I'm convinced Austin, Texas' undisputed king of honky-tonk, Dale Watson had some of the diesel fumes from his tour bus siphoned into Abilene, Monday night. He wanted that packed little honky-tonk -- in its own right -- to have that authentic truck stop feel. Between sips of Lone Star -- "The only beer Jesus drinks," according to Watson -- Watson and his most excellent band, The Lone Stars, played a rousing set of wailin' vintage country with the centerpiece being Watson's dreamy, creamy baritone. And let's not forget the hair: Watson's boss coif is pure white as the Conway Twitty-driven snow. It's downright regal.
The quartet bopped and twanged a generous set as the crowd shifted between thrill and awe. Although he fights the good fight, Watson has given up on country in name only. There's no confusing him with anything but country and its fringes, but the man has gone and coined "Ameripolitan" and left "country" for the plastic pop dogs to savage, ravage, and ruin. Glenn and Amanda behind the bar, chewing gum and talking trash under their bottle-blonde beehives, just added to the beer joint feel -- though the beehives and waitress outfits I swear they were wearing may just have been a product of the diesel fumes on my brain.
I actually saw -- not just heard -- Florida guitar slinger Selwyn Birchwood at Abilene on Wednesday night as he towered over the crowd piled up to the little stage. Management had successfully aired out the diesel and tequila fumes from Monday's show and replaced it with the 6-foot-5 Birchwood's bluesy steam heat. He played a little dirtier this time going with the Muddy Waters slide guitar grease and grit. He says he's influenced by Hound Dog Taylor but I'm yet to hear him pull that out. When he does, then you can talk about grease and gaaa-rit, baby. Hoo-boy. Keep an eye on this tall cat, he's a good 'un.
I got to see Watson twice this week as he warmed the boards for The Reverend Horton Heat at The Tralf in Buffalo with rockabilly filly, Rosie Flores. Flores is a guitar picking legend with the energy and enthusiasm of a 9-year-old on an all sugar and Benzedrine diet. Pulling stuff from her catalogue and punctuating it all with a Sex Pistols cover, Flores horsed her turquoise Tele around masterfully and sang beautifully ensconced in a gold lame coat like Ziggy Flores or Rosie Stardust -- take your pick.
I've seen The Reverend Horton Heat countless times over the years and have to say this was the most random set I've seen him do yet. This is a powerful and tight trio; thundering drums, slap-happy rockabilly bass, and frantic guitar that'll paint the walls with your brains. He pulled out a lot from his latest album "Rev," which honestly isn't my fave, but live, blended in nicely with the classics and mayhem. This is the best stripped down show you'll ever see, not counting the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The Reverend did not disappoint, and anointed those who braved the sucky weather with some righteous rockabilly guitar. This is the word of the Frank. Amen.