Jenn Gooch w/The Harlan Twins @ Howler’s Cafe

November 6, 2008

What better way to ring in a new month with a new musical discovery or two? Since mastering my iGoogle organizer app, I’ve been all up ons in terms of shows. The Harlan Twins, being at the top of my local list, had a show last Saturday at Howler’s.

Howler’s has come a bit of a way from my first introduction; a Maxipads show well over two years ago. Sadly, that was the most recent show I had been to before Saturday, though I am on a first-name basis with a bartender or two.

The new stage, new tables and splashes of paint make the already intimate venue really come together. I’ll be seeing more than just the bar from now on, especially since the BBT is still out for the count due to water damage from a fire upstairs.

After piecing together my list of potential shows, I decided to figure out who I was seeing alongside the Twins. After a myspace sampling, I was satisfied in the knowledge that I might just be purchasing Jenn Gooch‘s latest release, Gift Horse.

George Neal of The Slow Burners, friend of Gooch and fellow Texan opened with some looong acoustic balladry and stompin’, priming the pump. Gooch joined onstage for “Probably Fine”, which they wrote together.

Shortly after, the petite banjoess ascended the stage and introduced us to a themed setlist; love and loss, isolation and bein lonesome and ‘shit hittin the fan’. The technique worked pretty well, and I was instantly charmed by Gooch’s unassuming nature and between-song humor.

While any cute girl with an instrument will do it for me, the vocals she threw down were terrific. Her southmouth lamentations reminded me of Scout Niblett, while her lyrical skills, especially with songs like “Jonestown Koolaid” evoked a darker version of Joanna Newsom‘s poetics.

She blew through her set; most of her songs are under three minutes. After grabbing another beer, I snagged a copy of her album, already excited to feed it to my iPod. I was even more excited when I got home and discovered her banjo was just a vehicle for her musical alter-ego and that she was primarily an artist, with a site and everything.

The Harlan Twins shambled onto the stage in quick order and turned in another solid performance. James Hart’s guitar work is compelling and thrifty, especially on “Stones in my Passway”. The only self-indulgence you could fault him for is basking in the gravelly brilliance of his voice, but I’m not gonna fault that. As a friend mentioned at their last show, you can tell a good rhythm sections if they look relaxed. At times the bassist looked bored when he wasn’t exchanging grins with the drummer, and that only happened when crazy breakdowns were occurring.

The set was shortened by two songs due to guitarist Carrie Battle’s hearing issue, who has some sort of alien probe in her ear canal that interferes at inappropriate times. Yet again, her mic was nowhere near loud enough, so it may be just as well that the crowd didn’t get to hear “Blue in Bloomfield”, which is not possible without her smokey pipes.

Beyond discovering Jenn Gooch, I found that The Harlan Twins were only one of several formidable alt-country and southern rock outfits. Their next show, at the indomitable Brillobox, is with Lohio, another album release shindig.

I gave Gift Horse several hard listens when I got home, and was overjoyed that the no-frills music I fell for at Howler’s was honestly transcribed in the recording process. It’s not hard to fuck up a solo show or album, there’s plenty of examples of artists doing that, but I was pleased as punch to add the album to my playlist. Given the fact that Gooch is a one-trick pony as far as instrumentation goes, the album is surprisingly lush with exploration and self-examination, which is distinctly reflected in the sounds and language of the album: Slow and melancholy remembrances like “Maybe Tomorrow” are awash in a sea of overt sexuality (“Sealust”), humorous accounts of abortive romance (“Prestidigitation”) and fast burning apocalyptica (“Jonestown Koolaid”).

Show Rating: B+

Album Rating; Gift Horse: A

Thanks to Jenn Gooch for giving me some tongue-in-cheek meditations on love. I’m already cramming the disc down my roommates’ collective throat.

Furthermore, I’ll buy the soundman who can get it right for the Harlans a beer (the keyboards were also too loud at times), honest.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: