The hum of ‘brown paper packages tied up with string…’ reverberated around the Olympia Bakery. Rather appropriate considering the exquisite baked goods that are sold on the premises by day. Steve Newman and could perhaps be considered as musical bakers, serving up sonic treats from over thirty years worth of recipes honed to perfection.
I was interested to see how these pony-tailed musos would perform. I felt rather embarrassed that I’d not heard much of their music before, despite the fact they’ve been playing together for longer than I’ve been alive.
First up were two solo sets. Tony Cox broke the ice with a warm “howsit”, appropriate for the chill of a windy Cape Town evening. His mix of South African sounds and heartfelt country/bluesy tunes were executed with the sincerity and relaxed ease of an experienced and well-traveled musician. Stories from the road were told between songs in a manner that reminded me of the interludes of the famous Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison album.
Steve Newman started with an introduction to his guitar family namely Sunny, Senior and Junior. Slightly more shy and solemn than Cox, Newman’s classical technique is a contrast to Cox’s more robust sound. Yet the men clearly enjoy a similar, gentle brand of observational humour. His opener, Jaywalking, was an ode to the locally perfected art of illegally crossing the street and it immediately put my body into Cape Goema gear. The sound was reminiscent of his days with the group Tananas I had heard as a boy. It was a downpour of musical delight with a transporting, dreamy quality.
The final set arrived after the bathroom and bar break. Cox and Newman didn’t announce themselves, simply started playing again, happily oblivious to the general scampering back to seats. Dave Brubeck’s jazz standard Take 5 and a medley of Julie Andrews’ screen songs set the tone for a few film-inspired (re)arrangements. The sound became more intricate as the two guitarists allowed each other to lead and follow.
It all felt so comfortable, as though two favourite uncles were jamming in my living room. The rapport of the pair is obvious, and they have an easy light banter with the crowd, laughing at their own song titles such as Bach’s Duelling Banjos and Cow-persons and Native Americans.
It was clear that these two “uncles” were enjoying the music as much as we were. Maybe even more so, as they played an encore even after what I thought was a rather modest applause considering the skill displayed. How refreshing in these days of instant music gratification and pop stardom to find two masters committed to sharing good music with the world, one bakery at a time. They have definitely become a few ofmy favourite things.
Justin Joshua Davy
Return of the Road Warriors runs every Friday and Saturday in August 2011.