Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Gourds @ The State Theater

We returned to the State Theater on November 14th to see one of our favorite bands, The Gourds. For the past ten years this band has been cranking out their unique form of music laced with a little country, bluegrass, zydeco, and rock. Whereas I've enjoyed every CD they have released, you will not fully appreciate the band unless you witness a live performance. Then you can witness the large array of musical instruments that each member has mastered and best of all, the band's basic zaniness.

These characteristics were all on display the 14th. I lost count of the number of instruments Max Johnston played, from the fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, slide guitar, etc... Claude Bernard switched back and forth from the accordion to the organ; Kevin Russell from the mandolin to the acoustic or electric guitar; and Jimmy Smith from the electric and acoustic bass to the guitar. Drummer Keith Langford rounds out the band adding several types of percussion. Then there is the band's wackiness. Throughout the night Kevin Russell would randomly break out into a southern jig and Jimmy Smith was full of his famous facial expressions and arm movements.

However, the best part of a Gourds show is that the band puts as much energy into the third or fourth song as in the last. Their current tour is in support of their latest album, Noble Creatures, but fans of Heavy Ornamentals and Cow Fish Fowl or Pig heard some favorites from these. This was my first chance to hear from Noble Creatures and I already have a few favorites: How Will You Shine?, Flavor On the Tongue, Moon Gone Down, and Steeple Full Of Shadows. They also did great renditions of Pill Bug Blues, My Name Is Jorge, Hellhounds, Blankets, Mister Betty, and Lower 48. In total they played about 20 songs. The crowd was also enthusiastic- people dancing and singing - and carrying on with the band. The Gourds only have a few more dates set for their 2007 tour - so check out these dates here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge

We decided to spend our last day in Nashville (November 11th) in the downtown district on Broadway. While walking down the street we heard some great country vocals coming out one door and walked in. At the time we had no clue we were walking into famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge - we were just drawn in from the music of Westley Butler and Patrick Owens. Four hours and several beers later we learned the significance of the spot. I won't bother recounting the history - it's available here. But I do want to describe the great music we heard that day.

Westley Butler and Patrick Owens are based out of Muscle Shoals Alabama, but spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and in this case, Sunday morning, playing at Tootsie's. Westley has the pure country voice - a great voice - which makes you sit and listen. While listening we were amazed he was playing on a Sunday morning - for tips - why hasn't someone signed him. Don't take my word visit his myspace page - listen to Sad Country Song and Every Time It Rains. Patrick compliments Westley with his outgoing personality and vocals. The two harmonize perfectly, whether Pat is lead vocal or Westley. Their time on stage flew by as tourist after tourist wandered in, snapped a few pictures, then decided to stay a little longer to listen to the pair.

After their set, on came Jimmy Snyder, who plays several days during the week at Tootsies. A local legend, Mr. Snyder has been playing with country greats from Richmond to Nashville, to North Hollywood for the past 30 years. I've been listening to his Hillbilly Hollywood for the past week. Two that I like in particular is his hit, The Chicago Story and David Allen Coe's If This Is Just A Game. Back to Sunday, we listened to his band play a few old time covers, Hollered and Swallered', and learned that Mr. Snyder is very generous with his time. Over the years, he has allowed future performers appear on stage with him and lately he has been partnering with rising 13 year old sensation Tyler Dickerson. Tyler, A.K.A. The Outlaw Kid, has been singing at the age of five, and has progressed to earn Florida’s Male Vocalist and Male Entertainer of the Year. After singing on stage with several great artists, his family has relocated to Nashville. We heard Tyler sing Folsom Blues and a fast paced Jambalaya. Johnny and Hank would be proud. Mr. Snyder also shared his stage with Carla Maria Downs, a newcomer who had arrived in Nashville that previous Friday. For the first time at Tootsie's Ms. Downs song Son of a Preacher Man and Something to Talk About. Sadly our cab to the airport arrived. During the ride we wondered if maybe one day we can brag that on the same stage we saw the great Westley Butler, Patrick Owens, Tyler Dickerson, and Carla Maria Downs.

Jimmy SnyderWestley, Pepe, & Pat

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Robert Earl Keen @ The Belcourt Theater

On November 9th Robert Earl Keen played two shows in Nashville's the historic Belcourt Theater. We were able to attend the second show along with a couple hundred other enthusiastic fans. The Belcourt Theater alternates as a music venue and movie theater and was once home to the Grand Ole Opry in the mid 1930's. As you can image with a small venue - there is not a bad seat - particularly those who wait in line before the doors open to grab the first row. We were forced to the rear - but had a great view of the stage. REK showed with his full band augmented with a Banjo and played for almost two hours. This was slightly disappointing considering I have seen him play for almost an hour longer - but I guess with the double shows and no encore....

But those two hours made the trip to Nashville worthwhile. Rich Brotherton was simply amazing on guitar - both acoustic and electric - the man could front his own band. With Rich, Marty Muse on steel guitar, Tom Van Schaik on drums, and Bill Whitbeck on bass; the band is a great supporting cast to REK. And Robert Earl Keen was at his best - in a jovial mood - telling stories - and playing mostly old favorites. Among others they played Paint the Town Beige, Amarillo Highway, and Blow you Away from A Bigger Piece of Sky; Sonora's Death Row and The Five Pound Bass from West Textures; A Border Tragedy from What I Really Mean; and from Gringo Honeymoon: Merry Christmas from the Family and for a final, my favorite, I'm Coming Home.

What made the show particularly exciting is the enthusiasm of the crowd. From the oldest fan to the youngest, it seemed that everyone knew the words to every song. Some sang, some sang and danced - but everyone was cordial and polite - even to those blocking their view. Interesting we were lucky enough to meet two different friendly groups who recently graduated from Auburn University. The Tigers must be doing something right.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The subdudes @ The State Theater

On November 8th we were able to attend the subdudes show at The State Theater in Falls Church, Virginia. Their current tour is in support of their latest album Street Symphony and from the songs we heard, this album could be better than Behind the Levee. My favorite song: Poor Man’s Paradise. For those unfamiliar with the subdudes, they are a New Orleans band that blends that cities funk and blues sound with unique percussions and incredible vocal harmonies. These vocals were particularly on display when the band moved into the audience and sang a few songs with Tommy Malone playing an acoustic guitar and Steve Amedée, John Magnie, and Tim Cook adding percussion and singing at times A cappella. Amazing - that was worth the price of admission itself.