“That swag, though,” a woman said in the silence at Swallow Hill’s Daniels Hall before Philadelphia-bred singer-songwriter Son Little–born Aaron Earl Livingston–began his set of soulful acoustic tunes on Sunday night.
Blessed with a velvet voice and dressed in a snap-brim cap, tan jacket, purple shirt, auburn pants, and maroon leather Chuck Taylors, Little–who recently moved to Los Angeles–brought serious swag to one of Colorado’s most gentle venues. A little hipness and attitude was a nice change at a place frequented mostly by older white folks who more often gravitate toward bluegrass and “adult contemporary” music than Little’s brand of romantic, funky blues.
On his two solo albums–and this fall’s invisible EP–Little gets down and dirty, and even a little edgy, with creative, head-bopping smoothness somewhere between Anderson .Paak and Bon Iver, with smidgens of Philly soul and old blues thrown in for flavor. At Swallow Hill, though, Little–who is an Anti Records label mate of fellow innovators Tom Waits, Dr. Dog, and Jolie Holland–played the solo-acoustic game expertly, morphing the creative indie blues of his bouncy recordings into sweet (even sensual) and soft serenades.
“My old manager said not to play solo,” Little deadpanned at one point, “so obviously I had to book, like, 40 solo dates.”
You could’ve heard a pin drop at Swallow Hill as Little got quiet on “Lay Down,” “Mad About You,” and other bluesy regalia, teasing the audience by barely touching the strings of his guitar, not unlike an expert lover. Not that Little’s lyrics aren’t sometimes cutting-edge and complex, like the push-and-pull relationship ruminating of “Suffer,” from Little’s upcoming album Aloha, or the enticing “Blue Magic,” which Little has said came to him spontaneously and is only now gaining meaning for him as fans wonder what the hell “blue magic” is and how it might help someone “rock you so savage.”
Little recorded Aloha in Paris and the slow burn of the swagger he’s been building with each of his releases seem likely to boil over with the new album and the juxtaposition of Paris/L.A. hipness and Little’s gritty East Coast roots. Still, his solo-acoustic set at Swallow Hill was a unique treat. His next time through Colorado, Little will most likely bring a full, funky band to theaters and clubs, so those of us who got to see him play “Demon to the Dark” and other pensive and poetic tunes solo will no doubt revel in our good fortune soon.