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Haines & Leighton (September 20, 2008)

Lucky us! We’re back from another incredible show in the fantastic Knox Acoustic Cafe series, this time the brilliant musical stylings of Haines and Leighton. You know, this series continues to be stellar and classy in every way, and if you’re missing it, that’s a real shame. We are proud, also, to announce that this show marks the one-year anniversary of our attendance! Yes, it was last September when we saw our first in the schedule, Chuck Baker and Pete Arbor. It seems that time flies when we’re having fun, and at Knox fun is definitely assured.
Before I regale you with tales of this great concert, I must first explain my tardiness in getting this review posted. On the day of the show, I worked right up until an hour before it started, then rushed there to be on time (just making it under the wire). After the show, we went home, exhausted, and fell asleep, thus marking the first time I’ve ever missed posting a review immediately following the festivities. Gasp! I know! The horror! So, the following day was spent celebrating an (unrelated) personal milestone, and the weeks following have seen technical difficulties at our blog site which bar me from posting anything at all. Ain’t technology grand? So, this review was set to languish on my (wonderful) Mac until things are corrected. But that will never do for you, Faithful KMA Readers. You’re demanding, I know (and we’re grateful, believe me). So the following has so far been a bootleg copy of my meager words and thoughts on this concert, mysteriously leaked by unknown sources to Knox’s site (to be shared as those fine folks see fit, if any of it is useable) before it even got here, to the KMA page. But now here it is. Lucky you!
So, Haines & Leighton. What a show! First off, let me attempt to begin to describe the incredible talent displayed throughout the entire evening. These multi-instrumentalists were dizzying as they manipulated guitar, accordion, keyboard and violin, drawing beautiful and soaring songs from them with apparent ease. Their vocals were strong and clear, and their harmonies were dead-on. These are clearly seasoned musicians in love with their craft, truly just having fun from the first note onward.
The songs themselves varied greatly, from jigs and reels that evoked rocky shores and smells of the sea, to folk-like tales of family, good times and togetherness through everything that life offers. Yeah, LIFE. That’s what this music sounded like, to me. It felt real. It made me sit up straighter, made me smile and feel good, and their obvious energy and comfort on-stage was wonderful to witness. We’ve seen other acts here in town that have used the same jokes and between-song patter at each gig, and that’s tiresome and forced. But on this night I had the impression that the jokes and comments were largely spontaneous, which is far superior. And even if some of it had been rehearsed, like their hilarious CD sales pitch that veered from a Christmas jingle into an evangelical plea, or their Happy Birthday mock-up, there would be no way of knowing, and that is the mark of true professionals. 
We heard many original tunes (all of which we excellent and, without sounding like a TV evangelist myself, you really should own all 3 of their CDs), as well as maybe the best version of the Orange Blossom Special I’ve ever heard. Wow. They really took that one and gave it everything they had! There was also a down-east cover of a Stompin’ Tom tune, and several songs that also reminded me of when we lived on the prairies, bringing to mind wide-open spaces and good-hearted people with a taste of country. Seriously, by the time they reached the end of their set, they had the audience begging for more. So, of course we got an encore, which was another funny song and, at first, one might think it was contrived. But no, they were just having fun as full costume and vocals, replete with slumped shoulders and rude scratching, brought forth a humourous, Tom Waits-ish hard-times song about having to work when you’d really rather be home with your girl. Brilliant.
In sum, this was a fantastic show by musicians who are not to be missed. Our immense thanks to the band, everyone at Knox for making it happen, and especially to Susan and Irwin, without whose incredibly hard work and dedication this series wouldn’t happen or have even close to the genuine feel that it always does. Thanks heaps, guys. You rock.
Next up: Terry Tufts, with Tyler Firestone opening! We can’t wait!

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