It’s a weird feeling to hear a song that you’ve only heard once before twelve years ago and instantly recognize it. But that’s what happened to me tonight. I didn’t know there was a Todd Snider/Jack Ingram/Tommy Womack connection when I booked Womack, I just knew him as the author of the Cheese Chronicles and the funny half of the duo DADDY with Will Kimbrough. Though I guess since I initially knew of Kimbrough because he used to play guitar with Snider, I maybe should’ve been able to put it all together. But when Womack played the hopeful “Come Back to Bowling Green and Marry Me” I was instantly transported to a bar in Neenah, maybe Automatic Slim’s, where the band that opened for Jack Ingram (who I first met when he opened for Todd Snider… is this all making sense?) played that very same song. I was so taken by it that I made the lead singer sign my CD “Kiki- Come back to Bowling Green and marry me.” Though despite that proposal, right now for the life of me I couldn’t remember who it was.
I asked Womack after the set if anyone who used to open for Jack Ingram a decade or more ago covered that song. He named a couple, but it was Pat Haney that rang the bell. Mystery solved. The only mystery remaining was how I still remembered that song so distinctly even though it isn’t on the CD. I guess that is the kind of memorable song Womack writes. He played a lot more of them in the basement tonight. Funny songs, sad songs, catchy songs, songs with well-developed characters. He had a bit of a cold that he hasn’t been able to shake, which may explain why he wasn’t as funny as I remembered him being. Well, except for an impromptu, and inappropriate, bit about Jesus and masturbating after he said that the two things people don’t find funny are jokes about Jesus and masturbation. All of which came in response to the fact that he had changed one of his lyrics to fornicate from masturbate.
It seemed like Robbie Schiller would be the perfect opener for this show, he’s funny and he writes amazing songs. He may have been a little too perfect because I thought he stole the show. With the Blueheels on hiatus, the opportunities to hear Schiller sing are few and far between. In fact he has been avoiding the music scene for some time. But when I asked him to open this show he said he realized that everything he hates about playing shows doesn’t apply to the basement. When he arrived later than I was expecting, I told him I was worried he forgot, and he told me he wasn’t that guy anymore. From the first song it was obvious that wasn’t the only thing that changed. His voice, which had always been powerful and quite definitely unique, is even more amazing now. Still as powerful, but smoother, prettier, in fact at times I thought he sounded a little bit like Cat Stevens. It sounded funny when I thought it during the show, and it still sounds funny when I write it.
“You know how when people have a traumatic experience, their hair turns white?” he asked. “Well. That’s what happened to my voice, I had a traumatic experience and it changed.” “Your voice turned white?” an audience member suggested. Schiller smiled, “Yeah, like it could get any whiter.” As promised, he had a whole bunch of songs I hadn’t heard, all of which will go on an album, if he ever gets around to it. I hope he does, because these are some pretty amazing tunes. In fact, I only knew two of them, and one of them was a cover. Many of them were quite short, barely hitting the two minute mark, but all of them made an impression. Of the ones I knew, one was “The Wolves Outside,” a song he used to do during his sets at Mickey’s on Tuesday nights. The other was a request from the elderly people that he plays for once a week, a stunning version of “Danny Boy.” Well chosen. I hope to have him back again soon, I know he is game for it.