Hot sax: Originals mix it up

Joshua Mayo and Dain North
at O'Neil's
Saturday, August 2

Going outside my comfort zone has never been something I've been that good at. Whether it be friends, girlfriends, or parental units, many moments of exasperation have been caused by my tendency to say "no," before I've given the voiced idea a real chance. But I think I am getting better... hence this week's outing to O'Neil's on the Corner, which at least during the school year, is the height of button-down Greek life (never, even in my school days, my particular cup of tea).

The show at hand featured singer/songwriter Joshua Mayo and saxophonist Dain North, an acoustic duo of sorts, and after Mayo warmed up with a little of the Beatles' "Blackbird" played meticulously on his acoustic, the two launched into it.

"Stuck in the Middle With You," by '70s two-hit wonder Stealers Wheel (a fact even I had to look up), started things off, with Mayo's smoke-tinged, high voice hitting all the right notes.

If I was a certain type of person (especially a squeal-happy young lass) I would describe Mayo's voice as extremely "cute" and "awww-worthy"– the type that can win a certain type of girl's heart (especially a squeal-happy young lass's) just by doing what comes naturally. Of course, I'm not that type of person. North's sax work was admirable– for this song it was kept rather on the D.L., but from his solo work near the end of the song, as well as his habit of inserting little riffs at the end of vocal lines, it was plain to see the man has talent. Though sax has equally never been my cup of tea, the unusual duo formed by Mayo's guitar and North's instrument actually worked rather well, and I found myself enjoying North's solos with a bobbing head.

Mayo's comment, "I'm going to be playing a bunch of originals tonight– I hope you don't mind," led off the duo's second song, not surprisingly, an original. Slightly reminiscent of the Beatles' "I Feel Fine," at least in terms of that song's lazy change-over from verse to chorus, the song saw Mayo reigning in his high voice to match the song's relaxed feel, while North provided, not one, not two, but three sax solos.

Except for a rousing rendition of John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads," which had the 10 or so barflies around O'Neill's downstairs singing, the rest of the pair's set I witnessed (about 10 songs in all), appeared to be made up of all original tunes. One song did bear a striking resemblance to local singer/songwriter Jan Smith's tune, "Mama Says," but I'm guessing that neither of the two have ever seen/heard the other, so I'll put it down to coincidence.

Mayo and North oscillated between playing folk and folk-rock with originals that, although not instantly grabbing, were more than acceptable. If I was, in fact, a squeal-happy young lass, I'd probably sum up the show by saying, "It was totally like, good and stuff, and Mayo is soooo cute. And I loved the sax. [squeal] :-)." But, alas, I am not.