Well, hot damn! We’ve really gotten to hear our share of some great music over the past few months. Let’s get right to them.
Back last August 21st Catt and I met up with Jennifer Skates and went to Zydeco to hear a relatively new band out of Tuscaloosa called CBDB who were opening for George Porter Jr. & the Runnin’ Pardners. CBDB has an interesting prog rock vibe with music that is intricate and fairly complex but they do so without losing the listener and they keep the beat solid and in the pocket, so its prog rock you can dance to and some might even mistake it for “jam band” music, but it’s not. One of the more impressive moments of their set was their cover of “Feel Good Inc.” by the Gorillaz. They were followed by George Porter Jr. who made his bones and the bassist for the legendary funk band, The Meters. George and his band, The Runnin’ Pardners blew the roof of Zydeco. When they sang “Aint nobody gonna out funk me” from Funkify Your Life, they were throwing down a challenge which the crowd responded eagerly to.
On August 23 Catt and I once again went out and met up with our photographer buddy, Kevin Worley. We caught Hard Working Americans at Iron City. This was the second HWA show for Catt and me and the first for Kevin. Iron City is a tremendous venue for music, here in Birmingham, and Hard Working Americans electrified it that night Elizabeth Cook opened for the band and did a great job winning over the crowd with her twangy, authentic country-folk sound. Even though Catt and I really dug HWA when we saw them last year, it was clear that the constant touring has done wonders for the band’s chemistry. They were smooth and deadly with guitarists Neil Casal & Jesse Aycock really shining on guitar. Neil’s soaring guitar work blends well with Jesse’s dusty lap steel playing. Todd Snider seems to have become more comfortable in his role as “front man,” though he seems to go to lengths to remove himself from the crowd which is very unlike what he does when he’s doing his solo show. Of course, Dave Schools is an unstoppable force of nature when he has a bass in his hands and drummer, Duane Trucks, is a solid foil for him. Chad Staehly’s tasteful keyboard work solidifies the sound of Hard Working Americans and what we get to hear is music that is greater than the sum of its parts, as impressive as each musician is on his own. With both the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers winding down, Hard Working Americans will have more than enough elbow room to assume their place in the musical firmament. We look forward to catching them their next time through and recommend you do the same!
The legendary L.A. punk/shockabilly band, X, came to Birmingham’s “Saturn” on September 5th and I have to say they were worth every second of the 30 years I have been waiting to see them. Back in December of 1993 they were booked to play The Nick and I bought tickets the day they went on sale. But, alas, Nirvana booked the Civic Center for that same night and back in those days Birmingham could only handle one show at a time. Alas, X didn’t make it through that year. It’s a shame too, because The Nick was the perfect kind of dive for a band like that. Oh well, that was then, and now is now …and X gave a tremendous all-out performance which tended toward the earlier songs in their catalog. They gave stirring performances of songs like White Girl and Riding With Mary. The show did have a dark side in that Billy Zoom, the original guitarist for the band, had to sit the show out while undergoing treatment for cancer. However, we’ve just been informed that he is now cancer free and set to rejoin the band. In his absence, guitar slinger Jesse Dayton did a TREMENDOUS job, blasting some truly killer twang guitar. Drummer DJ Bonebrake gave the music some real rock swagger and John Doe & Exene Cervenka were on fire.
On September 16th we got to catch Blues Traveler at Iron City. We were expecting “Amazing” and we were not disappointed. First, we caught the second of the opening bands …a group called Lawrence. They were fresh and delivered an original sound that made me think of Stevie Wonder mingled with Earth Wind and Fire. Truly soulful and funky and great in every way. Keep an ear out for these up and comers. As for Blues Traveler… John Popper and company pulled no punches. They came to rock and that’s exactly what they did. John Popper is to the mouth harp what Jimi Hendrix is to the guitar …He’s absolutely revolutionary. The band is out supporting their new album, “Blow Up the Moon,” and brought a strong set of material to the Magic City.
Finally, on the 1st of October, Catt and I rejoined Kevin Worley who had invited us down to Iron City to hear Father John Misty. Being the hermit that I am I had a bit of a reservation as I had never heard of Father John Misty but we went anyway as Kevin is usually right about these sorts of things …and this time proved to be no exception. In fact, I’d say it was the best show out of the bunch …and they were ALL EXCELLENT.
As the legend goes: Once upon a time there was a drummer named Joshua Tillman who played with the band Fleet Foxes. One day Joshua consumed some type of psychedelic substance and wound up in a tree overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When he came down he changed ….He had become Father John Misty. His musical style has a certain elegance delivered on a golden voice that makes me think of Chris Isaack but this gentle and shining patina conceals something dark, sardonic piercing humor. His stage delivery is first rate …a Frank Sinatra for millennials. I simply cannot wait to catch this show again!