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               Jim Messina                         Infinity  Music Hall   Norwich CT                                  3/7/20 

There is such a long, storied history to Jim Messina’s career. He draws on his music from three important 60s/70’s bands and make it sound as fresh today as it was long ago. At 72, his vocal and guitars skills remain formidable and he is complemented by a top notch band of seasoned pros. 

My first impression of Messina came from some sort of fanzine in 1968, wherein I discovered that he had joined my beloved Buffalo Springfield, taking over on bass for Bruce Palmer. Years later, I learned just how momentous an event this was. Jim and Richie Furay took over the production of the band’s final album, Last Time Around, as Neil Young and Stephen Stills could no longer bring their egos to the studio together. They brought in a pedal steel player named Rusty Young to give the final song “Kind Woman” a gorgeous country sound. 

Completing Last Time Around, Furay, Messina and Young then added Randy Meisner on bass and George Grantham on drums to form Poco, arguably the most seminal and influential country rock band of all time. And it was here that Messina first displayed his talents on a Fender Stratocaster. No guitar players I knew could figure out the intricate intro to “You Better Think Twice”. 

After Poco, it was on to producing for a budding Kenny Loggins on his debut album, which turned into more of a Jim Messina album. That partnership went on to produce Messina’s best songs and finest guitar work, all on display once more at Infinity Hall in Norfolk recently. 

The show opened with a mini set of gentle acoustic tunes, including “Watching the River Run, “Kind Woman”,  “Danny’s Song”, and “Pooh Corner”. These ran together in a sort of medley and produced some nostalgic sing alongs from the mostly 60-70 year old crowd. Fun to hear this stuff again, but I was glad when the gears began to change. 

“To Be Free” is an intricate piece of music, full of incredible instrumental solos for mandolin, fiddle, and guitar and did not disappoint. Then back to a medley of the foot-stomping kind and some fine guitar and fiddle work on “Holiday Hotel” “Listen to a Country Song” etc. The Trilogy from the first L&M album was a highlight, with the entire crowd singing the final chorus in full throated unison for “Piece of Mind”. 

And then came the finale – “Angry Eyes”. Of course this rocker transforms itself into an extended jazz rock fusion of solos for sax, flute, fiddle, and Messina’s incredible sound on the Strat. The players did an amazing job of reproducing note for note sections of the record, and combined instruments for harmony play that brought the crowd to its feet. Alternately smooth and subtle, then full of raw power, it was a reminder that there is much more to some of our old favorites than we remember. Of course, the encore was a rousing version of “Your Moma Don’t Dance”. 

After the show I stood in line and had a few words with Messina. As usual, this involved simply thanking him for the many years of enjoyment I have had from his music. He was very gracious in his reply and said that he had been very lucky to keep playing all these years. A simple. profound thought that I must remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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