Lonesome Onry and Mean: Ben Mallott at McGonigel's Mucky Duck
I'm relieved to tell you it was obvious from the first song that Mallott is no Texas music wannabe chasing the ghosts of Jerry Jeff, Robert Earl and Pat Green. By the time Mallott took me to the second track, "Shotgun Suzie," a touching duet with Eliza Gilkyson echoing her "Dark Side of Town," there was no doubt this fellow is a serious, gifted songwriter with an entirely unique vocal style: "Shotgun Suzie got high for the first time Tuesday, and mama she ain't comin' back again / she bites down to pass the time, just another concubine to the long happy wait for the end." (Listen here.)
As the rest of the album unfolded with tunes like "The Artful Dodger" I realized that Mallott has musical sophistication far beyond his years. I also appreciated that here was young man doing it on his own dime yet eschewing any kind of pandering success formula, not afraid to mix steel guitars and Stax horns, to mix country songs with songs like "Leaving" that sound like the young man has listened to his share of English folkies, although he channels that stuff through some vocal grit that recalls Ted Hawkins at his most plaintive.
Tuesday marks a homecoming and a career milestone for Mallott, whom Austin Chronicle writer Austin Powell recently tapped as one of nine Austin bands set to break out at this year's SXSW: "This is my first time at Mucky Duck and I'll admit I'm excited to be playing at a marquee venue in my home town at last. Thrilled, really, that so many people from home and high school have said they're coming out."
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 24 at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999 - writers-in-the-round with Noelle Hampton, Jackie Bristow, Lise Liddell and Andre Moran.