Gordon’s rainy artifacts

Gordon Hanley: file under sensitive singer-songwriter

Gordon Hanley: file under sensitive singer-songwriter

Despite reports to the contrary, after a seemingly endless summer and fall, winter finally has come to Sacramento. The rain roars against windows and pavement, cleans gutters of debris and washes away the grime of the city once again. A few smokers huddle under an apartment awning. Down the street, a high, beautiful voice filters out into the night. It is a perfect night for such a voice: sweet, quiet, emotive and lyrical, a voice that practically calls out for rain, for quiet moments, for introspection.

Last weekend, the owner of this voice, Gordon Hanley (www.gordonhanley.com), performed to a silent, adoring audience at Luna’s Café. Accompanied by stalwart soft-touch drummer Garin Casaleggio (who performs regularly with David Houston) and bassist Shawn Hale (of Anton Barbeau’s band), Hanley’s performance underscored the songwriter’s melodic vocal lines and the consistent tone of his new solo CD, Artifacts. Relying heavily on a beautiful falsetto and soaring melodies, Hanley’s songs are slow, gorgeous compositions. One should not be surprised to learn that Hanley’s band bio includes being one-third of Orisha, the band that featured the vocals of Jacob Golden. Indeed, Golden’s vocal style can be heard in Hanley’s (or perhaps it is the other way around), and fans of Orisha and Golden’s former band, Birthday, may well appreciate Hanley’s oeuvre; they share the same melodic, rain-soaked landscape.

One potential issue with Hanley’s work lies in the intersection between the melodic and lyrical content. Hanley’s melodies are so beautiful that they drive the lyrics, at times, into the realm of the saccharine. This is only a problem on occasion, but, when it comes up, the issue is serious. “Soiled Angels,” perhaps the best track on Artifacts and a standout of Hanley’s live performance, teeters dangerously close to overkill at times and can lose a listener or an audience in an instant.

It should also be noted, though, that the audience at Luna’s last weekend seemed to have no issue with Hanley’s lyrics or the music. It was an audience similarly enraptured by openers Opal Magnetic and Above the Orange Trees (www.abovetheorangetrees.com), bands that complemented the sense of enraptured introspection that hovered over the evening.

Sacramento’s progressive-retro-future-psychedelic pop combo Low Flying Owls will continue to perform. The bad news is that keyboardist Matt Guyton has left the band to spend more time pursuing his Web design business. The good news is that original LFO bassist Michael Bruce has rejoined. The first show for the new/old four-piece will be on New Year’s Eve at the Blue Lamp, with Frank Jordan and a new area band named Proles. “Everything’s great,” LFO keyboardist and guitar player Andy Wagner reported. “We’re looking forward to finishing the new record and continuing to play.” The new record, Elixir Vitae, will be released by New York-based indie label Stinky Records and is tentatively scheduled for release in April 2003.