Witty lyrics - and just a dash of holiday spirit – will be on display Saturday night in Olympia, when Seattle's Uncle Bonsai and New York City singer-songwriter Christine Lavin get together for a show.
The event is a celebration of two new CDs, Lavin’s holiday compilation “Just One Angel” and Uncle Bonsai’s “The Grim Parade,” the folk-pop band’s first CD in 10 years.
The concert presents two styles of music that they believe will appeal to a similar audience, said Andrew Ratshin of Uncle Bonsai.
“We both play singer-songwriter stuff,” he said. “She comes out of more of a folk kind of tradition, and our music is a little bit more edgy. We seem to play a lot of the same clubs and the same festivals.”
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Uncle Bonsai was a popular band in the 1980s but took a 10-year hiatus, reuniting in 1998 to perform a special concert of songs about a character named Doug. “Doug is an every person,” Ratshin said. “I wrote a song in 1985 or ’86 called ‘Doug at his Mom’s.’”
That concert led to the band’s re-formation, at first just for occasional shows, and now with a new album due out Nov. 16.
Meanwhile, Doug lives on and is the subject of Uncle Bonsai’s only holiday song, “Doug’s Greatest Christmas Ever,” which appears on both “Angel” and “The Grim Parade.” (“Parade” also features two more pieces about the perennially popular Doug.)
“Angel” includes songs by 22 artists, among them Janis Ian, Jeff Daniels and Kate Taylor (whose brother James Taylor joins her uncredited). The title track is also Ratshin’s work; it’s on the album in an instrumental version performed on classical guitar by his wife, Hilary Field.
It might be a bit early for holiday music, but Lavin said she plans to play her own contribution to “Angel,” a funny piece called “When You Are Single at Christmastime.”
“Believe me, I am very happy being single,” she said, “but at holiday time, it’s a little awkward. You have to go somewhere.”
She and Ratshin got to know each other when Lavin and Bonsai played some of the same clubs in New York decades ago, and “Just One Angel” is on Ratshin’s Yellow Tail Records.
“I feel like I’ve known her forever,” Ratshin said.
“We have this tradition,” Lavin said. “Whenever I have a total train wreck, I call him.
“I was at an open mic night at Birdland, and my song totally bombed,” she recalls. “They have a tradition that if someone brings the show to a screeching halt, they will get the most famous person in the audience to come on stage and save the show.”
That night, Liza Minnelli was in the house, and as Minnelli began singing and Lavin was trying to leave, her cell phone began to ring.
“I’m standing in the back, not knowing that my pocket was lighting up. People were yelling at me,” she said. “Ironically, it was Andrew calling me. I was going to call him and tell him about the nightmare, but he was part of the nightmare.”