The Salamanders had an album out a while ago called "Livestock in the Livingroom" (and by "a while ago" I mean 1992), and that's kind of how I feel when I'm digging a show at Abilene, corralled in with all my roots-rock brethren and sisteren. Tuesday, December 4, was no different as Nashville's Black Lilies brought a definite pump and groove to its acoustic-centered rockacana. It was beautiful and had a perfect electric tingle brought on and brought out by the steel/guitar player as he wrung out well-balanced notes and made them boogie and cry along with some of the livestock in attendance.
Friday night was the thriller for me as twang-master Bill Kirchen swing, swang, and swung his guitar like a six-string battle axe in front of a nearly overflowing Lovin' Cup. He was particularly on fire with his trademark call-and-response fluidity and charming self-deprecation. And since I've surrendered my guitar to disease, Kirchen invited me up to sing some Leiber and Stoller with him and the band. It meant more that he will ever know. What a class act.
I left the Cup on a cloud and floated over to Sticky Lips Juke Joint, where The Filthy McNastys were laying it down and stomping on it before picking it back up again. A few folks fought the urge to dance, and lost. The twin-guitar attack of Gregg Cole and TC Cummings was monstrous as they traded off slick and slippery slabs of salacious slide guitar. There's a little throwback going on here, and I'm not the only one to make an Allman Brothers reference -- not just from the guitars, but from the rhythmic groove and vocal growl as well. A totally red-hot, no-shit band.
Saturday night's performance by New York City's Hollis Brown at Water Street Music Hall was captivating for the most part -- with the exception of a few ill-placed covers -- and reminded me quite a bit of Whiskeytown. The band was in a unique position, as nobody knew what to expect. These guys will definitely draw the next the next time they hit town, as I witnessed hips and feet and legs responding to their sound -- not because they were supposed to, but because they felt it.
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds was the big draw of the night and opened its set like a firing squad. Horns and horns and a harmonica I couldn't hear laid the way for Sister Sparrow's bouncy alto and boundless energy. It was effortless R&B-tinged funky soul without cliché or pretense. But it was huge. Size is everything.