Times Staff Writer

The nice thing about being a storyteller like Tom T. Hall is that life is always providing new stories to tell.

Hall has been sharing his songs and stories with audiences for nearly two decades, but his charm and wit were as fresh and unpretentious as ever Monday at the second of two shows at the Crazy Horse Steak House in Santa Ana.

Another advantage of being known primarily as a yarn-weaver is that you aren't required to have a particularly great singing voice. Hall, who will also play tonight at the Palomino, may miss a note now and then, but no one really expects him to be a masterful vocalist like Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard.

Along with his lighthearted material, Hall included a few "serious" songs that were more maudlin than moving (his 1973 hit, "I Love," and a new song about the importance of having friends). Ultimately, however, Hall's humorous and carefully detailed character studies were more effective than his dissertations on life. Except for two songs that he performed with only his own guitar as accompaniment, Hall was given top-flight support by a six-piece band.

Sharing Monday's bill was Terri Gibbs. Midway through her opening 50-minute set, the husky-voiced Georgia-born singer-pianist performed a medley of hits by the artists she admires most, including such country greats as George Jones and Tammy Wynette. But she hit closer to home with songs by Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers, performers who--like Gibbs--are good but not great vocal stylists.

At least Gibbs proves that crossover country music can have a little bit of soul.

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