Gail Payne: This Is the U.S.—We Hold These Tunes to Be Self-Evident

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Gail Payne

This Is the U.S.—We Hold These Tunes to Be Self-Evident

Davenport’s, Chicago, IL, July 8, 2017

Reviewed by Carla Gordon for Cabaret Scenes

Gail Payne

In these times when thinking about America leads many to their shake heads in dismay, a show coming from a positive, patriotic point of view such as Gail Payne’s This Is the U.S.—We Hold These Tunes to Be Self-Evident is a welcome change. Payne is earnest, fair of face, and sings well, although occasionally more and louder that she needs to in a small room such as Davenport’s.

She opens weaving patriotic dialogue in and out of songs, most notably Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Her love for America is personal and real. This is evinced in her heartfelt presentation of “Come Rain or Come Shine,” sung as a love song to America. Musical director Alex Rybeck’s excellent arrangements in the opening and throughout the show help to make familiar songs interesting.

A challenge to a show of this nature is that it can become too serious. Comedy helps. Payne brings fun with Tom Lehrer’s “National Brotherhood Week,” but some of the references in his witty lyric, such as “Lena Horne and Sheriff Clark are dancing cheek to cheek,” may be lost on 21st century listeners. Randy Newman’s “Political Science” (better known as “Let’s Drop the Big One Now”) is a provocative choice in times of North Korea’s nuclear testing. The pairing of “Shenandoah” and “America the Beautiful” is lovely, combining images of nature and love of country.
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Of course, Payne sang Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”

When Americans feel patriotic, they often want to sing. Payne may want to consider helping her audiences to play a more active role in this patriotic journey by identifying opportunities for her audiences to sing along.

“I Hope” (Martie Maguire/Natalie Maines/Emily Robinson/Kevin Moore),‎ made famous by the Dixie Chicks (Maguire/Maines/Robinson), was a lovely choice for a closing song. It is a prayerful list of hopes for more loving and less violence. Given that songwriter Maines had once been vilified as unpatriotic for her anti-war statements, this song takes on deeper meaning.
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Carla Gordon

Carla Gordon is a singer/songwriter, director, and producer. The Chicago Tribune cited her among “Chicago’s most accomplished cabaret performers….a major player in Chicago cabaret.” Reviewer Pam Peterson called her “Honey-voiced wisecracker!” Ageless Magazine called her performance as Sophie tucker, “A gem!” Gordon writes custom material for singers nationwide. Her flagship show, "Blacklisted," featuring songs made famous by artists blacklisted under McCarthyism, has toured to critical acclaim. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cabaret Professionals and on the Advisory Board of the Skokie Theater. Her songs air on WFMT’s Midnight Special and are being performed performed by cabaret artists nationwide.