Piper-Grey Live at the Onion
Recorded live at the mystic Onion, a beautiful Unitarian temple in Los Angeles on May 22, 2014, this album resounds like a beloved old radio show. Not only do we get Piper (David) & Grey (Earl) delivering a cycle of distinctive, deep and delightful new songs, we also get their spoken introductions, brief poetic and funny interludes that punctuate the proceedings. The old spiritual “Motherless Child” opens the show, the ideal folk-gospel springboard for this journey of spirit set in this post-modern onion-shaped church. Like Lennon and McCartney, who challenged and spurred the other to songwriting heights, Piper & Grey inspire each other to aim high in songs, and they get there. Earl’s romantic “Sweet Southern Nights,” a finely etched voyage on wings of love and memory, is wrapped in a tenderly sweet melody. David’s stunning “Wind Up Clock” is a poignant and perfect embrace of true love spanning a lifetime. It’s a testament to the old joke that if you want your marriage to work, stay together for 50 years, and after that it’s a cinch. Gently rolling rhythmic phrasing propels the song like a lofted arrow through canyons. Earl’s harmony wed to David’s melody is a soft ghost of compassion, as comforting as a wife patting her husband’s hand. Earl’s “Old New Orleans” provides a warm sense of time and place, precise and timeless both. “Mirror Ball” spins with luminous intensity. “Dinner with Carl,” written and introduced by David, details the real-life meeting of the songwriter and one of his idols, the identity of whom is revealed gradually and humorously in the song, and so will remain undivulged here. The follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Apples, this one was produced by Mark Humphrey, who is also the founder of the legendary Trough records. With his vintage equipment, he succeeded in capturing an intimate sound of warm fidelity, especially impressive given the acoustics of the Onion, which is a vast circular space with endlessly tall ceiling. Accompanying the duo is with great percussion grace is Wendysue Rosloff. For lovers of acoustic music, great harmony singing and spirited and ingenious songwriting, you will be happy here. Long revered on the L.A. folk music scene for their songs and beautiful, close harmonies, Piper & Grey both had burgeoning solo careers before teaming up, but this merger of spirit has been revelatory. They are actually quite different stylistically, as singers, songwriters, guitarists and performers. But it’s in the very marriage of those differences that magic has been discovered and mined. Doing this live album was a wise choice, as it affords lucky listeners a chance not to hear a collection of individual songs, but to hear them on this moving musical locomotive on which a warm and familial party is going on. It’s an onion train. I’m glad I was invited. This is a party I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.