Uncommon Times with Justin Trawick and the Common Good, IOTA Club & Café, Arlington, VA, January 21, 2017 by Paula Shaki Trimble
Pink knit hats, Canadian tuxedos (aka denim shirts with jeans), Echosmith’s “Cool Kids,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and Beauty and the Beast‘s title track as well as “Chariots of Fire.”
What could be a better end to a day when hundreds of thousands of people joined together for the Women’s March on Washington than to slice off a piece of Americana? But that depends on your definition of Americana. Justin Trawick and the Common Good offered up a welcome surprise – or refuge – for the crowd at IOTA Club & Café in Arlington, VA, on this politically-charged Saturday night. Without disguising their support for the participants in the peaceful protests that occurred in Washington, DC, and elsewhere in the country during the day (a sign positioned on stage read, “Men of Quality Don’t Fear Equality”), local artist Trawick and his band washed away the intensity of the moment with their unique blend of picking-party fun.
During what was billed as his Seventh Annual 29th Birthday celebration, Trawick and his band offered up an improv set of Rap-grass, mixing bluegrass and country with pop, rock, rap, and hip-hop favorites that took me back to the steamy gymnasium of my middle school dances back in 1988.
Trawick, a native of Leesburg, VA, who now lives in Arlington, and the Common Good (Josh Himmelsbach on mandolin, Matvei Sigalov and Pete Daniels on fiddle, and Jean Finstad on upright bass) gave the country-loving two-steppers in the audience a new twist on songs like Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop.” The Common Good has been playing together for 10 years, but Trawick said they rarely rehearse. “We winged it,” he shared. For their original song, “Telling Stories,” he offered that the combo has played it “one-and-a-half times.” But their tight yet fun-loving take on multiple genres could’ve fooled me. Guest rapper Lauren LeMunyan hopped on stage to lead her dead-on rendition of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and a hip-hop medley with full string accompaniment.
The true highlight was the show’s opener, Trawick’s friend Louisa Hall, who delighted the early crowd with her ukulele-accompanied tomes about modern-day cultural phenomenon, such as Tinder and the struggles of online dating. Her duet with Trawick called “Train Station” which they wrote after being stranded in a Naples, Italy, train station on the way to a friend’s wedding, highlighted the depth of her vocal abilities, and the harmonious fusion with Trawick’s country twang. She joined for the show’s finale, an original called “Goodbye,” again charming us with pipes and emotion reminiscent of Loretta Lynn.
It was clear that the room was a collection of Trawick and the Common Good’s friends and neighbors, and new fans like me. He is as ambitious as he is fun-loving. Trawick has two side projects aimed at promoting local singers and songwriters. He and recording engineer Sean Russell host a weekly podcast known as “The Circus Life” (http://thecircuslife.com/) from the Cue Recording Studios in Falls Church, VA. In 2008, Trawick founded “The 9 Songwriter Series” (https://www.facebook.com/wearethe9) to give more local artists opportunities to play in nicer venues with larger crowds. Touring around the Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia region, “The 9” features nine solo singer/songwriters performing in rotation and often sitting in with each other. More than 300 artists have played with “The 9” to date. Catch them March 9, at the Tin Pan in Richmond, VA. See http://justintrawick.com/ for more upcoming dates for Justin Trawick and the Common Good. Leave your expectations at the door, kick up your heels whether you’re wearing cowboy boots or pink flats, and you won’t be disappointed.
Here is an example of a prior live show in Arlington VA from the video channel of Joe Klatt:
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