John Holk and Carrie Shepard
by Chris Berggren
John Holk (aka Community High grad John Holkeboer) took the stage at Woodruff's in a sequined suit that would've made Gram Parsons proud. The thin, comfortably fitted white suit had tassels along the back with black trim and its share of flashy gold and red patterns sewn into the fabric. The outfit was topped with a white cowboy hat. Parsons would've liked what he heard from John Holk & the Sequins, as well. The band tore into a set of hard-played, country-tinged Americana originals and a few well-chosen covers.
Sharing center stage with Holk was singing partner Carrie Shepard, who wore a short red dress and cowboy boots. While Holk uses his voice like a well-played melodic instrument, Shepard's has a powerful twang that's perhaps more naturally geared toward the country genre. Both voices and singing styles work well with the band's material, however, and the band is at its best when Holk and Shepard share the vocals. This was evident from the first song, the musically upbeat but lyrically forlorn "If You See Her." Holk sings, "If you see her, tell her that I've changed my ways/If you see her, tell her I was only going through a phase/I was only trying to see how much she cared/And now that I found out, I feel just like I'm falling down the stairs," with Shepard chiming in on harmony. The song is also the title of the band's debut CD, an eleven-song album written entirely by Holk.
The collection includes the lovely ballad "Sea Shells," a Buddy Hollyesque tune called "Autograph," and "The Mountain," which closed the set and sounded like a lost Jayhawks gem. The original material was augmented by songs like "Blue Eyes," from Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band, and the trucking classic "Six Days on the Road." And halfway through the performance Shepard sang a self-penned song, titled "Standard Time," proving the band is not lacking for songwriters.
Only after the show did I discover that
only one person on stage was both regularly in the band and playing his usual instrument--that being John Lang, the Sequins' steel pedal guitar player. "We're kind of like a jazz band in terms of our revolving lineup," Holk explained. Missing from the Sequin regulars were lead guitarist Erik Gustafson, bassist Alex Trajano, and drummer Todd Glass. Filling in for Gustafson was Gary Czabot, while Brian Ferriby subbed for Glass. Holk explained that he normally plays acoustic guitar and Shepard plays tambourine, but he'd taken over bass for the night, with Shepard playing acoustic. And even with all the changes, the band never missed a beat. So, kudos to their malleable musical abilities, and I can't wait to see who's playing what next time I see John Holk & the Sequins. One thing's for certain: the music will be full of twang and top-notch.
John Holk and Carrie Shepard return to town as the duo Some Velvet Evening for a show in the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room, Friday, October 14.
[Originally published in October, 2011.]