Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Show Review: New Town Drunks, John Howie, Jr. and the Sweethearts, Taz Halloween

Local 506, Chapel Hill
September 12, 2009

Much has been made of the Triangle’s rock music scene by numerous publications and blogs (both local and not-so-local). Yes, the Triangle is host to a well-known record label that specializes in releasing Pitchfork-ready rock, and yes, there are many bands that strive to create this type of music, the merits of which should only be debated after several pints of draft beer. So it’s interesting that the musicians who make a more folk-driven and not-so-indie-raucous kind of music here in this part of North Carolina are rarely lauded.

This past Saturday night at Local 506 in Chapel Hill was a perfect showcase of the latter. The New Town Drunks were celebrating the release of their full length album The Ballad of Stayed and Gone, a collection of tunes that are smoky and folky and cabaret and fun. And their performance was the same. The chemistry on stage between Roberto Confresi and Diane Koistinen is only matched by their showmanship. And we are talking grand showmanship. Between the trombone licks (supplied by Seamus Kenney), and the pedal steel wails (supplied by Nathan Golub), there was something hyper-entertaining about the set. It was New Vaudeville. And I mean that as a compliment.

On the country end of the folk spectrum, John Howie, Jr. and the Sweethearts turned in a tight, focused, and beautifully executed set. This was touching stuff. Upright bass, pedal steel guitar, and heartfelt delivery; the trio moved through songs effortlessly. Most memorable was a cover of Larry Murray’s “Bugler.” Cynics beware: Howie and company’s version is extremely potent.

But even with all the great stuff mentioned thus far, the night was owned by Taz Halloween. Halloween, (backed by Stu Cole, Nathan Golub, Marty Johnson, and Nathan Logan), truly turned in a transcendental set. They opened with Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me” and unapologetically never looked back. Halloween’s voice was sultry and haunting and beautiful. And those performing with her demonstrated a poise and tastefulness rarely found in ANY music scene. It was a rare performance that served as a reminder of how fleeting gorgeousness can be.

So, where does this leave us? Well, no place particularly special if a lowly show-goer like myself has to be the lone voice in the music blog wilderness praising these bands. But there does seem to be a sort of folk resurgence going on here in the Triangle. And some might say, “Well, it’s always been here.” And my response to that would be, “But it hasn’t been this good in a long while.” --Tommy Kurosawa

Visit their profiles: myspace New Town Drunks blogger

myspace MyNC's "Sessions At Studio B" with The New Town Drunks

upcoming shows
10/1 THR (The Cave) - Roberto performing at The Songslingers Showcase
11/7 SAT (The Cave) - w/Joe Swank and the Zen Pirates

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