Hal and Mal’s, Jackson MS


It was a gorgeous morning in New Orleans, sunny and clear. I saw my friends off (a million thanks, S & J!), then decided to walk to the Amtrak station, about two miles away. Though I was lugging all of my crap with me, when do I ever get the chance to walk through the French Quarter? I hated to leave the city, and this seemed like the best possible way to say farewell.

I absolutely love the architecture here, and found myself stopping several times each block to shoot photos. I took so much time enjoying my walk that by the time I hit the business district, I only had a few minutes left to make my train. I hustled into the station, printed out my ticket, and ran aboard to take my seat.

When my pulse slowed and my breathing quieted, I came to the realization that I had an enormous amount of legroom, a table, and electrical jacks next to my seat. Oh right – the train. It was the first Amtrak of tour, and my coach seat felt like the height of luxury travel after all the buses.


(Southern swamp, from the train)

An afternoon of sheer bliss, and I arrived in Jackson, my first time there. The station was new and beautiful, and as I emerged on the far side, I could see my hotel just a block away. Wow. It, too, was new and beautiful (and a bargain), and I checked in, took a shower, then practiced a bit while looking out the windows at the plains.

Too soon, it was time to leave for the gig. I pulled up a map and realized that Hal & Mal’s was less than a mile away. What a confluence of convenience! I decided to walk (as I usually do, unless it’s more than 2 miles) and hoofed it over, encountering no other pedestrians in this typically Southern car-based city.

Hal & Mal’s has a big performance area, but as this was a mid-week show, I was going to play in the restaurant itself. It was a nice arrangement, with a PA and lights, and the staff treated me very well as I got established. I also talked with several locals who greeted me warmly and asked how my tour was going, they’d checked out my site and my music beforehand. Always nice to welcomed in this way.

I ordered a bowl of the bouillabaisse, which was incredible (why have I never tried this in New Orleans?!), and their “tamale pie”, which turned out to be nothing more than a pile of molten cheese over a flattened tamal. Oh well. I devoured the soup and dug out the masa and beans from under the cheddar, then it was time to go on.

Most of the seats in the place were occupied by this point, with a tableful of well-suited gentlemen directly in front of me. I couldn’t tell if they were executives, developers or politicians, but they had very important things to discuss very loudly, and they didn’t let up a second when I kicked off my set. I got some scattered applause (though certainly none from that particular party), and continued on, ignoring the suits as they ignored me. Finally, they packed up and left without a glance in my direction. Good riddance!

By the set break, a lot of the other people had started to pack up and head home for the night as well. I had been warned that Wednesdays are slow here, and I could see that the tables weren’t being filled by newcomers. Partway through of the set, though, a nicely-dressed couple came in, and immediately showed interest in what I was doing. A few tunes later, I mentioned that I was from New York, and the male half of the couple shouted out, “What part?”. After I finished out my set, for their and just a few others’ benefit, we chatted and it turns out they live in the East Village, and were on a road trip through the heartland. They wished me well on journey, as I did theirs, and I promised to keep in touch about my shows when I got back home. Funny how things like this happen on tour.