Pre-Turkey Day Jam
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 8 p.m.
When it comes to eves, the night before Christmas gets the love and publishing deals. But since 2001, Durham musician and band leader Jon Shain has been doing his best to get Thanksgiving Eve its share by hosting a charity concert that's known, fittingly, as the Pre-Turkey Day Jam.
"I had been hearing about Warren Haynes' Christmas Jam in Asheville and how successful it was in raising money for charity and in bringing together musicians who usually don't get to see and hear each other much throughout the year," Shain offers. "It seemed that, on a smaller scale, we could do the same sort of thing in our area: celebrate the holidays and our musical friendships, while not forgetting the folks who are needy during the colder winter months."
And, as is typical when it comes to the Triangle, Shain has never had trouble filling the bill for the benefit: "Most local musicians don't make enough money to donate to charitable causes," he explains. "They jump at the chance to contribute in some way."
Full bands have been the norm for past jams, but Shain went with something different this year—the time-tested song circle format. Nine songwriters signed on, as did standup bassist FJ Ventre. In fact, to avoid the creation of a song ellipse, Shain has divided the singers into two groups of four. The first—featuring Shain, session hero Will McFarlane, blues rocker Cyril Vance and Greg Humphreys, whose soulful pipes tend to overshadow his ace playing—will be a guitar lover's dream.
The other group will replace the picking pyrotechnics with lush atmospherics: Lynn Blakey, Sara Bell, Tom Maxwell and Mark Simonsen plan to swap songs, meaning echoes of Glory Fountain, Tres Chicas, Regina Hexaphone, Squirrel Nut Zippers and The Old Ceremony can be expected. And keep your fingers crossed for a combined-forces, all-star finale.
That's especially fitting, as Bell, McFarlane and Simonsen—who played in Flyin' Mice and WAKE with Shain—all participated in the inaugural Jam at Cary's Six String Café, which took place just two months after the attacks of 9/11. "I remember how warm the sense of community was that night," Shain says. That same warmth has dominated every subsequent jam.
Oh, and not that anyone asked me, but I'd probably give thanks for something like this, with that encore I mentioned: "People Get Ready" or "Bring It on Home to Me," Blakey and Humphreys harmonizing, and McFarlane adding country-soul guitar fills imported straight from Muscle Shoals.