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.