In early March, I had the opportunity to travel to New York on a whirlwind trip for work, arriving on a Thursday afternoon and leaving on a Saturday morning. As someone who has dabbled in the world of poetry and followed it relatively closely, with so little time, the one thing I knew I had to do in New York was visit the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe. For me, it is a poetry mecca of sorts and I wanted to be able to say I have been there at least once in my life. I went out for dinner with some friends and then we headed through for the Friday nite slam with open mind and heart, and no expectations.
Packed to the point where I had to stand for about two hours. It kicked off with performances by two young poets and then the slam featuring only female poets who came with a range of topics and voices for the first round. After a week of travelling, I was drained and even the poetry could not keep me there any longer. Just before the break, the host introduces an artist. I’m thinking of catching a song or two and then heading out. The name? Kevin Sandbloom. He squeezes past me and through the crowd, acoustic guitar in hand, heading for the low stage.
He got onto that stage, introduced himself in a deep, understated voice … and then he SANG in the purest, cleanest voice with a wide yet effortless range. Just voice and acoustic guitar serving up the best in true music for the soul. Gentle, intuitive and embracing, his music and voice held us all captive. Using what I’m told is a loop pedal, he created layers of sound using just that voice. He started off beatboxing a rhythm, recording that and playing it back as the foundation to the song. He played a guitar melody over that, looping it and adding another layer. The end product was a complete song with multi-layers, feeling like there was a complete band on stage. So hard to explain but amazing to experience.
There are certain artists who I feel other musicians should be very, very wary of covering. Sade is one of those. Just when I thought I had heard the best that Sandbloom had to offer, he did this:
And, at the end of his performance, I bought copies of his albums, Under Pink And Bourbon Skies and From A Bird. I have not been disappointed. He is able to capture so much of what he creates on stage, in terms of emotion and spirit, in studio which makes for a wonderful listening experience.
Kevin Sandbloom is officially one of my favourite artists. I was thrilled at the opportunity to get to experience and interact with his music but also slightly saddened by the fact that what I consider true musicianship stays beneath the radar while much mediocrity reaches across borders with ease.
Finally remembered to read this. Great article. I enjoyed reading it.
The way you have described ‘loop pedal’ reminds me of a youtube video of Dwele I saw just after the passing of Michael Jackson. He did the same, recreating sonatas of MJ’s Human Nature in just minutes. I was blown over.
Will check out Sandbloom’s music. It does sound like it’s something I’d get into.