Monday, December 9, 2002

Cover girl sheds little light on `Blood'

Concert review

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Four stars. That's the grade Rolling Stone gave the Mary Lee's Corvette album Blood on the Tracks, one star less than the magazine awards Bob Dylan's original version.

Should the gap between Mr. Dylan's 1975 classic and a recreation of it be judged as that slim? Mary Lee Kortes, the principal behind the 2002 version, asks that question in the press release for the band's tour, which stopped at the Southgate House Friday night.

"How do you sing a Bob Dylan song in a way that anyone should ever bother listening to?" she says. "And of course, why should you?"

After witnessing the show, those questions aren't any easier to respond to in a positive nature.

Blood on the Tracks, recorded live last year in Ms. Kortes' home base of New York, is programmed exactly like the original - same songs, same order. The show followed suit, with the only difference being a couple originals wedged between "Meet Me in the Morning" and "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts."

The material obviously wasn't a problem, and Ms. Kortes and her three-man band tiptoed the line between loose and tight in the same way that makes a good Dylan show exciting.

With a small turnout in attendance, the band - especially killer drummer Konrad Meissner - seemed free of expectations, able to simply enjoy the opportunity to groove through great songs. It was the same low-key vibe that turned the original live recording, which was at first not intended for release, into an album.

But now that it is an album, and Ms. Kortes is touring behind it, and her press people are talking up not only the Rolling Stone review but also the fact that Mr. Dylan himself is reportedly a fan of the record, it's time to speak frankly.

Ms. Kortes is a folkie who has made a serviceable album of covers. It's something most any folkie in Cincinnati, New York or anywhere else could have done given the same backup band. Her voice is pleasant, but I'm not sure what Mr. Dylan, the ultimate non-conforming vocalist, hears in her over-singing.

It was an enjoyable show, in the same way it can be enjoyable to stumble into a Main Street bar to hear some cover band play "Brick House."

But, to paraphrase Ms. Kortes, why bother?


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