Honky Tonk Review
Tonight, with the Darling Wife and Precious Daughter out of town for a few days, I went by one such joint to see a local band that I like: Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue.
There are two constants in New Orleans: alcohol, food and music. Okay, that’s actually three, so I guess that points to another constant: poor standard of education. Let’s just call it quits at four then.
Anyways, I did in fact roll over to The Kingpin, a bar about as big as two of your standard FEMA travel trailers. I don’t know if folks from outside the area can grasp that scale, but take by word for it: two travel trailers. Not quite “medium,” but a notch above “small.”
New Orleans, as everyone knows, is just dripping with great music. That music is typically thought of as Dixieland, jazz, blues or R&B. But truth be told, there’s enough music to go around for all varieties and tastes.
Gal Holiday is a slim bottle-blond with a wide-ranging assortment of tattoos and almost as much range in voice to go with it. As cheerful and friendly a New Orleanian as you will ever meet, Gal leads the band through rockabilly, bluegrass and country with a flair that nicely compliments the undaunted spirit of the American music they play. The band covers everything from Johnny Cash to Loretta Lynn to Lefty Frizzell.
Don’t’ know who Lefty is? That’s okay, because Gal gives a quick and informative intro to each tune. Who wrote it and when, why it was an important song and when it hit the charts. Music is the lesson by which the history of our nation is told, all according to Gal Holiday.
This was a week night, so the crowd at The Kingpin was a little laid back, a little staid for this crazy town, resisting the urge to dance even to “Hot Rod Lincoln,” one of the most energetic songs ever written. But early in the second set (Was it the beat? Was it the booze?) dancers emerged from the crowd to put the good rhythms of the Honky Tonk Revue to good use.
Here in the unflooded part of the Crescent City, a hole-in-the-wall bar like The Kingpin still serves mixed drinks at happy hour, still has live music from local musicians, still gives pulse to the city whose heart was ripped out by a hurricane called Katrina.
I recognized the slide guitar player, although it was well into the second set before I recalled from where: Steve Spitz has been playing music in this two-horse town for more than 20 years. Back in the early 80’s, he played guitar in a local blues-rock band called The Backsliders. I recall seeing him in several of the local venues in the early days of the Reagan presidency, back when Katrina was nothing more than the lead singer for The Waves.
My, how times have changed.
My, how things remain the same.
There’s a link to Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue in the sidebar of this blog page. Check them out if you care for live, local music. There are free songs you can download and listen to, and info on future shows. Even if many of the songs they play were written in Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas, their themes of love, loss and hope resonate deeply in the small neighborhood bars of New Orleans.
And Gal takes special care to sing all the verses of “You are My Sunshine,” the official state song of Louisiana, written in part by Louisiana Governor Jimmy Davis, written as a somewhat melancholy love song but with verses that glory in the crawfish and waterways that define this state.
Here in the undamaged part of New Orleans, the soul of the city lives on in a hundred or more “hole-in-the-wall” barrooms that exist in spite of the holes in the levees.
Drums, an upright bass, electric guitar, a slide guitar and tall singer named Gal perform traditional country music in a city that needs all the uplifting, courageous affirmations it can get.