Hall the Way

A former Mary My Hoper draws on the past for his musical future

After Hall and his bandmates recorded My Love, Sex, and Spirit, it was released (in 1993) on Indigo Girl Amy Ray's nonprofit label, Daemon (Ray has backing-vocal honors on the song "Madness Is a Numbered Face"). The eleven-song collection explores dark eroticism and the joyful and painful conditions of the soul. Of his songwriting, he says: "It's kind of a mystery to me where it all comes from. I'll wonder myself. It's all a matter of spending time lubricating the passageways between the conscious and subconscious minds."

Although the influence of bands like Roxy Music and their art-damage Eurotrash ilk is evident in Hall's music, he says his sound and style has an American side that emerges when he's performing. "That sound was what I grew up with, but I didn't know what Roxy Music, Joy Division, and all those bands looked like. I never saw them live. Twenty years later, I'm taking it back to the U.K. and they see it as something new and different from what they brought to us, because I may put some James Brown into it. And growing up in Nashville, I was not immune to country music."

Hall still is continuing his musical education, checking out percussionist Ray Barreto, David Byrne, and salsa, and beginning to tap into gospel. But he says he doesn't listen to too many new things without going back to favorites for balance. "Doc Watson, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hank Williams -- late at night, it's peaceful for me to put some of them on.

"Late at night, I used to go up and down the AM and FM, looking for something different. As much as I love that Courtney Love and Hole are able to get airplay, there needs to be a balance of all types of music to show that we have not always been ensconced in Alternaworld. I feel the same way about race and sexuality -- it doesn't seem to work the other way."

Touring in support of My Love since late '93, Hall will travel to Tampa, Gainesville, and Georgia after Wednesday's show at the Stephen Talkhouse. Then he heads overseas for a three-week stint in the U.K., after which he may go to the Continent, his second trip there within the past four months. "I'm trying to establish something over there, but it takes time, like planting a garden."

His major-label debut on Geffen won't be out until much later in the year -- the band hasn't even begun recording yet. Hall's Talkhouse concert marks a first for the club: an ages eighteen-and-over show. Local band Muse, which opens for Hall, requested a lowering of the age limit because "we wanted to bring in a younger, college-age audience that never gets to see us," says manager Jose Pulido. "We really liked James when we played with him last year [also at the Talkhouse] and we thought he'd be great for that kind of audience."

As for Hall, he just wants to continue creating music that interests him. "The rest is windfall. For me, good music is good music, and it doesn't matter where it comes from."

James Hall performs Wednesday with Muse at 9:00 p.m. at the Stephen Talkhouse, 616 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 531-7557. Admission costs five dollars.

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