Concert at Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater, Snohomish, WA
Doug Cox from Vancouver Island and BettySoo from Austin Texas met at an Alaskan Music Camp. Doug is well known for his resophonic lap and slide guitar, and has also camped out on his island with musical luminaries such as Doug Sahm and Guy Clark. Doug Cox can play the resophonic inside and out, but he plays it with such taste and control that the acoustic delivery of just two people, rhythm guitar, slide guitar, and voice was quite enough. Wow! The lines cast in and around BettySoo’s voice were perfect. BettySoo (written singularly-BettySoo) has made a name for herself with calm stage presence, a powerful and versatile voice and deceptively relaxed rhythm guitar hand. She’s also a great writer and you can hear her subtle humor, macabre in this case, in her song "Secrets," a very funny song about a divorcing couple. It’s sweet, but homicidal.
I was lucky to see these two at the Tim Noah Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish, which is a small converted church (if you can ever convert a church). The small audience crowded forward and caught the nuance of straight faced wry humor - and beautiful singing. The evening was a respite for everyone, including Doug and BettySoo who had battled rain, heat, and the otherwise occupied crowds at the Bite of Seattle. Seattle’s loss, our gain. That set list was lost, wet and worthless in the Northwest rain. BettySoo made a joke out of asking Doug each time what he wanted to play—he insisted he only knows songs by "that thing in G or this thing in E."
This concert featured songs from their latest CD Lie To Me full of songs written by their friends including: Loudon Wainwright III, Doug Sahm and Guy Clark. In "Lie To Me" BettySoo can belt out notes and at the same time caress the high notes. She has one great voice with excellent range. "You Don’t Need" is sung quite softly and expressively. The control is still there even in the soft stuff. This song has incredible images from someone whose lover has moved on “and the wind howls across the ice flows…as I stumble to the tundra and tundra is my lover…” "Be Careful There’s a Baby in the House" is a humorous expression of the power a baby has upon arrival. The words are set on top of a not-your-normal musical scale, picked guitar. Doug sings this one with BettySoo's help. "Boxcars" is one more heck of a train song, which just whacks along slowly - it’s mostly about watching the trains and life go by. BettySoo moves her voice around and Doug lets the resophonic guitar speak with eloquence. I found these last three choices to be exquisitely performed.
"Louis Riel," written by Doug Sahm, is a tribute to the leader of the Metis people of Canada who trace their descent to mixed European and First Nations people. Riel led a resistance against the Canadian government to preserve the rights of his people for which he eventually was executed in 1885. He is still a hero to French speaking people of Quebec vs. the English speaking parts of Canada.
This duo's entire collection contains understated poetry—it sneaks up on you. Doug’s playing is haunting, echoing the melodies, lightly touching the harmonics. I cannot imagine anyone playing or singing these songs any better. Hopefully, they will be back and you will stop and listen.
- J.W. McClure