Chris Castle puffed on a cigarette in the cold night air outside Hanafin’s.
Downtown New London was quiet for a Friday night, snow on its way but delayed.
Reddish hair wisped across his forehead. He smiled. He joked.
Inside, I nursed a lime-drenched club soda and waited for the man from New London, Ohio, to serenade this second-home hole-in-the-wall.
The scheduled 8:30 p.m. performance time came and went but a small crowd lingered patiently, looking for the songwriter to come in and play some tunes from his new CD, Last Bird Home. We each found a circle of friends, at the bar, at the tables, and made small talk.
When Chris sat down to play — lone electric acoustic guitar heavy on the bass, as if to drown out the drunken camaraderie in the back of the bar — he sang tenderly. Flawlessly. Sweetly.
“Rest My Weary Body.” “Adelai.” And newer songs like “Lion In the Cage.”
When I grow up I want to know my audience this well: the late-comers and the loyal early arrivals, both.
His voice gently lulls the listener into a world of lost love, rugged self-reliance and abiding belief in both. Eyes closed, fingers nimble, the man is his work: Prepared. Heart-felt. Generous. Genuine. With a wry, good-natured sense of humor to boot.
We’re only as good as our last gig, wherever that may find us.