Written by James Killen
Apr 10, 2013 at 08:00 PM
ImageWednesday night was wet and unseasonably cold for a Houston evening in April. It was what Mom used to call a “soup night” and Wednesday is what JP Hops House calls “Hard Times Soup Night”. Some great cooks bring up pots of their favorite soups, the five piece house band, The Hard Times Troubadours, serve up covers of the likes of John Prine, James McMurtry and Merle Haggard and the pub patrons settle in for a pint or two of their favorite draught.

Before I move too far past the soup, they were all great, but I want to give a big shout out to Pam Kalinec for the beef cabbage soup. The Troubadours deserve a nod for diversity in addition to just good music. There aren’t many bands out there covering Peter Case songs or numbers like Elvis Costello’s “A Good Year for the Roses”.

The centerpiece for the evening, though, was a song swap between Hops House regular, Brian Kalinec and the folk duet of James Moors and Kort McCumber. I’ve said several times in my reviews how much I enjoy a good song swap and this evening was one of the best.

The three men lined up behind the mikes and in front of one of the largest piles of stringed instruments that I believe that I’ve ever seen. There were mandolins, banjos, fiddles, guitars, bouzoukis, and ukuleles, most of which flowed through the hands of Kort McCumber at one point or another in the evening.

From the first few bars of the first number, listening to the rare harmonization of Moors and McCumbers’ voices, I was afraid that they might be ganging up on Brian. Kalinec pitched right in, though, with some poignant lead guitar licks for a formula to make this one of the most inclusive song swap evenings that I have had the pleasure to observe.

Moors and McCumber have voices that fit together like tongue and groove joints for rarely experienced harmonies. Both of them are great pickers, but Kort McCumber took us on a journey, starting with his amazing mandolin work, rolling through a turn with the bouzouki on “Shaking Off These Blues”, a fiddle accompaniment to Brian’s “Until Our Well Runs Dry”, leading into the banjo work for the civil war piece, “As Quick as I Can”. James Moors sang a smooth lead and played guitar on “Nothing But Blue”, while Kort accompanied on banjo and harmonica. Brian showed off one of his newer tunes, “Just the Sunlight and You” while Kort accompanied on mandolin.

I had to chuckle at Moors and McCumbers’ subdued Jackson Five dance moves on their social statement tune, “Something’s Gotta Give”. M&M ranged a little further into an Irish folk tune called “Leaving for Cobh” with Moors on the bouzouki and McCumber on fiddle. Brian took a tune that he co-wrote with Connie Mims, called “A Little Paint” out for spin, while James Moors picked up the ukulele. Moors hung on to the ukulele taking it to the brink of “Spanish Classical ukulele” over the next three tunes.

The evening’s swaps continued with Brian’s much acclaimed composition, “Fence” and M&M’s “Welcome to Duluth” and ending up with the rustic ode, “Sawyer Hamlin” from Moors and McCumbers’ latest CD. The evening was truly an enjoyable music experience. With a crowd of about 50, it’s a shame that no more folks showed up to share it.

Moors and McCumbers take the vocal duet thing back to the days of Simon and Garfunkle or Crosby and Nash. Their recordings are great but the live experience is where it’s at. Check them out when you get the chance.

If you live on the far west side of town, and you are looking for an entertaining evening, and you like soup, I think that I have just the place for you. See you at the Hops House soon.