Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

There are times when a live performance is so dynamic and full of electricity that you just know that you are in the presence of greatness. That was the feeling last Friday night in Newport, Kentucky. The crowd wasn’t big, which is very unfortunate, but the energy was heavy and filled the entire room. These guys are consummate professionals and uber-talented. They are so in tune with each other that they elevate themselves from a four piece to maybe a six or seven piece band.  (more…)

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Written by Harry Kaplan

When I saw the lineup for the 2017 Outlaw Country Cruise in July of 2016, I was completely dumbfounded. That list contained many artists I have reviewed and followed for a long time. Where could I get to see artists like Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, The Bottle Rockets, The Old 97s, Supersuckers, and many others all under one cover? It was like I died and went to honky tonk heaven. I did a good job of convincing my wife to go on this excursion. Without her, the trip wasn’t going to happen. She likes this type of music and had gone to see Lucinda Williams and The Old 97s with me, but I am way more enthusiastic. (more…)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

I was looking forward to seeing these folks live for about a month. After I heard their CD The Sailor And The Siren, I was immensely impressed. I was wondering how the recorded sound would translate into a live performance. I had some lofty expectations and they shattered them. It isn’t often that I know that a group has that “something” to make it to the next level. I can remember three times before when it happened: Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, and Sublime. I could tell that all three of those acts, while still playing on a small stage had the x factor to make it big. I felt that way seeing Jeremy And Lynne & The Typical Johnsons. The vocals, musicianship, and general band chemistry make it pretty evident to me that these guys are ready for prime time. Jeremy and Lynne are husband and wife and they have great chemistry on stage and their harmonies are heavenly. I got goose bumps a few times during their sets. Jeremy, the front man, is comfortable with an audience and knows how to engage a crowd. He gives commentary between songs and is also loose enough to exchange banter with the rest of the band.

Now for the music. Their live material is as good as any band out there today. Every song off their new CD is hit worthy for sure. Ohio Gone, which the band played beautifully, has garnered some attention and it isn’t difficult to see why. Seeing it live was really special.Inside My Head, as Jeremy explained, was written after he and Lynne’s first date. Seeing them sing it together live and harmonize gave me chills it was so awesome. The Lo-Fi Type, the first track off the Sailor And The Siren, was played for me. It did not disappoint. Jeremy and the rest of the band fed off each other and worked the song up into quite a frenzy. Lynne played a pretty ferocious mandolin.  

They played a lot more original material as well as some really great covers. These weren’t your garden variety cover songs, they were more obscure and played flawlessly. One other notable event of the evening was their playing of the song The Sailor And The SirenIt is about following your dreams, as Jeremy explained. I hope these guys follow their dreams and exceeded them. Thank you guys (and girl) for a memorable night! 

If you want a great CD and also support a band worthy of your interest, you get it here.

 

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

Everyone has heard the proverb you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, I am going to add a line to that one. You can’t judge a performer by the size of the audience. Last night Ray Wylie Hubbard played Hill Country Barbeque in Washington DC. To me, it goes down in the annals as one of the most memorable evenings in a long time. Seeing him in the room of 200 (which was sold out) was better than seeing anyone else, anywhere. And the crowd knew it as well. Mr. Hubbard is a legendary performer with nearly a 50 year career.

Ray is very punctual. The ticket said the start time was 9:30 and he and the band came out at precisely 9:30. That may seem like a little thing, but to me is shows respect and reverence. An acknowledgement that our time is just as important as his. What humility! He is a very humble guy. As he told stories between songs, he interjected self-deprecating humor. It was more of a way for him to down play his many accomplishments in a clever and entertaining way. It came across as sincere and as a man without a big ego. If anyone deserves to carry around a little bit of an ego it is Ray, but he doesn’t at all. A true testament to his character.

Backing Ray were his son and guitar virtuoso, Lucas Hubbard. This wasn’t a case where the baseball coach lets his son pitch just because that’s his son. Oh no! Lucas can flat out play! I can’t think of anyone better to play Ray’s music with him. As my father gets older, I also have a special place in my heart when I see fathers and sons doing things together. Seeing them on stage choked me up a little bit. Also in the band was drummer and backing vocalist Kyle Schneider. Another tight musician who complimented Ray perfectly.

Ray and the band played for almost 2 hours! The crowd surely got their money’s worth. He played all of the songs we hoped he would play and then some. The third song out of the gate was Drunken Poet’s Dream and Ray nailed it.

He played Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother towards the end of the show and told a funny story about the song that happened that very night. Some people prior to the show asked Ray if he was going to play it and he stated he doesn’t play it every night. Apparently, the people stated that if they didn’t hear it, they would be disappointed. So Ray brought up a story where he saw Bob Dylan and the one song he wanted to hear was Masters Of War and Dylan didn’t play it. Well he didn’t think Bob played it. That was when Dylan was going through his phase where most of his songs performed live were unrecognizable. And the crowd roared.

Sometimes you don’t always know when a moment is special until after it occurs. Luckily, I knew this evening was exceptional as it was unfolding and was able to savor every moment. I wanted to have that evening etched in my memory in perpetuity. For once I succeeded. It wouldn’t have been possible without Ray Wylie Hubbard and his fine band.

Review By Harry Kaplan

All Cooley, all the time. I am not sure if non Drive By Trucker fans would enjoy this that much. But for Trucker fans like me and the other 300 people or so in attendance, this was pure Cooley bliss. Cooley played all of his hits that it would take 2 or 3 nights of Trucker shows to hear. He belted out Gravity’s Gone, Self Destructive Zones, Carl Perkin’s Cadillac, When the Pin Hits The Shell, and Uncle Frank, just to name a few. It was an intimate evening with Cooley on acoustic guitar.  

If I have to make one small complaint, it was that U Street Music Hall is not the ideal place to see an acoustic performance. The stage is quite low and the venue is very long and narrow. If someone was not in the first couple of rows in the front, it was difficult, if not impossible to see. The acoustics were good throughout, but if you like to see as well as hear, not the best venue for that. That was the only small complaint I had.

For me and the rest of the Trucker fans in attendance, you could not ask for a better night. Mike was very comfortable in front of the enthusiastic crowd, spoke freely in between songs, and exchanged some banter with the audience. Instead of a concert, it felt more like seeing a performer in someone’s family room and inviting 300 of your closest friends. It did not have the electricity of a full Drive By Truckers rock show, but it was a great evening nonetheless. 

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan

The Fantastic Negrito (Negrito for brevity), whose real name is Xavier Dphrepaulezz, opened last night for Chris Cornell at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore. I understand why Mr. Dphrepaulezz may go by a pseudonym. That name is hard to pronounce and hard to remember. Fantastic Negrito is much easier to say and not easily forgotten. The name has almost a super hero quality to it. Fantastic Negrito definitely lives up to his name and maybe even surpasses it. Is deity too strong a word? Maybe, but I am still debating.

It is rare that you see someone without really knowing their material and you immediately connect with the artist and all of the songs. I remember it happening one time when I saw Smashing Pumpkins before they blew up (props to you, Larry L!). I had that same jaw dropping feeling as I did last night. The feeling that this guy is going to be large. To quote from the movie Fear of a Black Hat, “He’s gonna be so large, they’re gonna call him Dinosaur!” I liked all of the songs instantly and loved the performance. The Fabulous Negrito is electric and dynamic. He was playing last night without a full band, in fact, he was playing an acoustic guitar. He used the keyboard for one song he called “Rant Rushmore” which I will get to later. It was Negrito on stage with Tomas Salcedo (Negrito calls him “The Chilean), also armed with an acoustic guitar.

When you think of two people on stage with guitars, you probably think folk music. You would expect something very quiet and soothing. Au contraire. Negrito and the Chilean are anything but. Negrito has a strong powerful voice that compensates for any imbalance in instrumentation. In fact, his voice and playing are so good, that you can really focus on him and the music without a full band to distract you.

Negrito’s themes that he sings about are quite serious: homelessness, loneliness, poverty, loss, and inequality. Although these topics could be quite depressing, Negrito’s songs are songs of hope with an underlying theme that things will get better. He has convinced me. The purpose of music and performance is to be a temporary escape from the trappings of life. Negrito helps you escape and forget. Forget about your problems, not him or the music. In fact, I was problem free last night during his set. I was thinking about nothing else except Negrito and his energetic performance.

So enough of the preamble, let’s get to brass tacks: the performance. Negrito opened with a song off of his new album Last Days of Oakland, Working Poor. The song, as the title suggests, is about the “have nots”. People that work so hard but can never dig out of the hole they’re in. Negrito belts out the chorus. “I keep on knockin’ but I can’t get in”. The next song was written about Negrito’s time spent in a 3 week coma after a terrible car accident called Night Has Turned to Day (see video here). The next number was In The Pines. You know the last song Kurt Cobain sang on MTV Unplugged? Yes, that song. Well, Negrito said he wasn’t good at doing covers, but he lies. He did this song justice and made it his own. Even in the esteemed company of Cobain and Leadbelly. Negrito joked that he added a bridge to the song, which Leadbelly would never approve of. I disagree. I think the bridge, which is almost a gospel accent, is beautiful. It adds a very nice element.

Negrito described himself as a “strange black kid” liking David Bowie and Prince and wearing leopard skin boots through the streets of Oakland. You can definitely hear Prince and Bowie on the next number. Not only them, but I also hear some Queen. Rant Rushmore is normally a very funky upbeat song. The link to a performance with a full band is here. The performance last night was just Negrito on keys and The Chilean on acoustic. The rendition was not quite as energetic as the full band one, but still inspiring. Again, Negrito’s vocals made up for any missing instruments.

My only complaint is that it was too short. I was left wanting more. The whole crowd wanted more. Negrito could have played another hour and no one would have minded at all. I am guessing the performance was about 40 minutes, but it seemed like it was over in the blink of an eye.