Sam Holt & Cameron Williams - 05.06.2009 - The Pour House, Raleigh NC

The traffic lights they turn blue tomorrow.
"The traffic lights they turn blue tomorrow" according to Jimi Hendrix in "The Wind Cries Mary". But all the lights were green on the way home a few Wednesday nights ago and that's a good thing. When you have to go to work in the morning there is a big difference between getting home at 2:30 and 2:45. Why was I driving home so late? Because I was coming back from seeing SCAM at the Pour House in Raleigh. That would be Sam Holt and Cameron Williams. And the reason they ended so late was no real mystery... they started late. Why? I blame it on the Carolina Hurricanes. Overtime playoff game syndrome. When I got there at 10, which seemed pretty reasonable to me, I was the audience. The entire audience. I was kind of freaked by this. I couldn't leave. Well, not in any kind of self respecting way. If they played I was going to be there. "Hey Jeff, where are you going? Dude, don't leave." Even if the band blows and you are the ONLY person there you feel like you have to stay. Fortunately I knew they absolutely were not going to suck so no worries. And over the next half hour a few more folks moseyed in. It did give me a chance to meet the guys and talk some music and guitar. They went thru the sound check and Jack, the house sound maestro, dialed them in. He said they make his job easy. They have a really clean sound and are well matched. When the hockey game got out the crossover crowd arrived and the set started up at 11:00.

It was an intimate evening of solid music from two guys that really appear to enjoy hitting the road together and sharing each others company. They even get the chance to play some music together. Sam Holt first came to the worlds attention as guitar tech for the late Michael Houser, founding member of Widespread Panic. With Houser's encouragement he began playing more and formed Outformation. The guitar driven southern rock outfit is still the main outlet for his music. The first time I saw Sam play guitar was at the now legendary, at least in my mind, Panic shows in Portsmouth, VA in August of 2006 when Sam and John Keane filled in for the recently departed George McConnell. Cameron Williams is a founding member of the now largely inactive Tishamingo. He is spending his time in Colorado trying to keep his acoustic guitars in tune and occasionally coming out on the road to play with Sam.

They played a mess of songs, some I knew, most I didn't. I'm sure there were several Outformation and Tishamingo numbers but the only ones I could swear to were "Tennessee Before Daylight" off of Outformation's disc of the same title and Tishamingo's "People See" from their self titled debut album. I was hoping the show would pop up on one of the torrent sites to help stimulate my sludgy memory but unfortunately it hasn't yet. They also played "Whiskey Drinking Women" but for the life of me I can't place it. Oh well.

The guitars they were playing were a couple of nice ones. Cameron had a beautiful spruce topped Gibson Chet Atkins solid body acoustic-electric. "Solid body acoustic-electric"? Seriously. Look it up. It is a solid body guitar with pickups that you plug in. No sound hole at all. That would be an electric guitar. Yep, but it sounds like an acoustic.  A bridge mounted transducer or some such techno jargon was responsible. It stays in tune for him and is particularly free of feedback unlike traditional hollow body acoustics when played at volume. A really big warm tone. I like. Sam Holt plays a 1989 Fender Telecaster Deluxe Plus. It looks and sounds familiar as well it should. It is Mikey's guitar. These are the things that give me that fuzzy interconnection with the universe feeling.

Not surprisingly they broke out a couple of tunes familiar to Panic fans, "Porch Song" and the J.J. Cale cover "Travelin' Light." When Cameron wants to bring some JB voice to the party he can pull it off. It wasn't over the top either. Just a nice reminder.

When they played the oft covered Bob Dylan "When I Paint My Masterpiece" all of us Deadheads in the crowd got our goofy grins on as the endorphins released and we had a little communal bliss out. Jack had a snare and some brushes back at the board that he was softly caressing. "It needs some Levon Helms drums." "It's a Dylan song." "That explains it."

They also turned in a great version of the Lowell George/Little Feat classic "Willin'." I L-O-V-E that song and it might have been the best thing they preformed all night. They followed that up with the Creedence Clearwater Revival "Long As I Can See The Light" off of Cosmo's Factory to close the set. It never really found the sweet spot but when your weakest song of the evening still gets a big round of applause you are doing something right.

At set break, ok, call it by what it really was, pee break, we stepped outside to take in the Raleigh cityscape. That, and let the smokers have a cig as The Pour House is smoke free downstairs. While we were hanging out  the story of "Junebug and the Hitler Mustache" was told. I need to pay better attention to who my friends are.

The second set continued much the same as the first. Except it was enhanced by a few well deserved shots courtesy of some audience members. A killing version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Call Me the Breeze" was among the songs as was a cover of Marshall Tucker's "Heard it in a Love Song". Every husky guy in the crowd, myself included, had to add a basso profundo "Can't be wrong". Listen to the song, you'll understand. After additional shots the banter started to get pretty convivial. Sam remarked about Cam that "He's not really nice, he's just polite." Not taken aback Cameron replied "That's true, I'm not nice, but I am polite." And make no doubt about it, he is polite. The most unexpected moment of the show came about courtesy of a Hurricanes fan. A shout of "Let's go Canes!" eventually resulted in a totally unrehearsed attempt at the Scorpion's arena rock classic and Hurricanes PA fav "Rock You Like A Hurricane". It started as a goof but after a halting beginning they realized that between the two of them they knew much more of the song than they thought.  We got about a 3/4s version and that was plenty.

It was a real pleasure to get to meet and hear these guys perform. Sam I know I'll get to see again next time Outformation rolls thru town. Cameron is more of an iffy proposition. I'm not sure what the future of Tishamingo is and I don't know if there is anything else he has going on. I'll tell you what I'd like to see is SCAM with a bass player and drummer. There, I said it. As much as I enjoyed them as a duo I think as a four piece they would totally kick some ass. Probably wishful thinking. As long as I can see them again sometime in whatever configuration they choose I'll be happy. The night ended late, thankfully the lights were green and I was snoozing hard as soon as I got home.

- By Jeff McClellan