Live Review: Maria Taylor, Big Harp; Cold War Kids tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:34 pm October 31, 2011
Maria Taylor at The Slowdown, Oct. 30, 2011.

Maria Taylor at The Slowdown, Oct. 30, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

Notes from last night’s Maria Taylor/Big Harp show at The Slowdown…

Big Harp at The Slowdown, 10/30/11.

Big Harp at The Slowdown, 10/30/11.

Big Harp continues to be a special project. Chris Senseney has a unique, memorable voice. When it reaches way down low it sounds like a bull frog trying to seduce a butterfly, all deep and buttery. That voice stands slouched at the center of Big Harp. It’s the band’s defining statement, more so than the songs, which are good in a neo-traditional Townes Van Zandt sort of way — nice, pleasant tunes, bluesy and fun. And more so than the instrumentation, which is better than good. Senseney always was one of the area’s best guitarists as well as a fine keyboard player (which he proved again last night). But it’s that voice that stands out; especially on stage. You can hear it in fits and starts on the record, but on stage, it’s startling, the kind of voice people discover and never forget.

On the other hand, I always get the sense that Maria Taylor is holding back oh so slightly on stage and in recordings, like a woman on the verge of a “Communication Breakdown.” Yeah, that’s a weird reference to Zep. Because despite being known for her sleepy, Sunday-morning folk ballads, Taylor can rock. Really. She did last night during “Xanax” (from 11:11) propelled by her new brother-in-law, Taylor Hollingsworth, whose band Dead Fingers opened last night’s show. For those five minutes or so during “Xanax,” Taylor unclenched the reigns on her voice, on her band, and let go. I wish she’d do that more often. The rest of the set was the usual collection of pleasant Maria tunes, laid back but restrained, as if she’s hiding something just below the surface. If she was, the smallish crowd (especially for a “big stage” show) didn’t mind at all.

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Two big shows tonight, the biggest of which is Cold War Kids at The Slowdown with Young Man. CWK is touring on Mine Is Yours, released in January by V2/Interscope, the record sounds like an obvious stab at the mainstream. $18, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, it’s a night of Americana at The Waiting Room with Joshua James, HoneyHoney and Levi Lowrey. I’m told by a certain person who works at Homer’s that “HoneyHoney is about to explode.” We’ll see. The band is playing a free in-store at Homer’s today at 6 p.m. Tonight’s gig at TWR is $10, 8 p.m.

Neither show has been promoted as a costume thing, so hand out the candy then head to the club.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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