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Music Box: Ann Wilson gives Annapolis a close up with rock history

Correspondent
Music Box: Heart's Ann Wilson gives Annapolis a close up with rock history

Maybe you've wondered if rock stars ever tire of playing the same songs thousands of times over. In a recent article for Rolling Stone magazine Beach Boy Mike Love estimated that he'd sung "Fun, Fun, Fun" close to 6,000 times.

One elixir for song burnout is for an artist to go out and play a bunch of their favorite songs, other than the ones they are famous for. The challenge is getting audiences to go along for the ride and to be enchanted with hearing new renditions of old songs from favorite performers.

The Ann Wilson Thing finds Heart's lead singer doing cover versions of classic blues and rock songs such as the Stones "Sympathy for the Devil," Screamin' Jay Hawkins "I Put a Spell On You," Stephen Still's "For What It's Worth," Aretha Franklin "Ain't No Way," and Jimi Hendrix "Manic Depression." It's the antithesis of so many bands these days doing full evening tribute shows to heritage acts like Heart.

In the process of interpreting classic rock, blues and soul numbers, Wilson finds she discovers new musical avenues leading deeper into the full spectrum of human feelings. "For me, to sing is to really touch life and feel love, deep inside. To pour out emotions in a song is a beautiful release," she explains on the project website.

For The Ann Wilson Thing, Ann is joined on stage by veteran guitarist and longtime Heart bandmate Craig Bartock (since 2004) and Heart drummer Ben Smith (since 1995), plus Heart keyboard player Chris Joyner (since 2014). Bartock has credits playing with Madonna, Blondie and Simply Red.

"The Ann Wilson Thing is a blessing. Being involved with it has been unique and powerful experience. Ask yourself this ... 'If I could help pick songs to hear the greatest female rock singer perform AND stand alongside of her while she's doing it, what would they be?'… These shows are an open canvas where anything magical can happen. And it will."

Bass player Andy Stoller (Tracy Chapman, Chuck Prophet) is also happy to harken back mutual favorite songs with Wilson. "It's amazing to play with Ann, not only because of her legendary voice and presence; but the music she chose to play is the very music that inspired me to become a musician in the first place."

Chris Joyner united with Heart after touring with the Wallflowers and Soul Asylum and recording with Ray Lamontagne, Sheryl Crow and others. The Ann Wilson Thing's drummer Ben Smith has been a member of Heart since 1995. He was with Heart when they recorded a live version of "Stairway to Heaven" with Jason Bonham (son of original Zep drummer John Bonham) plus the National Symphony Orchestra and two choirs at the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors.

No stranger to looking back, Wilson performed on a 2001 Beatles tribute show (A Walk Down Abbey Road) and, more recently, in the Concert for George (Harrison) concert film.

The Ann Wilson Thing comes to Rams Head On Stage for two shows (Monday and March 29, 8 p.m. each night). Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Heart is reported to be recording a new full-length album for release in 2016. But this is really a chance to see Ann Wilson with most of her Heart band members playing choice covers in an intimate setting.

"I'm excited to play unusual songs in small places. I am excited to push my creative and vocal boundaries," exclaimed Wilson in a recent tour interview. Could be as close as you'll get to the very heart of rock and roll!

Another intriguing music synthesis concert this week finds Swedish singer/songwriter José González in concert with classical ensemble yMusic Saturday night at Lisner Auditorium (8 p.m.). González is one of my favorite musicians, always playing with big heart in a pumping progressive vein similar to acts such as The War On Drugs and My Morning Jacket, for example.

If you like those bands you'll be at home with González who emits a rich and poetic pulse reminiscent of, say, Cat Stevens, Ray Lamontagne and Amos Lee. yMusic features strings — cello and violin — plus a three piece brass section which doubles on woodwinds. This concert will feature new arrangements of songs from the 2015 González release titled "Vestiges & Claws," an album it's been said that largely revolves around ideas of civilization, humanism and solidarity.

"I think that might be where there is some sort of common thread on this new record: The zoomed out eye on humanity on a small pale blue dot in a cold, sparse and unfriendly space. The amazing fact that we are here at all, an aim to encourage us to understand ourselves and to make the best of the one life we know we have — after birth and before death," explains González in the album's promotional interview.

Michael Buckley is writer, producer and host of "The Sunday Brunch" each week from 7 to 10 a.m. on 103.1 WRNR-FM. Contact him at voicesofthebay@aol.com.

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