José González, 3.22.06 Joe's Pub (9:30 show)
by Charlotte Deaver
After walking out on stage as unobtrusively as possible, tuning his guitar for a bit, Jose Gonzalez shuts his eyes as the notes he has adjusted begin to take on a steady beat, then a recognizable melody, "Deadweight On Velveteen" (I think). Already, he seems as mesmerized as we are. Delicate, full, softly-colored sounds waft in and out of his mouth almost indiscernibly, and the richness of his classical guitar ground the deeper tonalities of his music.
Jose Gonzalez exudes both a hushed restraint and extreme expressivity, which partly describes the beauty of a song like "Crosses," or his interpretation of "Heartbeats." Equally important, though, is the confluence of musical styles, including, notably, flamenco, multiple alternate tunings of the guitars, traditional folk finger-picking, and a hyper-sensitivity for melody and popular song structures. All of this, among other influences, is played out with a deliberate emphasis on solitude and inwardness. He's shy, but present. Private, but giving.
We were all, I believe, taken in from the first moment, but by the fourth song, the gorgeous "Sensing Owls," I was a goner: rapt, utterly tuned in, and excited in that inarticulate, slightly gurgly sort of way (think pre-verbal, happy, cooing baby), and my friend was in pretty much the same shape.
I don't think I would want to see Jose Gonzalez perform in a setting that did not allow for the kind of intimacy his music generates. Since his recent record label signing, although I can't say how he will tour in the future, I predict he will be "marketed" heavily. He may be ready for his close up, but we had ours last night. Lucky us.