Curtis Eller deals in nostalgia. Sportin’ exuberant ‘tache and donnin’ clothes exuding a depression era chic, his songs tell tales of bygone times, of Buster Keaton, old time religion, Lon Chaney, a youthful Elvis and a myriad of strange happenings down south. Last night’s set for Calmer* proved a gripping hour or so, a gothic ride into quite dark waters, permeated with murky characters that could have stepped mysteriously out from a Tom Waits number or a Tennessee Williams subplot. A hushed audience, choosing ‘ugly’ over more merry themes, learnt what happens to a horse bitten by a rattler, what becomes of elephants that, through ill-fortune, find themselves in small-town Texas ‘tween the wars and just how it feels to speak in tongues ‘unknown to men’. All these shadowy treasures came with a bewitching banjo backdrop, elegant choreography with ebullient high-leg action and more than one haunting stroll through a slightly nervous crowd. His mordant slice of Americana, neither apple pie nor Star-Spangled Banner in sight, was an unusual world-view but one that proved evocative and compelling to the cool cats of the county who cascade to Calmer*. A hit.
Other dark and esoteric tales had emerged earlier in the evening from the earnest and ever-engaging Men Diamler who belted out his songs of wit, wonder and world weary wisdom with the passion and energy one has come to expect and admire. It is tempting to suggest that this was the third time I had watched the fellow play and the third time he had stolen the show but I shall merely note that he complemented the Eller figure deliciously and disappointed not one punter. New fans were made. I salute him.