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Baltimore Barnburners: Songs of Our City at the Creative Alliance, Nov. 20

November 23, 2010
Anne Watts

Anne Watts

The catalog of songs, whether famous or obscure, written about Baltimore or that simply mention Baltimore is vast and varied. But when taken together, those songs do form an interesting city portrait and how it exists in the hearts and minds of songwriters and music listeners. Last Saturday at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, the Roots Cafe put on an event, “The Streets of Baltimore: Songs of Our City,” that aimed to celebrate that music about Baltimore with a program full of covers and originals by local artists.

The rotating assortment of musicians onstage throughout the night, as introduced by writer and frequent City Paper contributor Geoffrey Himes, looked like a well-knit group with a good deal of shared history. Singer/songwriters SONiA of the band Disappear Fear, Howard Markman, and accordionist and singer Anne Watts of the band Boister, often played during each other’s sets or shared backing players, and throughout the night alluded to times they had played together years or even decades ago. Poet Adam Trice and his band Red Sammy seemed to be younger than most of the other performers by some distance, but their brand of self-proclaimed “graveyard country” fit in just fine with the rest of the evening’s rootsy odes to Baltimore.

The night was at its liveliest when the songs weren’t simple sentimental odes to the city but songs that whimsically or acerbically alluded to Baltimore’s downsides or its seedy underbelly, such as Markman’s rendition of Arty Hill’s “I Left Highlandtown” or Anne Watts’s hilariously bawdy performance of “Baltimore Whores.” Inevitably and happily, though, the event ended on a sweet note as nearly all the performers crammed onto the stage for a big singalong of the concert’s namesake, the oft-covered country song “Streets of Baltimore” penned by Harlan Howard and Tompall Glaser.

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