We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
STANDOUT TRACK: No. 2, “Lee Bob Blues,” a mandolin-and-accordion-tinged country-folk ballad about a bar where an “existential dirt poet” serenades lonely patrons. “Everyone’s trying to look like a regular around here,” sings the trio’s songwriter/guitarist, Tim Penney, 43. “Me, I’m just looking for someplace to hide.”
MUSICAL MOTIVATION: “Lee Bob” kicks off with some vintage small-town imagery: “Tonight I’m gonna take you downtown/They close up all the shops here before dark/It’s just the way it’s always been.” But it was inspired in part by a pretty sizable burg: Sacramento, Calif., where Penney lived from 1996 to 1998.
The song’s title comes from the name of a colleague on the city’s open-mic circuit, a “sort of folkie, latter-day-hippie guitar-player guy.” Still, “Lee Bob” is meant for alienated bargoers everywhere: “You’re by yourself, and you go to a bar, and you sort of feel like you’re the only outside guy there,” says Penney. “Everybody’s a regular except you.”
ODD MAN IN: For Penney, who grew up in Oklahoma City and now resides in Capitol Hill, that feeling was particularly intense during a stint in Austin, Texas, in the early ’90s. “They have this great music scene, and I liked the bands, so I would go out a lot by myself,” he says. “I wasn’t uncomfortable doing that, but I did always feel a little bit at odds.”
Being uncomfortable came later, when Penney decided to serenade the lonely patrons of the Live Music Capital of the World’s open mics. It was “pretty intimidating,” he recalls. “I think everybody in town plays the guitar and writes music.” —Joe Dempsey