There was just one thing wrong with Angela Perley and the Howlin Moons’ set last night at The Triple Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel in Davenport, Iowa.
It was far too short.
From the first beats and breaths of 2016’s Petty-esque Your Love through the lovely, melancholy tribute to Ohio’s Appalachian university town Athens, Angela Perley and band reminded me why I love live music so much.
The group’s six songs were filled with original and heartfelt lyrics, with bright melodies and excellent music supporting them. Wearing a cowboy hat, giant star earrings, and velour two-tone bellbottoms, Angela is a good lead singer and an engaging, appealing performer. She smiles. She sways. She looks graceful and cool playing an electric guitar or bowing the teeth of a musical saw.
But while Angela remains the focus of the music room’s attention, she gives the guys in the band lots of room to breath and shine. I especially enjoyed the guitar solos on the beginning and end of Athens.
Angela was gracious enough to speak with me for a couple minutes before and after her set. She grew up in a suburb outside of Columbus, OH, and took lessons in violin and piano. She started writing songs as a high school student, forming a “power trio” with two other girls. Later she carried on her education at Ohio University in Athens. There, she expanded her musical world at the university library, sifting through old articles about American folk icons like Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt. She dug even deeper into field recordings of early folkies like Wood Guthrie and others. (My passion for the exact same info in high school led me to hours at a microfiche reader.) Angela says she also shared notes with her grandpa who loved classic country and early folk music, and she made it a point to listen to Appalachian string bands who played in the Athens/Hocking Hills area. She picked up the sawtooth passion on a trip to Asheville, NC.
Those rootsy, folk, and country influences are definitely found in what I heard last evening. Paired with dreamy, psychedelic waves, and revved up rock and roll riffs, the group’s music combines to turn out highly entertaining stuff. Chris Connor is the band’s ace lead guitarist (and plays an awesome motorcycle-driving “Beast” in the Your Love video.) Bassist is the steady (and waiter/barber in the video) Billy Zehnal. Angela and those two guys have been playing together since 2009. The Howlin’ Moons also have a couple drummers to loop in for touring, with last night’s sticks handled by Max Marsillo. They just returned from out west, stopping in Ames and Des Moines before Davenport. They also played at last month’s Americana Fest in Nashville and will return to Music City next month for a gig en route to tour in Texas.
Angela told me she writes all the lyrics and melodies for the songs on an acoustic guitar before turning her creations over to bandmates Connor and Zehnal for their personal, collaborative touches with the music. “My goal is to keep making music that inspires and challenges me,” Angela concluded.
Here’s a sample:
Angela Perley and the Howlin’ Moons Set List for Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel October 11, 2018:
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