An Article by Brenda Germany
Photos by Stephen Anderson
“Authentic isn’t a time capsule, it’s something older then taking regard for that and moving it forward. Authenticity is something that you go into with truth in your heart.” – Vanessa Niemann, Gal Holiday
With that philosophy in mind Gal Holiday’s sound has evolved from the band’s inception in 2004 to their own unique style that is not your father’s Honky Tonk music, but rather an authentically rich blend incorporating all the musical shadings of her life. Originally from Louisiana, but growing up in the bluegrass, country and folk music steeped area of western Maryland, Vanessa was also the beneficiary of musical influences from her classically trained parents who met at a venue over the question, “Can you play Misty?”.
Top Photo: Gal Holiday & The Honky Tonk Revue with Jimbo Mathus at Jack’s by the Tracks in Pascagoula, MS (Fri. Feb. 8, 2019); Above photo: Gal Holiday & The Honky Tonk Revue with Jimbo Mathus at The Listening Room of Mobile in Mobile, AL (Sat. Feb. 9, 2019)
Recently, The Southland Music Line had the pleasure of attending two outstanding back-to-back shows of Gal Holiday & The Honky Tonk Revue with special guest, the inimitable Jimbo Mathus, at two of the Gulf Coast’s most popular venues, Mark Garrison’s Jack’s by the Tracks in historic downtown Pascagoula, MS and Jim Pennington’s Listening Room of Mobile, AL in that city’s bustling entertainment district. Enthusiastic audiences filled every available seat and corner in which to stand at both shows. At “Jack’s” couples delightedly filled the dance floor as the band favored them with two-step, fast waltz and Rumba rhythms. The next evening, The Listening Room’s audience tapped fingers, toes and “chair danced” as the band filled the venue with their energetic music.
Being drawn to Louisiana, New Orleans in particular, Vanessa infused her acting-student, jazz and big band swing singer background into the Shim Shamettes, a burlesque performance troupe and later the SophistiCats and SophistiKittens, an R&B group. In 2004, after several years of performing rather intermittently, a then newly discovered interest in rockabilly and older western swing music coincided with her desire to form a band of her own leading to the creation of Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue. Vanessa explains the origin of her stage name Gal Holiday as, “Really just a product of choosing a stage name, Gal being a generic of a female. I had some idea about Holiday being a relation to Doc Holiday, but also to Billie Holiday, who was a huge influence on my early singing career.”
Gal Holiday (Vanessa Niemann) at The Listening Room of Mobile in Mobile, AL (Sat. Feb. 9, 2019)
Offbeat Magazine’s 2018 Best Country/Folk/Singer-Songwriter Artist & Album Award winner, Vanessa Neimann and band members Justin LeCuyer (guitar, backing vocals), Tony Frickey (drums), Corey McGillivary (Upright bass, backing vocals) and Corey’s Thibeaux, the most placid music-dog ever, with Jimbo Mathus adding his own “honky tonk” flair performed each track from the band’s most recent of their 5 albums, “Lost & Found” at both shows. Comprised of original compositions by Vanessa and former band member Rose Cangelosi the album speaks to the listener with life situations and musings that stir familiar emotions and recognition within each of us while lifting our spirits through upbeat rhythms and melodies. Written in the spirit of the Scottish “Hireath” the 12 songs seek to evoke the nostalgia, the yearning and homesickness for a place of your past that was lost, but more importantly now found.
Released in 2018, “Lost & Found” features a lush soundscape created and produced by the multi-talented Jimbo Mathus and engineer Bronson Tew at Dial Back Sound in Water Valley, MS. Mathus’ most recent album “Beasts of Burgundy” features his big band swing group “The Squirrel Nut Zippers” with Vanessa lending her vocal talents to the final track “Fade”. The “Line” recently published an article (“Mississippi Born Jimbo Mathus – Original and Diverse”) with photos of Jimbo Mathus’ appearance at The Listening Room, “The World According to Jimbo Mathus with Frye Gaillard” detailing Mathus’ Mississippi roots, unsuspected connection to Charley Patton and distinctive musical career.
Each evening as the shows we attended drew near their close, Gal, Jimbo and the band conferred traveling mercies on their audiences for their journeys home with the Gold Coast Singers’ “Plastic Jesus” from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” in their signature, dynamic style. As fans, long-time and newly confirmed, left each show cheerful voices sounded and eyes smiled for having “lost” their cares and concerns and “found” a reciprocated energy during time spent with Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue that evening.
Jimbo Mathus performing with Gal Holiday & The Honky Tonk Revue at The Listening Room of Mobile in Mobile, AL (Sat. Feb. 9, 2019)
Mississippi-Born Jimbo Mathus – Original & Diverse by Brenda Germany
Click Here for Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue’s official website.
Click Here to follow Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue on Facebook.
Click Here for the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ official website.
Click Here to follow Jimbo Mathus on Facebook.
Click Here for Jack’s by The Tracks’ official website.
Click Here for The Listening Room of Mobile’s official website.
1) galholiday.com/archives; 2) galholiday.com/bookings; 3) Offbeat Magazine – Drawn to New Orleans: Vanessa “Gal Holiday” Niemann by Laura DeFazio, Dec. 10, 2014.
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