The Austin Chronicle

Just the Two of Us

By Jim Caligiuri, May 14, 2008, 12:33pm, Earache!

Saturday night at the Mohawk was supposed to be a triple-header, but for reasons unknown local Brit popster Nic Armstrong was a no show. That meant Memphis upright bassist Amy LaVere started a little late. Her performance at last year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival was an entrancing bit that made this set underwhelming, mainly because LaVere’s music is full of nuances, but they were swallowed up by Mohawk's inside room.

Relying heavily on tunes from her latest, Anchors & Anvils (Archer), LaVere caught an off-center Tom Waits vibe, which veered from a set-opening waltz to a sultry re-imagining of Michelle Shocked’s “If Love Was a Train.” Backed by just Paul Taylor on drums and Steve Selvidge on guitar, the dark-haired singer-songwriter kept things perky and ardent, although audience interest flagged by set’s end. Let’s hope next time she hits Austin, it's in a room more attuned to her jazzy folk style.

Sean Scolnick, better known as Langhorne Slim, hit the stage wearing a green tank top and black fedora that were hardly stylish. After a solo acoustic intro that quieted things considerably, the Brooklyn-based bard quizzed, “Are we ready to dance?” and welcomed the War Eagles, a rhythm section composed of drummer Malachi DeLorenzo and bassist Paul Defiglia.

While his new eponymous Kemado debut bounds between frenetic and introspective, in person it came across as just plain goofy. The crowd was eating from his hand, however, singing (shouting, actually) along, unaffected by the overly simplistic rhymes and well-worn melodies. Slim’s folky vision has earned him comparisons to Dylan, and he’s from the same Pennsylvania backyard as like-minded roots-rockers Marah. This night he recalled a young Billy Joel, shining a light on silly love songs. It was mighty easy to swallow.

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