TERRA BLUES, NYC — Half of the crowd at Terra Blues usually listens to the musicians, and half the crowd, the chatty folks around the bar, don’t.
Not for SaRon Crenshaw. When SaRon played, everyone listened.
The man is a genius. He is the quintessential blues guitarist: deep, soulful voice; exquisite guitar-picking skills; insightful, often funny lyrics (listen to his song about the EasyBake Oven in the video above). He’s a musician who’s played around the world, but he still comes across as genuine, unaffected, and deeply into his music. He never mentions that he was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame back in 2011.
“I grew up with that kind of music,” he said in my interview with him after the show. “BB King, Albert King, those were my guys. Blues has always been a passion of mine. My grandfather played the blues, my father played the blues, a lot of my family members are musicians.”
SaRon is so into his music that there were several times during the evening when he didn’t seem to be in the room but somewhere else, deep into wherever his musical mind was taking him. In the interview with him after the show , he admitted (with a laugh) that, yes indeed, he does get lost sometimes (a trait I’m noticing among the best blues and jazz musicians). “Yeah,” he said. “Sometimes I’m talking to myself.”
SaRon also loves BB King, and he does that love justice. So much so that at the end of his second set, he repeated a piece he’d done in the first set because, in his mind, he hadn’t done it justice the first time. “I HAD to fix it,” he said. “Nobody else knew I messed it up, but I did, and it’s BB! You gotta do right by BB.”
Like most great blues guitarists, SaRon plays with passion and with mind-boggling dexterity, his fingers dancing up and down the neck of his guitar with incredible ease.
But unlike many blues guitarists, he also delivers songs almost with a whisper, single notes played quietly and slowly. Terra Blues was as still as a house at midnight when SaRon plucked a simple string of notes one at a time very, very quietly (that moment is in the video above).
“That way I feel it’s a little bit more intimate. In other words, you grab the people’s attention and pull them to you. I do that sometimes,” he said. “
— John Wilpers
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THE VENUE: Terra Blues, 149 bleecker street, new york, ny 10012, between Thompson Street & LaGuardia Place (here’s a map); Phone: 212.777.7776; Website (upcoming shows page): http://www.terrablues.com/cal/thismonth.html
THE VIBE: Laid-back, dark, cozy, no frills (but who goes to jazz clubs for frills?!).
THE COVER: $10 for this early (7 PM) show
THE DRINKS: I had Lagunitas IPA. There are, of course, drinks and wine and other, lesser beers 😉
THE STRATEGY: Sit up front. It is the best way to get a real feel for the musician. Great blues bars aren’t fancy, they’re cozy, they’re designed to put you in touch with the musician. Don’t sit in the back. To be sure of a front seat, call ahead (212.777.7776) and ask for one of the tables next to the stage.