Sunday, May 20, 2012

Local Music Review: Chris Westfall

In addition to showing art that I pick up from local artists, I'd like to start showcasing local musicians. I'm starting with the Chris Westfall concert I worked at last night.

Me with Chris Westfall after the concert. See his website at
Chris Westfall is a folk singer and musician local to South Jersey. He has performed as far north as upstate New York, as far south as North Carolina, and while he only typically goes as far west as Colorado, he has performed in California (wish it had been while I was there). He even goes to Nashville to record his albums, which I know from my own traveling experience is a grueling trip from New Jersey.

Chris plays six- and twelve-string guitars as well as the piano. When you listen to him, you can tell his original compositions are inspired from some unfathomable musical source. My favorite of these is "Gandhi, Buddha" which ranks right up there with John Denver's "Annie's Song" for exactly how you should feel about someone you are in a healthy loving relationship with. I also love "Down This Road" because it's so realistic and self-aware, and "We'll Be There By Morning" because it's so hopeful and uplifting. He also covers classic tunes from other artists. My favorite's of these are John Denver's "Eagles and Horses" and "Calypso" because they make me feel like I'm flying, and Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" because it makes me feel like dancing and because I am a brown-eyed girl myself.

Chris is really an experience to see in concert. He has so much passion for what he does, he sometimes stomps his foot on the stage in rhythm to what he is singing and playing. He is inside the music at these times, soaring with it like an eagle, and you are right there along with him.

Last night, only about 40 people showed up at the concert, but you would have thought it was twice that number by the sheer volume of applause. I know because I could hear it out in the lobby where I was selling tickets. (I clapped too, but I don't think anyone could hear me.)

A little before the intermission, I was able to move my ticket table close enough to the room to hear the rest of the concert. The first song I heard when I got there was "North to Alaska," a song Chris was inspired to write during an Alaskan cruise. He did a cover of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" that I think was better than the original. It's amazing how much a slight decrease in tempo and a single guitar accompaniment can improve an already great song. In between songs, Chris tells interesting and often amusing stories, sometimes about his music career and the songwriting process, sometimes about his daily life. All of them are worth hearing. After the intermission, he played his catchiest original, "Heading to the Mountains," along with some covers, including John Denver's "Country Roads" which had everyone singing along. He also sang a touching original composition, "I'm Coming Home," for National Armed Forces Day, and "Running River," a song written for him by one of his musical friends. I personally think "Running River" must be his favorite song. All the times that I have seen Chris Westfall in concert, he has consistently put more of himself into this one song, every single time, than he has for any other song I have ever seen him perform. He just rises to a whole other level of awesomeness.

I fell asleep at a Livingston Taylor Concert once. His voice was so soothing and his musical style so comforting that I felt perfectly safe, as though I was wrapped up in a blanket. That is how I felt at Chris Westfall's concert last night, except I didn't fall asleep. I attribute this to Chris' ability to offset his soothing, melodious songs with peppy tunes that have you dancing in your seat or singing along - or both!

If given the chance to go to a Chris Westfall concert, you absolutely should not pass it up. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sing - even if you don't think you can.

For more information, music samples, and concert dates, visit Chris on his website.

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