Singer and songwriter Clarence Greenwood was born in Memphis and raised in Washington, DC where he broke out of the local music scene as Citizen Cope in 2002. Just two days after releasing his first album in seven years, his hometown fans were ready to sing along to every song. Blending together elements of reggae, folk, hip hop, and soul, Greenwood’s music carves a mellow vibe through a distinctly 00’s alternative rock sound. His island influences were even more obvious after the 9:30 Club crowd was primed with strictly-Marley & The Wailers house music for the evening.
The show started with “Penitentiary” a song off the 2004 sophomore album, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings. The band expertly played a minimalist drum loop with wah guitar flourishes with restraint and precision to set the landscape as Greenwood beckoned the audience to free their minds for the night. They continued the introspective evening with “Let the Drummer Kick.” Most of Greenwood’s lyrics are more poetry than narrative prose with themes that call on the listener to seek spiritual solutions to social injustice and to find resilience in resistance and love.
The title of the 2019 album, Heroin and Helicopters, was plucked from a conversation Greenwood had with Carlos Santana. The legendary guitarist, who recorded a version of his song “Sideways,” warned him that both H’s were the demise of too many musicians and should be avoided. He started the new material with “Duck Confit,” the spoken word album introduction that winds a path through success, temptation, betrayal, and exploitation. In the end “the goose that laid the golden egg got cooked for the grease.”
A sold out 9:30 Club crowd was treated to songs from across Citizen Cope’s career including “Bullet and a Target” “Sideways” and closing the set with an energetic performance of “Brother Lee” from his 2006 album Every Waking Moment.
David Ramirez opened the night with a stripped down set. The prolific Austin songwriter played songs pulled from his four solo albums and one he wrote in a tequila-soaked weekend with Matthew Logan Vasquez and Noah Gundersen as part of Glorietta. Alone with his guitar, Ramirez’s voice will stop you cold. David’s songwriting often touches on difficult relationships (both near and far) and his life as a touring musician filled with familiar strangers. He closed the set with “Find the Light,” a hopeful anthem that he wrote at the request of his mother who pleaded with him to steer away from the darkness for at least one song.