Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Randy Sinz, John Lynch and Gregg Wheeler

Jean and Charlie live across the street and two houses down from me. They're my aunt and uncle. For years we've been “giving” each other live music as gifts. This Christmas their present was Randy Sinz, Gregg Wheeler and John Lynch. On Sunday I hopped into my little Beetle, putted down the street, picked up Jean and Charlie and we headed to Fanny Hill for dinner and music.

I've seen this trio three times, all at Fanny Hill. The first time was last summer, out on the deck and—if I remember correctly—it was a spur of the moment thing. Randy was asked to fill in for a last minute cancellation. He invited two old friends to play with him. I knew their music would appeal to Jean and Charlie and when I saw they were playing the weekend after Christmas I heaved a sigh of relief: Here were two presents I wouldn't have to cruise the mall for.

Fanny Hill is pretty formal. The room is elegant, with cloth-covered tables, candles, ornate winter-themed decorations and twinkly lights draped around windows that offer a bird's eye view of the river. The atmosphere is hushed and I feel like I need to don my best table manners. The music on Sunday night, on the other hand, was just the opposite. Relaxed and casual, these three men made us feel like we were all kicking back on a summer porch. Three old friends, comfortable with each other and the music and pleased to be sharing that music with their friends, the audience.

I've written about Randy Sinz before. He and his partner, Sue Orfield, are staples in the local music scene and we are darned blessed to have them. He plays with Rada Dada, TwoRivers, The Sue Orfield Band, Catya's Trio, Code Blue, AcoustiHoo, and Ranger Rudy and the Swingin' Wingtips. You can read about him here and I'll write more about Randy and his other bands in the future. He's known locally for his work on the electric and upright bass, but he's equally good on the guitar and has a fine voice.

Gregg Wheeler hit my music radar last year when he played during AcoustiHoo's CD release party at The Stone's Throw. He's an artist on the harmonica and he totally blew me away. Jean and Charlie were at that gig too and after Gregg left the stage Charlie told Gregg that he'd always wanted to play the harmonica. I'll be darned if Gregg didn't reach into his front shirt pocket, pull out his harp and give it to Charlie. Charlie was delighted and while he hasn't started blowing, he insists he will learn when he retires. Earlier this winter Gregg and Aunt Jean ran into each other at a funeral and discovered they had family and friends in common. Gregg arranged to play at the assisted living home where Jean's mother lives. Since then, Gregg has been emotionally-adopted into my family's music-favorites. He also plays guitar and sings. Gregg has a relatively low music-profile, but this will be the third time I've mentioned him in my blogs. You can read more about Gregg here and here.

I'm not as familiar with John Lynch. Back in the day he played with The Better Half. He also plays with Ranger Rudy and the Swingin' Wingtips. He used to play with The Memories, but said he stopped in 1988. He was married with a new child and he decided to leave the road. The Memories are still together and still gigging. John plays the guitar and writes and he offered a sample of some of his originals at Fanny Hill on Sunday night.

There is no consolidated set list. They take turns calling the next song, working in rounds and for the most part, the guy calling the song also sings it. Most of the songs are familiar to all three, but it's not unusual for one of the guys to bring a song that they haven't played together. John started it off with Charlie Pride's “Is Anybody Going To San Antone.” John and Randy played acoustic guitar and Gregg alternated between his electric guitar and harmonica. Gregg commandeered a tray stand and had his aluminum harmonica case open in front of him and throughout the night he seamlessly switched between instruments. He followed the Pride song with Merle Haggard's “That's The Way Love Goes,” and Randy picked up his fretless acoustic/electric bass and countered with a rousing version of Hank Williams' “Jambalaya.” John chose a hilarious song by David Tanner titled, “Effingham:”
She's gone to Effingham yeah she took the Effing kids
and hit the Effing road
in her Effing mini van
and now I'm sitting here alone
and I don't Effing understand
why my baby's Effing gone to Effingham”

This song brought out a bout of silliness from Randy and John and while Gregg tried to bring it back with George Jones' “Tall Tall Trees,” Randy acted drunk and sang a parody of “Green Green Grass Of Home” and John answered with his parody, “Blue Hairs Driving In My Lane.”

Part of the fun of this trio is the twinkle in John's eye when he's being outrageous. He's a wonderful songwriter, too, and he sampled some of his originals Sunday night. “Outkicked Your Coverage” is a lively song he wrote offering fatherly advise after meeting his son's girlfriend:
“You've outkicked your coverage
You're way over your head
That little filly you've been seeing is a full-grown thoroughbred
You've outkicked your coverage
Don't take it personally
On a scale of 1 to 10, she's about a 23.”

The song “Bad Day Of Fishing” is a sweet song, written about his father after he retired:
“Tells the fish 'this is your lucky day'
Then tosses it back to swim away
When he goes home at the end of the day
He'll dream about the one that got away
A bad day of fishing still beats
A good day at work.”

“They're Bailing Out Wallstreet” sounds a protest to today's politics:
“They're bailing out wallstreet
What about mainstreet
Don't forget about the man with the calluses on his hands
He's trying to make ends meet
Ain't living on Easy Street
It's time to take a stand and be the conscience of this land.”

And then there's the “Cookies” song: “Homemade cookies sure make the coffee taste better!” I gotta tell you, this man sure likes cookies.

Randy sang “Crazy Arms” for Charlie, “Ain't No Sunshine” for Jean and “Unchain My Heart” (now known as “The Bag Of Beans Song”) for me. He also sang Santana's “Evil Ways,” Gary Stewart's “Empty Glass” and a song his father, Jerry Sinz also a musician in the band, The Dairyland Ranch Hands, sang called “Candy Kisses.”

Other songs included George Strait's “Amarillo By Morning,” The Casino's “Then You Can Tell Me Good-Bye,” Buck Owens' “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy,” and Mark Chesnutt's “Rolling With The Flow,” and “Wagon Wheel” all sung by Gregg. During Marvin Rainwater's “Gotta Find Me A Bluebird” Gregg got the audience whistling. He also did one of his standards—and my favorite—Marty Robbins' “Devil Woman.” I love watching Gregg. He feels the lyrics. I admitted later on that I kind of crush on him when he sings and plays the harmonica. There's such earnestness and feeling.

The three musicians met in high school and have been playing with each other, off and on, since then. Their level of comfort, their communal approach, and laid-back style works wonderfully and brings us back to a simpler time. Over one of the breaks John Lynch said, “Some people load up their golf clubs in the car, we load up our instruments. I'm just thankful that places like Fanny Hill let us come out and do this.” They will be playing every other month at Fanny Hill and I can't imagine a more pleasant way to wile away a cold, winter Sunday evening.

Finally, I offer a nod to another Chippewa Valley Music blog, Freaks and Geeks.  The Dairyland Ranch Hands link goes to his site.

1 comment:

  1. What a great review! It makes me feel like I really missed something special...I will have to catch them live sometime soon. This blog was particularly well-written. You must have been sitting there taking notes on your laptop--you not only gave your reaction to the band and their musical presentation, but provided so much in terms of their set list and even bits and pieces of the lyrics to really give us a flavor of what what went on. Thanks for providing this blog, and I'll be waiting for your next review! John