Doveman and Friends Quiet Crowd

January 13th, 2010

Doveman and Friends – Mercury Lounge – January 12, 2010

Thomas Bartlett, the young pianist and songwriter known as Doveman, has some pretty talented friends, having collaborated with artists including the National, Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton, and many others. At the show billed as “Doveman and Friends” yesterday evening at Mercury Lounge, the promise of some exciting musical company was no doubt on many people’s minds.

Of course, Bartlett is quite something on his own. His recent album, The Conformist, is a mellow, subtle series of songs, with Bartlett’s distinctive singing, hushed and whisper-like, adding an air of melancholy to the music. As he and his band opened their set with “The Best Thing,” there was a sense of intimacy formed between the stage and the audience almost instantly—leading to one of the most quiet, attentive and well-behaved audiences that I gander the Mercury Lounge has seen in some time. Doveman treated the crowd to several other cuts from The Conformist, including songs about whiskey (“Angel’s Share”) and wine (“The Burgundy Stain”), as well as a striking, dreamy cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Ooo Baby Baby.”

Over the course of the show, friends did indeed appear, including Norah Jones (who had performed a set of classic country covers—and plenty of raunchy stage banter—with her trio, Puss n’ Boots, earlier in the show), Justin Bond (the musician-performance artist best known as one half of the duo Kiki & Herb) and singer-songwriter Dawn Landes, lending backing vocals. Longtime Doveman collaborator Sam Amidon, who also performed an opening set of his own music, contributed guitar, banjo and vocals as part of Doveman’s band. Bartlett’s music is captivating enough even without the promise of friends, but after witnessing the beauty of his songs live, it is understandable why so many first-rate musicians would want to be part of Doveman’s inner circle. —Alena Kastin