Friday night Hannah Thomas came to the Queen City for a solo set at Good Road Ciderworks. She wowed the crowd with her musicianship, and conversed with her new friends in the audience as if they were old friends.
Hannah opened with “Gypsy Boots,” her strong vocals drifting from her perch in the rear of the spacious cider place all the way to the street. Then, when the audience requested Pearl Jam, she immediately produced a grungy rasp, later on playing “Better Man” in a way that was authentic and recognizable at once. Before playing “Sleep When I Die,” she explained that it is the featured track in a film by the guy who did Napoleon Dynamite. (I.e., a guy who knows soundtracks.) As she played, whether the focus was on the guitar or her vocal performance, she appeared to enter that realm of the mystical that the best live musicians retreat to in between moments of direct interaction with the audience.
In a tribute to Tom Petty, she played “Last Dance with Mary Jane.” Her fast strumming and chucking with the left hand sliding made me wonder what kind of guitar magic she will be a practitioner of in a few years. Some people are destined for six-string greatness, and Hannah Thomas is one of those people. The she began to sing about Georgia, pickup trucks, and mammalian road hazards, and the crowd loved it. I must admit, some of it was lost on me, but it sounded good. “Lie to Me” was performed with raw vocal power. Hannah’s voice is a double shot of whiskey after an extra rough day. It sustains, paralyzes, and numbs whatever transient ills may be plaguing the mind. She covered “Me and Bobby McGee” with the appropriate level of vocal rawness, losing herself to the music.
After her set, she unplugged and joined the audience to play while a festive gentleman sang David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me by My Name.” The two had such a good thing going, they continued shifting into a songwriting session for Hannah’s soon-to-be-released single, “Hookers and Blow.” Even after “Hookers and Blow,” Hannah continued to play, unplugged, welcoming participation from an audience eager to hear – and sing more.
Hannah Thomas live is an extraordinary experience. The young guitarist has a voice larger than Route 85 and the personality of a musician who is a person first, performer second. If you ever get the chance to see her play, I encourage you to go. Hannah charms, engages, and entertains.