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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Today I spent a good part of the afternoon at Freedmen's in upper west campus listening to some great bands and downing PBR courtesy of the good folks over at Good Land Records from Wisconsin. Freedmen's has some amazing BBQ, so it was really a treat to get to enjoy some great bands while I was enjoying the food. Archie Powell & The Exports played through a power outage, taking up the acoustic guitar lent to them by Brett Newski and singing songs not really meant to be sung at low volume. The band performed a great set and was full of energy and proved once more that if you haven't had the chance to hear them play, then the time is now to do so. Brett Newski also played a great little set of songs, showcasing tunes from his CDs as well as a few new things from forthcoming records. His songwriting is filled with youthful vitality and a keen literacy that makes for fun listening. The songs are based in an Americana sound, acoustic and full of emotional depth. This is a kid to keep your eyes on.

I had the chance to meet some friends to catch a set by the king of modern LA alt. country, John Doe. His set was energetic, filled with amazing songs, and was all played wonderfully by his very capable band including Jesse Dayton on guitar and the wonderfully talented Cindy Wasserman on vocals. There is little that can be said about John Doe that hasn't been said already many times in the past, but I will say that for any who doubt the man's power as a songwriter or performer, you need to pay better attention. John is still better than 95% of everyone on this planet at making rock and playing it live. Today's show was full proof of that.

The Parson Redheads are an odd little band, and I've seen them before but it has been some time. They are currently playing great songs like they always have, but the newer tunes are filled with beautiful grooves, the kind one might have found on a Nick Lowe record in the late 1980s. Despite looking like an Americana band, decked out in denim shirts and jeans and beards and trucker caps, the Redheads get a little sonic at times, playing songs that sound more like the alternative/college rock of the late 1980s and 1990s. Everything rolls along nicely in their music, songs are groovy, sonic, and cool, and then suddenly the band busts out into Beach Boys-style 3 part vocal harmonies, making the rest of their own music appear small in comparison. As their set went on it became clearer to my ears that the Redheads were making music like an American version of Teenage Fanclub. Tasty!

Boston's Guns, Girls, And Glory were next up on my travels and I'm certainly glad I got a chance to stop and hear them play. These fellows throw down some brilliant 4-piece honky-tonk in the greatest of American styles. The songs are steeped in traditional country music, with just the right amount of jump and swing. I would be hard pressed to not compare them to the earlier works of Dwight Yoakam, but lacking the blistering leads of Pete Anderson. The lead guitarist is certainly adequate, and on songs that have a bit more of a rockabilly cadence he does very well, playing some tasteful leads and speeding things up a bit, but he lacks that certain spark of lightning on the more traditional sounding songs. The songs are really great, easy to sing along with, and filled with the greatest of country themes; truck driving, whiskey drinking, and loving. There is nothing wrong with drawing from the deep musical trough of Dwight Yoakam, and this band does it in spades, but don't look for that trademark holler, that's the one things that is missing.

As soon as I was satisfied that I had absorbed all there was from G,G&G, I made a quick trip around the block to catch the last part of a set by Chris Mills. I had been told that Mills was a great songwriter, and I'm glad I got a chance to hear him and his band play. The songs were indeed fantastically written, the band playing a loose and light set of well-arranged and beautiful tunes. The songs definitely have an American sound, but with a full band playing tend towards much more of a rock flavor than I had initially expected. The tunes are solid and somewhat anthemic, feeling absolutely real and filled with literate and smart lyrics. Another record I need to find for myself!

-David DeVoe


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