On a night when the city of Cleveland was #ALLIN for game 4 of the NBA Finals, the schedule maker forgot that on the second Thursday of every month the New Soft Shoe is performing. A fixture for several years down the street at the Happy Dog, the boys decided to take the show on the road this year and perform in several different area taverns and watering holes. So while twenty thousand some folks packed the Q and even many more thousands of fans partied outside the arena including E. 4th Street, the faithful showed up at the Music Box Supper Club for an evening of songs from the Gram Parsons songbook.
The collection of talent that comes together without rehearsing to pay tribute to the cosmic cowboy every month is truly one of the finest ensembles appearing on any stage. Fronted by Brent Kirby (Brent Kirby & His Luck, Jack Fords) on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, the players include “The Reverend” Al Moss (Hillbilly Idol) on pedal steel, Andy Leach (Director of Library and Archives at Rock ‘n Roll HOF and Museum) on Fender electric guitar, Justin Gorski (DJ Kishka) on keyboards and accordion, Tom Prebish on bass, and Jon Niefeld on drums. Some of you may have seen them perform together at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull in Waycross, Georgia while others might have seen or read about them individually from past No Depression articles.
Of course, the discussion of Gram Parsons being recognized by both the Country Music and Rock and Roll institutions for his influence, body of work, and contributions will need to be addressed as a separate piece. But without question, for those that know his catalog, recognition is long overdue and one day he will be inducted into both halls of fame. Normally the New Soft Shoe just covers anything which Gram either recorded or performed live, but on this particular evening the band opened the evening by performing Sweetheart of the Rodeo in its entirety. This was the album that put Parsons on the big stage when he was hired to play piano and add vocals to The Byrds new line-up. The album also became one of the defining moments of the country rock genre and the crossover effect it had on the artists that followed. Including the twelve original tracks, the band performed outtakes like “Reputation”, Lazy Days”, “Pretty Polly”, and “All I Have Are Memories” which originally featured Nashville session pedal steel Godfather Lloyd Green.
After a short break, round two featured another seventeen songs including takes on “Miller’s Cave” and “Luxury Liner” from The International Submarine Band, “Christine’s Tune”, “Sin City”, “Juanita”, “Dark End of the Street”, “Mental Revenge”, and “Hot Burrito #1 & #2” from The Flying Burrito Bros, and “She”, ‘Ooh Las Vegas”, “Cash on the Barrelhead”, and “Return Of The Grievous Angel” from his solo recordings. The evening closed with “Wild Horses” and “Mr. Spaceman” before the start of the basketball game’s fourth quarter. The boys packed up their gear and went on their separate ways until next month on the second Thursday when they will reconvene once again to pay tribute to GP.