Sunday was Open Streets day on Magnolia Avenue — a four-hour event at which the main drag in Fort Worth’s Near Southside closed to motorized transportation; artists set up in the middle of the street to sell their work; and dogs, bicycles, and skateboards roamed free. I spent the day hanging out with the folks at Piranha Bear art collective, then headed over to The Live Oak for a burger. As luck would have it, it was having a free show, with Deanna Valone and Andy Pickett.
The show started with Pickett doing what is best described as a musical comedy routine behind a piano. He would play bits and pieces of songs, then stop to talk about black holes and supernovas. He made an aborted attempt at playing Rainbow Connection (per an audience request) and had the whole place laughing before turning the show over to Valone.
Deanna Valone comes across visually as a hippie-folk singer, but sonically she shifted to the jazz side of things. She finger-picked a guitar that seemed bigger than she was, and while jazz can often be sterile, her bends and vibrato carried an unexpected depth and emotion. There’s a touch of Rickie Lee Jones in her voice, and she conjures up a kind of a torch-singer vibe. There was a lot more to this than I expected.
She performed (among others) the spiritual Lord I’ve Been Changed, Old Fashioned Morphine by Jolie Holland, and Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home? by Hughie Cannon.
While Valone took a smoke break, Pickett came back out and improved a bit on the piano, then gave a beat box lesson to a young girl in the audience before performing some more serious music. It would be a mistake to write Pickett off as simply a comedy act (although he has a talent there). His piano playing is inspired, and when he settles down and gets serious, his performance is emotive and moving.
When Valone returned, she continued with a mix of originals and covers. She did You Don’t Know Me by Eddy Arnold, They’re Red Hot by Robert Johnson, Picture in a Frame by Tom Waits, Out of Nowhere by Johnny Green and Edward Heyman, Forget Her by Jeff Buckley, and she finished up the night with Orange Colored Sky by Nat King Cole. Each performance was better than the last, and the small but enthusiastic crowd hung on every note. The Live Oak is the perfect room to hear this sort of music, and Deanna Valone is just the thing for a Sunday afternoon.