It was a down-home night when Arlington's Iota reopened Tuesday after the snowfall. In her opening set, Claire Holley noted that headliner Tim Easton's band mates were playing Scrabble over by the bar. (Easton's drummer, Miles Loretta, claimed victory with "vertices.") The crowd was a mix of regulars and band pals. And Easton and Holley obliged them with relaxed yet energetic performances.
Easton, backed by the understated bass of Keith Hanna and the vigorous drumming of Loretta, wielded his vintage Gibson, unfurling song after song from his just-released "Break Your Mother's Heart," with occasional dips into his back catalogue. Easton's compositions traversed the territory known as "insurgent country" and made up in panache and soul what they occasionally lacked in originality. (We need another prison song about as much as we need another Dylan cover, but Easton's stuck-in-Folsom-Prison-but-that's-all-right-Mama-style "Lexington Jail" was as satisfying as his rich-voiced interpretation of "It Ain't Me, Babe.")
After Easton, midway, broke up the soundscape with a lengthy acoustic set, he warned "Here comes Loud Boy again," sweeping into the feedback-laced opening of the title track from his debut album, "Special 20." After 25 songs, his second encore, the brooding "Get Some Lonesome," seemed to be something he played for himself; the rest of us were just lucky to hang around and listen.
Holley, a North Carolina singer, has an extraordinary dynamic range and uses it skillfully in interpreting sometimes-introspective, sometimes-hippie-sweet bluesy folk. Her rudimentary guitar work was fleshed out by Rob Seals on electric guitar; the results didn't always jell, but the charm of Holley's hummable melodies, imagistic lyrics and vocal prowess suggest she'll keep bringing crowds in from the cold.
-- Pamela Murray Winters