It’s a special live record that is able to hit that often indescribable sweet spot - a feeling of excitement, and a rush of adrenaline, mixed with a sense of anticipation beginning with the first downbeat (that can typically only be experienced by being there); where you can press play and have it feel as if you’re there whether you’re in your living room, car or back porch. But William Clark Green’s latest, double-disc set Live at Gruene Hall, which was recorded over two nights this past January at, appropriately enough, the historic Gruene Hall in Texas, does just that.
Ben Ryan opens things up with a spirited introduction before Green and his band of four - Steven Marcus (guitar), Josh Serrato (guitar), Cameron Moreland (bass) and Sawyer McGee (percussion) - dive straight into “Next Big Thing” and continue with seventeen more tracks, drawing tunes from all four of his full lengths including “Gypsy,” “Hanging Around” (with a little of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” perfectly seasoning the song), his mother’s favorite, “Caroline,” and “Sticks and Stones.”In addition, Dani Flowers makes a guest appearance on “Final This Time” as do Ross Cooper and Randall Clay on “Ringling Road.”
In between tracks, Green speaks briefly, letting the listener know the titles of the songs or what they’re about (which is perfect for someone who may be listening for the first time), saluting Kent Finlay or applauding his opener, Red Shahan. And while it’s apparent the crowd is having a hell of a time, the production never lets the noise overpower the music, leaving amplified crowd responses to the end of a song (or the occasional “Remember the Alamo” shout out), and allowing Green’s vocals (which honestly have never sounded better), his songs and his band’s killer musicianship remain the focus.
And while the music is certainly the main event, it’s evident throughout that Green is humbled and grateful, not only for the opportunity to record at the beloved venue, but for his family, friends, fans, and bandmates; bandmates whom he lets shine throughout the record - particularly the dueling guitars of Serrato and Marcus - on extended versions of “Rose Queen,” “She Likes The Beatles,” and “Wishing Well.”
The show is rounded out by “Tonight,” “Sympathy,” and the always emotional Kent Finlay co-write, “Still Think About You” before closing out the night with pal Jack Ingram who sings his own “Goodnight Moon.”
While experiencing live music is always a thrill, if you can’t leave your house to get your fix, WCG and Co. will bring the show to you with Live at Gruene Hall.
NB. In this digital age, the rich-in-detail packaging for the double-disc recording – once again done by Backstage Design Studio (with a contribution from Reckless Kelly’s Willy Braun) - is superb, making it essential that you pick up a physical copy.