Graham Whorley & Kris Woodrum
Sun. Nov. 23
With two six-strings, two big glasses of red wine, two bar stools, a plastic tip bucket, and one speaker cabinet between, the acoustic duo of Graham Whorley (of the Graham Whorley Band) and Kris Woodrum (formerly of Dunzip, currently with The Hawkes) make it look easy at downtown seafood tavern Coast (tucked down an alley off of John Street, next door to Rue de Jean). Since early October, the duo has been strumming and picking every Sunday evening, starting at 7 p.m. or so. Subtle and smooth, the musical chemistry between the technically proficient pair worked well throughout the evening's sets.
Situated under the balcony and the old Darden & Lee's sign, Whorley and Woodrum were set up in typical in-the-corner fashion, which is common for so many acoustic solo and combo acts in the restaurants and taverns around town. But they didn't simply provide undistracting background music; they gradually built their sets, gaining momentum at low volumes. Fingerpicking in unison or flatpicking within different phrases, their guitar work propelled much of the music. Whorley's gentle growl, flattened Southern accent, and twisty reworkings of familiar vocal melodies on numbers like the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" or Zep's "Going to California" enhanced the grooves. Woodrum's tasteful slide riffs and sparse solo style added a nice touch.
They often looked intensely serious, occasionally closing their eyes during transitions, and trading hard looks between verses.
Away from the classic rock standards, the duo detoured into more exotic musical territory with some unexpectedly fiery, mostly instrumental gypsy jazz and Spanish guitar pieces — an atmospheric complement to Coast's more worldly menu items. An extended and slow-funkin' rendition of Taj Mahal's "Nobody's Business But My Own" was another highlight, with Whorley rasping the lyrics in a Dr. John voice. (grahamwhorley.com) —T. Ballard Lesemann