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In an attempt to give her the acclaim she deserves, we could rely on semi-confusing music journalism fallbacks, like, "Rattler's voice somehow manages to be overwhelmingly delicate and just generally overwhelming all at once." Or try stylistic prose: "Were the earth about to be reduced to rubble, cataclysm at mankind's doorstep, the only thing worth saving would be Rattler's voice."
But, really, it can be condensed to one simple, direct, 14-word sentence: Marium "Echo" Rattler is, without question, the greatest singer that we have ever seen.
Christmas evening, cold and drizzling, she performed inside of G&S Lounge (12805 Cullen), a tiny, unappealing strip center hangout in an area of town land developers and realtors refer to as "The Black Hole" (that stretch of land on Highway 288 between 610 and Beltway 8), and it seemed as though there was no place better to be.
She sat perched up on a chair on a tiny stage at the back of the room, singing and scatting as she saw fit, soft green light at her back, room full of eyeballs on her.
She wandered from remixed Prince songs (the one about the girl masturbating in the hotel lobby, changed to star a well-endowed man), to children's nursery rhymes (the one about the bus that has parts that do things), to Erykah Badu (the one song she did with The Roots), to roam-free ad-libbing (weeeeedddoooo beeebaaahhh skiiiiiddoooooo). It was raw, free-form brilliance, like watching Rembrandt sketch or Kim Kardashian make everyone hate her.
The bulk of the crowd was made up of people who came out specifically to see her.
"I came to see Marium," said Manonie Darcell, a 29-year-old image consultant. "Every time she performs, I feel like I need to get there. She has a powerful voice, something you want to hear again and again. I mean, I'm here on Christmas. Christmas."
Even regulars of the venue, those who just happened into her wake, were overtaken.
"I come here for drinks," said Latoria Jackson, 33. "It's a good place to go to relax, never too rowdy. She [Rattler] is really good. I like this a lot."
Rattler, who first received classical training at five but found jazz in college, used to be a regular performer at The Red Cat before it closed. Christmas was the beginning of her Sunday-night residency at G&S (9 p.m. to midnight; $10).
Rattler's massive skill massively enhances G&S. Without her, it is an unattractive 20-by-60-foot box; black walls, black floor, tiny black bar, black curtains. With her, it has to be considered essential, at the very least within Houston's (surprisingly small) neo-soul community.
It's only a matter of time before Rattler, whose debut album is due mid-2012, is considerably more famous than she is now. Still, she's not terribly all that concerned with the accolades, or even expecting them.
"Whatever may come this year, I will be judged, loved or hated for being an individual," she said. "Hopefully, being me will be good enough."
At one point during her show, Sam "Trump" Harris, a cool-looking character whose hipness is surpassed only by his talent (first trumpet in Columbia University's jazz orchestra), strolled up and joined the band.
"When he's in town, we find time to perform together," said Rattler.
She continued her show, gliding without friction. There were no boundaries. She moved where she pleased. Everyone followed.
She has a commoner's demeanor and a queen's spoils.
She and G&S are a perfect match.
Two things: First, should you be interested in keeping up with Rattler — and you totally should by this point — you can follow her on Twitter at @MariumEcho. If you see her perform, she will have in her possession a CD of her live shows. Purchase that. It will tide you over until her official album this summer. Actually, purchase four or five of them just because. Give them to people. Be a better person in 2012. Second, in addition to Rattler's Sunday-night show, G&S also features live blues music on Wednesdays. You should certainly consider going to see that as well. Respect to venues that host live music. The best.