NEWTOWN SQUARE—On Saturday night, put together two musicians–both near and far. Headliners The Alfred James Band are only a hop, skip and jump away from Ardmore while opener Megan Burtt hails from the land of the Rockies, Colorado.
But despite their geographical disparity, on Saturday night both musicians shared the stage and the show was quite the opposite of boring. Burtt's catchy bluesy tunes were a perfect match for the high-energy James.
Opener Burtt has been playing music all her life. She began playing piano at a very early age, but when she found her dad's old guitar in the attic she was hooked.
"Piano is what got me started on music, and was the original culprit for this love-affair with music. The difference for me was that when I started playing guitar, I fell in love with writing songs," explained Burtt.
Unlike many musicians, Burtt isn't quickly pitching her holiday music EP during this holiday season. Her holiday promotion was inspired by how she discovered new artists, through gifts. On her website, Burtt is not asking for people to buy her album, she's asking them to give her album.
"I was thinking about my favorite albums and how most of them were given or suggested to me, and how important sharing what inspires us is," said Burtt.
Most musicians find inspiration in personal stories, and Burtt is no different.
"I can't sing songs that aren't personal anymore. I'm just as human as the next person, so there is really no point in writing and singing songs unless humans can relate to it," she said. "Music is the only thing that I've found that can, without fail, bridge gaps, make connections, change minds, and take someone out of a space they are in, and put them somewhere completely new without physically moving their bodies," she explaine.
Burtt enjoys focusing on new ways to connect to her audience. She thrives off of their energy and when she sees an audiences stomping and clapping, only then she knows that it was a good day's work.
After playing at cozy, intimate coffeehouses, Burtt and her band, The Cure for Love, have been hitting the correctional circuit. That's right, she goes from the small venues to the big joint.
"This is our third time," she explained. "It's just a really cool experience, connecting with people I wouldn't necessarily get to otherwise. The inmates are super fun and excited to have us, [they're] really respectful. It's hard to convey the emotion of playing with my favorite players in the world, for people who don't get to go see music whenever they want. The other day, I looked behind at my guys playing their asses off on my songs, and in front of me there were two rows of convicted guys tapping their feet and I just felt like the luckiest girl in the world."
Burtt and The Cure for Love's set was solid rock with a twist of blues. She noted the stillness of the crowd that night but, then again, after playing at a few prisons, Burlap and Bean would seem pretty tame. Her vocals are in the same vein as Joss Stone or Bonnie Raitt, which paired up well with the "plugged-in" electric guitars of her band members.
Headliners The Alfred James Band know how to get a crowd going. But it appeared that Alfred James has enough energy for the whole audience. James is passionate about music and his excitement shows. He is classically trained on cello but always brings something new; his upright cello allows him to bounce on and off stage whenever the mood hits him.
James' band includes guitarist/singer Chris Despo, who has taken the stage at Burlap and Bean with his own solo work. Despo and James are half Lennon/McCartney and half Smothers Brothers. The pair can seamlessly work off of each other's humor and music. They took turns playing each other's songs and this same teamwork can be seen in the studio or writing music as well as on stage.
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