Scott Miller and Doug Seegers at Gypsy Sally’s (Washington, D.C. – Jan. 8, 2015)
By now, most of you have read the story of Doug Seegers’s long stretch as a homeless street musician to his rediscovery and recent celebrity. In this recent show at Gypsy Sally’s, he described the incident of being filmed by a Swedish film crew, visiting Nashville, making a recording him singing “Going Down to the River”. The resulting publicity landed him a #1 single in Sweden and new-found notariety in the states.
Now out on the road with the fine fiddle player Barbara “Babs” Lamb, his set at Gypsy Sally’s had themes of salvation and thankfulness. He wasn’t overbearing with his religious message, layering bluegrass gospel mixed with old style country. Seegers has a distinctive honky-tonk voice with an effective yodel to match (part Hank Williams, part Jimmy Rogers). For a guy living on the streets for so long, he has a strong voice and plays guitar reasonably well too. Along with his originals, he mixed in two Gram Parsons tunes. “She” was beautifully done — I could almost hear Emmylou singing harmony. Too bad she won’t be in town for another two days (there’s large tribute show for her coming up at Constitution Hall). He also covered George Jones. Fats Waller, and Hank Williams’s “Lovesick Blues” and “Settin’ the Woods on Fire”. He even covered a beautiful Jonathan Edwards (local hero in this area) tune that I had not heard before, called “White Line”.
Gypsy Sally’s is a relatively new addition to the D.C. area club scene. It is a comfortable, friendly venue with a good sound system, tiered seating, and good sight lines. While the club can display a lively bar crowd and dance floor, the crowd for this show was there to listen.
Scott Miller has logged many miles and numerous visits to the area and the crowd seemed well-informed about his catalog. He kicked of his set with “Amtrak Crescent”, a local favorite that name checks Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., poking fun at our politicians inside the beltway, along the way. The club got quiet enough at times for Miller to drop down to a whisper in some songs as he picked plaintive chords on his acoustic guitar for historical songs about the Civil War, hard times, or themes of loss, love, and family (such as “Lo Siento, Spanishburg West Virgina” and “Someday Sometime” from his 2012 Codependents EP with Rayna Gellert).
With his wry sense of humor, he described his move from Tennessee back home (Swoopes, VA) to help his elderly parents run the farm — and how his 80-year-old father follows him around the farm telling him how to do it. As Miller described it, he lost money as a musician for so many years, becoming a farmer was natural for him. (This joke was delivered better by Miller.)
These days, he balances both, keeping the club runs short and regional for the most part. While I loved his electric band shows (the V-Roys, then with The Commonwealth), his solo shows highlight his story-telling — in and between songs. But they still allow him to kick up the tempo from his extensive catalog of songs, like “Mary” (V-Roys), “Ciderville Saturday Night”, “Drunk All Around This Town”, “Eight Miles a Gallon”, and “How Am I Ever Gonna Be Me?” from his most recent CD Big Big World.