March 12, 2008, Baltimore Chop Books, Baltimore, Maryland
This was a night of endangered and lost arts: folk music, storytelling, community…and geography. That’s right, geography. Over the course of an intimate night of folk music in a small (and very cool) independent book store, Sarah and Claire Bowman, through the stories attached to and included in their music, illustrated the importance of geography, where you are, to everything from scenery to relationships to state of mind. When you hear great harmonies like the Bowmans display on their Far From Home album, you have to wonder how many takes it took or how much help they might have gotten in the studio. Seeing them live in a small space not designed specifically for music answers that question: they can do it at will, no tricks whatsoever. The sisters simply have an innate sense of each other when they sing and it is simply amazing to hear it in person. Their songs, including a few new ones, could be so delicate that they mixed with the breeze blowing flyers hanging in the doorway or so bold that they literally filled the room. Their sound, with just their two voices, a guitar and light percussion, was stronger and clearer than just about any I’ve heard even plugged in and mixed in venues designed only for music. They trusted their music enough to bring Joe, a guy from the audience with whom they had never played in person, up to join them for a song.
Baltimore Chop Books has regular musical guests and it’s a great place to see some great music. One couple brought their infant daughter and it was entirely appropriate. Others in the crowd ranged from 20s to maybe 60s. While an artist sketched the performance, others discussed baseball and news during the break. There was even a dog at the show! It was the kind of event where there were no barriers between people other than those brought with you (and even some of those were likely broken down). The place just had a real sense of human community. Add the music and it probably can’t be beat.