With the weather turning arctic last week, I found myself getting a touch of cabin fever (which beats frostbite, at least). Sunday afternoon, however, the weather seemed to return to sanity and I found out about an impromptu Josh Irwin concert on the roof of the Live Oak. I’d brave the fires of hell or the frozen tundra to hear Irwin, so this was a no-brainer. I headed to Fairmount.
Upstairs on the deck, there were clear skies and a chilly breeze washing over a dozen or so people gathered around listening to the music. At the Live Oak, you get table service — even on the deck — so I ordered some chips and salsa (they make the chips fresh) and grabbed a seat. I was just in time for one of my favorite Irwin tunes, a story about a love affair between a coffee maker and an espresso machine called The Ballad of Bo and Bella.
Watching Irwin play is like watching a child opening presents on Christmas morning. There is just so much love for his music and so much joy in performing it, you can’t helped but be sucked in. His very pregnant wife sat on the front row, and each time she got up to use the facilities (which was a lot because, you know, pregnant) Irwin was visibly worried for her to be out of his sight. We’re talking any minute now.
But things weren’t always so happy for Irwin. He hit on hard times a while back and found himself living in his van. An arrest for public intoxication followed, which left him with an impounded van and only a suitcase and a guitar to his name. Now, two years later, he’s sober and nesting with his expectant wife in their own house in preparation for parenthood — and he’s making a living doing what he loves.
And I must confess, I love what he does as well. If you haven’t heard him before, check out his 2010 performance on the Mambo’s webcast with John Rody.
In that video, he’s playing Coolaid and Goldfish, one of the many originals (and one of my favorites) that he performed Sunday. He also had a rather fragmented performance of Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue. (He had to restart a time or two.)
And after two hours, he finished up the night with his nostalgic piece A Light, A Boat, A Book. I’m nostalgic for his show already, and it’s only been hours.
Irwin has a voice with amazing clarity and emotion. He is what a folk singer should be, telling stories of everyday life with a conversational tone and making you feel them with his emotive vocals and guitar work.
He has an album due out in the near future, but that will have to wait until after his child is born. In fact, he may be a father before this publishes so, just in case, congratulations to the Irwins. And be sure to check out one of his shows when he gets back from paternity leave. You won’t regret it.