While Wendolyn's newest original is usually her favorite, one song in particular, Ashes of Your Memory, held a special significance. The song is about spreading the ashes of her father over the island of St. Croix from an airplane.
"Tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of my dad's death," she said. "Tonight, that song means a lot."
Wendolyn has the perfect voice for this kind of music, with a touch of McLachlan and Patty Griffin mixed with her own unique style. Until fairly recently, she has been performing solo -- mostly in wine bars and coffee shops. With Geida backing her up, she hopes to expand to larger venues. She still does a solo gig the last Saturday of each month at The Loft in Granbury; she will be doing another set with Geida, at Hank's Casual Grill, also in Granbury, on Sept. 3.
Like every singer-songwriter, she hopes to get her music out there, but the important thing for her is connecting with the audience.
"It's not about fame," Wendolyn says. "It's not about fortune. It's about getting my point across. When I write a song, I put a lot of heart and emotion into it. I always want people to feel the emotion I felt when I wrote it."