Review: Vinnick brings varied style, tone to concert

Paul Watson, Lamp staff

Suzie Vinnick used a wide range of vocal tones from mellifluous to growling when she sang songs spanning the Americana, country and blues genres in the Thorne Deuel Auditorium in the basement of the Illinois State Museum. Vinnick played acoustic guitar and sang for the April 11, 2019, installment of the Music at the Museum series produced by Chris Vallillo.

As soon as the red-haired Saskatoon, Canada, native took the stage, her broad smile embraced the audience, talking to them like they were old friends.  She introduced each song with a comment or story.

Over half of the 20-song playlist consisted of tunes she had co-written, while the rest were covers of songs written by the famous (“A Hundred and Ten in the Shade” by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame) and friends (“Creaking Pines” by Kent Theaker).

Vinnick’s singing voice and style varied depending on the song she sang.  When she sang “Save Me for Later,” she reminded me of Peggy Lee singing “Fever.”  For her cover of “I Can Tell,” she reminded me of Bobbie Gentry singing “Ode to Billy Joe.” Her vocal dynamics ranged from pianissimo (very soft) to fortissimo (very loud).

For all songs except one, Vinnick played “Mabel,” a parlor acoustic guitar made in Canada. She strummed and played single notes with a pick and occasionally used a hybrid-picking technique with the three free fingers of her right hand, providing more ornamentation to her playing.

For her cover of “Danger Zone,” she accompanied herself on a five-string, fan-fretted slime green, Canadian-made bass she named “Kermit.”  Vinnick said the fan-fretting was more ergonomic than traditional straight frets.  The frets fan-out from the middle of the bass’s neck towards the headstock and towards the bridge.

Vinnick won the 2005 International Songwriting Competition for the blues category with her song “The Honey I Want.”  She said the song was inspired from an off-hand comment about unrequited love.

She walked bass notes down the guitar neck, giving a sultry sound to her song “Save Me for Later.”  Vinnick said, the chorus had been so popular with her audiences that she printed it on aprons, selling them as official merchandise:

“Cooking it slow brings out the flavor

“Darling, save me for later.”

Among the songs Vinnick covered was Lonnie Mack’s “Oreo Cookie Blues.”  She said the song was inspired by Mack’s diabetes.  Vinnick sang the song with such passion that one could easily and mistakenly assume it was self-penned.  The audience chuckled at the humorous lyrics.

Several times during Vinnick’s performance she encouraged the audience to participate.  For “All I Wanna Do,” she requested the audience participate in the call-and-response style chorus. Vinnick sang “all I want to do,” the audience echoed the line, then she sang the response, “is have a whole lot of fun with you.”

The concert ended with Vinnick singing a cover of “Crazy ‘bout Lovin’ Me.” She invited Vallillo to join her even though they had not practiced the song prior.  After Vinnick provided the key and chord progression, Vallillo accompanied her on his nine-string.  At one point in the song, they traded guitar licks.  Their playing was harmonically cohesive.

Vallillo, who is also a guitarist and singer, opened the musical performance a little after 7 p.m. for about 60 older people and several young adults and children with a cover of Jimmy Roger’s “Tavellin’ Blues.”

He accompanied himself with a nine-string acoustic guitar that he played with fingerpicks and slide.  The top three strings had double strings, making the highest pitched notes sound like they were played on a 12-string guitar.  Like Rogers, he included yodeling in the song.

To begin the second set after the intermission, Vallillo performed an adaptation of Carl Sandberg’s poem, “Loam,” to his acoustic instrumental, “The Last Day of Winter.”  Vallillo also played his nine-string for this piece.  Vallillo said the guitar was modeled after a Washburn 2021 nine-string parlor guitar.

During the intermission, cookies and coffee were available to the audience. Vinnick talked with attendees and sold CDs and bar-b-que aprons.

The next installment of the Music at the Museum series features Joel Malbus, a folk singer and guitarist, from 7 to 9 p.m. May 9, 2019. Admission costs $10 for adults and $8 for museum members and children under 12.

Paul Watson can be reached at [email protected]