by Emery Columna –
The Troubadour is one of the Music Industry’s most treasured venues, and has been so for at least 30 years, peppering its storied history with names that shaped the sonic landscape, affecting the taste of millions, serving as the springboard for many Artists that have gone on to firmly establish themselves in Rock.
I haven’t been to the Troubadour in about a year, and the reason for my return to this comfortable club was to hear an amazing Rock and Soul band out of Austin, Texas called Storyville.
Storyville is a band with twin-lead guitarists, a super soulful lead singer, and a rhythm section that shook the World during the 80’s (a.k.a. Double Trouble) while harnessed to a Force of Nature known as Stevie Ray Vaughan. Interestingly enough, Double Trouble participated in a fantastic one-off recording for Geffen Records called the Arcangels, and now with Storyville, echoes with the resonance of that band, tuned to a higher level of Soulfulness.
The cat handling lead vocals is a sight to behold and a great pleasure to hear, if you still remember what it’s like to hear someone who can sing. Malford Milligan CAN SING. Malford’s is a voice that incants the Vocal Power of an Otis Redding or a David Ruffin. Milligan sings with a great deal of respect and a reverent understanding of the repertoire of singers who went before him. The part about Malford being a sight to behold is because the cat is an albino. Dig.
The Principal lead guitarist in Storyville is David Grissom, who’s logged time with Joe Ely and John Mellencamp and can rip when it comes to playing guitar. Grissom’s style is very eyes-of Texas-are-upon-you and his tone is like a wall of Wind six feet high coming toward you at 686 mph. Grissom has a grasp of the power of Air! I should know, since I sat in front of his rig: two 100 watt Marshall heads dwarfing a lone Trace-Elliot 4. For this gig, Grissom’s primary axe was a Gold Top Paul Reed Smith, switching from it to play rhythm on “Cynical” with a black, single cutaway Jerry Jones/Danelectro with lipstick pickups.
David Holt is the other half of the twin lead guitar setup. David Holt has incredibly Clean tone, evidenced this night by Holt’s lead solo on “Good Day for The Blues”. Holt kept company with his Black Fender Stratocaster all nite and ran the cord back to a Marshall Stack stage right. Holt’s tuning is different than Grissom’s and it’s my bet that Holt uses lighter gauges and avoids drop “D” tuning. Holt’s touch on rhythm turns recalled a little bit of Jimmy Nolan. This is the beauty of Storyville’s opus forte: The twin leads don’t get in each other’s way…reminding me of the way Dickey Betts and Duane Allman took care of each other.
From my vantage point, I got a great look at Chris “Whipper” Layton’s custom, hand-painted TAMA rig: The Floor Tom had depictions of gamecocks, but for all I know they could have been roadrunners…Sabians all around, mostly. Layton is a great control drummer and rides the pocket like a Greyhound busdriver on schedule. Layton is half of the rhythm section known as Double Trouble: In demand all the time, getting calls from the likes of Buddy Guy to Little Jimmy King.
The other half of Double Trouble is Tommy Shannon. Back in the day, Shannon regulated the bottom for another albino, Johnny Winter, The Illustrated Man. Shannon’s got one of the smoothest, mustiest bottoms in the world. Shannon’s rig for this night were double 4 by Hartke with a custom head. Shannon’s axe was a beautiful sunburst Fender Bass. Shannon’s bottom has got the smooth, deceptively powerful weight of a diesel-electric freight train pulling a 24 car load. In the pocket, Shannon & Layton require no words between them, as an every now and then glance betwixt the tandem suffices.
Upon this anvil for a rhythm section, Holt, Grissom and Milligan got to hammer out rockin’ tune after soulful tune to a receptive crowd that couldn’t get enough of Storyville’s soulful dispensation. Sonic highlights to the evening’s proceedings included nine songs from the solid, David Z produced, Code Blue/ Atlantic album. Other songs from the hour and a quarter set included, “Can’t Go There Anymore”, “Rain”, “Wings”, “Writing On The Wall”, “One Rock At A Time” and “Bluest Eyes”. It seems to me that touring with these songs in support of the current album, Storyville can go in to the studio with half an album in the can.
Storyville came back for two encores, the first of which being a David Grissom penned tune called “Share That Smile” and capped the evening with Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” a favorite off of theLive Alive album SRV and Double Trouble released in 1986. Malford Milligan’s vocals added weight to the ambiant prescience of Stevie Wonder’s words, while the rest of the band explored the sonic envelope the song allows.
If you haven’t heard Storyville live, by all means find the album, A Piece Of Your Soul” at your local record store. That album will be a great primer for the next time Storyville comes to your part of the World. Taken as a whole, Storyville can throw down with any band out there and stir your soul with one of the Best vocalists on the planet. Yeah Baby, Dig.