Gig review: Micah P.Hinson/Califone/Grant Campbell
Edinburgh Cabaret Voltaire, April 28, 2007
Never judge a book by it’s cover. Or assume that if someone looks like a quietish sort of person when they amble onstage, that that is how they will sound. Mical Paul Hinson is one of many human beings who exist to confound our expectations, and this world is all the more rewarding for people like him in it.
First of all, an apology to Grant Campbell, whose set the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds and I missed much of because we were still eating over the road. Another person who can defy expectations, he speaks with a deep scottish accent, yet sings like a man from the American heartlands…and pulls it off. Also, and having watched many people struggle to do this as support acts, even though it’s just him and his acoustic guitar, he holds the audience. I’d not heard a note of his music before tonight, but I would like to.
Califone fans may be better advised to check Song, By Toad if they want a positive review of this band. This American two-piece do an interesting line in Americana drone-type music, or at least for the first couple of songs. However, it starts to pale into one. This is not helped by the crowd that start talking louder and louder (note to such people: Without wishing to sound precious, please don’t talk through gigs. They may not be religious services but they are not extended sitting rooms for the chattering classes. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, Glaswegians who throw beer: if I catch you, I won’t be responsible for my actions…). I can see the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds’ eyes start to glaze over, and she is not alone.
Micah P. Hinson comes on stage supported by a rhythm section, a fellow Texan on bass and banjo and a Mancunian drummer who introduces as Nipples (possibly not his real name). Where Hinson defies expectations is that for a man younger than I, his voice his not only a deep Texan drawl, but also sounds like a man who is twice his age and lived many lifetimes. He later alludes to music being the only thing he can do well.
But boy, does he do it well. Hinson’s songs may sometimes be just a handful of chords, but whilst he plays with the passion of, say early Ramones and the artistic intensity of Sonic Youth, the sound produced is Americana at it’s most beautiful. There isn’t the room to dance in a packed Cab Volt, but when the banjo kicks in, I want to throw caution to the wind and have a knees-up, dancing the hoe-down. ‘Diggin’ a grave’ is a highlight for me. He also throws in a cover of Richard Hawley’s ‘Hotel Room’. He doesn’t introduce it, but there are shouts of recognition. He later gets lost during a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne – about two lines in, but the room is overflowing with goodwill for him, and it doesn’t matter.
I’m not an authority on Micah P. Hinson, and the soon to be Mrs. 17 Seconds had never heard him before, but the high we leave on convinces us we want to hear more. Mr. Toad was also raving about the show. Hinsopn may worry about the mistakes he has made, but tonight we will forgive him anything, and it would seem he has found his true calling.