Crystal Gayle Thursday, Aug. 10, Festival at Sandpoint
Here’s a concert that did not exactly go off according to plan. To wit:
Most of the crowd had purchased tickets for Loretta Lynn, but she canceled a week ago to be with her ailing husband. Her sister, Crystal Gayle, came to the rescue.
On the morning of the show, Gayle woke up with a raging cold. Her voice, or what was left of it, was about three steps lower than usual.
And finally, the bill was flipped. Gayle played the opening set, while the “opening act,” The Big Sky Mudflaps, played the closing set. That’s because a crashing thunderstorm appeared to be on the way. The festival folks didn’t want a gale to blow through Gayle.
Despite all of this, the show turned out to be enjoyable - not great, but not the disaster it might have been. The storm never came, and Gayle’s voice held out for a one-hour set.
I could only admire how Gayle persevered. Her voice was on the ragged edge. She couldn’t reach the high notes at all, and even during some of the low passages her mouth would open but the words weren’t there. Still, she had enough left to push the melodies across, with help from her other sister, backup singer Peggy Sue.
In fact, she let Peggy Sue, who had a number of chart songs of her own in the ‘70s, take over for a song or two. And for those of us who were still wistful for Loretta Lynn, Peggy Sue sang a great version of Loretta’s hit “Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’ With Lovin’ On Your Mind,” which Peggy Sue co-wrote with Loretta.
Gayle and Peggy Sue also did two Everly Brothers tunes, “Cryin’ In the Rain” and “Bye Bye Love.”
Thanks to an excellent backup band, anchored by Buddy Spicher on fiddle and Mike Loudermilk on guitar, many of Gayle’s songs were also enjoyable. They did a number of Gayle’s hits, including “When I Dream,” “Talking In Your Sleep,” “I’ll Get Over You” and, of course, “Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue.”
Gayle’s version of that song was bluesier than usual, at least partly because her voice had that extra throaty quality.
The best version of one of her hits was the wistfully optimistic, “Ready for the Times to Get Better,” which was given a catchy jug-band feel.
The high point of the show, however, came with a rousing gospel medley kicked off by the classic, “I Saw The Light.”
Another change of pace came when she let her sax player, Blue Jay Patten, take center stage for the title tune of his own album, “Black Hat and a Saxophone.”
Despite her vocal problems, the crowd called Gayle back for an encore, somewhat to her chagrin.
“We’ve already lowered every song I thought I could croak out tonight,” she said when she came back on stage. But then she and Peggy Sue got together on an emotional version of “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which sent the Loretta Lynn fans home happy.
Some of the crowd left for the “opener,” The Big Sky Mudflaps, which closed the show, but they missed some great music by these Missoula favorites. They played everything from swing, to boogie-woogie, to polka, to some tasteful Al Green tunes.