Calibrations

Local cover girl Una Thompson

Dearest Mrs. C.,

Well, darlin', your wily old man has now been in South Florida for nearly 11 weeks. Things are going reasonably well, but I sure do miss the kitties. Please give each a big tongue-kiss for me, will ya? Gracias.

As you know, of course, I'm here to cover the local music scene. Today I was informed by my boss that New Times corporate HQ expects me to write 26 music stories in the next year. That, my dear, is in addition to the silly little column I am also expected to write each week. Naturally I have no intention of fulfilling such a ridiculous quota, though I gave my boss every assurance to the contrary.

The apartment -- thankfully -- is still largely roach-free. On the other hand, there's a certifiable nut-job across the street who makes up for all the vermin in the world. My landlord says he's harmless, but if I have to wake up to his foul-mouthed screaming at four o'clock in the morning one more time, I swear the cops are gonna find him in the middle of the road an hour later with my Buck knife buried deep in his cold, rotting heart.

I went to see this chick singer named Una Thompsonlast Wednesday night at a bar in downtown Fort Lauderdale called Dicey Riley's. She wasn't so hot. Certainly I was hoping for better. Here's how things like this work:

First of all I received a call at work about two weeks ago from a guy named Greg Giametta. Says he goes by the name Gigi. Says he's calling in regard to Una Thompson, a local gal with a big sound, a promising future, a new CD, the whole nine yards. I get a lot of these types of calls. Usually I blow 'em off because, frankly, there are just too many horrendous acts out there, and these days every one of 'em has a CD to promote. I mean you should hear some of the atrocities that wind up in my mailbox. Sometimes it's almost enough to make me wish I were back home again slinging beers to the goons down at the Vineyard for a living.

So, anyhow, I ask Gigi to send along the disc and promise to give it a listen. And I always do listen. It only seems right. And you never know: Wouldn't it be peachy if your saintly old stud just happened to uncover the next Hank Ballard or Faron Young or, hell, even the McGarrigle Sisters? We'd be rollin' in dough. And then, my delicious little snack cake, we could start thinking a little more seriously about that pricey log cabin in Vermont!

Gigi sends me the disc. It's titled Una Thompson: Tender Mercies. On the cover is a shot of this hot, pensive-looking lady in a tie-dyed tube top -- Una, of course -- standing on a beach somewhere with her left hand resting on her white-skinned hip and her right gripping a funky, psychedelic, double-necked guitar. No offense to your profound natural beauty, my sweet, but I do recall thinking, if nothing else, that the disc definitely looked promising.

Next thing you know, I have it popped in the old heat-resistant, polycarbonate Marlboro portable disc-player. And you know what? It wasn't half bad. Mostly it was plaintive, poetic, singer-songwriter stuff gussied up a bit excessively in overwrought instrumentation. But let's put it this way: Compared to many of the digitally mastered sonic train wrecks that arrive in the mail -- and these are hardly limited to the local acts -- Tender Mercies was a veritable masterpiece. I could tell Una definitely wasn't the next McGarrigle sister, but her voice was warm and throaty, and some of her songs were real killers, especially when I didn't have to chew my way through too much studio fat to get to 'em. Basically she just seemed like someone worth checking out.

Dicey Riley's is in a neighborhood in Lauderdale locally known as Himmarshee Village. On the weekends, Himmarshee is yuppie central, ya know, the hip place to go when you want to take your cell phone out for a walk. But on weekday nights, the place is damn near a ghost town. All that's missing are the rolling tumbleweed and the theme music from High Plains Drifter. There were four morose fellas and a bartender in Dicey's when yours truly popped in to interview Gigi and Thompson an hour before the latter was scheduled to perform. The interview went all right, but Gigi did most of the talking. As it turns out, Gigi not only plays guitar and bass on Tender Merciesunder the alias Tobor Vog, he also handles Thompson's business affairs, writes the bridges to her songs, and has been her steady manfriend for the past four years. He labors under the impression that Thompson is a phenomenal, unknown talent.

Well, phenomenal she may be, but you'd never know by the solo gig she played at Dicey's. She played only one original tune from her disc. The rest of her first set -- I split before the second began -- was populated with covers of songs by the likes of the Indigo Girls, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, and the Pretenders. They were passable covers but definitely nothing earth-shattering. She says she has to play the popular covers because that's what the crowd demands. As we both know, four disinterested patrons and a bartender ain't much of a crowd -- I'm only telling you what she said.

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