Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Blasters, the Lucky Cheats, the Crimson Balladers, the Beau Hodges Band - Las Vegas Country Saloon Friday Jan 18,2014

When I first moved to LA in 1979, seeing the Blasters at clubs like the Cathay de Grande, Club 88 or the Starwood were some of the most fun shows that I went to. They might not have been my all-time favorite band, but you could always count on them for a sweaty good time! When they started getting more popular and playing larger places i sorta lost touch with them other than seeing them around on the "scene" or playing in a off-shoot band for fun. But, the chance to see them at an intimate place like the Country Saloon - especially with some of my fave local bands - was something not to be missed!

The night opened with the Beau Hodges band, a group that has undergone a few incarnations since we first cross paths a couple of years ago, but continue to grow in strength and popularity with Beau at the helm. With twin guitar team Jon and Hoz adding a variety of sounds, from blues slide to stinging leads to power chords to (emulated) acoustic picking, their "red dirt rock" is a mix of bands like Lynryd Skynyrd/Allman Brothers' southern rock and country, bluegrass, and whatever else they feel like throwing in! A couple of the highlights from this shows was their drummer playing banjo and he stomped out the beat behind the kit on a couple of tunes and the boys doing spectacular 5-part harmonies on another!

Next up was a group that I had never seen before, but the Cheats recommended them so I had high hopes, the Crimson Balladers. They consider themselves country/Americana, which is as good of a description as any, and reminded me of early Dave Edmunds 50's/country/pop hybrid songs(though that might have been due to me listening to him right before I went to the show!). They did covers from the likes of Hank Snow and Ricky Nelson, with some nice harmonies and fine playing. The line-up included the standard 2-guitar, bass, drums but with an added acoustic guitar and a percussionist, which you just don't see enough of! My only complaint was that for a live show they should have had more upbeat numbers, but the remedied that with a CCR-inspired take on "I Put a Spell on You" for their closer. Definitely worth watching as they grow.

I've ranted'n'raved about the Cheats innumerable times and suffice it to say that this rockin' blues outfit is one of the top groups in town and were one of the most appropriate bands possible to open for the Blasters. On this night they wailed on great tunes like RL Burnside's "Skinny Woman", Sonny Boy Williamson's "Eyesight to the Blind" (with fantastic extended solos for harpist Jeffrey and guitarist Wade, who also sang lead) and "Rollin' and Tumblin'" with Wade on lap steel. As a extra-special bonus they had the lovely Shanda come up for "Been Told Once" from their terrific CD. Great set!

Of course, the men of the hour were the legendary Blasters! The three original members - Phil Alvin (guitar/vocals), Bill Bateman (drums) and John Bazz (Bass) are now joined by Keith Wyatt on lead guitar when Phil's brother Dave is occupied elsewhere. I gotta say, while the guys are looking their age, they still dress in the usual 50's/stylish way (kinda good as they dress kinda like old guys even when they were young!) and Phil's voice - astoundingly - hasn't changed a bit. I know that he has had some recent, serious health issues, but he sounded fantastic and still had his trademarked huge grin on his face the whole time!

They opened with the self-descriptive Dave Alvin classic, "American Music", did "Border Radio", "Tiger Man", "Dark Night" (a heavy, moody blues with some fine lead playing by Wyatt), "1 Red Rose on a New Black Dress", covers by Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Johnny Paycheck, a couple of tunes that let Phil show off some cool harp playing and, of course, "Marie, Marie" - among others. Lots more great stuff, as well - they certainly gave the crowd their money's worth! Unfortunately, as tends to be usual for Vegas, the audience was somewhat sparse, but that didn't stop the gents from giving all they had! Truly excellent night of music!