ALL DELIGHTED PEOPLE: JOSIAH JOHNSON, SHENANDOAH DAVIS, AND OTHERS COVER SUFJAN STEVENS
When I read that the Triple Door was set to host a benefit concert for the all-ages Fremont Abbey Arts Center, wherein local musicians would be playing Sufjan Stevens songs, the memories came flooding back: 2005, turning 16, obtaining a driver's license, and Sufjan Stevens's Illinois being my first "driving" album. A collection of ornate and blooming folk beauty, the album is a perfect companion for sensitive, youthful escapism, with lyrics that still make my heart swell: "If I was crying/In the van, with my friend/It was for freedom/From myself and from the land." Seven years later, I will serve as a concert soothsayer and provide baseless predictions for songs that some of the artists will cover for tonight's performance. (After sending an e-mail to learn more about the show, I was told that each musician will play around two covers along with their own original tunes. Also, a special guest will be telecommuting in from a wedding in Portland.)
Josiah Johnson is one songwriting half of the Head and the Heart, the latest and most successful among Seattle's chief musical export (excluding avant-garde hiphop) of sentimental Americana-inflected folk rock. It's hard to see how Johnson, playing solo, could muck up a straightforward, plaintive ballad like "To Be Alone with You." And as a headliner, he likely has the first pick of the Stevens song litter, meaning "Chicago," Stevens's greatest song, is his. (Full disclosure: I'm an unpaid radio promotion intern at Sub Pop, the Head and the Heart's record label. I did not even try to ask Johnson what songs he was actually thinking of playing.) Shenandoah Davis, with her classically trained background, probably has the best musical bona fides of anybody on this bill to tackle a sprawling and vaulted epic from Stevens's Illinois. I'd love to hear her band take on "Come On! Feel the Illinoise!" with its masterful rhymes and mariachi breakdown, or the time-signature-varying celebration of hearty Midwestern settlers, "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders." J. Wong's subdued folk songs frequently mention familial strife, which leans toward him doing "Romulus," which might be the most arresting song ever written about an absent mother. In my final prognostication, should anyone try "Casimir Pulaski Day," about young, cancer-riddled love, I will probably cry. Triple Door, 8 pm, $14 adv/$17 DOS.