Jen Hajj and Utah Slim w/ Heartroot 11/13/10

Mestizo Coffee House – Salt Lake City, UT

Words/Photos by feliciaevita




Last Saturday in the concert room at Mestizo Coffee House in Salt Lake City was the place to be, in case you didn’t hear.  And granted, many of you didn’t get the message, but next time you’ll know that a song-packed evening with Jen Hajj and Utah Slim and Heartroot, is not to be missed.

Jen Hajj and Utah Slim are the quintessential merger of classically trained folksinger songstress Jen and cowboy poet and storyteller Slim. And, incidentally, she graduated from McClintock HS, the rival to my Marcos de Niza HS in Tempe, Arizona.  When I heard Jen and Slim at the recent Songwriters in the Round, I first heard their desert poetry, which almost sings itself.  Several times, during the past week, I found myself humming one of their signature songs “Where You Take Me.”

I’d chatted with Slim between sets at the Lisa Ferraro and Erika Luckett concert last Friday and he mentioned that he had spent a lot of time down in southern Utah and had grown to love the majestic desert.  And of course, now he’s trying to reconcile his passion for miles of red rocks, hawks, and endless blue skies, with living in Salt Lake City.

The aura of Jen and Slim’s playing has an American Old West quality reminiscent of “Flora,” a song from Peter, Paul and Mary’s Moving album. The fair young maiden captured the heart of more than one cowboy in what became yet another tale of the Wild West. Jen and Slim bring the desertscape of South Central Utah alive with songs like “On the Colorado Plateau” and “Call of the Wild.”  At one point during the concert, the audience yodeled along with our “yo la hee hee” to Joe West’s “Human Cannonball” and Jen did a spectacular solo yodel in “Canyon Lullaby.” And their rendition of “Own Heart’s Desire” evoked that feeling of getting back to dancing and romancing.

It’s been so long since we twirled around the dance floor
I’ve almost forgotten how
So gas up the pick-up
I’ll bring the babies
They’ll stay with the neighbors tonight
If the band at the bar
Can play waltzes and shuffles
I’m gonna dance with my own heart’s delight

In between Jen and Slim’s sets, we heard Heartroot: Eric McEuen and Mindy Dillard.  As I was listening to their amusing songs and diverse instrumentation of guitars, mandolin, percussion, and a striking turquoise ukelele, I noticed that Mindy’s voice sounded like she should be in musical theater.  And indeed, she acknowledged having a theater background.

On tour from Portland, Oregon, Mindy has Salt Lake City roots and the couple have taken their beloved gnome to each concert event.  And Gnomie has blogged about their adventures.

Both sets were packed with songs that were funny, inspirational, and touching.  “If A Song Could Be President” captured my fancy.  I wish Emmy Lou could be an ambassador!  The warm and poetic relationship melody “There From Here,” which we learned was written at 3 am, is an honest admission that the two of you don’t know the way, but you’re on the journey.  Mindy’s beautiful voice and Heartroot’s harmonies stay in your music cell memory for a long time.  “Little Bird Jump” is a catchy song which captured the courage to leave the proverbial nest and take flight:

Bird won’t you fly
Why don’t you fly
Why don’t you
Bird won’t you fly
Why don’t you fly
Why don’t you

Eric’s song “Hidden Water” about his dowser “water witch” grandpa finding water in the desert brought tears.  Their show ended with another original that “wrote itself.”  The song required audience participation, with verbs such as working, thinking, and planning.  We threw out suggestions such as swimming, reading, blogging, breeding, loving, singing, and smiling, as we sang along.  Such spunk!

Last night, I was scheduled to go see Heartroot again, but a steep, snowy hill coupled with a heavy snow downpour forced me to turn back.  They’ll be in Salt Lake City through mid-December, so there’s still time.  Check their website for upcoming concerts including two next weekend.

Concert date – 11/13/2010
Mom, MBA, yogini, concert blogger, urban hiker, flutist, lover of Euro chocolate
View all posts by feliciaevita
Susis website
Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive