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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 57

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 57

7/14/07 Porter Hall, TN, House Concert.  When we host a well-known act at our place (Peter Case, Dwight Twilley, The Redwalls), we max out on replies almost instantly and hope the room won’t be too crowded.  This month, we hosted a lesser known band and the RSVPs came in slower.  I ended up doing a minor promotional blitz, sending out emails and asking a few of my KDHX friends to push it on the radio.  Since PHT are personal favorites of mine, I was happy to do it.  We ended up with just over fifty people in the room.  I’m guessing only a handful were very familiar with the band.
 
This Nashville duo showed up around mid-afternoon.  They were happy to find the beer was already on ice.  A couple of hours later the crowd showed up and the “band” took the “stage”, while it was still light outside.  With two acoustic guitars, they opened with a couple of traditional covers: “In The Pines” and “Looking At The World Through A Windshield”.  Right away, Gary’s acoustic leads were impressive and expressive.  We’re still learning how to run the new PA system we have.  It wasn’t until several songs into the first set that my engineer wife figured out how to adjust the input volume of each microphone.
 
Even before the sound was mixed better, Molly was blowing me away with her heartfelt, if less than technically perfect voice.  “Crazy Inside” was her first chance to shine while Gary continued to lay on the striking leads.  Both Gary and Molly have a gift for writing and rendering heart-wrenching classic-sounding country songs.  On “Drunkard And An Angel” Gary’s voice offers glimpses of George Jones.  Not surprisingly, he covered “White Lighting” a couple of songs later.  On “Halfway There” Gary laid on the haunting “gone…” vocal reply/echoes to the lines of Molly’s plaintive chorus.  They traded verses on the mid-tempo loser’s lament “I’m All Messed Up” and ended set one with a string of covers that tipped us off on their varied influences: “You Aint Woman Enough” (Loretta), “Country Death Song” (Violent Femmes…someone who didn’t recognize it thought it was one of those spooky traditional murder ballads; Gary’s guitar got all hypnotic right around the point where the daughter gets thrown down the well) and “Tails Facing Up” (Drive By Truckers…“All my dead friends have settled down”).
 
At the break, things felt more like a party than the intermission at a show.  Everyone was having a great time, just hanging out, drinking beer and talking.  Eventually I had to push the “pause” button on the party thing and remind the band about set two.
 
They opened with a big block of my favorite songs from their Welcome To Porter Hall, TN CD (unknown to most folks, this is one of my all-time favorite records): Gary sang the rockabilly rave-up “Screwed Blue” and the honky tonk shuffle “Golden Chain Of Hate”.  Molly matched him with “Crosses To Hang”; her voice convincingly breaking on the line, “I pray for the children as I leave them behind…”  Gary seems to be modest about his guitar playing (the full-band version of PHT has a real ringer lead player), but in this spare setting, he’s more than capable of seamlessly interjecting lively lead runs.
 
As Molly laid into “Angel Without Wings”, I was sitting on the couch beside Nancy, smiling like a fiend and just loving it.  I’m guessing everyone else was liking it, but I wasn’t concerned about any of that.  It was one of those rare “lost in a blissful zone” moments.  The bluegrass-influenced “I’ve Got A Hedge” was followed by the stark ballad, “Any Way We Want”.  This one from their new All Sinners Welcome Here CD has a raw, haunting quality along the lines of Fred Eaglesmith’s “Water In My Fuel”.  I got goose bumps.
 
True to their pattern, the home stretch featured spirited, countrified covers from all over the map: Doug Sahm’s “Give Back The Key To My Heart” (with a shout-out to Uncle Tupelo), X’s“Johnny Hit And Run Pauline” (in honor of next month’s John Doe show…a relaxed country strum anchored this one), Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” and Iggy’s “TV Eye”.  Even people who were previously unfamiliar with these guys (almost everyone in the room) seemed to be won over as they closed things out with Alice Cooper’s “Be My Lover”.  They did a brief one-song encore, a funky thing where Gary laid on a playful, disco-style riff while shouting out something about a fat motherfucker as Molly (no guitar) added the word “fatty” in rhythmic patterns…”fatty” referring to smoking weed, not big people.  It was a fresh little change-up and lasted about a minute.
 
Given the relative obscurity of this band, that’s probably more information than most folks care to read, but there it is.  After the encore, we undid the “pause” button on the party thing.  I went off telling the band how much I loved the show as Molly poured me a big ol’ glass of Jack Daniels.  The end was a bit blurry.
 
7/15/07 Lucinda Williams, The Pageant.  The dance floor was on the thin side as Charlie Louvin took the stage.  This legendary country singer/songwriter (now in his eighties) has a new CD out that features collaborations with a bunch of musical luminaries and serves as something of a “victory lap” in his long and storied musical career.  Backed by an adequate (not stellar) band (including one of his sons) and obscured by the shadow of his cowboy hat, CL held the mic and sang a good number of songs from the new CD, including “Must You Throw Dirt In My Face?”, “Great Atomic Power” (lots of people can sing along to this one, thanks to Uncle Tupelo’s cover) and “The Christian Life”.  When he sang his classic “See The Big Man Cry”, I got a bit glassy-eyed, myself. His voice sounds old but is still rich in character.  I can think of a number of other originals I would have liked to hear, but he devoted a good amount of his set to covering a few of his songwriting peers: Johnny (“I Still Miss Someone”), Kris (“Don’t Tell Me How It Ends”), The Delmore Brothers (“Blues Stay Away From Me”) and closed things out with AP Carter’s “Worried Man Blues”.
 
Tonight I was mostly excited about seeing Charlie L for the first time ever, but now it’s time to hear Lucinda Williams for the twelfth (or so?) time.  There was a time when she was one of my favorite singer/songwriters, but I have to admit that I haven’t followed her transformation to a less melodic, more groove-oriented sound.  My so-so response to this set also had to do with the fact that I was thoroughly blown away last night by a very melodic, spirited show by Porter Hall, TN (and stayed up way late drinking afterward).
 
Lu’s backing band (b, d & Doug Pettibone on lead guitars) had the chops to do whatever was called for.  A new song (“Bumble Bee”?) featured an appropriately buzzing guitar. Certain songs got the dramatic bongo-sounding drum treatment.  With this solid instrumentation, everyone’s enjoyment hung entirely on whether they like the songs.  Just about everyone I talked to loved it, start-to-finish, so I felt out of step because I didn’t.  (As it turned out, Nancy shared my (minority) opinion from the other side of the room.) 
 
My personal highlights were those songs with the most hummable melodies; stuff like “Those Three Days” and “Still I Long For Your Kiss”.   Songs like “Joy”, “Righteously”, “Come On” and “Sweet Side” rely more on rhythmic lyrical volleys than on the catchy kinds of melodies Lucinda would come up with a decade (or two) ago.  Some songs seemed to just plod along…once again, I’m in the minority on this assessment, so it should be easy to find someone with a more positive report. I remain partial to songs like “Crescent City”, “Am I Too Blue?” and “Metal Firecracker” (not heard tonight).
 
The long encore featured a couple of acoustic songs as well as the slow, soulful “Fruits Of My Labor”.  Lucinda brought Charlie Louvin back out to add vocals to the boogie-groove of “Get Right With God”…appropriate enough, since he’s written so many religious songs.  This being one of the first nights of the current tour (maybe the first), the dynamic between Charlie and the band seemed a bit awkward…he was a good sport about it and the crowd was respectful, but things felt a bit out of synch. After the show, I stood in line to buy Charlie’s current CD, shake his hand and get his autograph.  I went home happy.
 
8/3/07 The Blasters, Euclid Records.  Nancy’s outta town and I got no babysitter, so I’ll have to settle for this in-store set instead of their full-blown show at Beale On Broadway later tonight. The record store had a real “community” feel to it as the crowd (maybe 50 people…lots of familiar faces) heard a handful of songs.  This brief set was stylistically all over the place.  They opened with a slower, bluesy song before doing a tried and true “hit” (“Border Radio”…Phil’s voice is still plenty strong and distinctive), a surf instrumental and a jumping jive number (I think it was a Big Joe Turner Song).
 
8/5/07 Bobby Bare Jr. The Tap Room.  By the time Dave and I showed up, we had completely missed the opening set by Magnolia Summer, but caught the last half of the set by Austin’s Monohans (formerly Milton Mapes).  My memory isn’t crystal-clear (never is), but it seems like they’ve grown in size...6 (I think) guys on stage: 3 guitars and a guy on dobro.  Since last I’ve seen them, their moody/exhilarating quotient has shifted…toward the latter.  They used to spend more time in that gentle, murky zone and occasionally erupt into moments of shimmering/soaring glory.  Now it’s almost the other way around.  A couple of times I had to go jump around in front of the stage.  Guitars.
 
Next came a set by Bobby Bare, Jr.  Backed by drums, guitar and Deanna Varagona on saxophone, BBJ wowed me with a couple of songs that always remind me of The Replacements: “I’ll Be Around” is catchy ala “Can’t Hardly Wait” with BBJ’s vocal “ba-ba”s paralleling the horns the ‘mats added, while “Valentine” features that trademark hesitate/release thing. The melodic ballad, “Flat Chested Girl From Maynardville” deserves less silly lyrics.  The band got real gone a time or two, with Ms. Varagona doing the “honks and squeaks” thing on the baritone sax.

   

 

 

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