Black Heart Procession
with Souled Americans and Shannon Wright
Echo Lounge, Atlanta • July 6, 1999
I find it hard to believe or understand, but I saw two bands playing saws this week. Black Heart Procession was the first.
Shannon Wright opened this show — how quiet and powerful she is, with just her voice and a guitar. There’s a gathering storm of attention on this talented songwriter; her songs cascade like sad, beautiful rivers. With the soul and sorrow in her voice of a cross between Richie Havens and Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, she played beautifully to a small crowd — but all thirty of them loved her.
Next up was Souled Americans, playing two-man acoustic dirges, and a perfect example of why friends don’t let friends listen to Ween. They twitched and writhed while singing whiney, out of tune country songs. When they asked to dim the stage lights and the soundman turned them completely off, it was fine with me. I think they were intended to be a joke, and it could be that I just wasn’t “hip” enough to “get it”; personally, I thought they “sucked.”
Black Heart Procession from San Diego closed the show. Led by Pall Jenkins of Three Mile Pilot, this is a truly unique band with odd instrumentation, including saw, washboard, sheet metal, various horns, keyboards, and guitar. Their new record 2 followed their less brilliantly titled debut, 1 .
There was not much movement onstage, just a quiet moaning presence that rose and fell; but it made one lean forward to concentrate, and not miss a drop. How to describe their sound? Melancholy songs of love and death; funeral music for hillbillies from space. Proof that just because someone is quiet, it doesn’t mean there’s not some really scary stuff going on in their head. Droning, somber country death marches, with accents of white noise and thunder. Ghost waltzes from dimly-remembered dreams. A David Lynch music box.
It was quiet and dark and beautiful, and unlike anything I’d ever heard. And they had a saw…