To borrow a phrase from the man himself, Ray Wylie Hubbard is one "cool cat." He's a Texas music scene elder statesman, a singer songwriter, a modern day poet, a storyteller, a keen picker and an out and out funny guy. Hubbard is also quite endearing and easily wins over an audience with his charm and wit. All of these traits were front and center when he played Brooklyn this past Saturday night at Hill Country Live.
The BBQ eatery/roadhouse is an unlikely, yet intimate, setting to see some of the best music acts today and it was a certainly a pleasure to have Ray Wylie Hubbard and has band of two grace the stage. Kyle Schneider keeps the rhythm on percussion and son Lucas, (there is no doubt how proud Hubbard is to share the stage with him), skillfully handles the electric guitar.
All in, it was an hour and a half that went by way too quickly. Hubbard opened with "Rabbit" and continued with songs old and new, interspersed with the stories associated with them; sometimes telling stories, as in the case of how he came to write with Ronnie Dunn, just because he felt like it. Included on the set list were "Drunken Poet's Dream," "Count My Blessings" and "Train Ride" which he wrote with Liz Foster of The Trishas. He encouraged sing- a-longs to "Snake Farm," "Choctaw Bingo" and "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother." He played the latter because he "didn't want people leaving disappointed if I didn't play it" as he was when he went to a Dylan concert and Dylan didn't play a song he was hoping to hear. Prior to "Wanna Rock and Roll" he stressed the importance of the first amendment, "that's why it's first," in relation to songwriting. He noted that even though people complain about lyrics in rap music, Ralph Stanley and Bill Monroe probably killed more people in their songs than Ice-T and 50 Cent; and if there wasn't such a thing as freedom of speech, his own repertoire would be cut in half!
Amid all of the fun and laughter there were also a few solemn moments, especially when Hubbard performed the track that closes The Ruffian's Misfortune (Hubbard's latest album), "Stone Blind Horses."
Early on, Hubbard told the crowd that if anyone was there seeing him for the first time they should know that he is "an acquired taste." That night, the music was something that everyone found more than palatable.
Whitey Morgan and his 78's turned Midtown Live in NYC into a roadhouse last Thursday night. In stark contrast to the prepsters playing beer pong in the front room, behind the plain black doors and under the disco ball, a rough and tumble looking six piece took the stage to perform for a crowd that was more than hungry for real country music. The atmosphere of the venue jived perfectly with the feel of the band: gritty, a little dirty....and honest. The music definitely had an old school, honest to goodness country feel and you could sense Morgan has a reverence for those that came before him (Jennings, Cash and Haggard to name a few). His songs, fueled by stories of drinking, women, and drugs, are definitely for the working man (or woman). In addition to his own tunes like "Honky Tonk Queen," he did an incredible take on Springsteen's "I'm On Fire," and Townes' "Waiting Around to Die" as well as songs from Johnny Paycheck and Haggard. His band are a skilled, tight bunch, who seemed to be having as much fun on stage as the people in the crowd, which was full of Morgan devotees (lots of "whitey you're f--ing killing it") who were more than pleased that he returned to NYC after a few short months.
At times Morgan interjects a little rock and roll into his style (which is not a complaint), yet he still maintains the aura and sound of those true outlaws to which he has been compared. Morgan has a personality and a presence on stage with a voice that's just.....real. All in all it was a foot stompin' high energy, rowdy good time. When he was finished, the crowd--through hoots and hollers--brought them back for a two song encore that closed out the evening on a massively energetic note.
Supporting Morgan was Fort Worth based Cody Jinks, who released his fourth album, Adobe Sessions, in January. To put it simply and honestly, Jinks makes some mighty fine authentic country music (this from a guy who was originally in a metal band). His voice is warm, emotive, and, not to sound repetitive.....real, with story songs that seem personal, yet relatable. Pairing Jinks with Whitey on this run was perfection. It was Jinks first time in NYC, and even though he didn't appreciate the traffic, let's hope he makes it the first of many visits.
Whitey Morgan and the 78's new album, Sonic Ranch, is out Tuesday, May 19th. Best pick up a copy.
Having just played for thousands at Stagecoach and Merlefest, Logan Brill performed for a much smaller crowd at Midtown Live in NYC on Thursday, but nothing about her show felt like she or her band gave less than 100%. Her fourteen song set was high energy pretty much from start to finish. Brill has a magnetic stage presence with an ability to engage the crowd whether it is by telling the stories behind the songs or encouraging everyone to get up and dance. She may have been dressed in a shiny gold skirt, but the whiskey drinking gal can definitely hold her own with the boys. Her vocals were tender when needed, like on the fabulous "I Wish You Loved Me", but absolutely shined on the rockin' bluesy songs including the single from her upcoming album of the same name "Shuteye" as well as covers of "Folsom Prison Blues" and Jolene." Her band of four were skilled, energetic and appeared to be having as much fun as Brill.
Music is in much need of a female who can hold her own and break through. Logan Brill fits that bill. She has the vocal chops, plus she's fierce, fiery, funny and just fantastic.
Butch Walker's Get Ready Get Set, Sad Tour, which will be criss crossing the US over the next two months, made a stop in New York City at The Concert Hall on May 6th. Holding down the middle slot on the tour is Texan Jonathan Tyler, a singer-songwriter-musician whose new record, Holy Smokes releases August 7th. Knowing the music, but never having seen him live, I was anxious to see this artist whose live show I have heard nothing but good things about.
Without a band accompanying him, Tyler performed with only a guitar and harmonica--and what a performance it was. He walked out in jeans, silky top, scarf (which was removed mid-set because it was 80+ degrees that day) and hat, alternately channeling a 70's rocker and a blues musician. While he had an almost gentle stage presence, Tyler visibly immersed himself in his music and exuded a dynamic, passionate soulfulness. His vocals, largely gritty and bluesy, delivered every word with a genuine feeling which seemed to come from a space deep inside. At the start of the set when the amp wasn't working, Tyler adapted and played anyway proving no real need for it (it did start working halfway into the song). In fact, it was when he didn't have that amp or sing directly into the mic when his voice came off as the most powerful.
Like the opener, France's The Dove and the Wolf, Tyler commented on how quiet the audience was. Perhaps the venue, which was formerly a church, influenced the reverence of the audience who were by large respectful and attentive throughout the under an hour set. In that time, Tyler covered Dylan as well as Haggard and Nelson ["Pancho and Lefty"] and played a few songs from his upcoming album including the bluesy "Down To The City" and the "gnarlier" love song "To Love Is To Fly" [which on the album is a duet with Nikki Lane]. Additionally he played "Young Love," "The Devil's Basement" and closed with "Gypsy Woman," which while definitely different than the recorded version, still packed a punch.
A terrific set of songs that makes one look forward to his return to NYC as the headliner.
For more information visit his official website
Read the recent interview with him here
When a singer songwriter as talented as Sean McConnell makes a rare trip to NYC to play not one, but two shows, one would be making a serious mistake not to catch both.
The first night was Thursday at the Balcony Lounge at Webster Hall. Upon scanning the crowd, which tallied about twenty people, McConnell jokingly said it was a "secret show" and thanked everyone for showing up.
(and while everyone was there was a fan, the respect level by a select few in the room diminished as they drank).
Having been a fan of his music for awhile, but never having seen him live, the pure power of his unique voice, guitar and songs were quite simply, perfect. His songs, which admittedly are largely depressing, strike an emotional chord...and I found myself tearing up quite a few times throughout the hour long sets. He noted that he has only has written about three happy songs, including the one he wrote for his wife on their tenth wedding anniversary [Best We've Ever Been]; a song which he performed for her for the first time when he opened for the Allman Brothers on New Years Eve [insert collective sigh here]. In addition to "Bottom of The Sea" and "Praise the Lord", McConnell played a few songs that will be on his upcoming album including "Ghost Town" and "Queen of St. Mary's Choir." It is an album, he says, that would be his most personal yet,
The second night (May 2) was in Brooklyn at the Living Room. A true listening room, the crowd was a little larger, respectful and attentive. That night, singer songwriter and McConnell's friend, Ben Danaher opened the show. Danaher's short set of story songs from "Little While" to "Jesus Can See You" and the gospel closer "Never Grow Old" moved everyone in the room.
If possible, McConnell was even better Saturday than he was Thursday. He played many of the same songs, but nothing felt like it was scripted--his banter and stories seemed as sincere as his songs.
While the numbers in attendance were surely quite different for an artist who packs venues elsewhere, McConnell still gave over a hundred percent. Both evenings ended on a "happy song" note with McConnell performing a song he wrote with Audra Mae, "Shotgun," which was recently performed by Buddy Miller and Christina Aguilera on the television show Nashville. A beautifully emotional love song that left one feeling optimistic about love and hoping McConnell doesn't wait another five years to return to the big apple.