J a n u a r y   2 0 0 5

Aural Report

Little Sue & Lewi Longmire at the Laurelthirst
A reason to be nice
by Kurt Dahlke

he world is a bad place, a bad place, a terrible place to live, oh but I don't want to die."

I never understood those lyrics, really, but I agree with them nonetheless.

I'm sure that's not the message Little Sue intends to get across when she plays at the venerable Laurelthirst on this December Wednesday night but, somehow, that's what I'm getting.

And no mistake: the Laurelthirst is not a bad place, or a sad place. In fact for what it is, it's a very good place.

You'll leave smelling like a cigarette that's been butted out and sitting in a puddle of rainwater for a few days, but now that the 'thirst is joining a list of remainders that still actually allow smoking, it's probably a badge of courage.

Little Sue: coming from a very good place.

And the 'thirst is pretty much the living room for Portland's alt-country crowd (for lack of a better term – please accept my apologies) with the likes of Little Sue and tonight's helpmate, the ubiquitous Lewi Longmire, making it a regular showcase for their inestimable talents.

Talent Sue's got, and dedication, too – so much so that she'll play the smoky room with a l'il roadie still cooking in the oven, if you catch my drift.

Her repertoire is deep and long and longing, and she's got the voice to sell it. Something like Dolly Parton with a little more copper, a bit of Tang that keeps it from going down like Robitussin in a raver's throat.

Sweet and melodic on a pre-holiday night when people use their cars like weapons of hate and impotence. Soulful and swinging when you're sitting alone or sharing a large table with an old man who smokes, distractedly rubbing your face in a reflexive sweat, clinging to a cola to deal with a harsh world you don't understand and can't navigate.

It's those who are eating alone at Shari's who you bounce your image off of. Judging loneliness (real or imagined) off of your own, which once may have been imagined but is now as real as your daily schedule.

But you can ease that schedule if you know where to listen. Little Sue does well with Lewi, who has a sweet voice – the high-lonesome sound mixed with good Oregon driftwood. They are familiar enough with one another to match harmonies onstage in a talky club.

Ahh, professionalism.

Lewi Longmire: pretty mean on any instrument he plays.

Lewi's pretty mean on guitar, too, or any other instrument he plays – though tonight it's strictly git/vox.

Strumming along and tapping his Cons, with a glance from Sue he suddenly ascends into the reaches; simple and tasteful phrases played with fleet fingers. It makes you forget, or start bleeding from the heart. Either outcome would probably please Sue and Lewi.

The stage is set up like the living room where they probably practice: couple of chairs facing slightly inward, a table with a couple drinks on it, a floor lamp. I'd like to see them throw an easy chair and a little cot up there, too. Make it a place you could play every night and then go sit and read a book, or go to sleep. A real artist in residence.

Little Sue has her groupies here, even at 6:30 p.m., singing along and waving cell phones in the air, like Cingular was hi-fidelity or something.

But, oh man, is there a lot to do. Even though Little Sue ain't done, and the next act is yet to follow, those of us with the weight of the world on our shoulders gots to go.

Probably the best time, too, as the pair has dragged out a not-possible-to-be-ironic-anymore cover of Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You."

It sounds good, as Monster Hits often do, while we head out the door.

Always good to remember we're all pretty much stuck with each other, too. In case you need a reason to be nice.

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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