Tom Durkin
Special to Prospector

Shay Dillon burns the blues at Nevada Theatre

“Let me burn!” Shay Dillon wailed into the microphone Monday night.

The tiny woman with the big voice wasn’t holding anything back because this was the only full band rehearsal before her Shay Dillon & Friends concert Saturday night.

Part of the Nevada City Live! series, the show is being produced by Paul Emery Music at the Nevada Theatre.

Dillon and Paul Kraushaar, her partner of 11 years, will begin with an acoustic set — and then bring on an eight-piece band for a “rockin’ blues show,” featuring songs from Dillon’s fourth CD, “Let Me Burn.”

Opening the concert will be singer-songwriter Mikel (pronounced like Michael) Paul on piano.

Paul hosted the rehearsal at the Moon Room near his Lake of the Pines Music store. He joked his music is “blazz,” a combination of blues and jazz.

Paul will also be showcasing his new album, “It’s Raining in New York.”

In fact, pretty much everyone in Dillon’s handpicked, band will have CDs, books or other merchandise for sale at the concert, she laughed. Even her daughter, Tiera Iasparo, an aspiring singer-songwriter in her own right, will be selling her own CD while she manages the “merch table” at the concert.

Last chance to get it right

“You guys sound great! You’ve done your homework!” Dillon cheered after they easily nailed “Let Me Burn.”

Other songs took a little more time to work out the kinks in the four-hour rehearsal because this was the first time some of the musicians were meeting each other.

Kraushaar played virtually all the instruments on the CD, not to mention engineering and producing the album. Therefore, to recreate the rich instrumentation of the recording, Dillon and Kraushaar had to recruit eight of their most talented friends for a one-off concert. This is somewhat hard to do when all eight are working musicians in other bands.

It took a lot of phone calls, emailed sheet music (homework) and partial rehearsals to pull off one full rehearsal for Saturday night’s show, said Kraushaar. “It was pretty miraculous, how it all came together.”

Although she’s the star, Dillon gives full credit to Kraushaar: “He’s the backbone of this whole show.”

With a little help from her friends

Dillon’s best friend for the Shay Dillon & Friends concert is producer Paul Emery. He offered her a show of her own in Nevada City Live! based on her “knockout” performances in “A Thousand Kisses Deep,” Emery’s highly popular tribute to the songs of Leonard Cohen.

“Shay’s a really terrific talent. She’s played all over the country and made Nevada County her home,” Emery said. Furthermore, “I’m very, very close friends with Paul Kraushaar. We’ve worked together for years.”

“The combination of the two of them was just kind of a natural thing to do at the Nevada Theatre,” he explained. “This whole series has given a lot of our own performers a chance to work in a really primo venue.”

Dillon and Kraushaar’s other friends for Saturday’s show include Bob Woods on guitar and saxophone, James Camblin on guitar, Pat Jacobsen on six-string bass, Gary Epps on keyboards, Ward Clark on drums and Homer Wills on harmonica. Eleanore McDonald and Kimberly Bass will sing backup. Kraushaar will be playing piano and guitar.

There simply is not enough room to list the credits of these veteran musicians, some of whom will be bringing their own fan base to this once-only performance.

“Let Me Burn!”

Dillon grew up on country music, but she said she’s found herself in “powerhouse” blues.

She gave The Union a preview copy of “Let Me Burn” — and she does.

Dillon’s trademark style is that no matter how slow, sultry, sad or seductive the song may seem, at some point, she’s going to burn that song down. As past performances and Monday’s rehearsal have demonstrated, Dillon puts her whole body, heart, soul and lungs into her work.

Eight of the 10 tracks are originals. Dillon said she writes the lyrics and melody, and Kraushaar composes and arranges the music.

Aside from the title track, some of her standout songs on her new album include the bad girl “Bang Bang,” the hard-hearted “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and her heartbroken twist on Johnny Cash’s hit “Ring of Fire.”

While she’s total intensity on stage, at age 46, Dillon is very relaxed about her lifelong career as a singer-songwriter. She’s philosophical about the ups and downs of a musician’s life, but Monday night, she said there’s no question: “This is what I was born to do. This is what I’m on this planet for.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at tdurkin@vfr.net.


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The Union Updated Oct 24, 2013 09:53AM Published Oct 23, 2013 09:46PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.