Written by Traci Rogers
Mar 13, 2012 at 07:00 PM
ImageI finally had an opportunity during my spring vacation to visit Houston’s Natachee’s Supper’N Punch for my first Troubadour Tuesdays happy hour, emceed by FM 90.1/KPFT’s Rick Heysquierdo.  On the second Tuesday of each month, Americana music enthusiasts and novices gather for a no-cover-charge party on the patio, complete with warm breezes, cold beer, comfort food and family fun.

This month’s musical guests were honky tonkers Libby Koch and James Intveld.

Koch, a 2011 Texas Music awards and Houston Press music awards nominee, opened the evening with her own brand of Texas dance hall music.  After previewing her on-line discography, I was excited to see her perform. But after fighting Houston’s rush hour traffic, I was frustrated to have only caught the last song of her set, “Texas Saturday” from her latest Shadow of This Town.  The Texas Tourism Bureau should consider using the song as soundtrack music for its 2012 vacation and travel campaign.  After all, what snowbird can resist a holiday where “the sunshine’s brighter and the beer tastes colder . . .?”  With a growl in her voice, the Houston native works a crowd while effortlessly multitasking with her guitar and harmonica.  Stir the vocal style of Wynonna Judd with a dash of Ryan Adams’ French harp delivery before adding a sweltering July night of Gruene Hall dancing, then VOILA!  There you have Koch’s dance hall stew!

Next, the Los Angeles actor, film director, songwriter and honky-tonk crooner James Intveld took the stage.  The multitalented tenor with the slim, Hank Sr. build and deep-set bedroom eyes hid a beautiful surprise from us until he invited Miss Leslie Sloan, a member of Houston’s honky tonk nobility, to join his four piece band.  Their talents were a tailor made fit for the belly-rubbing, belt buckle-polishing shuffles and the heartbreaking cheatin’ songs that scored the evening.

Whether Sloan’s fiddle hopscotched behind Intveld’s version of “Pretty World,” or if the two harmonized on Merle Haggard’s and Bonnie Owens’ “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down,” I wondered why the two have not already collaborated for a studio album.  Just as Brennan Leigh and Texas’ Jesse Dayton experienced listener-specific success with their Holdin’ Our Own, an album of legendary Nashville king and queen duets, Intveld and Sloan could easily reinvent duets from the royal Bakersfield courts.  After all, Intveld often draws upon his California rockabilly influences; just listen to his discography of originals and covers.  While Sloan’s fiddling can embody a Johnny Gimble-eque Texas swing or a Don Rich Bakersfield sound, she also belts out an overachieving lead vocal. She might convince listeners that she is a California portal, easily channeling the late Buck Owens with her own feminine twist.

Both Intveld and Sloan grew up in families that embraced various music genres.  Intveld recalls “singing along to his parents’ recordings of Hank Williams, Sr., Dean Martin, Lefty Frizzell and Elvis.”  Sloan, on the other hand, “was the child of a bluegrass-loving church minister and classically influenced pianist. . .” who took her first violin lesson at age five and “continued to develop her skills while studying classical violin and opera at the university level . . .,” the Americana Music Times reported in 2009.

In what appeared to be an impromptu 11th hour performance of Wynn Stewart’s “Playboy,” another local honky-tonk celebrity Mike Stinson took the mic and strutted the stage like one of the Mad Men with a martini. The author of “The Late Great Golden State” got national exposure when Dwight Yoakum recorded the tune in 2008.  The Intveld band and Sloan backed him with flawless guitar and with a lone fiddle that sounded more like twin fiddles.  Since the March 13 show, I’ve been on a fiddle and pedal steel listening binge!

Natachees is the most current venue for Troubadour Tuesdays.  In the past, other venues like Houston’s House of Blues hosted the monthly gatherings.  Previous musical guests include Dustin Welch, Randy Weeks, Folk Family Revival and Frank Freeman.  There is no word yet as to who is playing the April 10th show.

The Natachees restaurant and its neighboring Continental Club combine to form what Midtowners call the Continental Club Complex.  Should the weather forecast predict a rainout, the party simply moves next door, inside the Continental Club.  The CC Complex has all of the bases covered!   Thanks to restaurant bartender Lorraine for her warm welcome to first-timers like my guest and me.  She and her co-bartender ran a well-oiled machine!  The evening was the perfect jump start for my spring break holiday!