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Show not to be missed

Kris Sabel
Vail, CO, Colorado
AE Kris Sabel 12-28-06 KH
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Editor’s note: Director’s Corner is a weekly column where Kris Sabel, who is in charge of cultural programming for the Vail Valley Foundations, gives his expert take on shows not to be missed.

Joan Armatrading is without a doubt one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the Twentieth Century. Her soulful lyrics and catchy tunes have been a mainstay on the edge of popular music since the early 1970s. Critically hailed as an artist capable of “brilliant unorthodoxy,” Armatrading is as comfortable with ballads (“The Weakness in Me”) as she is with rockers (“Kind Words”) and pop standards (“Love and Affection”). She arranges her own music and has been said to have blues guitar chops that “would give Robert Cray a serious run.”

And she’s coming to the Vilar Center Sunday for a one-night only appearance that I truly feel will be a highlight of the summer season.

I was first turned onto her in the late 1970s and have been a fan ever since. Her music has been compared to that of Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, James Taylor, Rickie Lee Jones, Jackson Brown and Shawn Colvin ” you can see what a diversity of styles she incorporates into her sound. Folk, blues, jazz, rock and various other international styles, topped off with meaningful, insightful lyrics, make her a truly unique artist.

Armatrading has had such a profound effect on her craft that she has, in turn, inspired many artists in their sound. Melissa Etheridge, Indigo Girls and Suzanne Vega all cite Armatrading as a strong influence in their styles.

Though she has achieved consistent top albums in Europe, she has only found fleeting mainstream success in America. I don’t see this as a negative though ” instead of focusing on commercial success, Armatrading has always produced intensely personal music. Selling albums has never been her top priority. If an album was successful, she was just as likely to strike out in a new direction on the next one, rather than to produce another in the same vein. The result is a musical virtuosity and a complexity in sound that is unrivaled by any other artist in her genre.

Armatrading has been honored with two Grammy nominations for Best Female Vocalist, named one of the 100 most influential women in rock music by VH1 and was inducted into the Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2001. Her latest album “Into the Blues,” which she is touring in support of, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Magazine’s Blues Chart and the iTunes Blues Chart.

It has been four years since she last toured the United States and I hope you join me Sunday at the Vilar Center for what I think will be one of the best performances of the summer.


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