A stormy darkened Milwaukee night simmered at the mighty Gibraltar. Craig Baumann lit right into it with “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and he played it somewhere between the inherent greasiness of the tune. Looks like nothing’s gonna change for real.
“Might have been the whiskey, might have been the gin. Wasn’t that a party?” Baumann played that party with a steady blues shuffle which was almost J.J. Cale-esque.
Baumann is a warrior of song. Trailblazing through country, blues and Wisconsin Americana. Dexterity in his own driving homeward bound way. A voice straining from Vahalla.
The night was lightening strength; hopping between Fat Maw Rooney tunes, Honest Monday and Overserved Gentleman tunes. His grounded soulful yowl was the glue guiding these otherwise seemingly disparate pieces like they have always lived together. It seems that the truth is they have always lived together in Baumann’s incandescent mind’s eye.
He then lurched into “The Farm”, an original tune in the completest sense of the words. Delicately traversing a brutal history while allowing the song to come to rest in a most personal of a tale. To bear witness to an emotive soul playing the blues for you is an immense blessing and responsibility. One wants to keep the secret for him or herself but the compulsion is to tell everyone you know.
“Go ahead and build your castles way up high,” he wailed over jazz inspired chords. This is a sweet sound crashing down. “Pain in My Heart” by Otis Redding was done deliberately and emboldened.
Baumann is an old soul on display, dancing throughout, and reflecting the entirety of the Americana songbook canon.
Bryon Cherry (March 1, 2017)