Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stoney LaRue at Exit/In

Early in contemporary music history, we had country and we had rock-and-roll. Over time, rock splintered into far more subgroups than country. Over the last 25-30 years, however, country has started to catch up and has gone through its own segmentation. Country is now largely divided into two buckets: Nashville Music Row country and Alt-Country/Americana. The former is pretty clear. The latter is not-so-clear and represents a catch-all for all sorts of country-influenced music that's not part of the Music Row formula.

A subset of Americana to emerge has been something called Red Dirt country. What is it? I have no idea except that Stoney LaRue claims to be a part of it. Stoney is from Oklahoma. Because he's not from Texas, maybe the label is simply supposed to separate music such as his from like-sounding music by Texas performers. In any event, Stoney and his band rolled into Nashville last Thursday, and I decided to give them a live listen.

I arrived in time to see the last song by the opening band, The White Owls. The lead singer looked like a cross between Jack White and Johnny Depp. The song was apparently titled "Its Not Over" based on the chorus. Truer words were never spoken. I don't know how long they'd been into it as I went through the door, but the song continued ...a lot..."Its Not Over" many times...for another seven or eight minutes as I got my first brew and found a spot on the floor.

After an acceptable timeout for the set change and some cool filler house music (including Hayes Carll, George Jones, and James McMurtry), out walked the bandana'd, bearded, black-shirted, backed by his band, feature act. (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

I was introduced to Stoney LaRue's music by two sources.
The Exit/In's house sound seemed a bit off. While the drummer, bass, lead guitar, and Stoney's lyrics were loud and clear, the same couldn't be said for the rest of the band. The mandolin/fiddle player and harmony vocalist could barely be heard. Fortunately, the Exit/In is small enough you could still hear him a bit without being mic'd. Also, the keyboardist had a boatload of equipment, but his keys were overpowered by the rest of the band.

Nonetheless, the band played about 2 hours and shared a bit of banter with the audience. I'm not sure if Stoney personally knew any of the folks up front, or if he is normally one to chatter back and forth with his audience. Either way, he seemed to have a good time - especially when two Jaeger Bombs were purchased and given to him.

The show ended with "Oklahoma" - or so it seemed. It was a great tune, but when it ended abruptly Stoney and the band took off their instruments, gave a tepid wave, and left the stage. That was it - or at least many folks thought so. About half the crowd immediately headed for the door despite the house lights still being down. I stayed knowing every band I've seen always has the obligatory encore - regardless of audience reaction.

But in this case, there was no clapping, hollering, anything. Just acceptance. For the 50% of the audience who stuck around, most just started talking or using their phones just like they had before the show began. A very puzzling experience.

I kept my seat knowing the band would return. They all do, right? Sure enough, the band came back out and ripped off a good number that included band intros.

Although I'm not completely familiar with all of Stoney's music titles, I think I captured pretty much all of the set list. Most of the cuts were from his first studio release "The Red Dirt Album".
  1. I Wanna Live
  2. Shot Full of Holes
  3. Looking Out for No. 1
  4. Long Black Veil (by request)
  5. Solid Gone
  6. Breakfast? Betty? - I missed his intro to this song while talking to girl near me about the merch table. Competing priorities. Oh well.
  7. Texas Moon > One Chord Song
  8. Staying Out of Trouble
  9. Downstream (a new song)
  10. Going Down in Flames
  11. Gravel Yard (I think - It was a bluegrass song, and aren't they all about the same anyway?)
  12. Idabel Blues
  13. Velvet (a new song - a ballad - could a song named Velvet be any other type?)
  14. On The Outside (?) - I think this may have been the title based on the chorus. The unique aspect of this song was Stoney's guitar sound. He queued some kind of sound effect to create a sound that reminded me of Frampton Comes Alive. The big difference between then and now is it was Stoney's guitar was Pete's voice box.
  15. Oklahoma
  16. Encore: Blind Man (written by fellow Oklahoma songwriter Tom Skinner) > Band Intros > Oklahoma Breakdown > Spirit in the Sky
The introduction of the keyboardist and mandolin/fiddle player were pretty perfunctory. Everyone welcome from wide spot Texas Mr. So-and-So! A smile and head nod to the crowd and a short solo followed. Stoney then turned to bassist Jesse Fritz (the only name I caught) to introduce him. As he led into his solo, the whole band transitioned to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall". Hey Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone!

Once Fritz' run was done, the band resumed with Stoney's Oklahoma Breakdown. As that song wound down, Stoney introduced his lead guitarist. Suddenly, the lauched into into Zeppelin's "The Ocean".

Upon returning to Breakdown, the band closed out the night with a cover of the Norman Greenbaum's classic "Spirit in the Sky". Not exactly a song I'd expect from a "red dirt" band, but it kept me on my toes and put a smile on my face.

Because I haven't found any Nashville vid footage, here's an example of Blind Man and Stoney's"Framptonish" guitar work from a show earlier this year:

While I enjoyed the show, Stoney's casual interaction with the audience during the night, and the surprise drop-ins of Pink Floyd and Zeppelin, he still has room to grow as a songwriter. Too many of his songs follow one after the other with a repeated, predictable, 120 BPM 4/4 time. Not every song is composed this way. Tunes such as Idabel Blues, Gravel Road, and On the Outside differed. But enough songs did follow that pattern that it was noticeable. Hopefully, he'll vary it a bit with future releases.


1 comment:

  1. This seems dated, hopefully you'll read this. The Texas Country/ red dirt scene ( almost interchangeable ) is Very Different than the Nashville scene. Had you Caught Stoney playin in San Antonio, or say Corpus Christi you would have caught a very different vibe. Those genre's are based off of live preformances and crowd interaction most artists in this scene live off the bread and butter 4/4 time 120 bpm, and the crowds sometimes huge 10,000 plus people resent the pop artistry, label managed Nashville music scene