Carson McHone looks like she hasn’t slept much.
You can see it in her gray-green eyes. She even poked fun at herself onstage for her tiredness.
It’s about half past 9 p.m. at the Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Co., and drummer Adam Nurre already declined an invitation to hit the town after the alt-country/Americana band’s roughly two-hour-long showcase on the last night of August. The four-piece ensemble is on the eleventh stop of its tour, but frontwoman McHone — after whom the Austin, Texas, band is named — says they’ll have their only day off tomorrow. At the beginning of the week, Carson McHone was halfway through a tour stretching from Arizona to Washington, Oregon to Colorado, and then heading south to Texas.
McHone, a tattooed songstress in cowgirl boots indicative of her roots, has a voice reminiscent of Mary Chapin Carpenter — sometimes piercing, sometimes ghostly. Despite the band’s apparent fatigue, Great Pacific patrons sipped their coffee and wine to the upbeat tones of Carson McHone, comprised this night by singer McHone, Nurre, bassist Mitchell Vandenburg and fiddler Kirsten Mathisen. They closed out Pendleton’s downtown stop after its regular closing hours, with regular applause and whoops from the audience.
Toward the end of the gig, McHone released her bandmates for a break outside. She sang and strummed her steel-string guitar through a solo set, including the title track of the new album “Goodluck Man,” with its somber lyrics like “Forgiveness is a funny word, we use when we are lyin’/ We give ourselves a heavy dose, just to keep from cryin’.”
Whence does her love of lyric come? Her mother, a short story author. Growing up, McHone was surrounded by books and said she eventually became a writer of prose and poetry herself.
“It’s cheaper than therapy,” she said.
She said people who feel the need to express themselves artistically often have a fragility to them. She enjoys getting on stage and sharing the words she has crafted together, seeing her creations resonate with listeners. But the musician’s life doesn’t come without off days.
“Sometimes, I don’t want to pour my heart out,” she said.
This is the band’s first time touring the Pacific Northwest. Both Nurre and McHone found notable the region’s shifting landscapes. McHone said on the way down from the band’s last gig in Tacoma, Washington, they drove through foggy mountains to landscape like Wyoming’s to desert. “You’ll drive through five or six landscapes in the space of one drive,” offered Nurre.
Along the tour route, the quartet has stayed with friends of Nurre and Vandenburg. “It’s felt like family the whole way,” said McHone.
A quirky tradition has kept Nurre busy on the way. He said a bandmate who didn’t join them this go-round usually shot pictures of the dogs the band would see on tour. Now Nurre has taken over the job.
“We love tour dogs,” he said.
And before they leave the city famous for its rodeo and woolen mills, McHone had a particular goal.
“I really want one of those Pendleton sweaters.”
Carson McHone’s latest album, “Goodluck Man,” is available from Good Horse Record Company at www.carson-mchone.squarespace.com/store/.
Contact Jonathan Bach at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-966-0809.