Written by James Killen
It’s been almost a year since I pointed my wheels toward 225 and that little house on House Street for the house concert series that was/is Almost Austin. It’s a return of so many things that carry such good memories, Malcolm Holcomb, Charles Bryant, Kenny Pipes, and just the whole atmosphere that comes with an Almost Austin show and the fans that attend. Being a Friday, we skipped the pot luck dinner, but the tables were in the driveway and the conversation became lively as the group gathered and waited for the show to start.
When show-time finally arrived, Sammy Barker tweaked the sound while Charles Bryant took his seat and strapped on his banjo to treat us to a fast and fastidious banjo rendition of Townes’ “Lungs”. Charles was joined in short order by violinist, Tina Fuller for “Dust Bowl 1932”. The lovely Ms. Fuller remained on stage for the rest of the show shining new light on some of Charles’ best known songs like “21 Days”, “It’s About Love”, “Overnight Sensation”, “MRI Song”, and “Nursing Home” before closing his set with “Kill ‘Em All”. I understand that Charles and Tina will be performing several shows around town in the near future. Look him up and get on out there.
Malcolm took the stage next, audaciously calling for a big glass of STFU, in typical Holcombe style as he kicked right into “Mountains of Home”. He sprung a new song on us early in the set, called “New Damnation Alley” warning of billionaire barbarians. He rolled through so many favorites, like “September”, “Down in the Woods”, “Who Carried You”, “Rocky Ground” and “Gone by the Old Sunrise”. There was a sense of sadness in the way he sang “Yours No More” about the change in attitude in this country toward immigrants and he closed out his first set with “100 Lies” from his debut album.
The audience was dismissed to go outside and “chain-smoke and touch each other”. After an abbreviated break we all took our seats again as the show restarted with “Going Home” as Mr. Holcombe called for bridges instead of walls. The show continued with his trademark combination strumming and fingerpicking style on “Down the River”, “To Get By”, “Words of December”, “In Your Mercy”, “Pretty Little Troubles” and “Far Cry From Here”.
As he left the stage, I couldn’t help thinking that the audacious Malcolm Holcombe was less audacious and more bodacious for this rekindling of the Almost Austin flame. There is a special place in his heart for Kenny Pipes and the Pasadena crowd that gathers there. He said as much and although I’ve heard many artists make similar comments, none have done so with more sincerity. It was good to hear Mr. Pipes announcing the acts. It was good to see old friends from shows past. It was good just to sit in familiar seats again. Everything was right with the world for a while.
The evening was destined to continue with a jam session for all of the musicians in attendance for this show. I wished that I could have hung around for some of the great stuff that certainly followed but an early wake-up call was in my future for Saturday morning. It looks however as though Almost Austin is back as Kenny already has Brock Zeman and Blair Hogan, a very entertaining duo from Canada, scheduled for February 10th. If you can see your way clear, it’ll be another great show over on House Street.