hotel cafe last night

Sunday, June 29, 2003, at 04:34PM

By Eric Richardson

It feels like every time I post, there's a mention of Hotel Cafe. Really, this only makes six times, but it still feels that way. I like the place, though, so I can't complain. They book good music, and last night's fare proved to be no exception.

First up was a girl the HC website lists as Anna Nalick. I say it like that because google turns up 0 results for that name, and that strikes me as odd. She didn't seem to have played many shows, though, so it's possible she has somehow escaped mention. That's not at all to be derogatory, though; her lack of experience only evidenced itself a couple times when she would laugh at wrongly played chords. I couldn't get over how much her voice sounded like early Jewel. I think she could have played a drop-dead cover of any of the songs off Pieces of You. A few songs showed she possessed a much bigger voice than she often used. What possibly impressed me most, though, was her song-writing. Her lyrics were very natural and smart, always getting the rhyme without sacrificing anything of what she wanted to say.

Next up was Shawn Amos. His music was often bluegrass-twinged, with the banjo making an appearance on multiple songs. He started his set off singing the theme to The Jeffersons a capella. I enjoyed that.

Third was Penny. My interest in Penny was sort of a hunch. Earlier this spring I was headed to HC to see Steve Reynolds, and Penny was on as we walked in the door. I heard maybe two minutes, and I don't even think I heard any vocals. If I recall correctly it was just guitars jamming their way out of a song. But in those two minutes I got a hunch that I would really like them. I checked out the website, listened to the songs there, listened to the songs on their demo cd, thought they were good, if not great, but still came away with a hunch that there was something there I wasn't getting. Those two minutes of guitar seemed richer than any of the recorded songs I heard. So last night I finally got to see them live, and the experience vindicated my unfounded beliefs. I don't know what exactly what the difference is, but if Penny's recorded stuff is good, Penny live is great.