James Lee Stanley
Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
July 15, 2004
I live with a fan of The Monkees. I have no objection to this, as virtually all musical things from the 1960's (with the salient exception of MoTown) hold a special place in my ears and heart. Since I've known my housemate (and for purposes of full disclosure I must state that we're getting married sometime soon), she has told me about seeing Peter Tork live, but that on the same bill was one James Lee Stanley, who in her opinion, bested the headliner.
With her urging, and in the company of one of her oldest friends who drove up from Illinois, we went to see James Lee Stanley at Shank Hall in Milwaukee tonight.
We arrived early and grabbed a front row seat dead center in front of the stage. I didn 't realize that by doing this, I had set myself up.
James came out and immediately asked if there was anyone in the audience who had never seen him before. I raised the loneliest hand in the world; I was the only Stanley Virgin in the bar. For the first few songs of his very entertaining set, I was the between-song banteree.
The power of Stanley's live performance lies in two things; mastery of guitar and storytelling. Stanley is one of those rare acoustic guitar players that when seen by people like me with (at best) marginal talents, the first reaction I have is to take my hands home and scold them for not behaving like those I've just witnessed. Being the only person in the audience for whom James Lee Stanley was a new experience, you'll pardon me if I don't know the names of his better known songs. The fans in the know who surrounded me tonight at Shank Hall were more than obliging as they blurted out requests from what I now know as Stanley's impressive catalog of songs.
At the end of the show, I had a brief occasion to meet Mr. Stanley, telling him that I had never been abused so tastefully. He was as genuine off the stage as off, and when Leslie (my intended) blurted out that I also played, I was penetant, saying I could NEVER play guitar anything like what I just saw. And tonight, for the first time in my life, a true troubadour looked me in the eye and said, "Anything that anyone else has ever played, YOU can play!". Not even from FAMILY have I ever heard such words of encouragement from one musician to another. I left Shank Hall knowing that the next time we met, my hand wouldn't be the one going up at the start of the show.
James Lee Stanley is currently whizzing around North America. Visit his website at http://www.jamesleestanley.com for all relevant information.
Because I actually saw a REAL musician tonight, I won't ruin the moment by posting another entry from The Writ Of Common Wisdom this evening. Look for the next entry tomorrow night.