It was a spellbinding night of invigorating four-chord folk-rock Thursday at Jammin' Java in Vienna, as two singer-songwriters from the South played for a good-sized crowd of fans.
Alabama native Will Kimbrough, now based in Nashville, pulled singular strength from his steel-string dobro, played vertically in guitar style (not horizontally, as most play it). Kimbrough's rambunctious yet touching tunes sound as if Ray Davies and John Lennon, twin muses, are fighting for his soul. "Piece of Work," the Squeeze-like "Oh So Close," "I'm on Your Side" (a tune about a New Orleans teenage prostitute, with the chorus, "She's the rotten apple of her daddy's eye") and particularly "We're All for Sale" possess an intriguingly bitter pop bounce.
Only slightly more sensitive, and no less catchy, were the songs of Bill Mallonee of Athens, Ga., accompanied on electric guitar by Jacob Bradley. Mallonee, formerly of the "power folk" band Vigilantes of Love, underscored the passion of his songs with vibrant guitar licks and expressive vocals imparted with athletic prowess. He had written on his left arm "Must Emote" in large black letters to remind him to put his heart into the tunes, and with "You Gave It All You Got," "Hat in Hand" (a tribute to the families of the Columbia astronauts) and the Vigilantes' "Nothing Like a Train," the reminder worked.
-- Buzz McClain