Walter Salas-Humara - House Concert, Tampa, Florida - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Walter Salas-Humara - House Concert, Tampa, Florida

by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date:
Walter Salas-Humara - House Concert, Tampa, Florida
Walter Salas-Humara - House Concert, Tampa, Florida

About thirty years ago I saw a band called The Silos downstairs from the main stage at a ramshackle wood framed club in Houston called Fitzgerald’s.  With my girlfriend at the time in tow, it was one of those indelible concert memories that never leave you.  The band had recently released their debut LP, Cuba, which is credited by many as launching the modern Alt-Country, Americana, No Depression movement (pre dating Uncle Tupelo’s debut by a few years).  The band and the album had caught the attention of Rolling Stone, leading to a major label signing for their self-titled sophomore album.  Those two albums and a preceding EP are all that remain of the original incarnation of the band, but erstwhile leader Walter Salas-Humara has soldiered on both under The Silos moniker and on his own.

Flash forward several decades and Salas-Humara is still writing songs, releasing music, and performing in both clubs and more intimate house concerts.  I’ve been lucky enough to see him twice now in the latter setting, both times in the backyard of long time fan - the inimitable and ever generous Jackson King.  With a basic P.A. set-up, spotlight and acoustic guitar, Salas-Humara played a tight set of about twenty songs over the next two hours.

As the temperature bottomed out in the mid-60s, tiki torches flared and crickets chirped between songs, it was the type of night that reminds Floridians why they tolerate the oppressive summer heat.  Opening with ‘Counting on You’ from his latest solo album, Salas-Humara’s voice has been burnished by the years but his sincerity and low-key charm are unabated.  By the time he powered into an older Silos’ song, ‘Find A Way’, the neighbor's kids were gathered at their upstairs window only to have the blinds shortly drawn by Mom.  Salas-Humara proceeded to play Silos’ classics including the oldest, ‘Susan’ about a Gainesville burrito slinger, through to newly written and yet to be released songs.

Our host joined on stage for a ragged but righteous duet of ‘Commodore Peter’ from The Silos' self-titled album.  Sticking with the theme of songs named for women (or baby girls), ‘Caroline’ and ‘Margaret’ with the classic lines any parent can appreciate:  “Margaret goes to bed around 8, I go to bed around 1, Margaret gets up at 6, I get up at 6”, were clear highlights of the set.  Of the newer songs, ‘She’s a Caveman’ had you wondering if Salas-Humara has spent a bit too much time in the Arizona sun of his current home, but a song about world travel and his lifelong experiences showed his powers of observation in tact:  “swam with the dolphins in Roatan, helicoptered in to Burning Man”.  Near the end of the night, ‘Diner by the Train’ showcased story telling capabilities on par with Townes Van Zandt or Robert Earl Keen.  

Salas-Humara closed the set with an extended tale of how South Carolina cover-band Hootie and the Blowfish came to open for The Silos one night with the former band tentatively playing a set of original songs for the first time.  Twenty years on, Salas-Humara would encounter Hootie and the Blowfish in Atlantic City covering The Silos’ ‘I’m Over You’ and get hauled on to stage to perform with them.  It was that song, harmonizing with himself, that Salas-Humara closed with:  “driving down highway 441, beer in one hand, radio blasting”.  It’s those simple observations of everyday life that give his songs their familiarity, but also their staying power.

The arc of time is a funny thing.  From humble beginnings to humble present, the artist continues to work at his craft and songs of mortality begin to creep in.  And for a countless time, I’m entranced by the rewards of live music.  Whether that be in the afterthought of a downstairs stage of a night club, a massive multi-day music festival, or in a kind stranger’s backyard on a perfectly beautiful Florida night with that same girlfriend, now wife (see photo credit if you please), at my side. 

Photo credits:  Christa Joyner Moody        

 

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