It began when I first heard “Nothing Like a Train.” I had pulled the Vigilantes of Love disc off the WUOG wall one Tuesday night at random, amused at the band name. I was still heavily on my punk/art rock kick at that point, scorning most country-esque music since it had haunted my past so much. But I put the disc on and discovered Americana. And I’ve been addicted ever since.
Mallonee’s a first rate story teller. You can step inside the songs easily, wrapping your mind inside the character’s. And he writes many, many, many songs about trains. His voice is easier to love than Vic Chesnutt’s, his lyrics a bit more to the point than Randall Bramblett’s, and more inventive song structures than Don Chambers, all of whom make up my own personal Athens songwriter holy grail. This is the guy you want to sit on your front porch and talk about his life.
My favorite disc is Audible Sigh. I can’t find a single song on there that I wouldn’t want to listen to over and over. Between “She Walks on Roses,” “Solar System,” the travelogue of “Any Side of Anywhere,” and, of course, “Nothing Like a Train,” you get the sense of movement, of time.
One spring day, I walked down to the riverside with the earbuds in. You can see the train tracks from where I was sitting. It felt like a movie. Sunset came, a train rumbled by, and the Vigilantes were playing. Perfect.
I’ll just go ahead and say that he’s my favorite singer/songwriter in Athens. So just as an FYI, you can catch the band this Wednesday at Flicker at 9 p.m.