CEDAR RAPIDS,IOWA (October 5, 2013) One of the great things about Legionarts, and CSPS Hall as a venue for musicians, is the efforts of John Herbert and Mel Andringa to bring some of the world’s best songwriters to Cedar Rapids. They do this with such consistency that it’s hard to keep up with the flow of outstanding performers and songs they share. That tradition continues, with the latest singer/songwriter to grace the stage at CSPS Hall being Nashville TN based Buddy Mondlock. Buddy has been to Cedar Rapids many times before, but Saturday, October 5th was his first time at CSPS Hall. The small crowd that showed up for his show was not disappointed.
I’m always delighted to hear songwriters perform their own material. Often, their songs have been hits for more famous performers. At times the more famous version of the song may be more appealing musically. Yet, when performed by the one who wrote the song, we get a glimpse into the heart and soul behind the writing of the song. This is not to say that the versions by more famous artists are bad, or wrong: they are simply a different interpretation of the story the songwriter wanted to tell when he set words and music down on paper.
Buddy Mondlock has a long and successful career in which his songs have been recorded and performed by long list of top performers including Garth Brooks, Joan Baez, Janis Ian and Peter, Paul and Mary, to name but a few. His most famous and widely covered song is “The Kid” which is instantly recognizable by a lot of people simply because it has been covered so many times. It’s one of those simply powerful songs that offers a unique perspective and impacts just about anyone who hears it. Many songwriters share this sort of conundrum, in which people identify their songs with the singer who make them hits, at times forgetting or not even knowing about the artist who wrote the song. There are times, however, where all other versions fall a bit short compared to the way the original writer performs his own song.
Take “The Kid” for example. I’ve heard many versions of this song, (many of them quite powerful) yet only Buddy seems to truly invite us into the world of the subject of the song. Others have tried to make the song their own, but Saturday night, as I listened to Buddy sing the song, I knew who the Kid really was. It was Buddy, sharing a part of his life in a way no one else can. In turn, I realize there was a Kid within my own soul, and I realized Buddy was also singing about me. That is the power of great songwriting, and with Buddy it’s not just limited to one song. He offers a range of themes, styles and subjects in his songs that is the mark of a world class songwriter.
Of all the terrific songs Buddy performed, I would have to pick as my favorite “The Ugly One” from his latest album,The Memory Wall, (the title of which comes from a line in the song). The song is in 5/4 time, not a popular time signature for folk songs (for any song for that matter!). Buddy makes it work both musically and lyrically, taking the audience back in time to witness the life of someone living in a time when being physically deformed was viewed as a mark of the gods, and the only way he could make sure he was remembered was by making is mark on the cold stone wall of a cave.
Buddy’s performance was a gem not only because of the stream of consistently great songs (I can’t think of one that didn’t leave me wishing I could have written it!) but because he is such a nice guy to see and meet in person. It was one of those concerts well suited for CSPS Hall, leaving the audience feeling like he had shown up just for us, perhaps even in our own living rooms, singing to us not as a paid performer, but as a new friend wanting to entertain us and share a part of himself with us.
I have no doubt Buddy Mondlock will be back to CSPS Hall in the near future, not just because he gave a wonderful performance of some great songs, but because Mel Andringa is a big fan of “The Kid”. When he comes back, it will by my third opportunity to hear him live. I’m looking forward to it because he really is the sort of musician who makes each show seem fresh and original.
PS: I mentioned this was not Buddy’s first trip to Cedar Rapids. He has been here a number of times before at the invitation of local singer/songwriter Kimberli Maloy. In recognition of his friendship with Kimberli, Buddy dedicated “The Kid” to her. He invited her on stage to sing his final number with him, “Count On” which was yet another demonstration of Buddy’s personable style and character as a person.