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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 32

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 32

9/9/05 The Knitters, Mississippi Nights. Among a field of stiff competition, The Knitters’ debut album, Poor Little Critter, might have been my favorite album of 1985. Three members of X took a breather from their askew, exhilarating punk/pop thing to pay homage to classic rural music. Song selection was a 50/50 mix of traditional covers and John Doe/Exene Cervenka originals. Punctuated by Dave Alvin’s country/rockabilly guitar licks, this album was in frequent rotation alongside favorites by The Long Ryders, The Beat Farmers, Jason & The Scorchers, Los Lobos and The Blasters.

So here it is twenty years later and they’re touring behind their newly released second album. The place was maybe two-thirds full when John Doe and Dave Alvin walked out onstage, opening with my favorite song from any Knitters record (and my favorite moment of the night)- Merle Haggard’s "Silver Wings". DA’s understated guitar rumble sweetened JD’s earnest, broken baritone that locked me in and wouldn’t let go. Wow…now what? They wasted no time moving on to another haunting lament of loss- Doe’s original "Crying, But My Tears Are Far Away". I coulda walked away right then and felt like I got my $16 worth.

And then out comes the rest of the band: Johnny Ray Bartel on stand up bass, DJ Bonebrake on a spare, standup drum kit and Exene with her lively, unique vocals. They launched right in to a string of snappy songs that hit that spot that made me smile way back when: "Poor Old Heartsick Me", "Poor Little Critter" from the 1985 record and "We Don’t Even Try Any More" and "Give Me Flowers While I’m Living" from the current one. I’ve seen and heard Dave Alvin a dozen or so times before, but tonight was the first time I’ve heard him play the role of "sideman", literally and figuratively, as he stood way off stage left and never once opened his mouth. His guitar playing said plenty, though- he added all the right licks in all the right places including a few jaw-dropping departures.

They transformed a few X songs into quirky rockabilly-ish numbers: "Burning House Of Love", "Skin Deep Town" and "In This Place That I Call Home". Porter Wagoner’s "I’ll Go Down Swingin" was another twangy high point. There were also a few lulls in the flow- some of the slower songs seemed to plod along and their propensity for novelty material ran thin in a couple of places, but all in all, the highs outweighed the lows. Encore number one found Dave Alvin going nuts on "The New World". Encore number two ended with "New Call Of The Wreckin’ Ball" which didn’t really add anything new to 1985’s "Wreckin’ Ball" (which they did earlier tonight).

The general consensus among the people around me was that tonight’s show rated a solid "B", but it made me wonder…as long as these guys are reunited and making the effort to put together this extended tour, maybe they would have done better to bring guitarist Billy Zoom and just tour as X. Their shows almost always rate an emphatic "A". Maybe next time around…

9/9/055 Steve Dawson, Frederick’s Music Lounge. By the time I made it over from Mississippi Nights, Steve and band were in the home stretch of their set. The place was packed with lots of familiar faces. The unique band consisted of bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, steel guitar and vibraphones. Diane’s voice blended well with Steve’s, which reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t come up with who. The next day someone suggested Glenn Tillbrook…not too far off. I didn’t recognize any of the songs (I’m guessing they were from the new release), but they were smooth and soulful. The encore gave nods to Dawson’s pop/soul influences: Aretha’s "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" and Stevie’s "I Wish". The band was staying at John and Marie’s place, so a bunch of us went over for the after party which wound down around 3AM.




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