The Shotgun Party/Blake Thomas & Shauncey Ali; December 15, 2008; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music
I hadn’t heard of them before, but all Austin’s Shotgun Party had to do was mention in their e-mail that they were friends of Brennen Leigh’s and I was willing to give them a listen. Their unique acoustic music updates the swing of the Thirties into something new and interesting. Their distinctive sound made choosing an opener a little more difficult. I didn’t want an opener who sounded exactly like the headliner, but I was looking for something complimentary. Eventually I decided on House of Righteous Music regular Blake Thomas and asked him to bring along champion fiddler Shauncey Ali. Shauncey has played on all of Blake’s records and shows up every once in awhile at Mickey’s or at a Tawnies show.
If I had any worries about Shauncey intimidating the Shotgun Party’s own fiddler Katy Rose Cox, they were laid to rest in the opening minutes of their set. She was flat out amazing. Though I had difficulties picturing her in her previous band, a death metal/bluegrass band (indeed, I didn’t even know such things existed), I have no doubt she was amazing at that too. In fact the whole band was remarkably impressive. Songwriter and vocalist Jenny Parrott is certainly a good enough guitarist, but it is her unique quiver-quaver of a voice and her infectious songs that make her the band’s secret weapon. None other than Kinky Friedman had the following to say, “Jenny Parrott has the purest most un-decaffeinated voice this side of Loretta Lynn.” In fact, he has all the best quotes on their MySpace page, like “best songs I've heard since Christ was a cowboy” and “an old rugged cross between Leonard Cohen & Tom Waits” I wish I’d said that..
Upright bass player Jared Engel was filling in for their regular bassist Christopher Crepps who was sitting this tour out back home in Texas with his wife and new baby. The Brooklyn resident plays with several bands back home in New York, and his versatility was obvious. Luckily he was also willing to participate in the girls’ nightly wardrobe color scheme. Tonight he sported a purple shirt to match Katie’s dress and Jenny’s shiny vest. The Garanimals method of dressing for the show wasn’t their only endearing trait. The girls spent the afternoon scouring Goodwill for appropriate shirts to spray paint with their logo for the merch table.
The truth is I never have any idea how many people are going to show up for any given show. While someone like Robbie Fulks is a guarantee to sell out, there’s no way to know how many people an unknown band like the Shotgun Party will draw. Luckily tonight’s show was surprisingly well-attended, making the Texas band feel right at home in the basement. In fact, at one point Jenny proclaimed that she wanted to play my house every night. I’m not against it. By the end of their rollicking, high-powered set, I don’t think anyone was. Songs like “Gladiola” and “When You Take a Lover” were stuck in my head for days.
Blake and Shauncey started things off on a slightly mellower note, which given the hoedown to follow was probably a good decision. The only exception was a relatively more sober version of the barroom sing-along “I Don’t Want Your Heart I Want Your Liver.” The set drew from his standard Mickey’s fare of originals and covers. Even after seeing him hundreds of times I never tire of the gorgeous “You’ve Got me Feeling Like the Moon” or the Tom Waits-ish melancholy of “Drink Myself Sober.” Of course I couldn’t let them leave without doing their version of the classic rhyming song “Jenny Jenkins.” For the first time ever, a laughing audience seemed to realize the trouble Blake was in when Shauncey sang “Will you wear orange oh my dear, oh my dear? Will you orange Jenny Jenkins?” To which Blake tossed of a nonchalant “No orange I won’t wear and it rhymes so there” in response. Well played. As always it was a treat to see two of my favorite musicians impress a new crowd.