By Bill Forman
Life is a highway, according to Rascal Flatts and Tom Cochrane and God-knows-who-else, and few of us manage to spend more time out there than Rence Liam. More often than not, the Colorado Springs musician is out on the road in his 2003 Corolla — 282,000 miles and counting — playing cafes, living rooms and elsewhere under the name Dear Rabbit.
So if you stop to think about it, just about all of Liam's local shows qualify as homecoming gigs. But what will set his June 18 Zodiac appearance apart from the rest is the release of Dear Rabbit's sophomore album.
In a Desert Without the Book finds Liam playing less accordion and more guitar than on his 2011 They Don't Love the Songs debut, plus piano and cornet.
As you might guess from a song title like "The Heart of Wednesday Night," the influence of Tom Waits' corrugated cabaret is still very much present. But tracks like "When the Well Dries Out" convey an unexpected musical and lyrical subtlety: "You see me standing here with 600 friends, 700 friends, what a team," he sings in tones that suggest a less willfully guileless Jonathan Richman.
All of which begs the question: Is this even the same guy? Liam insists it is.
"I actually wrote that song right after the release show for my first record, and right before my first tour," he explains. "I just felt like a lot of pressure was finally off, enabling me to finally write the types of songs that I really wanted to write. I remember how a certain someone always told me that I'm loved by many here, and I guess that's how I came up with the lyric. I would like to continue writing more and more songs like that, songs that really mean something to me."
This time out, Liam recorded all the tracks in two days last August during a pit stop in Oregon. "I'd say it's a lot more minimalistic than the first record," figures Liam, noting that the accordion had gotten a little too gimmicky for his tastes. "It's raw and a lot closer to indie rock or whatever, closer to what I want. I'd like to say I would've gone this route sooner, but I didn't even know how to play guitar when I started."
Liam has other reasons to be cheerful as well, since constant touring does have its networking advantages. "I am happy to say that, in about a month or so, I will celebrate the two-year anniversary of the last time I had to sleep in my car."
For next Wednesday's show, Liam will be backed by Grant Sabin on bass and Alex Koshak on drums. Chimney Choir, Paleo and Briffaut will also be sharing the bill.
But that's not all: "You might have noticed that the record release show will take place on a Wednesday night," beams Liam. "I also have a song about Wednesday night because Wednesday night is the best night of the week. The show will take place on June 18. Six goes into eighteen three times. Wednesday night is the third and best night of the week. The 18th is the third Wednesday night in June."
While we're pondering all that, let's also not forget that a bunch of your favorite local acts will be performing in and around Modbo this Saturday. Brett and Lauren Andrus' Arts Alley enterprise will be celebrating its fifth anniversary — which, as they point out, is 132 in gallery years. Music will begin at 6 p.m. in Acacia Park with performances by Algodon, TheViolet936 and ghostRADIO, followed by alley and gallery performances from Joe Johnson, Water Bear, Briffaut, We Are Not a Glum Lot and El Toro de la Muerte.