Tag Archives: Jason Isbell

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A Rowdy Night of Real-Deal Country Music with Wheeler Walker Jr.

June 7th, 2017

Wheeler Walker Jr. – The Bowery Ballroom – June 6, 2017

(Photo: Courtesy of Thirty Tigers)

Is the country music of today really country? Sure, the artists all over CMT and country radio are crammed down our throats with that label bedazzled onto their artificially frayed denim vests, but calling these artists real country is as backward as the Bud Light trucker hats these musicians sport in their gaudy music videos. The Outlaws have been replaced by the Bros, and it’s safe to say that Nashville needs a hero to bust down the saloon doors to dole out some serious comeuppance to the perpetrators at the top of the charts. That hero is Wheeler Walker Jr. and bringing real country music to New York City was his goal when he played The Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night. Well, sort of anyways. (More on that later.) Opening the show, Nashville’s Republican Hair treated the crowd to a short but fun set that equally paid homage and skewered some of the touchstones of ’80s rock radio: A little dash of Rick Springfield here, a little sprinkle of the Cars and Prince there. Wild frontman Luke Dick whipped the crowd into a frenzy as he performed their final songs within the audience. Once their time was up, the band (excluding Dick) made a quick costume change into some proper honky-tonk attire and assumed the role of the backing band for the artist with the biggest print on the marquee.

Fans roared with excitement as Wheeler Walker Jr. took the stage, and their enthusiasm never faded throughout his hour-long set. A provocateur and world-class shit-talker, Walker Jr. (the alias of comedian Ben Hoffman of the short-lived Comedy Central Show The Ben Show) has been taking Music City to task ever since the release of his debut Redneck Shit last year and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down on his brand-new album, Ol’ Wheeler. Throughout the music, he takes shots at all of the front-runners in the biz and manages to sneak in some twisted ballads in between. If you’re in on the joke, it’s an absolute laugh riot. But having said that, his songwriting chops are palpable, and superproducer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell) brings a real-deal authenticity to his recordings. If you’re not paying attention, a song like “Fuck You Bitch” might just sound like one of the best country ballads of the past few years.

Walker Jr. treated the crowd to a mix of both of his albums, and it was a trip to see fans with their fists in the air singing along to the likes of “Better Off Beatin’ Off” and “Eatin’ Pussy/Kickin’ Ass.” His band was top-notch and could have just as easily melted your heart with delicate pedal-steel guitar on one song and then set the room ablaze on the next. The crowd was fully onboard, chanting, “Wheeler” and even flinging half-empty beers onto the stage in between songs. At one point, as Walker introduced the new song “Poon,” a takedown of Nashville’s top-tier recording artists, he was greeted by some boos when he described his intense hatred of the band Florida Georgia Line. But he quickly felt the need to clarify his reasoning: “I’m sorry,” said Walker Jr. as he took a sip from a can of Tecate, “but if you play country and you’re name ain’t me, then fuck you.” The crowd was won back in a flash and sang along loud enough to fill the Bowery up to its rafters. It was a rowdy night of red-blooded real-deal country music that was truly one to remember. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing

 

 

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Jason Isbell – Beacon Theatre – February 25, 2016

February 26th, 2016

Jason Isbell - Beacon Theatre - February 25, 2016

Photos courtesy of Marc Millman Photography | www.marcmillmanphotos.com/music

Contest

Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Jason Isbell on 2/26

February 23rd, 2016

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Jason Isbell (alongside Shovels & Rope) hits the Upper West Side twice this week to play the Beacon Theatre on Thursday and Friday. Both shows sold out (very) quickly, but The House List is giving away two tickets to see the very recent Grammy winner on Friday night. Don’t have tickets but want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. It’s easy. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Jason Isbell, 2/26) and a brief message explaining your favorite song on his fifth stellar solo release, Something More Than Free. Eddie Bruiser, who loves the entire album, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.

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Two Nights of Jason Isbell and Craig Finn This Week

May 19th, 2015

For many, Jason Isbell first rose to fame during his six-year tenure as lead guitarist in Drive-By Truckers. And although he initially went solo with the release of the bluesy, punk-tinged Sirens of the Ditch (stream it below) in 2007, Isbell (above, performing “Cover Me Up” for Austin City Limits) really broke through into the mainstream with his fourth solo album, the universally acclaimed Southeastern (stream it below), done without his backing band, the 400 Unit, out in 2013. “Listeners are able to hear an unfiltered representation of this Alabamaian prodigy, and the results are so stellar it’s not hyperbole to say that he could be his generation’s answer to Steve Earle,” gushed A.V. Club. His next album, Something More Than Free, lands in July, but you can hear a single from it now.

Singer-songwriter Craig Finn has been the frontman of the swaggering Hold Steady for more than a decade. And while the band is rightfully known for their literate songs and energetic live shows, Finn (below, doing “Jackson” for KCMP FM) has still found time to do some solo work— performing and recording music. His well-received full-length, Clear Heart Full Eyes (stream it below), arrived in 2012 to plenty of love. The LP “finds the songwriter looking for a change of sonic scenery that feels more like a vacation from his other work than a departure, with the singer maintaining his identity as a songwriter as he adapts to a more distinctly country sound,” according to AllMusic. Don’t miss Jason Isbell and Craig Finn tonight at the Space at Westbury and tomorrow at the Capitol Theatre.

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A Fun Bob Dylan Celebration for a Great Cause

November 13th, 2013

Dylan Fest – The Bowery Ballroom – November 12, 2013


I don’t care who you are or what you listen to, everyone has a favorite Bob Dylan song. And if you were at last night’s sold-out Dylan Fest at The Bowery Ballroom—the second of two—there was a good chance you heard yours … and a good chance you didn’t. Close to two-thirds of the way through the show, about the time when Patrick Carney was on drums behind Lukas Haas, it became clear that at the rate the vocalists were rotating across the stage singing one Dylan song after another that it would take about a week to play all of the classic canon.

No matter, what we did get to hear was great. The constant stream of guests made the show fun, while the ready-for-anything Cabin Down Below Band made the show good. We got bluesy rocking Dylan, country Dylan, angry Dylan, sweet Dylan, sing-along Dylan (Mikki James on “Tangled Up in Blue”), sexy Dylan (Karen Elson going dark and slinky on “Cold Irons Bound”) and even some funky Dylan (Meshell Ndegeocello and Doyle Bramhall II fronting a great “Maggie’s Farm”). The pace was fast and furious and a hoot with a bottle of show-sponsor Jameson making the rounds and the production staff doing almost as remarkable of a job as the performers.

Take your choice of highlights, each performer seemed to pick the perfect song to cover: Norah Jones crooning “Just Like a Woman,” Ruby Amanfu and her wowza! vocals backed beautifully by bass, drums and pedal steel on “Not Dark Yet,” Jason Isbell and his wife, Amanda Shires, playing a stunning “Lay Lady Lay” and, my personal favorite, Elvis Perkins singing “Motorpsycho Nightmare,” the full band coming to a head, Perkins not missing a beat while he slyly sang the lyric “lookin’ just like Tony Perkins.” Random pockets of the crowd would ignite as their favorite song would begin, singing along to Dylan both well known and obscure. After Erika Wennerstrom and house bassist Austin Scaggs riled up the crowd with a sing-along “Like a Rolling Stone,” the night fittingly ended with “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” with a certainly fire-code-flaunting crowd of pretty much every musician onstage at once. They might not have made it to every great Dylan song, but, damn, they had a lot of fun trying. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Mike Benigno | mikebenigno.wordpress.com

(All ticket proceeds from both shows goes to Sweet Relief. Sweet Relief Musicians Fund provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability or age-related problems.)