Friday, April 11, 2008

Felice Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, McCarthy Trenching @ Club Iota

There are many times when we are reluctant to see a show on a week night, knowing the next morning will be painful, but as is usually the case, the night is well worth it. That was evident Thursday April 10th, when we saw McCarthy Trenching, Justin Townes Earle, and the Felice Brothers at Club Iota. McCarthy Trenching started the evening by playing several cleverly written songs about horse racing, barbecue, weddings, and Mormon girls. Nebraska born front man Dan McCarthy seems to posses the laid back Midwestern sense of humor as well as a vocal style straight from Austin. It's great to be free. The self titled McCarthy Trenching is a good CD to play during a party. Funny, good vocals, and smooth acoustics.

Justin Townes Earle performed next accompanied by Cory Younts. Earle's family tree is well known, but I still didn't know what to expect. When he first grabbed the microphone and said, "Are you ready for some hillbilly music?", I knew we were in store for a good show. And what a show. We've seen various degrees of "stage presence" this year with some lacking it entirely. Not so with Earle - he is a top flight performer. He transitioned smoothly and quickly between songs and it was a thrill to watch his picking, singing, and boots being used as percussion. His music is old school country - almost rockabilly - no pop laced Nashville sound here. The vocals raw and powerful. Listen to the Ghost of Virginia on Yuma. As good as Earle sang and played, his sidekick Cory Younts almost stole the show playing the mandolin, banjo, and harmonica - at times two harmonicas at ounce. These two are perfect compliments both musically and as a comedy team - with Earle playing the straight man and Younts the comic. At times as I watching their performance I wondered if this is how the old Sun Records tours felt. And on the ride home I repeated the performance by listening to The Good Life. South Georgia Sugar Babe and Hard Livin' are instant classics. This CD will stay in the rack for awhile.

As soon as Justin Townes Earle finished, there was little time for a bathroom break - The Felice Brothers took stage immediately. By this time, the club was completely full - the young crowd pressing against the stage. This was the band that everyone had come to see. Based out of New York, the Catskills in fact, the Felice Brothers were on the final days of a 10 week tour. Despite the weariness of the road, the band was energetic throughout - with the crowd dancing and singing along. But I'm not exactly sure what I saw. Was it a jam band, a blues band, a gospel band? There was a washboard and accordion but it wasn't zydeco. Soulful vocals and harmonies. This band does not fit into a single category - these actual brothers (Ian, Simone and James) - plus a couple "blood" brothers - just play great roots-based music. And entertaining - from ordering whiskey from the stage to dancing, to joking, and switching instruments. Now I understood the large crowd. The songs were diverse from the Dylan-ish Wonderful Life and Frankie's Gun to the gospel-ish Whiskey in My Whiskey. All these are available on the self titled The Felice Brothers. At the end the band was still energetic - coming back for an encore even after you could tell they were wiped and even huddling to catch their breathe before playing T for Texas to satisfy their fans.

I'll be following these three closely and we strongly recommend you put them on your favorite's list.

No comments: