Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Whitey Morgan and the 78's, Eddie Bear and the Cubs and Whiskey Breath at the Dive Bar - Tuesday Jan 28, 2014

I haven't made it out to the Dive Bar for a while now, but once i heard about this show, I knew I had to check it out, even on a Tuesday night. The club has improved its stage set up dramatically so that the sight lines are much better and the performing area seems much bigger - though it is probably just the fact that you can see more of the stage.

Opening the night was Whiskey Breath, a band that I have heard about for ages but never had a chance to see before now. I was certainly impressed with their country-inspired sound and by lead singer Brandon's terrific voice. Using a combination of either acoustic/tele/bass and drums or two acoustics and rhythm section, they create their own version of Americana, mixing country, folk, blues and whatever else suits their fancy. Nothing super flashy, just quality tunes performed well with great vocals. Speaking of vocals, Beau from the Beau Hodges Band - who apparently occasionally does a duo with Brandon - came up to sing backing vocals on a rockin' take on "Folsum Prison Blues", which is apparently the country version of "Gloria", as it has to be one of the most covered songs of the genre. Excellent opening for the night - I will certainly be keeping an eye on these cats.

Up next was Eddie Bear and the Cubs, a country inspired aggregation unofficially (I guess) led by Larry Reha, drummer extraordinaire for the Lucky Cheats and the Black Jetts. The one and only time I saw any version of this combo was way back in 2012 and Larry was drumming, with Luke from the Cheats on bass, Zach Ryan on lead vocals and a terrific pedal steel player. Tonight, Larry played guitar (acoustic and electric) and shared lead vocal duties with Erik from the Crimson Balladers (who also played acoustic guitar), Davis from the Jetts on stand up bass (who is also playing stand-up with the Million Dollar Quartet at times), a fantastic lead guitarist who had some mighty flashy and tasty licks (whose name I did not get - Brian Bissell, Larry tells me) and a great drummer.

While I have been trying to learn more about country music, I am still not well-versed in the genre, so, while I believe that the Cubs' set was most, if not all, covers, I don't know what many of them were. They opened with Link Wray's "Rumble", which moved into an instro version of a familiar tune (that I couldn't name), did at least one George Jones number and a slow, dynamic version of Jeff Beck's "Going Down" that morphed into a country rocker before stealing a snippet of "Voodoo Chile" and wrapping the whole thing up! Both Larry and Erik have great voices that are quite different (Larry's kinda like Johnny Cash, though a bit more melodic) and the musicians are all stellar, so I hope that they keep up this project in some incarnation or another.

Headliner Whitey Morgan closed the night with his Flint, Michigan combo inspired by his own grandfather, who played honky-tonks decades ago, along with "Waylon, Merle and Paycheck", as WM says. With a fine pedal-steel player (Brett), lead guitarist (Benny), bass (uncredited on their Facebook page - if he's a pickup, he is a damn fine one) and drums (Tony), Whitey sings and plays guitar - often doing melodic twin leads with Benny, who also adds nice vocal harmonies.

Their sound had a strong southern rock edge to it with a country influence - and yes, I know that's what southern rock is all about, though this was more overt than some - maybe like a hipper Charlie Daniels Band or something along those lines. They mixed their own original country numbers with classics from Merle Haggard and even a country take on Sam Cooke's "Bring It To Me" witha  sweet pedal steel solo before closing with a Whitey song with the familiar title "I Ain't Drunk, I'm Just Drinking". More superior musicians here and a great set, though, once again, I wish that it could have happened on a weekend instead of a Tuesday night. While a good number of people showed up for the gig, many had filtered out before the end of the night. Regardless, another fun night at the Dive Bar and more kudos to the club for booking a variety of fine music!