Monday, May 21, 2012

I Took Mom to the Dierks Bentley Concert

"There sure are a lot of boots here." ~ Mom

I love writing about concerts. One of the most challenging things I've found in maintaining a blog is finding enough friends to join me at concerts.  I have become self-conscious that I invite the same people over and over again. When I heard that Dierks Bentley was playing in Greensboro, NC, half an hour from Mom's house, I tried something new and asked if she'd like to accompany me.

 "That sounds very interesting." my intellectual, classical music loving Mom said. "Sure! It will be an experience." Mom had no idea who Dierks Bentley is and doesn't listen to country music, but just like in 1983 when she agreed to chaperon my friends and I to The Police concert, Mom proved that she will go along with anything to be a part of her childrens' lives. At The Police concert she held her hands over her ears for the entire show, and at the end turned to us and said "That was fun!" "But Mom, you covered your ears the entire time!" "That's OK. I could still hear."

The Cadillac Black (TCB) opened the show. They were loud. For a minute I thought Dierks Bentley had embraced Eric Church's behavior of having a musician go out and play something raucous to drive away the elderly, but Bentley is a nicer guy than that.
Mom during The Cadillac Black's set
At the time, I didn't understand how Cadillac Black's hard Southern rock sound fit into the Dierks Bentley's show. Later that evening Bentley brought Jaren Johnston, the lead singer of TCB, on stage to join him in "The Woods", a song they co-wrote. Kudos to Johnston. "The Woods" is a song that is both fresh and easy to embrace, at least for those of us who spend a lot of time in the woods.

The Cadillac Black's "Whiskey Soaked Redemption"

Mom was happier with the Eli Young band. They closed their set with "Crazy Girl", the crowd belting out the chorus.

Eli Young Band's "Crazy Girl"

Dierks Bentley was relaxed, fun-loving and mischievous to a degree that I haven't seen in many other performers. He held fans' hands, took a sip from someone's flask, bantered, flirted, serenaded and made everyone there, including Mom, feel as loved as he himself must certainly feel. Mom's comment was "He is polished and comfortable in his own skin." Thankfully, his sound was fantastic so Mom could understand the wonderful lyrics and connect to his songs.

He opened with "Cold Cans" (and Country cliche. Oy!) and then moved through his hits and fan favorites. Before playing "Up on the Ridge" from his Bluegrass inspired album, he acknowledged North Carolina's influential role in the Bluegrass genre. He skipped the ritual of an encore and closed the set with "Home", "Tip it on Back" and everyone's favorite "What Was I Thinking?"

Mom teared up when he sang "Home". In 1956, at thirteen, she moved to the U.S. from Egypt. Egypt had expelled its Jewish residents allowing them to take a only a small amount of money and what they could carry. The verse "Brave/ Gotta call it brave to chase that dream across the sea." makes me think of her as well as my grandparents and great-grandparents who escaped the oppressive countries they were born in to create a better life for us in America.

Dierks Bentley's "Home"

When the show was over Mom said "That was fun! I'll go to another concert with you!" Perhaps I shouldn't consider my difficulty in finding concert companions a hindrance, rather a challenge to connect more willing friends and loved-ones to country music.

In this blog I struggle to balance information about a song, album, or event, and my personal story. At times I try to approach writing more like a journalist, but stories like this, about my personal connection to country music, are the reason I write.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zac Brown Band Concert

I saw the Zac Brown Band on Friday night at Walnut Creek Pavillion in Raleigh with two friends. The Zac Brown Band is building a beautiful collection of hits that sound as good live as on the radio. It's a serious show.  There are no sexy women on the big screen or wacky hijinks.  It's just good music.

What stood out for me at this show was the covers. Usually when a band or singer does a cover it is just that, the band or singer playing another artist's song, either a popular song to get the crowd going (or groaning) or a song meaningful to the performer that is often lost on the audience. When Zac Brown Band does a cover, they make it their own. I was skeptical when they launched into Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" but in the middle of the song the focus turned to the fiddles, and I thought "Wow! This is interesting."

Then rife with the potential for cliche, they did Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and I kid you not, the devil was present in their interpretation. The song was faster and harder than Daniels' original. A red strobe lights blinking. It was hellishly exciting. The crowd woke up like a wind up toy and went a little crazy, dancing like souls possessed. It was wild, just for a moment.

Three blonds kibitzing while waiting for the concert to start. Country Kibitzer in the middle.

So if you have a chance this summer, go see the Zac Brown Band. It's worth it. It's all about the music for these guys so you don't need a front row seat. If you like Zac Brown Band, as long as you can hear the music and see the screens from your seat you'll enjoy the show.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Ole Boy or This Ole Boy?

When Blake Shelton hit the jackpot with "Who are You When I'm Not Looking" and it sounded so similar to the one Joe Nichols recorded years ago, I was mildly annoyed. If you follow this blog you know I have a bit of an obsession with Joe Nichols' voice.

I am not as frustrated with Craig Morgan's version of "This Ole Boy" making it to radio while Nichols' version languishes in album only status. Morgan's version exudes the bubblegum happiness makes a song like that thrive on the radio.  I prefer Nichol's deep, sleepy, more traditional take on it over Morgan's pop enthusiasm, but I'm probably in the minority in this case. Compare for yourself and let me know what you think.

You may need to close your eyes while playing the Craig Morgan video. Angie Harmon's effervescent performance is rather distracting.

Click to listent to

Craig Morgan's "This Ole Boy"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eric Church: Why is Anyone Surprised?

Why on earth is anyone surprised by Eric Church's Rollingstone interview?

So he said some swear words, he insulted the elderly and he said something that some of us already think about "The Voice" and Blake Shelton. Apparently Church is indeed the angry redneck that he presents himself as and he's also a bit eccentric. That's why his music feels authentic. That's why we (dis)like him. And yes, that's why he makes some of  us a little uncomfortable.

Was it good thinking for Eric Church to shoot his mouth off in a Rollingstone interview and hurt the feelings of some of his fellow country music stars? No, but if he finds himself in too deep he'll just jack up his truck a little higher and slog out of the muck as best he can with a mess of fans pushing from behind.

The line in the article that I found the most amusing was contributed by Arthur Buenahora, a Nashville macher (influencial executive) instrumental in getting Church on his way.

"He's probably the most misunderstood guys in our format because he's really the kind of guy you'd want to be buddies with" says Buenahora. "You'd want your sister to marry a guy like that."

Well, my sister is currently single, but I would really rather not have Eric Church and his dirty mouth at my Shabbat dinner table so I'm not going to encourage this relationship. I will continue to listen to him while chopping onions and basting the chicken.

If you haven't actually read it, find the Rollingstone article and do so. It's good reading!  The article isn't available online to non-subscribers. Unless you're willing to pay their small fee you'll have to do it the old fashioned way, go to a magazine stand, look for the Rollingstone with Obama on the cover (Wow, Church must hate that.) and stand there for eight minutes and read the article.