Live Review

Ex-husbands - Lounge Ax (Chicago, IL)

Ex-husbands on October 17, 1997

Getting an audience to listen to your music is always tough for a new band, especially in the tiny little corner of the musical universe that is alternative country (whatever etc.). It means playing opening slots for shows in faraway towns hoping an audience cares, or even shows up. That's what the Ex-Husbands were up to on this night, opening for a couple of acts on local Bloodshot Records, playing for a handful of early birds, barflys and the curious, and even a few fans who owned their debut CD on the small indie label Tar Hut.

Live Review

John Fahey - Tramps (New York City, NY)

John Fahey on November 2, 1997

"How long can I remain legendary?" John Fahey queried to both himself and his audience in response to his invisible emcee's intro. Appearing less frazzled and more affable than in his last visit here almost a year ago, Fahey regarded the well-packed assembly from behind the now-trademark secondhand prescription shades, and seated himself to strap on his rented...Stratocaster? John Fahey, America's steel-string acoustic maestro, gone electric. "Oh yeah, it's all I use now," he commented after the show, citing its inevitable rentability in any town and thus foregoing baggage travel worries.

Live Review

Tribute To Steve Goodman - Medinah Temple (Chicago, IL)

Various Artists on November 13, 1997

By today's standards, celebrating 40 years of anything is a significant milestone deserving of a significant celebration. So Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music celebrated its 40th anniversary and its plan to move to a larger, more modern facility with a benefit concert honoring the memory of one of its own, Steve Goodman, who died of leukemia at the age of 36 in 1984.

Live Review

Son Volt / Buick MacKane - Cat's Cradle (Carrboro, NC)

Son Volt on October 15, 1997

This one was like the feeling you get an hour and a half after slamming down a six-pack of Jolt Cola: sugar up, sugar down. Buick MacKane got the night off to a frenzied start, while Son Volt's headlining set was...well, as consistent as they always are, with everything that implies. As good as the band can be on record, in person Son Volt remains about as energetic and charismatic as Al Gore. Jay Farrar does seem to be taking tentative steps toward opening up.

Live Review

Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun - Sweetwater Saloon (Mill Valley, CA)

Bill Kirchen on November 21, 1997

Mill Valley is a small village in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is where a lot of the Bay Area rock 'n' roll robber barons moved to in the '70s and '80s, once the royalty checks started rolling in. The Sweetwater, a small bar off of the town square, serves as the local watering hole for the likes of Jorma Kaukonen, John Lee Hooker, the Sons of Champlin and Huey Lewis.

Live Review

Derailers - Continental Club (Austin, TX)

Derailers on November 21, 1997

So what if the Derailers look and sound like Buck Owens & his Buckaroos, circa 1965. The Derailers write nearly all of their material (most of it first-rate), have an unwavering honky-tonk ethic, and finally boast a rhythm section that can put their mix of California and Texas twang over live. If that's not enough, Owens himself is a fan. After inviting the band to headline at his 68th birthday bash in August -- and having them back to his Crystal Palace in Bakersfield twice since then -- the Country Music Hall of Famer has all but passed the torch on to these Austin upstarts.

Live Review

The O Jeez - Double Door (Chicago, IL)

The O Jeez on December 6, 1997

"I know what! This time you play guitar and I'll play drums! He can play the trumpet!" There's a bit of the O Jeez that puts you in mind of the Hardy Boys or Li'l Rascals movies: Somebody has this really fun idea to put on a play in the back yard. It would be a worthwhile endeavor for no other reason than to share with the world what a fetching way Jessy Greene has with a power chord. Unfortunately, so far there's little else this band offers to anyone not already avid fans of its members' other incarnations.

Live Review

Mickey Newbury - Bluebird Cafe (Nashville, TN)

Mickey Newbury on December 1, 1997

"I can tell this isn't gonna be a live album, friends," rued Mickey Newbury, referring to the rash of tuning, intonation, and memory problems that beset him at this show. "I can't get through one damn song without hitting a bad chord. It's like makin' love on a sidewalk." After yet another false start, this time on "She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye", Newbury, who had hoped to tape the show and release it as a live disc, looked as though he was ready to call it quits.

Live Review

Del McCoury Band - Bill's Music Shop & Pickin' Parlor (Columbia, SC)

Del McCoury Band on November 30, 1997

The Del McCoury Band is often cited as a shining example of all that's right in the world of bluegrass today, and after this long, late-afternoon show, it's easy to understand why. The venue, Bill's Music Shop, is hallowed ground for Carolina pickers; although the wide-slung stage is framed by a mural of burnt orange trees and foliage straight out of portrait-studio hell, the musical visions that have graced this space are undeniable. Not two weeks prior, Ralph Stanley appeared here, a monument to bluegrass music's enduring tradition.

Live Review

Roger McGuinn - Discovery Theatre (Anchorage, AK)

Roger McGuinn on September 6, 1997

Former Byrds leader Roger McGuinn billed this concert as a "one-man play" based on his 1996 CD Live From Mars, which features a collection of live recordings that chronicle his career up to the dissolution of the Byrds in 1972. McGuinn seldom strayed from the music and banter of the CD, frequently changing guitars and singing in his trademark high lonesome voice. His weathered pipes still recalled the days of yore, though they sounded a bit frail without the backup trillings of his former bandmates.