To say that Bill Mallonee is prolific in his songwriting is an understatement. Between traditional releases and online releases, he has recorded 50 albums. Based in Athens, he came on the scene in the late 80’s as the front man for the Vigilantes of Love, but has primarily been a solo-act for the better part of a decade. Prior to his set, Mallonee jokingly told me that songwriting is a form of “Neurosis” for him. In this case, one man’s obsession is a listener’s therapy.
The intimate setting of a living room was a perfect background to see an accomplished songwriter such as Bill Mallonee. In spite of a sleepless night and a long car ride, Mallonee played a set that was both passionate and entertaining. Mallonee is a true artist who loves his craft no matter the setting or circumstances. In fact, he actually prefers to perform for an intimate audience. The evening encompassed the full scope of his songwriting styles. His set included songs that were transcendent, literary and at times delivered hard truth. A handful of songs were off of his excellent new release “Amber Waves”. (In my next post I will review the album.)
He started the evening out with “Solar System” a Vigilantes of Love song from the album “Audible Sigh”. There is a line in the Chorus, “When you short wave dies and there is no one to listen and the stars are going cold in your solar system”, that set a spiritual tone that characterized the evening. The highlight of the set was a song from “Amber Waves”. It is a story song influenced by Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”. The song is titled “Faith (Comes Soaked is Gasoline)”, and it paints a picture of the degradation the residents of the Hoovervilles experienced during the Great Depression. Overall Mallonee’s repertoire of songs included allegory, spirituality and blunt reality. It was dead-on mix of songs in the right setting.
Opening for Mallonee was Jason Slatton, a longtime collaborator with Randall Bramblett and former member of his band. Apparently he is new to performing solo. You could have fooled me. His songs were poetic and well crafted. Impelled by his love of literature, his compositions conjure up stories and metaphors equal to the authors that have influenced him.
Prior to Jason, Katie Deter performed. Her parents Mandy and David hosted the evening, I confess bias here. The Deters are closer than family to me. However, Katie is 14 years old and has already won a songwriting competition. Her song “I Wish I Were Irish” received a very positive reaction from the audience. Remember her name. The talent is already there, and she is growing as a performer and songwriter.
About the author: Chip and his family live in Birmingham, AL. Roll Tide!