Sunday, April 27, 2008
Live Review: Whiskey Folk Ramblers and A.M. Ramblers at Lola’s (April 26)
Two bands of ramblers for the price of one. What a deal!
I can imagine few venues that would have been better suited for last night's show than the newly opened Lola's Saloon. Occupying the space that was one 6th Street Live, the southern burlesque decor with an Indie dive feel is inviting to the pearl buttons and cowboy boots of Fort Worth just as much as the mohawks and skinny-legged pants.
The Saturday night crowd welcomed a trio of local acts, including openers The Hope Trust and A.M. Ramblers out of Denton. Headlining the show and celebrating the release of their new CD, Midnight Drifter, were the Whiskey Folk Ramblers out of Fort Worth.
First on stage was The Hope Trust. Though a tad misplaced amongst the banjos and standing basses of the other two acts, this group nails the contemplative folk sound while managing to toss some guitar twang in here and there. They would fit in nicely with local artists like Telegraph Canyon, Dylan Sneed, or Doug Burr.
A.M. Ramblers jumped into their set with a couple of up-tempo openers, "I Could Get Mad" and "Pistol Pete." Both were sung by Andy Cox, whose voice reminds me of the Caller at a square dance. He's the go-to vocalist in AMR when they're looking for some nasally twang and the occasional whoop. The band's song repertoire ranges from dancehall to prairie trail riding, hitting on a more authentic old cowboy feel than many of the nu-bluegrass bands popping up. AMR's latest release, the Silver Sun EP, is a compilation of styles. Adept all along the spectrum, they're at their best when playing darker, harmonized tunes, exemplified by the woeful ballad, "Leavin' the Valley."
The crowd grew throughout the night, reaching a peak of something around 100 heads for the final act. The Whiskey Folk Ramblers took the stage looking like a band of Texas gypsies. Their opening songs, including "Going Where I Don't Know" and "River Song," smacked of bluegrass and American folk, but to assume that's all you'll get from this band is to stop far short.
As their set progressed, an Eastern European folk sound emerged, reminiscent of Gypsy and Klezmer music (think Fiddler, "If I Were a Rich Man," with a smoky, dive bar attitude). This latter group of songs, punctuated by a trumpet, accordion, and haunting violin, seemed to do the trick as the crowd broke into sections of revelers trying their hands at Yemenite dance moves on a Texas Two-Step learning curve. Watching WFR play made me wonder if this is what Charlie Daniels imagined when he described the "band of demons" who joined the Devil's performance before Johnny... with a touch of the avant garde.
The Whiskey Folk Ramblers played their entire set with an energy evocative of their dance-worthy, folk rhythms. Highlights from the performance included the more traditional country tune, "Great Grandson," which lead singer Tyler Rougeux explained was taught to him by his grandfather, "Remington 45 Blues" (streamed here), "Pies of Old Kylene," and "New Gypsy."
As illustrated by the success of New York's Gogol Bordello, European and Middle Eastern folk rhythms - Gypsy, Klezmer, and even Celtic - combined with contemporary, American genres, is a take-back-your-roots trend gaining popularity in the U.S. If you're looking for this in our metro, I suggest the Whiskey Folk Ramblers. Luckily for you, their debut album Midnight Drifter came out just last night. Fresh off the press for your discerning ears to approve.
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