Review: Upcountry Sundays

Posted on April 7, 2010


Mana’o Radio’s monthly benefit concert Easter Sunday afternoon at Casanova in Makawao brought together a cross-generation of talented women who can take command of a stage with only a guitar and a microphone.

Three ladies of Upcountry Sundays (L-R) Gail Swanson, Elaine Ryan and Sebrina Barron. Photo by Joyce Chin

Upcountry Sundays’ driving force Dorothy Betz complimented her set (with The Trio, Les Adams and Vince Esquire) with a wonderful gathering of female singer/songwriters: Gail Swanson, Sebrina Barron and Elaine Ryan.

Their musical styles and messages were complimentary while maintaining original sounds and visions.

Opening artist Elaine Ryan‘s authentic songwriting and sweet voice started the day off right. Sometimes you feel it might be okay to miss the opening act. Not in this case. Elaine was definitely worth seeing. My only disappointment is that she’s leaving Maui and going back to Canada in May. However, she’s assured us that she plans to return in January.

Next up was Sebrina Barron, who played her first benefit gig for Mana’o Radio when she was just 15-years-old. Like Dorothy Betz said, “Wow, has she grown as an artist.”

Sebrina was surprised when she learned that Vince Esquire would be joining her on stage, courtesy of his bassist Shawn Michael. Shawn and Vince only planned to sit in on a couple of songs, but ended up sitting-in for her whole set, which seemed to be a treat for the audience–as well as the artists.

Vince stayed on stage — okay, so maybe it wasn’t totally a ladies day — joined by Dorothy Betz and Les Adams. As always, they brought people to their feet with swinging music. With Les on keyboards, Dorothy on guitar and Vince switching from guitar to ukulele and back, The Trio seems to effortlessly manage to entertain across the board.

Gail Swanson closed the show with a set that featured songs primarily from her new CD, “Simple Truth,” another treat. She included two of my new favorites, “Eggshells” and “Mid-Air,” along with fan-favorite, the catchy song commonly known as “The Do Do Song.” Like Gail once said, no matter what she named the song, everyone still calls it “The Do Do Song,” but if you want to know the real name, pick up the CD at Borders in Kahului.

But I digress.

After another great set from Gail, Dorothy Betz said “Thank you for supporting Mana’o Radio,” and the stage was cleared to accommodate 8-year-old Jaxon Chester, who played a set of original songs on the ukulele. The one exception, “the Derek and the Dominos version of ‘Little Wing,'” amazed the diners.

Jaxon, with his appropriately-long hair and his straightforward stage presence–coupled with an astounding amount of talent–once again surprised the crowd. “Listen to that kid,” you could hear people saying. “He’s how old?”

It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Upcountry Sundays returns on the first Sunday of each month.

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