Concert Review: Ruff Alley Rounders, Ryan Montbleau Band, Lowkey


Though the answer sounded rather obvious, it had never dawned on me before upstanding, upright bassist Brian Williams spelled it out.

"That's because you can't clog on grass," he said. Williams was sitting in on the bottom end with The Ruff Alley Rounders, bringing extra happy to Abilene's Friday night happy-hour hootenanny. He was explaining the board lying in front of the four-piece band as it fiddled away in the corner. The young lady that mounted this board -- there to amplify her red-cowboy-booted feet -- bobbed and clogged and stomped in an exuberant gallop that resembled step dancing if the Irish ever moved their arms. The band huddled around a single mic King Biscuit style and bopped instrumentally rural and Tin Pan as folks washed it all down along with the dust of the work week.

Boston soul-shouter Jesse Dee is getting bigger and better, and a little more polished. I don't begrudge the man success, but I liked it better when he served up his shaggy blue-eyed soul a little more close to the bone and medium rare. The kids still ate him up as he warmed the stage for the Ryan Montbleau Band Friday night at Water Street Music Hall. Walking in off of Water Street I had sort of dismissed Montbleau as one of those mixing-in-a-lot-of-everything jamsters. Well, I was right to a certain degree, except for the indifference I expected to feel. It wasn't there. I've got to tell you, I was knocked out by the band, the groove, the tone, and the dynamics. It was all wonderful. Sure, the band jammed. But when you've got cats with a well-rounded vocabulary, you tend to listen a little closer and dance a little longer.

Mochester from Rochester was sandwiched between the two acts, rocking steady and in earnest with an exemplary drummer that really stood out as the band plugged though its own mid-tempo rockers and took a detour into Stevie Wonderland.

On Saturday night I was due for something hard and heavy and stuck my head in the metal blast furnace that was Lowkey at the Firehouse Saloon. The band was a volatile mix of old-school heavy with new-school arrangements, kind of like Pantera, just not as over the top. The band bounded about maniacally and chugged full steam beneath vocals that roared in melodic urgency and guttural intimidation.