“Close to sold out” was the word humming around the lobby of Bay Street Theatre early Friday night as The Nancy Atlas Project and guest star Andy Aledort warmed up for their 8 p.m. show.
Maybe it’s because all of Sag Harbor seems to be ecstatic that one-time local resident Nancy Atlas is back in their village, or perhaps it’s the fact that the now Montauk-based singer/songwriter has a killer band and huge fan following or maybe it’s the high caliber musical guest stars she’s able to pull in. The wild success of Fireside Sessions is probably a mixture of all that and a dash of musical magic bringing a very diverse and enthusiastic crowd out to Bay Street in the snow and rain in January.
On the hard to fill heels of last week’s special guest star, power house Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, guitarist Andy Aledort stepped right up to the plate laying down hardline guitar licks, jaw dropping solos, and joining regular Atlas guitar player Johnny “Blood” Leitch in inspired exchanges of rockin’ musical ideas. As promised by Atlas the evening was a guitar lover’s dream come true. The set opened with Atlas belting out an original tune, “Little ol’ Me,” moved on to the Jimi Hendrix favorite “Little Wing” and to the continued delight of all the guitar enthusiasts in the audience followed that up with Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky” was an audience favorite as was the soulful, hard rockin’ “My Love,” which gave both Johnny Blood and Atlas another chance to show off their amazing chops on this original Atlas tune.
Atlas gave the mic over to Aledort several times throughout the night allowing her guest star to shine vocally as well as through his expert guitar playing. Aledort’s writing skills were also shown off with (among others) the lovely “Right by Your Side: and “Save Something for Me.”
Atlas and Aledort went acoustic on “Side of the Road,” written by one of their mutual musical inspirations, Lucinda Williams. After joking that they had a $5 bet on which one of them would start to cry first while performing the touching Williams ballad instead the two pros left most of the audience wiping away tears with their sweet and heartfelt interpretation. This was followed up by one of Atlas’s most personal and moving tunes “Lost Highway,” performed simply and beautifully with Aledort and Atlas both on acoustic guitar.
In homage to the upcoming Beatles anniversary, Atlas has included a well known “Fab Four” tune in each show and this week gave her audience a rousing version of “Oh, Darling.” The Atlas faithful in the crowd couldn’t stay in their seats for one of her most danceable tunes, “Curse and a Blessing,” and many stayed on the floor as the evening started to come to an end after over two solid hours of music.
Aledort and Atlas clearly enjoy working together and the impressive “string section” of the evening also included regular band member Brett King on bass and guest sit-in Klyph Black. Rounding out the band for the evening was Atlas drummer Richard Rosch and keyboard player Dan Koontz.
If the past two weeks have clued us all in to what we can expect this Friday’s Fireside Session with soul, blues, funk pianist Danny Kean should be another “do not miss” evening of musical mayhem with Nancy Atlas and gang.