You are here

Layne Yost covers John Denver

Layne Yost with Jon Shimoda on stage at Unitarian Church

Saturday night the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Eau Claire played host to a special fund raising concert for the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic.  It was Layne Yost playing the songs of John Denver.   It was a concert Layne has played a couple of times already in the area and I managed to miss them both.  I really didn’t want to miss this, because it is a special event concert, who knows, maybe it will be the final performance.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Layne’s voice, great guitar playing, Jon Shimoda on bass in an acoustically wonderful place to hear them.  I was glad I was there!

Layne YostFour, maybe five years ago (because time does fly) The Wife and I were down at the James Sheeley House to see a musician we hadn’t seen before.  A guitar player named Layne Yost.  She leaned over to me and whispered “Who sings this song?”  I was pretty sure I knew the answer “John Denver”, I answered with authority.  And I was pretty sure of that until the end of the song when Layne told us it was by James Taylor.  The next song though I was positive …until he told us it was some other artist.  So when he did eventually get around to playing a Denver tune, Layne did fantastic at it.

An unexpected and very pleasurable part of the show was the John Denver history we got between songs.  Layne told us about some of the story about the songs he was playing.   About the music that John was writing around the times of his divorces.  About how John was known for singing optimistic love-lost songs.  We heard about some of John’s demons too.  His constant worry about not sounding good, about his songs not being good enough.   But that is common to most all musicians.  Later during the intermission I heard Layne ask, “Is it sounding ok?” and I thought “You sound particularly like John Denver right now”  

It sounded great. Truly.  During the intermission a woman came up to the two of us and talked about how much she was enjoying the show as well.  About how much talent there is in this area.   She had guests up from Madison earlier in the week and was able to impress them as well with everything this area has to offer.  From musicians, artists even our great farmer’s market.   Culturally we do very well here and we are indeed lucky.

Jon Shimoda on stage with Layne Yost

Something I wasn’t a huge fan of, …even though if I would have thought about it I should have known the show would involve this.    Lots of the songs were a sing along.  I have never gone to a Jimmy Buffet concert because I understand you can’t hear Jimmy above the damned Parrot Heads.   I am totally not a sing along guy.  Everyone else in the world perhaps, and certainly everyone in this church were.  I am just reporting.

John Denver often played his concerts along with an upright bass player named Dick Kniss so Layne wanting to mimic the same feel, contacted several upright bass players but everyone was busy.  Finally he came to Jon.  He called him up to invite him to play together and was surprised by the lukewarm reception he got.  Finally he realized he was going to have to audition for it.  But Jon explained that it is the job of the side-man to make the main musicians  look good.  Sometimes, frankly it just can’t be done.

Layne and woman unknownLate in the show a young woman joined the men on stage for a couple of songs.  She must have been up earlier in the show as well because she came up without introduction.  When I find out her name I will post it here.  She had a really nice voice and complemented the music well.

The only complaint I had on the music was that it seemed at some times like Layne rushed the lyrics a bit.  Didn’t hold those rests.  I noticed it a few times.  It wasn’t a big deal.  A very small blemish on an otherwise stellar performance.  I like that music.  Remember watching John on T.V. when I was growing up.   I think it was amazing to hear all those songs performed live and sounding so much like the originals. It was a great night to be out and it felt good to be helping out for such a good cause.

Annoying Photographer at the Layne Yost concertNow that all said, there is one other issue.  So we have this acoustically great venue.  The sound is wonderful.  You can hear a pin drop.   …You can also hear, perfectly, every time the eventually annoying photographer pushed the button on his camera.  The clack of the mirror going up and shutter firing along with (simulated?) rewind/film-transport noise.   Ok, I get being passionate about photography.   I was there once.  But seriously, almost the whole concert?  I used to shoot in increments of 36, two at the absolute most for a gig like this, on an almost soundless Leica.  I realize film is free now, but dude, if you didn’t get it on the first hundred shots, it wasn’t meant to be.  Take a song, maybe even two.  Shoot your pictures, then sit down and be quiet.  Please!


When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Hunter S. Thompson