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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 79

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 79

3/14/09 Eilen Jewell, House Concert.  We had been wanting to have this Boston-based singer play here for a while; we finally caught her on her way down to SXSW.  Decked out in a denim jacket, Eilen has a pretty, country-girl look (she’s originally from Idaho) which suits the character of her material just fine.  She opened with the leadoff track to her current Sea Of Tears CD…it’s a tuneful country-pop song, like something you might hear on one of those early Lucinda Williams records.  Jerry Miller even laid on some twangy Gurf-like leads.  From there, the tone varied from song-to-song, while consistently maintaining a somewhat dark, mysterious quality that seems to borrow from a bygone era.  “Heartache Boulevard” has a rockabilly feel to it while “Sea Of Tears” has some kind of dreamy bossanova/”Hernando’s Hideaway” vibe.  She managed to indulge her passion for Loretta Lynn (“The Darkest Day Of My Life”) and gospel music (“Tag Along With Jesus” and “Travelling Shoes”…the latter, done up with only Jason on tom-tom and Johnny on maracas had a very primal, revival tent feel).  Dylan’s “Walking Down The Line” and Eric Andersen’s “Dusty Boxcar Door” were nice vehicles for Eilen’s expressive voice, Jerry’s adept guitar licks and Johnny’s thumping stand-up bass.
By the second set, the room was pretty warm from 80+ people milling about, so Eilen shed her jeans jacket in favor of just the sleeveless black dress.  She opened with the slower “Sweet Rose” (Johnny rock-steady on the bass) before kicking things up a notch (or two) with the rollicking “Rich Man’s World”, Eilen’s harmonica enhancing the fast and breezy feel.  That dark, moody, retro tone was in evidence with songs like “High Shelf Booze” (slow and slinky, like Rosie Flores’ cover of “Boxcars”), Billie Holiday’s “Fine And Mellow” (slow and bluesy…is there any genre Jerry can’t play?) and “That’s Why I’m Walking” (more Loretta!).  Toward the end of the set, Eilen granted a request for the sad and stark “In The End” (similar in tone to Lucinda’s “Maria”).  “Six Days On The Road” (sung by drummer, Jason Beek) and  “Shakin’ All Over” provided still more impressive guitar solos, eliciting some of those mid-song ovations and bringing the crowd to it’s feet as the band took a collective bow at the end of the set.  In this crowded room, the band didn’t attempt to leave from/return to the “stage” and pretty quickly picked up their instruments for an encore- a medley of Bessie Smith songs. “If You Catch Me Stealin” stood out as the band brought things down for a bass solo before one last romp by the full band.  After the usual wind-down/merch sales/gab-fest, the band loaded out and followed Gary and Joann back to their place.
3/25/09 The Hard Lessons, Cicero’s.  I got there late and only caught the last half of their set…maybe about fifty people on hand to hear another catchy, passionate set by this three-piece from Detroit.  In addition to the usual crowd-pleasers (“Nobody, nobody” and Neil’s “Into The Black”), they played a new one about St. Louis (this one namechecks Blueberry Hill and Mississippi Nights) and a punchy cover of Uncle Tupelo’s “Graveyard Shift”.
3/28/09 Drive By Truckers, The Pageant.  Ordinarily, I would have made it down to Off Broadway tonight to see/hear Clem Snide, but some really nasty weather (and a free ticket) kept me closer to home and over to this show.  My familiarity with DBT is limited, at best…I’d say I like this band, which differentiates me from this room full of people (not painfully crowded) who love them. I had a good enough time drinking beer and hanging with friends.  My personal highlights were “Lookout Mountain”, “Sinkhole”, “Shut Your Mouth And Get Your Ass On The Plane” and Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen”.  If you wanna read a much more detailed and knowledgeable account of this show, check out what Roy Kasten wrote on the Riverfront Times website:
“On a good night, the Drive-By Truckers can go toe-to-toe with the heaviest of the heavy weight rock bands currently touring the planet. Saturday night, however, was not a good night.
Lay the blame at door of The Pageant, whose silly decision to bar booze from the dance floor had the unintended but inevitable consequences of limiting the numbers of hardcore DBT head bangers and enforcing near-sobriety on those who ventured down. This was an all-ages show but I saw no one under the age of 25 on the floor. If the venue's bar ring was sub-par it need look for no further evidence. A weird lack of enthusiasm permeated the room, and by the end of the show, the guitar tech had to demand the crowd respond with more than just a stray whistle.

Or maybe the shitty weather or the rescheduled date--the band was to play St. Louis in February; Patterson Hood's pneumonia forced the cancellation--put a damper on the evening, or perhaps it was the sketchy sound--I've never thought I'd say that a DBTs' show could have been louder or punchier--or a set list that reshuffled much of the far greater show a year ago at the same venue. Opening with "Uncle Frank," one of Michael Cooley's strongest songs from the early record Pizza Deliverance, the band eased into the usual format of alternating Cooley tunes with Hood tunes, breaking the structure only for a couple of cameos from bassist Shonna Tucker, who (the shock of it) became progressively more sloshed as the night went on.

With the second number, the grinding standard "Lookout Mountain," the band unveiled the buzzards-over-badlands backdrop and seemed about ready to hit the boards full bore, but no, not quite, not even on Cooley's excellent "3 Dimes Down" or Hood's follow-up, "Hell No, I Ain't Happy," with increasing presence from keyboard player Jay Gonzalez. At least on Tucker's first song, Brad "Easy B" Morgan got in a drum solo and on the first great performance of the evening, a gut-check "When the Pin Hits the Shell," which Cooley sang fiercely, Gonzalez stretched out a thick, mean electric piano solo.
For most of the night the band just played--hard, well, expertly--but within certain invisible confines not really of their own making but which they couldn't escape. The gap between them and the audience was palpable. Guitarist John Neff seemed particularly detached, playing quietly and unassumingly stage right. The button-down collar didn't help. He's a tasteful player, and a welcome addition on the pedal steel, but at some point, Skippy, you have to step to the apron's edge and take a solo like a southern rock man. During the main set, he never did, but the encore would be a different story.
A handful of acoustic numbers--including "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife," from Brighter Than Creation's Dark, with Cooley on banjo and the epic "Opening Act," one of Hood's best story songs--made more of a connection than stalwarts "Sink Hole" and "Devil Won't Stay," but the three final numbers of the main set, "Puttin' People on the Moon," (with a great, noisy, chaotic climax), Alice Cooper's "Eighteen," and the grandest manifesto from Southern Rock Opera, "Ronnie and Neil," the band was finally no long merely playing but living the songs.

And the audience responded. The delayed encore began with a roaring, angry "Shut Up and Get Your Ass on the Plane," an ecstatic "Let There Be Rock," with Hood demanding the audience get to their feet and join his exaltations with a mic stand in the air, and Skippy finally loosening up and stepping forward, as opening band Don Chambers and Goat joined the band on stage. Hood knelt down and spliced Springsteen's "State Trooper" with "Buttholeville" and a frenzied howl of "Right Wing Politics! Right Wing Politics!" It was a strange and fitting catharsis for a strangely conservative evening”.
3/29/09 Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost CD release party, Off Broadway.  It would have been easy to stay in tonight, but I got up off the mat and drove down on a Sunday night, arriving around eleven.  A good crowd (maybe 70 people?) came out tonight to hear Bob’s latest musical incarnation.  At one time, there was an idea floating around of a local BR tribute CD…in some ways, this is even cooler…because it’s a living, live thing.  It’s interesting to witness the evolution of Bob’s songs through various genres/bands: rockabilly, singer/songwriter. Alt. country, Kamikaze Cowboy, Palookaville, etc.
His current band is a ragged, bluesy outfit that features stand-up bass, electric guitar, harp, and a sloppy stand-up snare with Bob on vocals and acoustic guitar.  I’ve probably made this observation before, but Bob has been heavily (no pun intended) by his appreciation for/friendship with Tennessee’s Black Diamond Heavies.  Bob’s general onstage demeanor is similar to the scattered, impassioned persona you hear on his radio show.
Tonight we heard a cross-section of songs from all points in long Bob’s path: “Rock and Roll Moron”, “Jack Ruby”, “It Don’t Matter”, “Going”, “Only Tuesday” and “Hell Town”, all re-vamped to suit his current temperament and instrumentation.




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