Saturday, December 28, 2013

                                   THE RED DIRT ROAD DOGS ARE ON A ROLL
                                                DENNIS AND BRENDA KIPPA

We've come full circle this week... all the way back to the first band we reviewed. It was early last spring, and we were newly besotted with the band called Uncle Lucius. That one experience has opened us up to a whole world of great music and all that goes with it.

Less than two weeks ago, on a Friday night in Tyler, we had another chance to see this great band and the fans who follow them around. We noticed very early on that the fans represent a very real and present part of the Uncle Lucius experience, and now that we have seen them play several more times, we've become aware that the band's relationship with their fans and other musicians within their circle is part of the lore that follows this unique group. Their legendary generosity was on display at this most recent concert because they hand-picked their opening act. In this way, they elected to share their own fan base with their opening act, and they provided a treat for their fans with the careful selection of Folk Family Revival, a four-piece band in which all but one are brothers. Not even for one moment did we feel that they were there to use up the time before Lucius arrived; these guys were there to show us their brand of music, and it did not disappoint. Most of their songs were original and they inspired us to buy their CD, lest we lose touch with them. For their encore, they chose a hearty rendition of The Beatles' Get Back, on which they were joined by Lucius' keyboard player, Jon Grossman. You'll never hear a better version of this great classic than the one we heard that night.

As for Lucius' own set, it provided everything we expect to hear, plus a surprise. Actually, even a surprise is expected when we see them, but the surprise is that you have no idea what it might be. This time, it was a healthy dose from Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger album. It was rolled out true to the original, as a tribute to Willie by fans of his music, which is another thing we can say about the Lucius band. In one more complete surprise and blowout, the band's keyboard player (Jon Grossman) again took center stage to play a rollicking version of the classic Down Yonder. When things like this happen, we find that we are quite grateful to be among those in the audience who are old enough to remember this classic, and it gives us extra appreciation for the fact that this band knows the song in spite of their own youth.

We reported recently that we were going to see The Band of Heathens. They are the band we told you about after we caught their on-line concert from Berkley, California. We were so excited to have the opportunity to see this group live that we got there nearly four hours before they took the stage.

As for the journey and the venue, we spent only one hour and 57 minutes to arrive at the door of The Granada Theatre on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas. It has been over twenty years since I (Brenda) have been in this area of my old hometown, and it had changed so little that I had to search for new sights. However, a light meal across the street was $30, and parking at the venue was $8, so there was a bit of change there. Armed with tickets to good seats, we were glad we had that foresight, because those without advance tickets were treated to a standing-room concert. (We might have appreciated that opportunity a few decades ago, but the seats were much preferred this time).

There were two opening acts. The first was Jamielyn Wilson, who also performs as a part of the trio called The Tricias. Like many of the best Texas acts, she hails from South Austin. Delivering a nice set of her own songs, she showed her strong vocals, good nature and easy way of bantering to the crowd.

The second act was a four-piece band called Southern Revival. They were instantly-entertaining, in part because of the unique sound and engaging smile of the lead singer. It was impossible not to smile with him. They were joined onstage for a few songs by a violin player whose name escapes me. I apologize for this oversight on my part, because she was a great addition and she deserves to be recognized. Also a standout member of the band was their drummer. We made a note of Southern Revival's name, in hopes that we will have a chance to see them again soon, hopefully out in our east Texas area.

As for The Band of Heathens, we feel certain that this band will be the one that will still be on everyone's radar many years from now. Reaching into a bag of superlatives, I come up empty-handed; the words are all too bland. These guys are the absolute magic-men of today's touring musicians. Yes, there are others – Uncle Lucius is certainly one – but when it comes to improvisational moments, where one song morphs into another and then goes into a riff to someplace you can't imagine, before it slides back into the original song again... these musicians are the champions of that. If you have never witnessed this kind of music before (think The Greatful Dead of days gone by), then you simply must. Don't leave this life without it!

We reported on The Band Of Heathens' ability to take their listeners on an unforgettable excursion after we saw them on-line. We noticed then that they seem to have ways of communicating with one another according to which one of them is going to assume the lead in each song. This band makes available many of their concerts for purchase after their live shows. From what we've seen of these, there is simply never a repeat of a concert. Never. It seems to go outside the laws their DNA; it's impossible to conceive of. For this reason, each concert is a ride into someplace wonderful, with master magicians at the helm. I'm a person of many words sometimes, yet I am one of simple tastes: give me more of The Band of Heathens! And as always, enjoy!

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