On October 20 a memorial/tribute for Amy Farris was held in her home town of Austin, featuring Dave Alvin and numerous associates of Amy’s over the years.
Last night Dave put together a tribute in Amy’s adopted home town of LA, and what a tribute it was.
Though I’ve never been enamored of Amy’s songwriting or vocal skills, I’ve always respected her talent in general, and specifically her proficiency on the fiddle. She was a great soloist and accompanist, she added spirit and joy to any stage she graced, and beyond that, she was just a great girl who everyone enjoyed being around.
For those of you unfamiliar with Amy’s career I’ll leave you to research on your own-suffice it to say, she left her mark on record, on stage, and in hearts, and she left this earth too soon.
In addition to recording and performing, Amy was a prolific teacher, and last night began with short performances by a couple of her young students who charmed all in attendance.
I See Hawks In LA (an established LA folk/Americana outfit who gigged regularly with Amy) were up next, and opened with a poignant version of Bob Dylan’s ‘She Belongs To Me’. Their short set included a song Amy recorded on her only solo release (produced by Dave Alvin) called ‘Pretty Dresses’ which of course is a ‘chick song’, making for some lighthearted moments as the guys gave it the ‘manly touch’.
Next came Stan Ridgeway, who was obviously moved and having a bit of a tough time dealing with the loss. Stan performed originals and covers, and included a tune he’d recorded with Amy, and a particularly moving song he’d just written that afternoon (as yet untitled) which spoke of giving us all a ‘moment in the sun’, which Amy certainly did.
Peter Case is a remarkable songwriter who’s had his own brush with mortality this year (Dave anchored one of a pair of benefit shows at McCabe’s earlier this year to help with Peter’s medical bills) and consequently hasn’t really been touring. He began by acknowledging what a toll the year has taken thus far and some of the others he (and us) have lost.
Other than a couple older songs (and one from the Mississippi John Hurt record) Peter came with a slew of brand new songs that utterly amazed. He played most on his Taylor 12 string, removing his glasses so he could read his lyric sheets better, and proceeded to take us all on a journey where none of us (including him) knew the destination. It almost seemed like he’d dropped some acid prior to arriving, and was ‘coming on’ as the set progressed-indeed he seemed to have no awareness that each performer was slotted for thirty minute sets-and nobody was going to tell him to stop, resulting in almost an hour on stage.
After a well-timed intermission Dave Alvin strode onstage and did what only Dave can do-kept it real, with just the right amount of emotion and sentimentality, tempered with equal amounts of humor and levity. Never forced, never self-conscious, just real.
Dave began with ‘Downey Girl’ his ode to Karen Carpenter which he recorded with the Guilty Women (of whom Amy was an integral member) and which seemed to fit equally as a tribute to Amy last night. He continued with another song from the new record which he co-wrote with Amy on her solo effort called ‘Anyway’ which features one of this writer’s favorite lines: “You’re a stranger and I’m a crowd”. Next he played a favorite of Amy’s, ‘Blue Blvd’ and let Rick Shea take the vocal on Ray Price’s ‘Faded Love’ which Amy used to play with Ray during her stint with him.
Next came a personal favorite, Dave’s superb ode to those who’ve passed on ‘Somewhere In Time’ (which he co-wrote with David Hidalgo and Louis Perez of Los Lobos) which segued into a blazing version of ‘Ash Grove’. After relating to us that Amy’s first rock and roll concert was seeing Dave play with X in Austin he closed the set with an epic version of ‘4th of July’ featuring some fine guitar interplay between him and Rick.
After bringing Stan, I See Hawks, and Peter back onstage (and augmented by Don Heffington on tambourine) we were treated to a sweet version of ‘Pack Up Your Sorrows’ followed by a ragged but right version of the song Amy would close her own shows with, Wanda Jackson’s ‘Let’s Have A Party’.
As Dave put it, ‘Amy was a talented, versatile red-headed brat-but she was our red-headed brat’.
We’ll miss you, Amy.