I wrote a story for my former employer, the Sacramento Bee, about one of my favorite singers: Spencer Day, who was a San Francisco resident for a while but is now dwelling in Southern California and continuing his star-making journey.
The story pegs to Day’s Sunday, July 5 concert benefit for Kiwanis House in Sacramento. He’ll be at the San Jose Jazz Festival at the end of July, and he he returns to San Francisco’s Rrazz Room for a nice long run Sept. 8-20. Day’s new album, Vagabond (on the Concord label, no less), is released Sept. 8.
Bay Area singer/songwriter Spencer Day is preparing his latest album, Vagabond, for release in the very near future. But until then, and inspired by the election fray, he is offering a sneak peek at the album with the free downloadable song “A Better Way” on his Web site: http://www.spencerday.com/
It’s a great song — very upbeat and non-cynical — and truly an anthem for our times without being preachy or, with its comforting strings and sassy jazz violin, even anthemic in sound. I can absolutely see Oprah inviting Spencer onto her show to lighten the country’s dismal mood and inspire a little hope with this tune.
Here’s my favorite lyric from the chorus:
This is a time for an evolution
This is a time for a compromise
I know it hurts to grow
But the status quo
Oh you know it all comes with a price
The 29-year-old crooner, who splits his time between San Francisco, New York and the road, has been plying his trade for almost 10 years now. He had a stint on “Star Search” and got all the requisite press when he started playing major venues such as the now-defunct Plush Room in San Francisco. I remember going to his first Plush Room gig and it lasted about 2 ½ hours – about an hour longer than your average cabaret act.
It’s been a while since I saw Day perform, so I made my inaugural visit to the Plush room’s successor, the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko (a beautiful, comfortable room that would look good in a televised PBS concert or some such), to catch up with him.
I’m happy to report that Day just improves with age. He’s still handsome and goofy, which is a potent combination, and his musicianship is growing in wonderful ways.
He performed some old songs (“The Last Train to New Jersey,” “The Movie of Your Life,” “Arizona Blue”), a few covers (“Happy Together,” Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” “All I Do Is Dream of You” from Singing in the Rain, Elvis Presley’s “Love Me”) and made them very much his own.
But mostly he sang new songs because he’s in the midst of writing and recording for his third album.
The new work has a muscular maturity to it both lyrically and musically.
In “Someday,” he sings to a loved in hope that “you’ll learn to love yourself like I do.” And in a suite of four great songs, he explores the notion of running away to find a sense of home. In “Skeleton in the Closet,” his young protagonist is hiding a deep, dark secret: “We’ll never talk about it, but baby everybody knows.” In “The Little Soldier,” the battleground is love, and “Joe” is an intriguing tune about running away from the point of view of the people who get left behind. And “The Vagabond” is a jaunty escape number – running to run, never knowing what you’re running to or from.
The snappiest of the new songs is a clever response to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette called “Poor Marie.” It’s Day’s funniest new song, a nice contrast to the wistful “The Weeping Willow.”
As ever, Day often accompanied himself on piano and received sterling support from bassist Geoff Brennan and Day’s longtime collaborator, cellist/guitarist Yair Evnine. Any song could benefit from the stirring emotion Evnine brings with his sensitive playing.
Relaxed and mellow – think a cross between Norah Jones and Harry Connick Jr. – Day is the real deal. For a while there, with a major label development deal, it looked like Day was going to be the next hot young thing along the lines of Peter Cincotti, Jamie Cullum or Michael Bublé. But the Utah-born Day, who calls himself the love child of Judy Garland and Johnny Cash, is too good for that kind of hype and nonsense. While the music industry wallows in the death throes of reinvention, Day will forge his own way and be all the better for it.
Spencer Day continues through Saturday, June 21 at the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco. Shows are at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 18 and 10 p.m. Thursday, June 19 –Saturday, June 21.Tickets are $27.50-$32.50 plus a two-drink minimum. Call 866-468-3399 or visit www.TheRrazzRoom.com.
Here’s a great video of Day performing his song “The Movie of Your Life.”