When Bill Mallonee says he's going to play some new songs, he doesn't mean tunes from his latest album. He means songs he wrote last week.
Startlingly prolific and criminally under-appreciated, the Athens, Ga., singer-songwriter has issued nearly 20 albums over the past 15 years, as leader of the rock combo Vigilantes of Love and as a solo artist. Thursday night at Jammin' Java, Mallonee was in alt-country troubadour mode, performing mostly acoustically in tandem with former Vigilante Jake Bradley, spinning through a typically inspiring set peppered with those ever-flowing new songs.
Since he parted with the Vigilantes of Love sometime around 2002, Mallonee has issued three solo albums -- he's got another scheduled for release in May -- and he drew material such as "Life on Other Planets," "Table for Two" and "Sweetness and Light" from that trio of discs. The tunes brimmed with vibrant lyrical passages and sprightly hooks, always underpinned with a strong spirituality.
With Bradley's acoustic guitar ringing resolutely behind him, Mallonee unhitched a batch of new songs, which provided some of the 90-minute set's best moments. "High and Lonesome" turned on a hook that Ryan Adams would kill for, "The Kids Are on Drugs" was simultaneously wistful and sweeping and "Chameleon Me" did a slow burn around what sounded like a great, lost early R.E.M. riff.
Mallonee is a singer and songwriter of great skill and passion. And despite having flown beneath the radar for years while less talented contemporaries have broadened their success, he remains amazingly unfazed, diligently writing songs toward some higher goal.
-- Patrick Foster