A sold out Louisiana is a suitably claustrophobic environment in which to enter the confines of Micah P. Hinson’s marvellously tortured mind. His stripped down and brittle laments of love and loss are not suited to stadiums and sunshine, but small rooms on dark and rainy November nights. And so it is that the crowd hang on every word from the Texan, drawn into his unique world view. Whether narrating a tangential story or letting each lyrical refrain soar, tear apart or barely crawl from the recesses of his throat, Hinson is captivating.
The simple compositions and Hinson’s emotionally-wrought delivery do something strange to my lungs. I spend most of the gig struggling to take in sufficient air to relieve the crushing sensation from around my chest. For an evening where I am undeniably happy, even laughing, it is an odd physical reaction. But this is what happens when real songs about real things are delivered with raw, unflinching honesty. In risk of sounding like some Haight Ashbury hack, it’s heavy, man. Real heavy.
The Possibilities and 2s & 3s are bruised and brilliant, showcasing his talent for generating tension. There is tenderness and fragility on Beneath The Rose and God Is Good, which he performs as duets with his wife. And then there are covers including Woodie Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, which just work. His guitar-playing at times is subtle, providing a delicate counterpoint to his vocals that stretch and strain around each line like on a stripped-down I Still Remember, which is so full of yearning it nearly collapses in on itself.
Hinson is eminently likeable. His between-song musings are full of nuggets of Texan wisdom and tough love. At one point he calls the audience “motherfuckers” but is quick to qualify that he only does so “under an umbrella of love.” Later, Hinson offers his sincere thanks to the audience for allowing him to do what he does and share in it. There is something about the honesty of the songs, the emotion laid bare that makes it an intimate experience. It’s therefore no surprise when Hinson waits around after the show to shake everyone’s hand as they head out into the cold and maybe, like me, to re-inflate their lungs with autumnal air.
After welling up during The Life, Living, Dying And Death Of One Certain & Peculiar L.J. Nichols, Hinson admits, “It’s like a battle every night.” Then follows a pause as he composes himself before concluding, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” And neither would we.
Words: Tom Spooner