Saturday, August 28, 2010
Lilly Hiatt and the Dropped Ponies
Last night, finding myself with nothing to do on a Friday, a friend of mine invited me to go along and see one of her friends play in East Nashville, the land of dark rimmed glasses and jorts. It turns out her friend was Lilly Hiatt, someone I've known since she was knee high to a Grammy, and yes, daughter of that guy we've all heard of, John Hiatt. The Family Wash is a little venue that reeks of pretension without effort, like the hipster who spends a half hour in front of the mirror trying to make his hair look like he just woke up. It appears to be for the young crowd but with the cheapest beer being four bucks for a Yuengling in a can and five bucks for a Fat Tire, your daddy better be famous if you want to tie on a buzz at this place.
I had seen Lilly play before, but never with a band behind her. Her sweet comedic charm was on display as she had the audience in stitches between each song, just by being herself. Her songs had just the right amount of country twang. They weren't overly "Nashville" country, more of a Cheryl Crow/Lisa Loeb sound that the Dropped Ponies pulled off to perfection. Their lead guitarist, Bethany Somethin', killed it all night. She played a really nice Gibson hollow body with P-90's and a Bigsby and she worked that thing like a pro. I haven't seen a chick play guitar like that in a while, not even Nancy Wilson. Her bass player, Jake, was one of those guys who sat on a stool and looked like he could fall asleep at any moment, which I guess was true, as I heard him telling someone after the show that he was sick and heavily medicated. I wasn't surprised to see them play Neil Young's "Down By The River", but I was impressed when they rocked it harder than Young or John Hiatt or any other overrated old gravel box could ever attempt. Beth's solos seemed to channel Mike Campbell and Lilly's pipes were the perfect opposite to Neil's dying cat whine.
Lilly's songwriting is heartfelt and wise beyond her years. With song topics ranging from her Granny and her favorite pies, to one called "Big Bad Wolf" about "big bad men", she rolled through her set with the audience in the palm of her hand. Her voice is strong and petite at the same time and her personality makes you want to pinch her cheeks and do a shot of Jack with her. Her obvious comfort on stage flows out to the seats and chairs making the crowd feel like they're sitting in her living room.
The Dropped Ponies are the perfect backers and Lilly is serious. She's not just an act that makes her living off of her dad's famous name (cough, Gill). She has toured in Europe and played some pretty impressive shows here in the states. As far as I'm concerned, next time I hear John Hiatt's name, my response will be "He's Lilly's dad, right?" Not the other way around.