Written by James Killen
I’ve seen John Egan play, probably dozens of times, which isn’t hard to do in H-town because he has more regular tip jar gigs than anybody else in town, Mondays at The Big Easy, Wednesday’s at La Grange, Sunday brunch at The Presidio and all kinds of places in between. He’s always been that background, low key, blues artist and historian. He does wonders with his resonator guitars and never ceases to be an immaculate musician. I was excited, though, to catch him in a house concert environment.
There are probably three dozen house concert series in the Houston area. They provide a lucrative income to musicians, in that they can be guaranteed a $500- $1000 take for the show, which can help keep the rent paid for another month or so. They also give them a format where they can interact a little more with the audience, as everyone in attendance came for the music and are actively listening.
John came in to the house after playing a set for St. Arnold’s Brewery’s anniversary and set up to play. He only got about half-way through his first number, “Peaceful Mind”, when this usually stoic performer took off his Batman mask and asked if Justify had won the Triple Crown in a most random quandary, before laying back into the subtle slide work of the song.
Also in attendance at this evening’s show was a certain Steve Boado, a performer in his own right, doing Blues Brothers and Elvis Presley tribute shows and obviously a close friend of Egan’s. They set right in developing an entertaining back and forth which in combination with the warm and open attitude of the other attendees helped John loosen up. He played the country blues original, “Another Falling Summer”, followed by “The Mississippi Ran Backwards” interspersing the verses with the backstories of where the lyrics came from and blues history tidbits. He introduced “something new” as a cross between ZZ Top and John Lee Hooker, throwing in a few guttural “uhn-uhn-un’s” and a few bars of “Baby Please Don’t Go”. He closed out the first set with stories of growing up writing songs and performing one of his earliest compositions, “The Man I’ll Never Be”.
After the intermission of conversation and CD sales, the second set kicked off with Steve Boado performing some abbreviated Elvis impressions as penance for the cardinal listening room sin of failing to silence his cell phone. John’s first number was a Delta Blues version of Prince’s “Darling Nikki”, which probably would not be performed in a lot of forums due to some lyrics that Tipper Gore didn’t approve of. He followed that with Willie Dixon’s often covered “Spoonful” and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See my Is Kept Clean”.
After that string of covers, John leaped into one of his own, “Down in Houston” stringing together many images that are familiar to those that grew up (and partied) in this area in the 1970’s and 80’s, with the whole room joining in on the three word refrain. John took the time to talk about the Son House gospel origin of the often covered, “John the Revelator”, before launching into his own foot tapping version.
The room was given the choice of a gentle ballad or something with a dance beat to end the show. Well of course we called for and received both. The ballad was John’s own “Looking for a Place to Fall” and he picked Lightning Hopkins’ “Mojo Hand” for the upbeat finale, inspiring the first house concert dance party that I have experienced.
As I said in the beginning, I have seen John Egan play a number of times, but this house concert forum was the first time that I have seen this side of John. He was witty, talkative and informative, all the while, churning out some killer acoustic resonator blues. If you haven’t seen John perform get out to see him. He’s likely playing somewhere in town, most every night. If you are a real music supporter and haven’t checked out the house concert scene, check around it’s an experience that you are likely to want to repeat.