Friday, September 19, 2014

The Unwieldies CD Release party at the Velveteen Rabbit / The Lucky Cheats & Junior Brown at Triple B

It was a crazy night for us in Las Vegas. After not going out at all for weeks, this night brought about two gigs that, unfortunately, were taking place almost simultaneously. So, we lost out on some of both, which is a shame.

First up was the Unwieldies CD release show for their new album Always the Optimist at local watering hole, the Velveteen Rabbit. In full disclosure, I also opened this show with my new act (with my lovely wife, Melanie), the Devil's Duo. We hadn't been outside at VR before and the patio was pleasant, the sound was great (thanks Max!) and it was a beautiful night. We were only able to stay for a portion of the Unwieldies set, but dug their new member, dobro/guitarist Richard Wells, and they sounded terrific as they ran through tunes from their two CDs. Grab them both and see them when you can!

We jetted over to Triple B (Backstage Bar and Billiards) since we were told that Junior Brown was going to play at 11:00 and demanding that he not go on any later, but discovered that he acquiesced and the Lucky Cheats were rockin' the joint when we arrived (missed Clydesdale and Eddie Bear and the Cubs, to our regret). The Cheats put on a helluva show though, with several new tunes including jumpin' swingin' number ("Ride Baby Ride", I believe) with Wade - one of my all time favorite local git-players - taking the lead vocals while cuttin' some smokin' solos. Really one of the best and most fun groups in town. I'm told their set was cut short, which explains the guitar abuse in the final picture - after it had been kicked around a bit!

Then, with little ado, we got the great Junior Brown! I had been told some horror stories about him and his temper, as well as his new "born-again" status, and he did seem to have a bit of an attitude on stage (a number of complaints about the PA sound), but it seemed like he eventually loosened up and enjoyed the crowd who were there to have a country rave-up with him!

I've ranted'n'raved about Junior a number of times on this blog and think that he's one of the top guitar players out there today, and his mastery of his mutant "guit-steel" (Telecaster and lap steel melded together) is a sight to behold. His fingers were flying the entire night and while I caught some tricks and tips, for the most part his hands were a blur! I love how he switches seamlessly from one neck to the other and how he manages to make the steel sound like a pedal steel with his ring finger bending notes and his use of a volume pedal. So much fun to watch!

His band for the night was a swingin' electric bassist and a drummer with a super-stripped down kit (just snare and one cymbal - though he made a lot of noise with what he had) along with Junior's wife, Tanya Rae, on acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals. The harmonies were superb when she and the drummer sang along, and Tanya took the lead on one song - I think it was called "I Wouldn't Buy a Used Car From Him" - and has a terrific voice. There were a lot of numbers that I was not familiar with, but he did "Party Lights", "My Wife Thinks You're Dead" and "Highway Patrol", with an amazing extended solo.

An uptempo swing/rockabilly tune was a highlight that included another great guitar workout and there was a slower one ("San Antone"?) where he showed off some jazzier chords. A cool instrumental rag appeared and a funny lyrical twist in "Phantom of the Opry" along with some light-hearted political jabs in a blues cut, "Trust Me" (without ever seeming to take sides - nice tightrope act there!). More humor in "Hang Up and Drive", more wild leads in "Freedom Machine" and a insanely good Albert King blues instrumental. He closed out with a surf instrumental medley that incorporated "Apache" and "Secret Agent Man", among others. Bummer that he took off without an encore, but I know that the venue was trying to keep the night moving and local rockabilly/blues monsters, the Delta Bombers, still had a set to do!

Most people there commented that this was the most crowded that they had ever seen this venue and Brown seemed to enjoy himself, so hope that he will be back! Love watching that kind of talent!