Sunday, May 15, 2011

Graham Lindsey/Owen Temple; May 15, 2011; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music

Sometimes I just get lucky. I’d first started talking to Graham Lindsey a year and a half ago about doing a house concert, so when the date we’d been discussing also turned out to be the date that Owen Temple was interested in, it seemed like fate. After all, they both are former Madison residents and they both write folky songs, Temple is a little more country while Lindsey is a little more rock. Temple lived here for only a couple years, and I’d seen him play around town several times. Unfortunately, he left right about the time I started doing the house concerts in earnest and I never got a chance to have him play while he lived here. This was his second visit to the house, and he seemed sincerely disappointed that he was such a small percentage of the shows that I’ve had. His earnest narratives are easy to like, and his southern charm makes him impossible to dislike. The two records he’s released since returning to Texas are among his best, and the new Mountain Home hasn’t left my on-the-go CD case since I got the advance copy months ago.

Temple’s first visit to the house had been last year behind Dollars and Dimes, touring with the slightly eccentric but definitely talented Adam Carroll who has co-written a number of songs with Temple. In retrospect, Carroll may have overshadowed Temple then, and I enjoyed him much more tonight. Then the hilarious and often outrageous songs of Gary Floater seemed to steal the show, tonight they were more of an afterthought, and when Temple returned for an encore, the vote was for more Temple rather than another Floater. However, I am sure I wasn’t the only one torn because there is no debating the hilarity of the songs of their invented anti-hero. They are so funny simply because they are so well-done. He takes everything ridiculous about country music, the patriotic posturing, the overt sexism, and amplifies it times ten. Or maybe less, the next day a friend who had been at the show sent me a link for John Rich’s “Country Done Came to Town.” “It’s like it was written by Floater himself,” he joked, but he wasn’t kidding.

As expected the songs from Mountain Home made up a large part of the set list. My favorite of these is “One Day Closer to Rain” which deals with the very real drought ongoing in Texas where Temple lives. He turned “Big Sam,” a biography of Texas hero Sam Houston, into a sing-a-long, every time he sang “old Sam,” we responded with foot stomps and an echo of “big Sam.” It had been a challenging but thus far lucky tour. They had crossed the Mississippi at Memphis at the point it was closest to flooding, and encountered some bad weather, but had still made every gig and they were having a great time. This tour has been with an upright bass player whose style reminded me a bit of the musician who had accompanied Ben Weaver last fall. Less is more in this case, and while he didn’t play that many notes, he added a lot.

Lindsey’s drummer (and wife) had a similar approach. Percussionist might be a better descriptor as her simple snare and shaker set up couldn’t be confused with a drum kit. However, her rhythm added depth to the songs. You can’t read a bio of Lindsey without seeing mention of his early days in Old Skull, tagged as the world’s youngest punk band. Before they were teens they had recorded their debut at Smart Studios and gotten a mention from Kurt Loder on M-TV news. Lindsey is a long way from that now. Not only has moved to the wilds of Montana, but the music he records these days sounds more like Appalachian folk and Bob Dylan than Green Day. Not only do his songs sound like Dylan (including one on his debut that’s a dead ringer for “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”), but he also has a trademark Dylan drawl in his voice. Accompanied by his urgent guitar or banjo playing, it made for some pretty intense music. It took a long time to get Lindsey out of Montana and into the basement, but both he and his wife said they intend to tour more in days to come, so maybe it won’t be so long before he comes back.

Owen Temple

Graham Lindsey

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