The Mighty Orq: Blues for All Kinds of Weather
Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Courtesy of The Mighty Orq
The title track of the Mighty Orq’s fifth studio album, Love in a Hurricane, is a beautiful paean to marital bliss as it follows a couple from their hometown of Odessa to the “bright lights” of Houston, and finally to a suburban love nest west of the city. Most listeners likely won’t take the title too literally. But then they would be wrong.
“I wrote it for some good friends of mine in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary," says the author. "We were sitting around drinking one night and they were telling me stuff about their lives and marriage and romance. And they then said, ‘Hey, be sure to mention that we had sex outside during Hurricane Ike!’”
Not quite knowing how to “PG that one up,” Orq made more of a metaphor of the title. “I wrote it to mean if you can find the still point in the craziness of the world, in the [center] of the hurricane, then you’re doing something right!”
Love in a Hurricane is perhaps Orq’s most expansive record in terms of sound and lyrics. For while there are several scorching blues-rockers for which he’s best known for (“Sweet In Between,” “Pack It Up”), it’s also populated with ballads (“Say It With Silence,” “Carry Me Home”), zydeco (“Young In Love [That’s Alright]”), an instrumental (“Cannon Ball”), a starkly cautionary tale of partying too hard (“Falling Down”), and friskly novelties (“The Possum Song” “Big Boat”).
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There’s also a cover of Son House’s “Death Letter Blues,” played by Orq on a cigar-box guitar; he also plays acoustic, electric and Resonator slide on the record. And then, on "Let Me Have My Fun," he veers well into the area of, um, very speculative fiction. Here, the narrator lives off the salary of his woman, who also allows him to spend his nights partying his ass off and then come home loaded. And then she gives him seemingly endless sex.
“I wrote that about 13 years ago. It was my attempt at writing something like the Fabulous Thunderbirds!” Orq says, laughing — before adding that, yes, such a woman doesn’t exist in reality.
“But I really wanted this record to be an accurate representation of the music I play when I perform — the variety of styles of music I do, not just blues." Orq explains. He also hopes that Love In a Hurricane helps him to be seen as more of a Texas singer-songwriter than just a bluesman.
As to his unique moniker, the man born Josh Davidson recalls that it was bestowed upon him at the age of 14 during his first week as a freshman at Lamar High School in 1993. Finding a band that he wanted to join, he was told that they already had a guitar player named Josh. That’s when a friend of the group – possibly stoned – blurted out to him, “Dude, you look like an orc.”
Physical resemblance to the beastly character of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game aside, “Orc” became “Orq” thanks to a decidedly un-PC wisecrack. By age 18, he was playing in local bluesman Tony Vega’s band, and Vega soon began introducing him as “The Mighty Orq.” When the group put out their 2001 record Dear Sweet Goodness with that name as his credit, as he wished, the transformation was complete.
Recently, the Mighty Orq represented the Houston Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Part music conference, part schmoozefest and part musical competition, it was Orq’s third appearance at the event and second time in the finals. And while he did not win, he says getting the chance to play in the city’s historic Orpheum Theatre was incredible.
Ultimately, Orq says he’s most grateful for having been born and bred in the city, and how Houston has helped to shape him as a musician.
“Man, honestly, from an artistic standpoint, the culture and history of blues and zydeco music here is so rich," he offers. "I’ve gotten to meet and play with and learn from so many unique blues men and women. You aren’t going to have that wealth in other cities, the quantity and quality of the heritage.
“I can go and talk to Trudy Lynn, who has been singing the blues since the 1960s," Orq continues. "And I used to with Texas Johnny Brown, who just had this accrued wisdom of the music. And here, you can always find somewhere to play it gig. It might not be a glamorous concert event every time, but it might be a cool cafe or lounge. And I realize how lucky I am that I can play my own music and songs I really enjoy five nights a week. And get to do it without being on the road for six or eight months a year.”
The Mighty Orq has a typically heavy schedule in Houston this week: 9 p.m. Tuesday at Shakespeare Pub (14129 Memorial); 7 p.m. Wednesday at Sambuca (909 Texas); 6 p.m. Thursday at Part & Parcel in the Whitehall (1700 Smith); and his regular happy-hour gig, 7 p.m. Friday back at the Shakespeare.