The beautiful Rose Bar at The Gramercy Hotel was the warm and intimate setting for JD & The Straight Shot's album release show for their latest, all acoustic offering, Ballyhoo!, which was released on January 15th.
Frontman James Dolan, (owner the Knicks and Executive Chairman of MSG) who started the band over a decade ago, was accompanied by guitarists Marc Copely and Aidan Dolan, bassist Byron House, violinist Erin Slaver and a percussionist.
"Release the beast....Ballyhoo!", Dolan said prior to playing a selection of songs from the new album which blends Americana, Folk and Blues. The short set started off with "Empty" and from there flowed easily as the sextet are able to successfully bring the songs off a record to life in a live setting. While JD’s weathered voice feels as if it has lived, Copley’s and the younger Dolan’s harmonies brought a certain something to the songs, adding a 70’s feel to the air. The lead number was followed by "Under That Hood," a song inspired by Trayvon Martin, and "Glide," which was influenced by his son's excitement for the annual Spring Fair on Long Island. Other selections of the night included "Perdition" and "Hard To Find" (both of which earned film placements), Spirit's "Nature's Way" and the title track which was inspired by the freak show in an 18thC carnival, leading JD to note about their material, "This is as weird as it gets." The night closed with album highlight, "Better Find A Church," on which Slaver displayed a vocal ability to rival her prowess on the violin.
JD & The Straight Shot are headed to the UK for a string of dates at the end of the month. For more information and to purchase Ballyhoo! Visit their official website.
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.
Kinky Friedman mustn't have felt lonely as he played to a full house at Daryl's House in Pawling, NY this past Saturday. Touring in support of his latest album (and first in over thirty years), The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, Friedman was the epitome of an entertainer whether he was singing, telling stories, or cracking jokes (which decidedly and hilariously, were not PC). On stage clad in his signature black with a guitar, a cigar and glass of tequila (with lime) on a stool nearby, Friedman played old favorites as well as songs from the new record. Alternating the somber "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" with the raucous, like a former president's "favorite song," "Waitress, Please Waitress," the song that won him the Male Chauvinist Pig Award, "Get Your Biscuits In The Oven & Your Buns In The Bed" and fan favorite, "Asshole From El Paso" the applause--and guffaws--were in abundance from the attentive audience.
Friedman does comedy well, but amidst the humor there is a serious, sensitive, thoughtful side with (maybe a little sadness or disappointment too) from one who has seen a great deal, has opinions and isn't afraid to express them. He included songs which he summed up as ones that can be applied to present day, like "A Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” and "My Shit's Fucked Up" (which the crowd oddly found humorous) as well as "Mama's Hungry Eyes." He closed with the poignant "Pickin’ Time" before coming out for an encore of "They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore." After the show Friedman (humorously self diagnosed with EOA...early onset asshole) met everyone and signed "anything except bad legislation."
Friedman's producer on The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, Brain Molnar opened the show with a well received half hour set. He, like Kinky, played acoustic accompanied by Joe Cirotti, who also lent his incredible talents to the record, on guitar.
For some, the Kinkster may be an aquired taste, but with more than twenty dates on the tour remaining, you'd be remiss if you didn't seek him out. Friedman certainly doesn't seem to be slowing down, and for us, that's a good thing.
Oh, and if you are interested who the outspoken Texan says he is leaning toward in the Presidential race, for now Sanders has his vote.
To keep up with Kinky, purchase the new record and more, visit his website for more information.
Fresh from her U.S. performance debut at Americana Fest, Canadian Whitney Rose brought her true blue country to the Big Apple for a short set at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1, this past Saturday night.
It began as most shows at Rockwood do (with no fanfare), as Rose took the stage and simply started strumming and singing "Only Just A Dream." Her vocals, pure and delicate, sound even more so live than on record, while her three band members skillfully provided the rhythm and backing vocals. The forty-five minute set included the title track of her recent album, Heartbreaker of The Year, "The Devil Borowed My Boots," "Little Piece of You" and a cover of "Ring of Fire." Instead of trying to duplicate this classic, Rose tailored it to her voice, exceptionally covering the song while giving it a quiet, almost seductive tone.
Polite and soft spoken (perhaps slightly nervous?) when she talked to the audience, there was a confidence that accompanied that captivating voice when she sang, as she did on the appropriate closing number, "First Rodeo." With features on this site, Rolling Stone, The Bluegrass Situation and more, Whitney Rose is one to watch not only for the remainder of 2015, but 2016 as well.
For tour dates and more information visit here
Alabama brought their Southern Drawl to NYC's Beacon Theatre this past Friday, September 18th. The threesome and their band kicked off their set with "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" and continued to please the crowd for over an hour and a half of foot stompin', toe tappin' music. They were generous with all of their hits--which sounded great--including "Tennessee River," "Dixieland Delight" and "Forever's As Far As I'll Go."
In addition to the familiar, they played a few tracks from Southern Drawl, their new album that was released that day. Owen commented that they had not played the tracks live and seemed a bit nervous as to how the crowd would receive them. Prior to playing the song, he noted that "Southern Drawl" had "movement" and while the song finds them embracing the current trends in country music, this New York audience embraced the song right back with an ovation that seemed to last for minutes. The same reception was given to their current single, "Wasn't Through Lovin' You Yet."
Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry were all smiles; their joy of performing in this "majestic place.....with lots of history" was felt by the crowd and given back to them in spades. A confederte flag was raised during "Song of The South" while a guy double fisting beers during "Born Country" had Owen chuckling aloud. People of all ages, from the eight year old dancing in the aisle to the seventy year olds clapping along in their seats (and everyone in between), were incredibly enthusiastic. With the amount of hooting, hollering and singing along, one couldn't tell they were on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and not somewhere in the South.
Let's hope they don't wait another twenty years before they return.
The Honeycutters brought their Appalachian Americana-honky-tonk to the Big Apple on Thursday night for a show at Rockwood Music Hall. With the usual tables and chairs cleared away, the crowd of about one hundred people were attentive and, dare I say, captivated by the music. Amanda Anne Platt’s vocals convey everything that they do (and more) when one listens to a Honeycutters’ record: sometimes happy, sometimes weary, often wise, insightful and always thoughtful.
They kicked off their set with “Jukebox” and continued for almost an hour with many of the songs from their stellar recent release Me Oh My. Alternating tempo, but always remaining on point, songs included “Texas '81,” “Carolina,” “Edge of the Frame,” and “Me Oh My” as well as a new tune, “Barmaid’s Blues.” Platt, who originally is from right outside NYC, even brought her father on stage to accompany them on harmonica for “Ain’t It The Truth.” While Platt is undoubtedly the focus, The Honeycutters are a group of five--and there certainly aren’t enough complimentary adjectives to describe the insanely talented members of the band. Matt Smith sets the mood on dobro while Josh Milligan [drums] and Rick Cooper [bass] keep the rhythm. Tal Taylor, who plays mandolin is perfection, injecting that distinctive sound into every song and sometimes stealing the show.
For a glimpse of them live, watch here, but then get thyself to a show for an evening of music that's exactly what one's soul requires.
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.