As is becoming tradition, the Braun family celebrated the holiday with two special shows this past weekend in Texas. Friday’s show was at Floore’s while on Saturday night, The Braun Family Thanksgiving was held at the beautiful Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin. The stunning historic venue, built in 1915 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, is on many an artist’s mind to headline, and this being their first time doing so, made the evening something special.
The “family” Thanksgiving truly was that, as there were children, young adults and older couples filling the seats. Being an out of state-r, I am always a bit taken aback when I see Reckless or the Motorcars in Texas and there are locals who wonder how they are related, are seeing them for the first time or don’t know them at all and are at a show because someone brought them along. But it’s even nicer to overhear the same people walk away being totally complimentary (even if they are adorably, yet slightly off, “That Mikey is pretty good") and saying they would definitely see them again.
Patriarch Muzzie opened the show with a brief, crystal clear set of songs (where he was joined by his sons on a few) from Guy Clark to the Harlan Howard penned “Heartache by The Numbers.” Micky and the Motorcars picked right up where he left off with “The Band Song” and continued for an hour with, among others, “Carolina Morning,” “Naïve,” “Long Road To Nowhere” and “Hearts From Above”...all beautifully executed. Gary took a turn on lead with “You Led Me The Wrong Way” and they closed out with a faultless rendition of Dire Straits’ “So Far Away.”
After a brief intermission, Willy took to the stage solo for “God Forsaken Town” before being joined by the other members of Reckless Kelly for songs spanning the years. The electric guitar was ever present on songs like “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” “Nobody’s Girl” and “Good Luck & True Love,” but (and similarly with the Motorcars) it was a restrained crunch; apparent they took playing the theatre with a sort of reverence (as a brief aside, all were dressed fairly dapper as well), which nods to gratitude and appreciation and displays how versatile these guys are: they can rock out in a bar or at a festival, but can successfully transition not only their songs, but their presence as well, to intimate listening rooms or beautiful theatres.
While there was some audience sing along participation, for the most part people actively listened and on one more than one occasion (“Snowfall” and “Wicked Twisted Road” come to mind), the quiet peacefulness of the room coupled with the sincerity of Willy’s flawless vocals made my eyes swell. Energy, enthusiasm, and musicianship tied to songs that can illicit strong emotion…..they have it all covered. And while every member of each band is undoubtedly incredibly talented, the night truly belonged to Dave Abeyta. One of the best guitarists around, this Saturday night he displayed just how phenomenal he is, showcasing his adept skills with solos on numerous songs receiving thunderous applause and hollers (after the listening audience got the "okay" to do so).
Family re-joined to sing “I Hold The Bottle” (Micky w/tambourine) and “Seven Nights in Eire” (Muzzie) and not be do outdone with “So Far Away,” Reckless performed Dire Strait’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Typically done acoustic, the emotionally charged song was reworked with the full band into something magical. After a standing ovation, everyone returned for two more: “Highwayman” and the song that always closes out the BBR, Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
While they are never, ever disappointing when they play with their respective bands, when the family is together on stage (like at the BBR or the Jam), things just reach a new peak. There really is a palpable sense of their love and admiration for one another as well as a feeling of the joy, and fun, that they have when playing together….something we’re lucky to be a part of for a few hours.
Once you hit Wednesday, you know you're passing the hurdle and the work week, for most, is almost over. This past Wednesday the Turnpike Troubadours and The Black Lillies made it that much easier to get over the proverbial hump as they played to a packed Highline Ballroom in NYC.
Having seen both bands numerous times, I can say that the pairing of the two is quite perfect in many ways: their ability to craft a song, their impeccable musicianship, the amount of energy they put into their shows and the pure (contagious) enjoyment that emanates from them as they play.
The Black Lillies - Cruz Contreras (guitar, keys, mandolin, vocals), Trisha Gene Brady (vocals, guitar), Bowman Townsend (percussion) and multi-instrumentalists, Sam Quinn, Mike Seal and Jonathan Keeney - played an hour long set of songs from this fall's sublime Hard To Please as well as older favorites including opener "Whiskey Angel." Authentic, rich and vibrant, they had the diverse (and well behaved) crowd, from 20 something college grads to pregnant women to much older folks, movin' and groovin' - perfectly setting the tone for the night. Townsend, sporting a headband, skillfully kept it all together on percussion while Quinn, Seal and Keeney (all recent additions) seem as if they have been playing with them from the start. Contreras is an immensely talented and entertaining player, with distinct vocals and an engaging personality while Brady, who garnered nothing but praise every time she sang a note, has one of the best voices, hands down, across all genres of music.
After a brief break, the lights went down, the Troubadours came out and the pace rarely dropped from full throttle for over an hour and a half. They started with the first three tracks from their stellar recent (self-titled) release and only took a pause when Evan Felker performed Jesse Winchester's lovely "Mississippi You're On My Mind" acoustic and R.C. Edwards covered Dawes' "May All Your Favorite Band's Stay Together." Throughout the night, the enthusiasm and energy from Ryan Engelman (guitar) and Kyle Nix (fiddle) seemed to rival that of the crowd while Edwards, Pearson and a talented multi-instrumentalist (whose name I didn't catch) held the rhythm strong with Felker the assured front man whose unique vocals breathed believability and heart into every word he sang.
Contreras joined in on closer "Long Hot Summer Day," then after a few "encore" chanting moments, Turnpike returned with the appropriate "Long Drive Home" (co-written by Jonny Burke) to cap off an incredible evening where everyone left happy and the music, as it should be, was forefront.
With only a few dates left, there's only a couple chances to see them together. However, both are road warriors, so seek out their websites, check out the tour dates and head to a show. You'll be glad you did.