Written by James Killen
It was back to the lovely home of Bill and Deanna Barnes last night for another amazing evening of food, fellowship and song. This evening Bill had to be out of town on personal business, so Deanna had to go it alone (with the help of her daughter and son-in-law) and she played a most gracious hostess as always. The pot luck dinner was great, as always, and the room was full of that special kind of folk that come from far and wide for a personal music experience. Music lovers are simply the best of people.
This night the entertainment was provided by that creative Texas couple, Libby Koch and Chuck Hawthorne. Libby is a Houstonian and a bar approved attorney and Chuck is a retired Marine. Each has an ample repertoire of original songs and a fantastic voice. Libby has several CD’s recorded, the latest of which is “Just Move On”. Chuck has a single CD out that was produced by Ray Bonneville and called “Sliver Line”, but if the night’s performance of unrecorded songs is any indicator, there’ll be another on the horizon soon.
The evening was structured as a song swap with Mr. Hawthorne taking the lead, singing “C’est La Vie”. Chucks voice has a slight vibrato, similar to that of a Celtic folk singer, but the overall voice is all Texan, born and bred in Amarillo. Ms. Koch’s choice for her first turn at the mike was “Don’t Know How’ featuring her strong country voice and guitar chords with a slightly Spanish lilt.
Hawthorne followed that up with another song that is not yet available on disc, called “Amarillo Wind”, that is chock full of panhandle imagery. Libby was next with her song about moving home from Nashville after law school, called “Back to Houston”. Chuck introduced the title track to his disc by recounting a chance meeting with Ray Bonneville in an airport, each having a guitar for a carry-on item in common. Ray asked Chuck to send him some of his songs and to Chuck’s surprise, Ray offered to help Chuck put out his album.
“Out of My Misery” was Libby’s next contribution. It’s a break up song that she wrote with Houston folk celebrity, Brian Kalinec. Hawthorne played another song from his disc, called “The Gospel Hammer”, written about his father, who was a gasoline pump mechanic. Chuck described his coming home from work ritual as, coming in smelling like gasoline, going to his room to read a verse from the Bible and then settling down in his chair with a glass of vodka. He would then light up a cigar and never once blew up.
Libby played her “Gospel Song” from her family history album, called “Tennessee Colony” about an East Texas town that her mother’s family had settled in during the 1800’s. It’s a blues/country/gospel song that features a lively guitar part and a good deal of melodic whistling.
From there, we broke for intermission, which at a house concert is an opportunity to not only take care of bodily needs, but to mingle with the artists and friends, both new and old, that are in attendance, as well as sample a little of the desert offering in the kitchen.
Ms. Koch opened the second half of the show with another break up song, “You Don’t Live Here Anymore”, which Libby assured Chuck was not about him. Chuck retorted that he had a song that wasn’t about her, too, leading into “Broken Good” about imperfection being the source of beauty. Libby followed that up with a nice country version of the Louis Armstrong standard, “What a Wonderful World”, fulfilling a request from Deanna Barnes.
Chuck took us back to the Panhandle with a ballad of a somewhat wild western lady painter, called “Leaving Amarillo”. We were treated to another song from Libby about moving back home to Houston, the title track to her 2010 CD, “The Shadow of this Town”. Mr. Hawthorne took this opportunity to pay tribute to Guy Clark with an almost solemn version of “L.A. Freeway”.
It was back to the “Tennessee Colony” album for a song about Libby’s maternal grandparents love and dedication to each other, called “Naomi”. It was then on to more cover songs as Chuck did a rendition of Tom Russell’s “Navajo Rug” and Libby did her version of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery”.
Chuck decided to finish the second set with a song from “Silver Line” about a veteran’s redemption and re-entry into civilian life called, “Welding Son of a Gun”. He claimed that he was about to wad it up and throw it in the trash, but Mr. Bonneville insisted that it go on the album. As it turns out, that is probably my favorite cut from that disc. After a standing ovation and applause all around Chuck and Libby treated the audience to their version of the oft covered Townes Van Zandt favorite, “If I Needed You” as an encore.
Chuck and Libby often play their gigs solo, but you could tell from the aura that they put off that they really enjoy playing together. Their voices are each something special and this evening’s performance was like getting a two for one deal. Keep an eye out for these two as they are very actively touring right now and you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks are due to Deanna Barnes for providing such a welcome listening experience and fostering a music comradery in her home. There was a listing of upcoming shows taped to the utility room door and they have some great entertainment lined up for the next few months including songwriter and guitar virtuoso, Jeff Plankenhorn. So until next time we cross paths, fare thee well, Bill and Deanna.