Written by Eddie Ferranti
When most people think of the “Nawlins” music scene blues, brass horns and jazz come first and foremost to mind. Soulful and vintage honky tonk definitely does not, but when it comes to a killer outfit by the name of Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue look out. This enthusiastic group caught our ear on KPFT 90.1FM’s Lonestar Jukebox hosted by Rick Heysquierdo for the past 25 years and then at his Troubadour Tuesday concert series at Cottonwood in Houston. Their musical diversity is vibrant when breathing life into old time classic country tunes making them their own effortlessly while spilling out an ever growing batch of original music ta boot!
This night they were gracing the stage of the venerable Houston institution, McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, for the first time and they owned it like it was theirs. The cozy crowd was welcomed with the usual crisp and clear vocals that this venue delivers showcasing the artist like few places do. Gal Holiday is actually the alter-ego of Vanessa Niemann who holds down the lead vocals, David Rosser on smokin’ lead electric guitar, Greg Good holding down steady acoustic and Dave Brouillette thumpin’ the sheet out of upright bass. The fifth member, Rose Cangelosi, was absent this performance but plays skins. Make no bones about it though that GH commands the proceedings like a vet of many gigs which she is big time. This lady has played over a 1,000 shows and definitely embodies the rich diversity that is the New Orleans music scene.
The show seemed to roll downhill in a good way from the opening two numbers where Rosser was let loose and never stopped. Johnny Falstaff’s “Send Me Away with Your Kisses” fit like a glove and “Fly Away” from their latest 3rd release “Last To Leave” brought out a free wheelin’ charisma that just sexily oozed from Holiday! She had a great demeanor for chatting up stories about tunes without bogging them down at all. Lots of beboppin’ rockin’ vibes poured from the stage keeping them coming one after another. “Blood Shot Eyes”, “Got No Change in My Jeans” and “Long Black Ribbon” about traveling thru back roads made you feel like you were there when the songs were written.
The sexy funky feel just kept growing as GH felt the crowd responding to everything she was laying on them and even doing cute feminine curtseys as the audience applauded! The lady reminds me of another animated singer by the name of Elana James of Hot Club of Cowtown with her infectious smile and come at ya style like on “Ain’t Gonna Buy My Ring” and smokin’ hot “Swamp Pop” penned by Hank Williams. Other stand out tunes included “Sit Right Here Until I Die”, “Build on Solid Ground” and off the new record “Rainy Days and Sunny Days”. Excuse me if I’m off on song titles, but the gist of the selection of tunes was excellent. Saying love is the answer especially during crazy times hit home on Loretta Lynn’s “Love is the Foundation We Lean on”, “There is a Fool in the Mirror” and “You’re driving me crazy one quarter at a time” from “Jones on the Jukebox and You on My Mind” !
In closing, a night like this really opened my eyes to the fact that just because a song has some age to it does not mean it is not relevant in 2016 and beyond. Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk Revue etched a place in our hearts and everyone who was lucky enough to catch this gig. Judging by the way she gave a heartfelt thank you to the audience after their first time in this place I think we’ll see more of them. Let’s hope so!