Written by James Killen
Aug 24, 2013 at 07:00 PM
ImageBarbara and I took off for the far northwest side of Houston last Saturday night, for bit of Bill and Deanna Barnes’ gracious hospitality and an evening of intimate entertainment with Matt Harlan and his bride, Rachel Jones. It was a full house crowd with a scrumptious buffet and lots of friendly conversation before the show. The ’57 graduating class of Reagan High School in the Heights was well represented in the audience, along with fans that had driven from as far away as Willis and Pasadena.

Matt has been busy this summer, having just returned from a tour with Brian Hudson and having done a series of shows in June that included Kerrville with the Sentimentals. There is a live Matt and the Sentimentals disc in the works and he and Rachel will be heading into the studio in September for a recording of all new songs. Then early next year Matt and Rachel will be touring the Netherlands. Shows like this one give the young couple a chance to tighten up their act before the next few months of recording and touring.

The show started with the title track to Matt’s last studio album, “Bow and be Simple”, followed by the seldom heard “Warm November” and “Too Much Going On.” All three of those tunes, as well as the ones that followed throughout the night, featured Rachel’s harmonies more prominently than even six months ago. Rachel has become a stronger performer in the last couple of years. She steps into the harmony vocals with professional confidence and truly adds to the depth of the songs.

It’s always interesting to me to listen to a great and prolific song-writer do cover songs. The songs that they choose and the subtle ways that they make them their own, reveal the places from which their own compositions come. Matt and Rachel did more covers this evening than I have heard in any show before, including songs from Jonathon Byrd, Jimmy Pizzitola, Tom Waits, Shovels and Rope, and Townes Van Zandt for the encore “Snowin’ on Raton”.

Interspersed with the favorites that we’ve been enjoying for years, the couple threw in some songs that will be featured on their next studio record. Some of them have been a part of Matt’s unrecorded portfolio for quite a while, like “Slow Moving Train”, Raven Hotel” and “Old Alan Road”. Others are new compositions, like Matt’s song for Rachel in which she carries the lead vocal, “Riding with the Wind” and his tribute to the Warren Zevon song “Mohamed’s Radio”, that is currently titled, “Rock and Roll”.

It was nice to spend the evening just talking with fellow music lovers and catching up with Matt and Rachel to see which way the music winds will be blowing them over the next few months. It sounds like there will be some new recordings available soon and opportunities to catch this Houston based duet in other venues as their burgeoning career evolves. Ya’ll have fun. We do.