Around The World  With Albert and Gage
Folkwax E-zine      June 11, 2003    By Kerry Dexter

A Cajun house party in Lafayette, a piano bar in Milwaukee, a sidewalk cafe in Paris, a Fort Worth honky-tonk, an Austin songwriter listening room -- the partnership of Christine Albert and Chris Gage turned the back deck at Austin's Central Market North into all these venues on a recent spring evening. They kicked things off with a high-energy triplet of tunes having to do with journeys: "Boxcars," "Jumping the Track" and "Tumbleweed." Backed by the rock steady beat of Brad Fordham on bass and the groovy creativity of Lisa Pankratz on drums, Albert and Gage set the tone for an evening filled with musical rapport, great leads and harmonies and a lively selection of thoughtful cover tunes and original songs.

 Children played, kites flew and people enjoyed beer and informal dinners in the oak-shaded outdoor setting as the pair next took their listeners on a trip to the Gospel side with a song about flying on the wings of a magic bird, and then led the audience on a goofy good time with one of their perennial concert crowd pleasers, Dan Hicks' funny "Up Up Up," which Gage set off with wry delivery. He then picked up the accordion as the duo offered a lively French polka. Albert slowed things down a bit, unleashing a soulful intensity of interpretation with "a most romantic song," in French, the passionate "La Vie en Rose." Another gospel tune, "Bells of Joy," saw all four musicians on stage  enjoy an extended instrumental jam which would have done a good job of raising the roof, had there been one on the outdoor setting. 

Albert and Gage are no strangers to roof raising: separately and together, they've played with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Roy Clark, Eliza Gilkyson, Willie Nelson, Jerry Walker, and many others. Gage has produced and been sideman for many artists and fronted his own Red Willow Band; Albert has appeared on Austin City Limits and had one of her solo recordings, "Under the Lone Star Sky," break the top twenty on national Americana music charts. Together, their harmonies are engaging and they strike sparks of creativity and fun, and always offer their audiences an intriguing range of musical genres. 

As the sun set behind the trees surrounding the outdoor stage at Central Market, Albert and Gage offered a wistful yet powerful original, "How Can I Walk Away?," and then a rollicking take on the tune "Dallas." "Let's see how well you know your Texas songwriters," Albert said as they brought the tune to a close. "Who wrote that song?" "Jimmie Dale!" called out several in the crowd, correctly identifying Texas tunesmith and Flatlander Jimmie Dale Gilmore, with whom Gage and Albert have toured.

 "Do you think we might be pressing our luck if we do two miracle songs back to back?" Albert asked her stage partners. They did them anyway, a Chrissie Hynde song about journeys and returns and all the love in the world set to a Rock beat and an original Country rocker celebrating and reminding of the everyday miracles of life. "These days maybe we should double up on those miracle requests," Albert concluded with a smile as they brought their first set to a close. 

The second set found a sparser crowd. "Don't you all know there's basketball on?" Gage joked as he returned to the stage. It was indeed a big game night for the University of Texas Longhorns, but that didn't keep a lively bunch from enjoying Albert, Gage, Fordham and Pankratz on a lilting Cajun-tinged Daniel Lanois tune, "Under a Stormy Sky," some full out Bluegrass on "Cash on the Barrel Head," soulful, driving Blues Rock on "Dark End of the Street," several more selections in French in tribute to Albert's French/Swiss heritage, and the funny up tempo "Over It." To end the evening's eclectic musical journey, Chris Gage and Christine Albert chose the hopeful benediction of Bob Dylan's wish for bright futures and better days, "Forever Young."

  Kerry Dexter is a senior contributing editor at FolkWax. Kerry may be contacted at folkwax@visnat.com.

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