Faulknerian: The Trouble isn't with Harry

The Trouble With Harry
at Dürty Nelly's
December 12

Though the crowd was rather sparse at Dürty Nelly's last Friday night, it definitely was not the fault of local pop/rock group The Trouble With Harry– the group performed a set of almost all original tunes that spoke of crafty songsmithing and a talent for melody.

Fronted by Harry Faulkner, Boyd Tinsley's bandmate until 1994, The Trouble With Harry has a sound that's refreshingly different from the normal roots-heavy Charlottesville scene, instead heeding influences along the lines of Dire Straits crossed with Jimmy Buffett's tropical flavor.

Composed of Faulkner on acoustic guitar (and later electric), a bassist, a drummer, and a lead guitarist, the group spent more than a few minutes setting up, but the set that unfolded after about 9:30 was worth the wait. The first tune reminded me a bit of the aforementioned Straits' hit, "Romeo and Juliet" (a phenomenal work, if I do say so myself), though this was only in general feeling, not because of any melody or instrumentation influence. An original song, this number was my first exposure to Faulkner's voice, and I must say I was very impressed– flexible where it needs to be and stronger than most. It was quite a pleasant unexpected surprise.

The group easily pulled off a cover of the Band tune "Up On Cripple Creek," the lead guitar wahing it up with the best of them, and Faulkner's falsetto-yodeling for the middle breakdown equally impressive. Another original with one of the better examples of over-the-top rhyming ("The story goes that Cecil knows" and "That was when the cops arrived to investigate a suicide") was the last acoustic/electric song performed before Faulkner switched over to electric, sarcastically remarking, "My guitar tech guy didn't make it tonight" as an excuse for the length of time for the switch.

Introducing it as "the oldest song in their repertoire," Faulkner sighed that when he wrote it he was talking about "Arabs shooting bombs like in 1983– the sad part is it's still relevant."

Faulkner's reggae staccato guitar and nicely placed echoey leads elevated the song from a great but– note wise, predictable– verse chorus structure. On the bridge, however, the song broke from convention with an unusual chord change that tickled the critic's senses.

More great pop songs followed, and a stronger reliance on the jam, though the group never reverted to extended instrumental passages (one of my personal banes). With songs easily good enough to fit on modern radio (and probably improve some play-lists quite a bit), The Trouble With Harry might just be lack of publicity rather than any failings of the group.

The Trouble with Harry