Lou Audette’s bungalow in New Haven.

This was, for me, an honor to be part of my friend Louis Audette’s House Concert series. He books a “Second Sunday” concert at his wonderful house tucked away in New Haven. Lou plays base with various folk bands and we’ve come to know each other very well. He is a close friend and respects what I do as a musician. He usually books bluegrass and acoustic swing bands, so he was going out on a limb to  book a solo folkie like me.

It’s a wonderful room acoustically,with a high ceiling, and  a simple sound system, and his acquired audience is definitely sophisticated and intelligent (and respectful listeners!!!). The gig came at the right time for me, as well, in the middle of a booking lull, post-cancer for me. I felt a little out-of-shape vocally and chops-wise, so I did have some trepidations about performing in this situation. I was hoping my performance-memory skills would kick in to balance out my recent inadequacies. It seemed to work this time, thanks to a great audience and Lou’s hospitality.

Lou had written that sales were thin, but many of my old friends were going to be there. That’s all I needed. And, as promised, those folks showed up (with significant others), and I knew I had to land these tunes for them. Ron and Suzie, Frank and Kathy, Betsy, Denny, Chuck, as well as Lou’s sister and his woman.

I was signed up for two ~ 45 minute sets, and I prepared the good stuff. I decided to bring my Sigma 12-string for Rodeo Rider, Here Come’s the Sun and Giant. It seemed a good idea to balance out the guitar sound. I had my trusty OOO15M with new strings so I had my big guns with me. I started with Blue Heartland and managed to muff some lyrics (I should have done a no-brainer to start with). Don’t Call Me Early neIxt, and that was a good choice to establish myself playing, singing and working the audience to sing along. I even leaned on the folks with masks to take a chorus. Chuckle.

I wanted to feature some of my kids’ stuff, so I rolled out Vegetable Song, Branching Out and We Gave Names, all adult-friendly but still playful. This mini-set worked well. I got serious with Rodeo Rider on the 12 and it reset the audience. I did Giants next, with two women on the Thunder-tubes. It worked its wonders, as usual, and I invited the tube ladies to go out into the audience and it changed the room’s sound, broke the plane and explored the space. Good idea. I finished off with some R&R with Nadine, a good palate cleanser and set-ender. Leave ’em dancing, so to speak.

We recongregated for the second set, and several of the new (yes, old) folks commented how much they were having fun. It was quite a break from the bluegrass bands Lou usually has, and I’m sure the repartee was a refreshing change for them.

I led off with a simple folk tune, Green Green Rocky Road, with an easy chorus to reestablish the feel. And then I broke out The Irish Ballad which always shocks the sensibilites, but it worked really well early in the set – establish my renegade persona. Rosie Is a Friend of Mine, Stan’s Giant and Gorka’s How Legends Are Made worked well as a contemporary songwriter set. That set up Lessons From Pete as the clincher with We Are Welcomed as a chaser. Asked for an encore, I pulled out the 12-string for Here Comes The Sun. (broke a string…)

There were another five songs I had in the sets, but pulled them. I’m glad I did. The sets were well-timed for an older audience, and, as it turned out, each set had good artistic flows and I was pleased with the production values. As it turned out, I warmed up nicely on the guitar, hit the lyrics well, and became very comfortable with my audience involvement. Many chuckles, among quality songs.

The afternoon was good for my soul, inspite of the 7 hours of travel from Bethlehem. I played well in a prestigious venue for a intelligent crowd of new folks and old friends. And I got paid, as well. I can’t ask for more.

The Green Room, with Anna's paintings

The Green Room / Studio with Anna’s paintings in storage.

PS: Lou’s wife Anna Held Audette was a world-class painter, (https://www.annaheldaudette.com/life) and Lou is working tirelessly to have her works recognized for their excellence. Lou had this house built in order to have large and naturally well-lit spaces and a large studio for Anna. It’s all tucked away in a nice neighborhood (Lou built this in his former back yard and sold the house on the street) and it’s a pleasant surprise to find this space in a major city like New Haven. Slice o’ heaven.

The Green Room with Anna’s paintings on display.

Her rather large oils feature industrial scenes, and I’m drawn to the rich colors, composition and imaginative spacing. Anna unfortunately fell into dementia, and Lou cared for her until she died in 2013. Lou is such a good man, in so many ways, and I’m glad he has found a wonderful woman in Jeannie.

The house is a veritable museum, with 17 century masters in the dining room, contemporary pieces throughout the various rooms. Simply awesome and, for me, an honor to make music in this space.