December 23, 2011

Mickey and the Motorcars ~ Live at The Firehouse

When so much of the world is trying to pigeon hole everything, whether it be style of clothing, types of movies, or even the coffee you drink, it is always so refreshing to see a band like Mickey and the Motorcars.  They play what they feel, keep an ear to the ground of what their fans what, and make it happen.  And that, my friends, is the golden ticket for a traveling band.
Upon transplanting from Idaho back in the early 2000’s, Mickey and one of his brothers Gary (the other two make up part of Reckless Kelly) hit the road hard and haven’t looked back.  The guys finally put their road tested material to the test and recorded Which Way from Here in 2003 and quickly followed it up with 2004’s Ain’t in it for the Money.  It was along these times that “Texas Country” was being recognized as much more than a passing fad and Mickey and the Motorcars were right there at the doorsteps with all the other headliners—one step away from national exposure.  With 2006’s Careless and certainly 2008’s Na├»ve, they were there.
A place like the Firehouse Saloon is perfect for Mickey and company as it is raucous enough to rock along to a Warren Zevon cover of “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”, bluesy enough to sway to a newer single like “How Far I’ll Go”, and sing along to a song that help make them; “Carolina Morning”.  The guys seem adaptable enough to fit in any type of market and get along just fine with whatever the crowd may throw at them.
The guys have been on several East Coast trips such as the run they just returned from with support from Reckless Kelly and Stoney LaRue, and also made time to make a West Coast run that is starting to become a more common practice.  Everywhere they go they find more and more fans who partake in, what seems like their theory: that music is the common ground and doesn’t need to be confined to borders. 
When asked about how the songs come together and the way that most previous albums seem to come along in a back to back nature, Mickey says “the music just kind of comes to us and we test it out, see if we, and most importantly the fans, like it and that seems to be the nature of how the music has happened.”  This time, after 2011’s Raise My Glass album, “with a new guitar and bass player we’re going to play around a little bit and find our groove and hopefully have an album out before the end of 2012 if not early 2013.”  Pretty sure that will make Christmas shopping pretty easy for many fans from Texas to Idaho and anywhere in between. 
The band has a confidence that years of adoring fans will build but are still more than accommodating to giving their time and thoughts to a music fan turned writer.  We here at LoneStar Outlaw Review could not do anything but wish these road warriors the best.

December 7, 2011

Joseph Hall ~ Live at The Grand

One of the greatest things about music is how diverse it can be.  From country, to jazz, to rock & roll...latest hits to the classics, Johnny Cash to Jay-Z—music really can appeal to just about anyone. So naturally, here at LoneStar Outlaw Review, we’re always up for hearing new acts  and seeing new stuff.  And a few weeks ago…that’s exactly what we got the chance to do.  At The Grand Theater in Grand Island, Nebraska, we saw our first Joseph Hall show. 

To date, Joseph Hall (a native Texan) has made quite the name for himself as an Elvis tribute artist.  With appearances on Good Morning America, NBC’s America’s Got Talent, USA Today, Fox News, The Morning Show, and several others…we had to see what this kid was all about for ourselves. C’mon…if you’re going to pay tribute to one of the music’s original outlaws, we want to see what you can bring to the table. 

Just getting into the theater was a message in itself as to how far and wide people will travel to see his Elvis “Rock ‘N’ Remember” tribute to The King, himself.  As the line wrapped around the corner of the block, fans continued to arrive dressed in their Joseph Hall T-shirts, scarves, and jackets. Quite the change of pace from the beer swilling and fold-out chairs you’ll see during summertime festivals in Texas, we took a seat in The Grand.  With all 400 seats filled at the beautifully refurbished facility and the stage set with colored lights and satin curtains—it was a sold-out (packed) house.  And they were ready to ROCK & ROLL!

Kyle Hall (father and manager to Joseph) kicked the show off by introducing the fan’s favorite in Nebraska—there wasn’t a single soul sitting when he took stage.  From the moment Joseph set foot in the spotlight, the fans went wild. 

Hall has mastered the uncanny ability to make each and every person in the audience feel ecstatic about just being at his show—whether they’re coming from across town or a 14-hour drive from Texas.  As he worked his way through every row in the venue, you could see how fans felt connected to this “America’s Got Talent” star.  He was up close and personal—connecting to the audience with his amazing performance. 

Some of Joseph’s highlighted songs that kicked the concert into fifth gear were the fast-paced “Poke Salad Annie” and the smooth-even tune of “Good time Charlie’s Got the Blues”.  Hall also treated the large audience with a number of Christmas tunes like, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and blessed the crowd with some of the gospel songs from his last CD.  “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”.  Our favorite here at LoneStar Outlaw Review—was his rendition of “Suspicious Minds”…undoubtedly. Talk about the classics.  Wow.

One of the greatest things about this show aside from the raw energy he exuded was Joseph’s appreciation—both of the US TROOPS . . . and his Crew.  Joseph gave our soldiers honor and respect for their service by his songs.  He also has an innate ability to show gratitude to his team—his lights and sound technicians, camera man, merchandise sales people, and his family, who supports his endeavors.  Nice to see that people can stay humble even when they’re in the midst of becoming rising stars. 

Personal photos with Joseph were offered to guests during the intermission and the takers made a huge line for the opportunity to hug their favorite star.  Joseph’s CD’s, T-shirts, composites, chains, scarves, pins and leather bags were all sold during the show.  Joseph also showed his humility as he offered a “Meet and Greet” to the fans after the performance. 
Ask any number of people “what’s one concert you wish you could have seen?”, and it’s guaranteed that you’ll get countless ELVIS responses.  Seeing Joseph Hall preform is as close to the real thing as one can get! Joseph did an incredible job recreating the moves, the look, and the sound of Elvis Presley.  Hall’s earned and well-deserved success has brought him to great new heights.  He moved his show to The Americana Theatre in Branson, Missouri performing five nights a week.  Looks like he’ll be creating an all-new production that sounds like it will simply knock your socks off!  Utilizing state-of-the-art lighting, lasers, video, sets, and the tightest Rock N Roll band in Branson, Joseph will blow you away as he recreates the legend of Elvis Presley live on stage.  After that remarkable performance at The Grand, I highly doubt this is the last we’ll hear from this talented star.  Everyone walked away from the Joseph Hall Show with huge smiles on their faces . . . and a song in their heart.

December 5, 2011

Roger Creager ~ Live at Pub Fiction

There are a million different types of energy in the world.  For example; there is kinetic energy, or a child on a sugar rush, or a Richard Simmons workout video, or that of a tiger.  And then…there is Roger Creager.  When passion flows through every pore of your body and you truly love what you do, it shows.  And in the case of Roger Creager, it shows in spades.  Creager is upbeat, authentic, and seems to be having the time of his life whether he is belting out a brand new song like “I’ll Take Anything” (!?!) from his upcoming album, Surrender, or an oldie but goody such as “Everclear”.   Many of his early songs like “Things Look Good Around Here” and “Love is Crazy” can more than hold their own against any of his newer music in respect to writing, storytelling, and the delivery.  Even though hearing a concert at Pub Fiction is akin to seeing a Ritalin starved child on withdrawals, Roger’s voice is always crisp and clear enough to hear (almost as well as the eight different conversations going on around you).  Getting there a little early to possibly share a table with some other diehards and $10 buckets should help alleviate any hassles about having to hear about some drunken guy’s horrible boss. 

Only in Texas could you hear a tear jerking song about a grandfather handing down his firearms such as the wonderfully crafted “I Got the Guns” and it not sound hokey.  Or try asking Roger what the best/worst thing about growing up in South Texas was and surely the next words you’ll hear would be the opening lines of “Long Way to Mexico”.  And you can only imagine that his proximity to the border helped shape “Rancho Grande”, which is generally a treat to hear in and around the Houston area as Roger’s father often joins him onstage and you can see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 
Though there may sometimes be a longer break between new music than what fans want/demand, Roger makes up for it with packing the albums with sing-a-longs such as “Love”, “My Ship Goes Down”, “Swinging from the Chandeliers”, and “Shreveport to New Orleans”.  Better yet…there are absolutely no fillers—either in concert or on-album.  He has also gone on to master several cover songs along the way from “Piano Man” to “A Pirate Looks at 40” to the immortal Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” and even “Stu’s Song” from The Hangover.   Classic.

Creager not only knows how to keep the party moving right along but how to have fun with it as well; whether he’s sharing an oversized hamburger with his stage mates, joking about how “Bud Light does not make you fat, it makes you HAPPY”, or shining the spotlight on a beautiful and talented ‘up and comer’, Bri Bagwell.  A Roger Creager concert, such as this night at Pub Fiction, is about fans coming together and forgetting all the hustle and bustle, making new friends, and sharing stories about how far each of you has traveled to see different shows/festivals featuring the man of the hour. 
Roger has gotten to a place now where he commands big crowds, has major sponsorships and I can only assume is well compensated for his efforts.  The thing about it is, he seems as though he would act the same way whether he was living the life he is now or if he was just some Joe nobody you met at your local bar.  There are not many people out there that you can see their love for life in everything they do, but Roger Creager is one of those lucky ones, and he makes you feel better through the power of music.

December 2, 2011

Bleu Edmondson ~ Unplugged and Brutally Honest

To see a Bleu Edmondson Band show has been called anything from a revival, to perfection, to just plain loud.  To see the man by himself with nothing but a guitar and baseball hat to hide behind is to see into his soul.  And the road has had its way with that soul, but it seems to have opened up the creative process for a very talented and genuine artist.
Bleu Edmondson seems to have two ways of writing; one, with intricate storytelling using characters to express the things he sees and hears, and two, just laying his heart on the line and letting the chips fall where they may.  He sings with all he has; he doesn’t leave much room for thought on where he stands, and he is unabashed in his search for the meaning of life or just a good time.

 To hear the stories that lead to becoming songs is what makes acoustic shows so special.  Bleu got his start by working these same types of events burning up the blacktop between College Station and Dallas, and probably just about anywhere else that would have him.  He can seem uneasy and uncomfortable when offstage and surrounded by others, but it is the stage that seems to be his sanctuary and where he truly belongs.  He can show the nervousness of a new kid in school and hide behind his pulled-too-low-to-notice-me baseball hat, and that’s too bad.  He has the charisma of a natural born leader, the charm of a salesman, and the feel of someone important when he walks on stage.  He was born to be a performer and now has the years of experience to fulfill his pedigree. 
So whether it is a full band show or just a man and his guitar, go check Bleu Edmondson and get ready to not just hear the music, but feel it.

Before the Holiday season got into full swing, we had a chance to see Bleu perform at the Firehouse Saloon here in Houston.  Here are some of the songs he played and a few funny stories to go with them.

-“Not Afraid to be Alone” -- but “scared to death of being lonely”.  Great play on words.
-“Finger on the Trigger” -- a song written by Brandon Jenkins also was a video for Bleu on CMT.  Still to this day I wonder if all the people singing and cheering along actually listen to the lyrics.
-“American Saint” -- story telling at its best and paints such a broad stroked picture of life in West Texas.
-“Good Thing” -- written by Matt Powell and tells the (sometimes) heart wrenching story of loves both won and lost...both eloquent and real at the same time.
-“Blood Red Lincoln” -- 1st and only number 1 song
-“Back to You” -- sounds like his version of a love song.
-“Can’t Run from you Baby”?!? -- Bleu has a new album coming out and apparently this time it was a bit of a departure from “getting drunk and waking up the next day and saying WTF, a song about fire trucks?”  Sounds like it will easily be a staple of the set list.
-“Jesus is Crying” -- “freedom is a hard luck drug and I’m a strung out fiend” Wow.
-“Laughing Right out Loud” -- Only 21 when he wrote this song and though he has played it and numerous other songs for years, he has a tendency to forget the lyrics from time to time and that is part of his charm. 
-“Resurrection” -- Quite possibly the only song you’ll hear that will make “making love in a bathroom stall” sound sexy.  He and Wade Bowen wrote this together and it’s amazing to hear both of them play it and hear how different they sound.  Both are amazing and the song actually has a bigger message that unfortunately gets lost in the before mentioned lyric.
-“$50 Dollars and a Flask of Crown” -- Another song written by Matt Powell that first put Bleu on the map and is still probably his calling card (for better or worse).
-“Dallas” -- A Jimmie Gilmore cover that has been in the set list for many, many years and happens to be Bleu’s hometown.
-“The Band Plays On” -- Title track to second album and seems to be hodgepodge of different people from different cities as seen through the eyes of a performer.
-“Just a little bit Crazy” -- Just how a man feels after the heartache sets in.
-“Last Last Time” --   My personal favorite and said to be written in the ghetto of Dallas.
-“Highway Patrolman” -- A Springsteen cover that I believe I heard Bleu say before was his favorite to play.  Bruce has been/is a huge influence on many artists here in Texas (and the world) and it is pretty typical to hear at least one song by the Boss played excellently by Bleu.
-“Traveling Man” -- Just a lonely man in search of a beer, who can’t relate?
-“The Echo” --  Bleu’s self-anointed love song.  Though the word love never appears. 

November 28, 2011

My Introduction to what was Ragweed

The best part about starting this blog has been going back and rediscovering the love I have for music in general, but especially the songs and artists that have helped make my passion grow.  Today I’ll review how one band truly opened my eyes to what else was out there.

In 2002 I was graduating college (albeit a few years late) and as a gift I received a ticket to what was then known as “The Pat Green and Cory Morrow Festival” in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  I was a casual fan of both the headliners and knew of a few of the other performing bands through friends of mine.  My expectations were small; ski, have a few drinks, meet some interesting people, and hear a few country songs.  Not a bad week, huh?

Part of my welcome packet contained flyers for different shows and a three song CD sampler that I am sure is long out of date by now. The name on the sampler was strange and certainly didn’t sound very country, and neither did the guys on the cover.  I didn’t pay it much mind, but kept hearing a slow building buzz the entire week about this band that virtually everyone was there to see and I had no clue whom they were.  The band in question proceeded to turn my musical world right side up and open the door to a flood of new artists that I still follow to this day.  The band was Cross Canadian Ragweed and though they are no more…they will always be music royalty around Texas. 

The CD sampler included “17” and ‘Don’t Need You”, which would not only go on to be staples of their set lists, but also spawned music videos.  The third, “Suicide Blues”, was also a mainstay of the set lists to a smaller degree.  The songs were part the Self-Titled/ Purple album that came out shortly after the Music Fest, an album that seemed to push them further into the stratosphere of national notoriety. 

What really got my attention was my first live show with the Boys.  After a week full of build-up they were closing out the festival in the ballroom of the main hotel in town.  I was told to get there early or probably miss out due to crowds.  All this excitement and talk, and seeing the faces of the fans virtually salivating led me to believe I was about to see something special, and did I ever.  I can now only wish I had a set list from that night, mainly just to see how different it was from their later years and to see the progression they took.  Stone Temple Pilots’ “Dead and Bloated” blared through the speakers and greeted Ragweed to the stage. And they handled the rest…knocking the socks off any and all comers and doing what Cody now likes to refer as “melting the people’s face off”.  It was like seeing a puppeteer pull the strings and having everything and everybody go right along with him.  The one song I do remember seeing was “Boys From Oklahoma”, which I know was a disdained song for them but on this night seeing every other lead singer do their own verse and turning the song into a 15 minute opus was truly special.  To see the obvious bond that this new-to-me-band had with all the other performers just further emphasized I was in the right place at the right time to see something special. 

It could not have been a better way to close out what become my new love of all things Texas Country (and Oklahoma, I guess).  The festival was never officially renamed “Skiing with Ragweed” or anything like that, but there is no doubt that after that trip, they owned that festival along with any other stage they touched.  I look forward to reaching into the vaults and discussing some other albums by Ragweed as well the brilliant work that is being done by the Departed, Cody’s new band.

November 15, 2011

Guns N Roses ~ Houston, TX: 11.04.11

I was too young to see them in their heyday; strife, disagreements, and pettiness took away many more lost opportunities, and then there was the Chinese Democracy debacle.  So after way too many years of cancelled tours and millions of dollars being wasted NOT giving the fans what they have been salivating for over the years, Guns N Roses held up their end of the bargain and brought the circus to town.  And subsequently… blew the fucking roof off of it!  
There was a great mix of old, new, and covered music thrown in with Axl’s voice sounding like it was 1988 all over again.  For a man who has the range from an opera singer high to South Park chef low, it is amazing he still even has a voice.  He even dusted off every dance move you remember seeing in the videos from back in the day for good measure.  The song selection was dominated by the bookends of their catalog with Appetite for Destruction and Chinese Democracy getting a majority of the attention.  The usual favorites from Use Your Illusion I and II were sprinkled in as well.  Some notable exceptions were “Civil War”, “Yesterdays”, “Shotgun Blues”, “My Michelle”, and “Anything Goes”.  There was such a rebellious, ‘us against the world’ nature to their earlier music that so many people associated with and is why they became such anthems.   It would have been great if some of these could have taken the place of a few Chinese Democracy cuts, but as a beggar I cannot be choosy.  Then again this is a business and you always need to be pushing forward, even if your current product isn’t the flavor that your fans crave.   I won’t go through the entire set list—but you can see it for yourself (below).
Though Slash is irreplaceable, the collective band that Axl has put together is great; on point and professional and they know to let the lead guy do his thing.  Each member was given a chance to show off his goods with a solo and showed why they were selected by a notoriously picky front man with an astute eye for perfection.
For a guy on the downside of his 40’s, Axl still has the aura about him that makes a lead singer.  The ability to take the audience with him and say here’s where we’re going for next three hours.  And yes I said three hours.  Like I said, they brought it! 
All in all, it was a childhood dream show I can cross off my bucket list and I have absolutely no complaints.  I can only hope Axl can keep the train on track and bring the circus back to town again.
Dexter Intro
1.   Chinese Democracy
2.   Welcome To The Jungle
3.   It's So Easy
4.   Mr. Brownstone
5.   Sorry
6.   Better
7.   Estranged
8.   Rocket Queen
9.   Richard Fortus Guitar Solo  -- (James Bond Theme)
10.  Live and Let Die -- (Paul McCartney & Wings cover)
11.  This I Love
12.  Riff Raff -- (AC/DC cover)
13.  My Generation -- (The Who cover)(Tommy Stinson on Lead Vocals, w/Band Intros)
14.  Dizzy Reed Piano Solo -- (Baba O' Riley)
15.  Street Of Dreams
16.  You Could Be Mine
17.  DJ Ashba Guitar Solo -- (Ballad Of Death)
18.  Sweet Child O' Mine
19.  Instrumental Jam -- (Another Brick in The Wall Pt. 2)
20.  Axl Rose Piano Solo -- (Someone Saved My Life Tonight/Goodbye Yellow Brickroad)
21.  November Rain
22.  Bumblefoot Guitar Solo -- (Pink Panther Theme)
23.  Don't Cry
24.  Whole Lotta Rosie -- (AC/DC cover)
25.  Knockin' On Heaven's Door -- (Bob Dylan cover)
26.  Nightrain
27.  Instrumental Jam
28.  Madagascar
29.  Out Ta Get Me
30.  Instrumental Jam
31.  Patience
32.  Shackler's Revenge
33.  Instrumental Jam
34. Paradise City

November 11, 2011

Jack Ingram ~ Self Titled

Jack Ingram is a bit of an anomaly.  He sang the National Anthem at game 6 of the World Series, yet he didn’t even headline the last festival where I saw him.  His songs have hit the top 40 on national radio, yet I saw him perform at the Firehouse Saloon here in Houston only a few months ago.  Every time he plays he displays the same energy, same drive to please, and is always looking like he is having the time of his life. It’s almost as if he truly doesn’t care if he is performing in front of 100 or 10,000. And he always closes with his signature statement, “I’m Jack Ingram and I play Country music.”

When I first saw Jack perform it was at a high school dance circa 1994/1995.  He had a self-titled album to his credit and the crowd in the palm of his hands.  I purchased the album that night and for some stupid reason tucked it away for a couple of years until I finally came across it and gave it a chance.  I could kick myself for delaying my introduction to what has become Texas Country.

The album is a straight forward introduction to a man trying to live out his dreams.  Eight original cuts with four additional covers of Collin Boyd, Merle Haggard, Robert Earl Keen, and the great Willie Nelson.  I guess if you are going to aim high you might as well shoot for the moon by covering some of the biggest names in Country.  And he pulls it off with ease with his songs flowing right along with the other masters of their craft.  From the love songs of “Me and You”, “Make my Heart Flutter”, and the beautifully haunting “Drive On”, to the down on his luck-just trying to make its of “Beat up Ford”, “Beyond my Means”, and “Mama Tried”, Jack sings with an attitude of having been around the block and knowing just what he’s doing. 

The two standout tracks to me are “Sight Unseen” and “Things get Cloudy”, with the former about the search for life and trying to find your niche whenever obstacles get in your way.  “Searching for a feeling I call home” is an easy enough line for anyone to relate to.  It is always funny to me when you hear an upbeat song and automatically assume that the guy gets the girl at the end of the song, but then he does not.  “Things Get Cloudy” is that song where the girl in question is always just beyond your reach, but you know in your heart of hearts she is the right one. 

If you are looking to hear any of these songs live I wouldn’t hold my breath, as I believe the only one I remember hearing anytime recently was a remade version of “Make my Heart Flutter”.  The album is probably only available on his website or, if you get lucky, at a used music store (they still have those, right?).  It is a quick listen as half the songs are under three minutes, and if you already enjoy his music it will be a great addition to the library.  I will always treasure it as my introduction to a whole new scene of music, and Jack will always have my thanks for that.

November 10, 2011

Bleu Edmondson ~ Southland

When trying to figure out how to start this blog I could only think of starting with someone who I was familiar with and whose music I already had a working knowledge of, Bleu Edmondson.  I decided to do things differently in that I wanted to start from the beginning with his first album, Southland, and see how it has fared over the years and to see where it has in fact led him.  To me it is always amazing to see the transformation an artist makes along the way to becoming who they want to be. 
Southland was released in 2001 and was produced by the famed Lloyd Maines which, in its self, is amazing to get a highly respected producer to even consider helping you after only learning how to play the guitar a few years prior.  Obviously Mr. Maines saw something in both the man and the music that others did not see.  As far as the album goes, it is a solid effort put forth all the way around that produced some great sing along songs, insight into the workings of a young twenty something, and glimpses into where Bleu wanted to go lyrically. 
“$50 and a Flask of Crown” is not only the first song on the album and his first ever single but still widely the song most associated with him.  It is a song penned by Matt Powell who is also a very talented and gifted songwriter/performer and is just a good natured song about hitting the town up big and having a good time.
My favorite song on the album will always be “Travelin Man”— not for the scene it paints of driving down the blacktop late at night and observing all that is around you, but more so as just a simple song about wanting a drink and every damn store being closed along the way.  This was Bleu’s second single and is a great number to get your feet moving.
“It’s About You”, “What I left Behind”, and “Further Down the Line” seem to all trace back to failed relationships that we all go through and the struggles that can be had by someone who chooses Bleu’s line of work.  They speak of the past, misfortunes, longing for, and ultimately coming out on top and getting the last laugh.  He has a keen wit that seems to always prevail when love has lost.
Looking back on “Coming Down”, it may have been the pivotal song on the album.  Not from the standpoint of that it should have been a breakout single but from Bleu being able to paint a portrait outside of himself and tell the story of a fictional character.  It is very graphic in its portrayal of a man who does what he thinks is necessary to provide for his family though the end result is jail time and postcards from your woman living with her new man.  It is not so much the story but the way Bleu was able to see outside of himself and create a set of characters.  This was main instance on the album where you saw Bleu painting outside the lines and would lead to some beautifully crafted songs in future albums.
A clever ‘ode to the truck driving man’ written by Brian Rung is “Hell on 18 Wheels”.  Who knew that truckers and band mates had so much in common but it makes a lot sense when you think about it. 
“You Don’t Know Me” seems, as a song, to be Bleu’s defense after a difficult breakup.  It features one of my favorite lines, “a drunken king with a handmade crown”, and seems to be just a song about a man beating himself up over and over again not thinking he’s good enough and not letting others get close to him because of how he feels.
The album is rounded out on a positive note with “Live Oak Lullaby” and “Laughin Right Out Loud” as they are songs about finding new love and making plans for the future as well as sitting around drinking and enjoying the smaller things in life. 
In the end, it’s certainly not Shakespeare but it is a very solid freshman effort from a man that was young and was trying to find his way in the ever evolving music scene that is/was Texas Country.  He has gone on to release three more studio albums and two live albums that are stellar and will be reviewed in the coming future and is a relentless touring act that can now be caught throughout the country.