Twangy, Funny and Holy

Wait, what’s that sound? That yearning, blue, soul-satisfying twang? Oh yeah, COUNTRY music! For a show that’s on WSM, the greatest station in the history of country and a show dedicated to Americana, the new home for traditional country, we haven’t had a whole lot of the old-school, honky-tonkin’, boot-and-hat-wearing country on the Loveless Barn stage in our two seasons. For that reason, David Ball, kicking off last night with his 1993 smash “Thinkin’ Problem” was like cracking a cold longneck of Shiner Bock on a hot summer day. David also gave us “I Don’t Want To Go Back To Houston,” a smooth as silk Texas bossa nova and “Hot Water Pipe,” a cranker off his new album.

And we’re so glad he didn’t skimp on the song I think everyone wanted to hear, his surprise top five hit of a few years ago “Riding With Private Malone.” It’s such a brilliant story song with strong visuals and a great set-up. You can just picture the guy in the barn pulling back the tarp on the ’66 Corvette. Then when the guy is mysteriously saved from the fiery crash, it should get maudlin and make you roll your eyes, but it doesn’t. It gets me kind of choked up every time. But the best part of all is David Ball’s voice, so rich and so distinctive. I mean no disrespect to all time No. 1 king when I say Ball’s singing is like George Strait with personality. Sure wish David had that kind of recognition, cause he deserves it.

I think we were all delighted to meet and hear Jerry Leger bring his clear-eyed folk songs from Toronto. He struck me instantly as having strong vibes of John Lennon and Rodney Crowell. He’s making just his second tour in the U.S. and my out of town friends were so impressed they bought his CD. We certainly hope to hear more from this guy.

We’ve had tons of bluegrass on MCR, but not enough funny bluegrass. So it was cool to welcome the semi-comic, musically hard core Nedski & Mojo to the stage. Ned Luberecki and Stephen Mougin made fun of every bluegrass cliché at once in the dangerously lonesome “Cabin of Death” and then they showed off their chops with a tongue-twisting song “The Who, What, When, Where, Why of Love,” which endeared them to the journalist in me and then which segued into a nice two-guy jam on the standard “Lonesome Fiddle Blues.” With only a banjo and guitar, these bluegrass veterans made tons of good sound.

Amanda Shires offered more lilting, modernist take on Texas songwriting. She’s a fiddler and a singer with a trilling voice that is very much her own. Best song: “Angels And Acrobats” which comes from the pen of her guitar partner Rod Picott.

Finally, the journey from honky-tonk Saturday night to sacred Sunday morning was made complete by a spiritual-leaning set from Danny Flowers. His set opener “Anytime, Anywhere, Everywhere” (hope I have that title right) and set closer “I Was A Burden” from his recent Tools For The Soul album both had strong gospel underpinnings. The latter was as fine a statement of redemption and grace as you’ll hear. Of course, we the people wanted to hear his big smash “Tulsa Time,” so he saved that for the Loveless Jam, where he traded verses with Jim Lauderale and Amanda Shires, with David Ball donning the bass (his first instrument from years back) and guitarist Stephen Mougin playing the mandolin. It’s all about mixing it up at MCR, and that what they did.

Craig H.

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