Saturday, June 14, 2008


I recall the first time, not long ago, that I heard that two of my favorite lady musicians had somehow found each other and started a band together. I was very interested in what they would do together. I expected big things from them right away and was looking forward to hearing them add their voices to each others songs on a CD but this past Thursday night in Ann Arbor I got to see them live and I was not disappointed.
To start somewhat at the beginning, The Refugees consist of 3 wonderful ladies....Wendy Waldman, Cindy Bullens & Deborah Holland. To the folks who cruise my blog, you already know my admiration for Wendy and Cindy, but to be fair, there are 3 very talented ladies in the band and just because I had not been aware of Ms. Hollands music and talents until now certainly doesn't mean I think her a lesser performer in the band. On the contrary I found her contributions to the overall sound of the group very substantial with both a strong, pure voice and some great tunes. start somewhat at the beginning again....We left Grand Haven about 1pm and headed east. I dropped almost 50 bucks in the gas tank to get us there and back and used all that plus some.....We arrived in Ann Arbor just a bit after 4pm, found a place to park the car and then hiked around the block to check out the display case at the Ark. I wanted to try and get tickets before the doors opened and that required a 5 block hike over to the student union building. So, we hoofed it over there only to find out that ticket sales stopped at 3pm on the day of the show.......So we decided to head back to Main Street and on the way back stopped at a Mexican restaurant for dinner.
After eating Wanda wanted to go back to the car and kick back for a bit so we headed back that way and lo and behold as we came around behind the Ark, where the car was parked, here are the girls unpacking their guitars and equipment from their truck. I said Hey Cindy and introduced myself and the wife and she seemed to genuinely remember us. We didn't want to bug them too much while they were busy getting ready so we just said we're looking forward to the show and we'll talk to you later. So, once Wanda was at the car I decided to use my last hour to head back by Wazoo Records just to go in and look around long enough to say I was there. I certainly didn't have any extra money for CD's or albums at that point.
I cut thru the alley and then instead of heading for Wazoo right away I turned 180° and opened the door to the Old And Rare book store I noticed last time we went by. It was pretty much on a whim but I went in and asked the gentleman in charge if he had any Albert Payson Terhune books. His books were some of my favorites when I was a kid. The proprietor got up from his desk and said "yes, I believe I have one or two" and after some looking about the correct answer was one. He had a copy of "Bruce" which after finding out the price was a measley $7.50 I laid down my cash and became the proud owner of an original copy of Bruce, copyright 1920.
After the exchange was complete I headed out the door and beat feet to Wazoo, where I wandered around for a whopping 20 minutes, checking out the wares. I was surprised to find the prices for CD's were eleven bucks, which I thought higher than they should be.....I can get stuff cheaper than that thru Ebay and not have to leave the house to do it!
I made it back to the Ark's front door about 2 minutes before our prescribed meeting time and after the wife got there we decided to head around the corner for some ice cream. We got what we wanted and then went back to the Ark and sat on a bench and watched the Ann Arbor world go by until a minute after 7:30, when they opened the doors.
There were a couple other folks in line with us and we all headed in to pay our money and go find a seat. In my typical fashion I headed for the stage area where they had tables and chairs set up for our listening pleasure. I plopped myself down in front of the middle microphone and waited for 8pm.
Just a minute or two after 8 the lights went down and the warm-up act, a guy I'd never heard of before by the name of Dan Navarro, was introduced and came out to sing us some of his songs. It took a couple tunes to get into the groove but by the end of his fairly short set I had decided he was pretty darn good. He had a good voice and his guitar playing was above average too.......he is half of a duo called Lowen and Navarro and has been around for the last 20 years so shame on me for not having ever heard of him before.
When his set was done I made a run to the bathroom and was checking out some of the pics on the walls on the way back until I realized the girls were already on stage and tuning up. I headed for my chair, which was about 5 feet in front of Wendy and proceeded to enjoy the next hour and a half. They started off their set with Cindy's "Jellico Highway" and finished the set with the title tune from their forthcoming album UNBOUND. Inbetween for the most part they took turns with each person's material, doing a Cindy Song, then a Wendy song and so on. The Three voices together in harmony were a treat and added substance to the great tunes that I already knew. It was obvious during he show that they were having fun, Wendy was smiling a lot and dancing around and in between songs there was a bit of banter and story telling which just added to the evening's vibe.
I have to give a shout out for the 3rd lady in the band that, like Dan Navarro, I haven't heard any of her work until the concert. After watching the interaction between them and hearing her sing it's not hard to see why Deborah Holland is an important part of the Refugees sound. While Wendy's stuff has a folk bent to it and Cindy is the Rock n Roller, Deborah's tunes had a nice jazzy feel to them that just added another dimension to the groups overall sound. Wanda bought one of her CD's after the show and I'm going to be putting it on my Ipod to give it a good listen.
It was a fast and very enjoyable hour and a half but all too soon they said thanks and the lights came on. Like I did for the Tom Rush show a couple months ago, I'd bought my vinyl copys of "Strange Company" & "Desire Wire" with me to have Wendy and Cindy sign them but while standing in the lobby after the show the first lady I had the chance to talk to was Deborah. We chatted for a couple minutes and she signed Wanda's CD. She was very nice and I hope I was able to convey how much I enjoyed her singing. A couple minutes later I turned around there stood Wendy Waldman! I almost felt like a tongue-tied kid. We shook hands and I asked her if she would sign my album cover. She smiled ever so nicely at me which caused me to tell her how much "Strange Company" had meant to me in my life at the time it came out. She seemed to enjoy the compliments and signed my album, "To Tom, thanks for all the years".
Very cool :-) We talked for a couple more minutes about the show and the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus in September that I'd just found out about the day before.....September 6th and 7th the Refugees will be there and lord willin' I will be too. It's a two day acoustic outdoor music festival and sounds like a good time.
After another old guy came up to Wendy we said our goodbyes and Wanda went outside while I went over and talked to Cindy for a couple minutes. She signed the album for me and asked what I thought of the band, I tried to give a good review without sounding too corny. After a couple minutes I said goodbye and we headed for the car and the long trip back home. We pulled out of the parking lot at 10:45 and pulled in the driveway right about 1am.
For folks who'd like to hear what the Refugee's sound like I was able to find 2 YouTube videos that don't do a bad job of getting the point across. You can also check out these links and buy some of these great ladies solo albums. I can't imagine you'd be disappointed. Keep an eye out for the Refugee's 1st album which is due out later this summer.

Fishin' In The Dark by Wendy Waldman

The Violin Song By Deborah Holland


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