Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Just So Everyone Doesn't Think I'm a Total Bootlicker

Here's my brother's very lukewarm (even though it's not, I'll call it a) review of Bill Mallonee's show last night. Brett sent it in an e-mail and has no idea that I'm posting it. Hopefully, he'll be okay with it, but as "they" say, forgiveness is always easier than persmission. Of course, if I thought for an instant that he'd mind, I wouldn't post it.

Here's what he had to say:

I saw Bill Mallonee play a coffee house show last night in Vienna. Weird. Just really not that great. He sounded fine. But... I don't know. It wasn't all that satisfying.

It was the first night of a 12-date tour and maybe that had something to do with it. But he spent an excessive amount of time tuning and retuning between songs, fiddling with harmonicas, and rambling into the mic. But the stories he was telling between songs did not, for the most part, connect. The punch lines didn't work.

Another problem is that he is somewhat limited in what he can play solo acoustic - or he believes he is. He's come up with a very satisfying arrangement for "Nothing Like a Train." But he won't rearrange any other electric stuff. He just plays his dust bowl troubadour songs.

He did play a couple of tunes off of the upcoming Permafrost which were apparently recorded with a band. They were fine. But sitting here reflecting on the show, I can't remember anything about either one of them. So they didn't resonate.

I've also never heard him more profane. That doesn't bother me. But it was a bit surprising, I guess, just because I'm not used to it. Some of it was kind of gratuitous. I wonder if he was just bored. Maybe. There were only 30-35 people there. But I would imagine that he is accustomed to crowds of that size. When I saw him (in the same venue) a few months ago, he delivered a sterling, passionate performance to a crowd that was only slightly larger.

It was a muted crowd last night, though. Maybe it's because it was early in the week. But the applause was mostly just polite rather than enthusiastic. That may have had something to do with the performance and song selection. But the performer/crowd relationship is symbiotic, I think. Each draws on and reacts to the energy and vibe of the other.

Regardless, I think it was just an off night for Bill. Sometimes you don't bring your A-game. It was still worth ten bucks. But I came away from the show with the same feeling of slight disappointment as I did when I saw Pernice Brothers last summer. You don't expect merely okay from top-drawer artists. And I've seen Bill Mallonee much, much better than he was last night.

There you have it. For my money, an off-night Bill Mallonee still beats 90% of the acts out there, but I have to admit that Brett's e-mail disappointed me. You always hope for the best from your favorites. Or, maybe others in the crowd migh have different opinions. I usually trust Brett on these reviews, though -- our music tastes and preferences run pretty parallel. So maybe next time...


DugALug said...


You are not a 'total' bootlicker, you are more of a 'mostly' gratuitus bootlicker.

I've seen Bill in concert, and I kind of agree with Brett. He is a little odd.


Rich said...

you are more of a 'mostly' gratuitus bootlicker

-- -- -- -- --
As far as Bill in concert, I saw VOL and I liked them. Of course, it was here in H-ville at the Big Spring Jam several years back, and the young kids were trying to mosh. Huntsville looked ridiculous. But all in all, I thought the performance VOL gave was really pretty good.

One of the things I really like about Bill is that a lot of times he'll hang out after the how and mingle with the audience, just answering questions and stuff. In all the stuff I've ever read about him doing that, none of it's ever been negative. Always positive. He seems like a good guy.

And you can't say that for all CCM musicians, now can you?

Brett said...

Rich - I suspect that Bill would bristle at being called a "CCM musician." It's a label that doesn't fit him. Never has. It's a loaded term, but even if it wasn't, I don't think it would be accurate. Even with VoL, he was more just a singer-songwriter than anything else. He never had an agenda. He wasn't writing songs to try to save anyone's soul.

Doug - I don't think he's odd. I just think he had an off night on Tuesday. I've seen him - solo and with the Vigilantes - on a number of occasions. He's a good performer and usually he's entertaining with his between-song banter.

He opened with what I thought was a killer version of "Bearing the Load." He sounded great - a loud, full sound. But... the show just sort of went downhill from there.

Rich said...


I reread what I wrote, and you're right, it sounds like I was including Bill as a CCM musician.

I DEFINITELY think he would bristle at being called a CCM musician. I just wrote too fast. I was trying to contrast him from most of the musicians Doug used to cover when he wrote CD reviews in Charisma magazine. Doug had told me some stories about a few CCM musicians and how they acted at the Dove Awards, etc. I was trying to contrast the two, but I wrote too fast.

My bad.

Rich said...

Not that I think all CCM musicians are bad, either. Just usually not my cup o' tea.

DugALug said...


Sorry to lump you in with me. I liked his VOL shows more and I still think he is an odd pickle. His entertainment value in concert is a result of some of this oddness, but that doesn't change the fact that he truly marches at an unconventional pace.

As far as 'CCM'... well that would be a bit of a stretch, but Bill Mallonee's music and lyrics are so heartfealt, thoughtful and genuine that he seems to have at the very least Christian empathy.

After meeting quite a few of these guys, many CCM artists have left quite a sour taste in my mouth, but still, there are those who I really identify with and hope others do too.

Still, comparing CMM'ers with secular musicians, it comes down to issues of music quality and character: either you got it or you don't. I have been pretty hurt by the CCM circle, but I still belive in many of them and even the worst characters pale in comparison to their secular counterparts.