The Hotel Café served up an illuminating session on the power of good songwriting when it's delivered by a resourceful band — and when it’s not — with Tuesday night’s double bill in Hollywood featuring two rising talents: Texas singer-songwriter Sahara Smith and Irish multi-instrumentalist-songwriter Conor O’Brien, a.k.a. Villagers.
Both have new albums demonstrating their passion for literate lyric-writing. Smith, 21, has been honing her craft for nearly a decade despite her youth, and has come under the tutelage of T Bone Burnett, whose associate Emile Kelman has adroitly produced her debut album, “Myth of the Heart,” coming out Aug. 31 and featuring several members of Burnett’s stable of instrumental aces.
Dubliner O’Brien, 27, is a virtual one-man band on “Becoming a Jackal,” the Villagers album that’s just been nominated for the UK’s prestigious Mercury Prize as one of the year’s best by a UK-based act.
Smith brought with her a sharp backing trio of fellow Texans consisting of guitarist-bassist Will Sexton, guitarist Jake Owen and drummer Mike Meadows; when O’Brien took the stage by himself, holding just his acoustic guitar, he offered a sheepish introduction: “We are Villagers. Actually, I’m Conor from the Villagers. I usually play with a band, but I couldn’t afford to bring them with me.”