Longtime fans of David Halley jammed into the Townsend’s hidden-jewel hideaway, tucked behind the acclaimed new Congress Avenue bar’s main space, on Dec. 3 to hear our Austin360 Artist of the Month play his new record “A Month of Somedays” in its entirety.
Given that it was the first time Halley had released a new record in more than 20 years, it seemed fitting that he had a special unbilled accompanist: guitarist Rich Brotherton, who’d been a key player in Halley’s band before he went on to become Robert Earl Keen’s right-hand man. Brotherton joined Will Sexton, who produced the album, along with drummer Tom Van Schaik (also from Keen’s band), bassist Amy Lavere and backing vocalist Betty Soo in giving Halley’s songs first-class support.
Halley and Brotherton treated the crowd to a handful of duo tunes from his back catalog before and after the main set. Tunes such as “If Ever You Need Me” and “It’s Just As Well” reminded that Halley wrote some of Austin’s finest songs of the late ’80s and early ’90s, while cheers greeted the old crowd favorites “Rain Just Falls” in the encore.
The show started and ended with evocations of Halley’s Lubbock upbringing and early associations there with the Flatlanders: He opened with Butch Hancock’s “Ramblin’ Man” and closed with a beautiful rendition of Willie Nelson’s “One Day at a Time,” covered by the Flatlanders on their 1972 debut album.
As much as Halley is known primarily as a songwriter, he’s also left his mark as an interpreter. His version of the late Walter Hyatt’s “Motor City Man” was among the highlights of a 1997 “Austin City Limits” tribute concert to Hyatt in which Halley played alongside the likes of Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin and Allison Moorer. Hyatt, who died in the 1996 Valujet plane crash in Florida, also was the inspiration for the title track of Halley’s new album.
“’A Month of Somedays’ was written not long after Walter Hyatt died,” Halley explained in our recent interview. “The phrase had been in my notebooks, looking for something to be done with, for awhile. But when he when he was killed, suddenly it was like, ‘Oh, that’s what this for.
“Then when I got deeper into it, it was less targeted for him specifically. It’s really about the way that I would feel about any close friend dying, and the way that I talk about him — something about feeling, ‘Wow, here I am again, too late to really pay the homage that’s due.”
Hear Halley and his band perform the song in our Austin360 Studios: