The Happy Talk Band

The Circle Bar

June 18, 2004

The Happy Talk Band played heart-wrenching, mournful country/rock/folk songs Friday night at The Circle Bar. They commanded an audience hush with their soft touch, and they instigated knee-rockin' with well-crafted melodies and rock guitar solos. There wasn't a bad song in the bunch. The mid-tempo numbers that had a pinch of punk were just as good as the trudging, depressing slow ones. The band was acoustic guitarist/vocalist Luke Allen, electric guitarist Bailey Smith, Upright bassist Michael Lenore, and drummer Andy Harris.

Happy Talk's performance was similar to seeing an abstract painting. The listener had to give concentration and attention in order to receive more enjoyment. Everything was there for the taking, but it was up to the listener to spot the intricacies in each song. The tense, frustrated, yet energetic vocal delivery. The intelligent, minimalist drumming on the slower songs. And the subtle tempo and role changes between the acoustic and electric guitars.

Still, it wasn't necessary to notice the intricacies to appreciate the straightforward songs. Most had repetitive choruses and verses with world-weary lyrics that were emotionally easy to grasp. Then again, I can't really relate to murder. I can relate to the loss of a loved one and whiskey, though.

As reference points, some songs reminded me of the spirituals on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack(thanks to audience member Kaelie for that observation), and others reminded me of Wilco.

The place was packed, and the band got much applause after each song. At times it seemed Allen wanted more room to throw his body around. I commend him. It must have been difficult to play such intimate songs in a bar where at least a few people were bound to be talking.

Great show. The band's new CD, Total Death Benefit, is out now.

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