Tag Archives: Waylon Jennings


The Cactus Blossoms Fill Mercury Lounge with Perfect Harmonies

February 19th, 2016

The Cactus Blossoms – Mercury Lounge – February 18, 2016

“It’s the country in it, but really the harmonies,” a friend told me about the Cactus Blossoms. “Like Hank Williams crossed with the Everly Brothers.” High—and pressure-packed—praise, but in the case of the Cactus Blossoms, it was decidedly accurate. The Minneapolis duo of Page Burkum and Jack Torrey, brothers in life and in music, blend their voices and demonstrate a command of traditional country that, astonishingly, sounds nostalgic and modern, particularly live. They didn’t so much play a 70-minute headlining set as stop time for a little bit, hypnotizing a packed audience with bittersweet romances, sad-eyed waltzes, bristled cowboy songs and snatches of Western swing.

The Cactus Blossoms dipped expertly into Hank Williams (“Your Cheatin’ Heart”), Waylon Jennings (“Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line”) and others, but let many of their own tunes carry the night, from “A Sad Day to Be You” and “You’re Dreaming” to “Powder Blue” and “Stoplight Kisses.” But he standout may have been “Queen of Them All,” a swooning ballad that turned into a deeply felt romantic declaration with a happy ending.

Why did this work so well? The brothers let those rich, blended singing voices breathe, underpinning gorgeous harmonies with only the necessary amount of electric and acoustic guitar accompaniment and the insistent but never overpowering rhythm work of upright bassist Andy Carroll and drummer Chris Hepola, rounding out a new touring lineup. You could feel the heart in it—the authenticity and appreciation for this form of Americana and the potency of voices and spare instrumentation, without tricks or embellishment. And if you missed it, they return next week. —Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

(The Cactus Blossoms play Mercury Lounge again on 2/23.)




Willie Nelson Brings Rowdy Outlaw Country Music to Brooklyn

August 13th, 2015

Willie Nelson & Family – Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell – August 12, 2015

Willie Nelson & Family brought outlaw country music to Brooklyn last night, performing for a rowdy, sold-out crowd at Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell. With the opening notes of his 1973 song “Whiskey River,” an enormous Texas state flag unfurled behind the band, a tribute to the artist’s roots. With the Lone Star blazing behind them, Willie Nelson & Family tore through many of his most distinctive hits, including “On the Road Again” and “Always on My Mind,” with a loose, freewheeling energy.

“Let’s do one for Waylon,” announced Nelson, paying tribute to fellow outlaw countryman Waylon Jennings, as he performed “Good Hearted Woman,” encouraging the crowd to sing along during the chorus in a lively call-and-response. Jennings wasn’t the only artist to get a nod from Nelson, who also paid tribute to the likes of Hank Williams with a rendition of “Hey, Good Lookin’,” Merle Haggard with “It’s All Going to Pot” and Tom T. Hall with “Shoeshine Man.” Of course, Nelson, the longtime marijuana-legalization activist, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do “Roll Me Up” (a song that instructs: “And smoke me when I die”) to an overwhelmingly approving crowd.

Encouraging everyone to clap along, Nelson & Family finished the show with a version of the gospel hymn “I’ll Fly Away” before tossing his hat into the crowd and leaving. With Nelson’s talent and an abundance of outlaw spirit, it seems almost irrelevant to mention that he also happens to be 82, but then it makes him all the more impressive nonetheless, and Brooklyn was that much cooler in his presence. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK


Sturgill Simpson Transforms Music Hall into a Honky-Tonk

February 13th, 2015

Sturgill Simpson – Music Hall of Williamsburg – February 12, 2015

Without notice, a new honky-tonk opened on a stretch of N. 6th in Williamsburg near
the East River. Or maybe it just felt that way last night as the Music Hall hostedt to a rollicking set of country music courtesy of Sturgill Simpson and his excellent band. The room was as packed as it’s ever been, the crowd was hitched up and ready to go, and Simpson seemed larger than life onstage, delivering a dominating performance from start to finish. His sound owes much to the outlaw country greats of yore—Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash quickly come to mind—but Simpson proved throughout the show that his is an evolved country for the modern day.

To listen to Simpson sing songs from his best-in-genre 2014 release, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, is to listen to someone born to play this kind of music. His voice was like a fine Kentucky bourbon with a blend of flavors deserving of its own language to describe: oaky with hints of smoke and cinnamon, maybe. The set built like a good whiskey buzz, the aroma, the bite of the first sip on songs like “Long White Line” and “Voices,” the taste turning into a warm sensation in the belly. With each succeeding song, the sensation moved to the head and then a whole-body experience, alternating between soulful introspection and shoe-stomping fun. Much of that giddy feeling was due to Simpson’s stellar backing band, led by Laur Joamets on guitar, who seemed to contain all of country guitar playing in his single Telecaster. He impressively alternated between lightning-fast picking, beautiful slow-and-steady slide guitar, which often took on shades of a steel guitar, and then swirling galactic twang.

As the show built a head of steam, the crowd followed along in their gleeful whiskey drunk, chattering and jostling back and forth to the bar became dancing, whooping and hollering. The second half of the show was an avalanche of superlative country music. “It Ain’t All Flowers” had the packed house shouting along before opening up into one of several belt-hitching rock-out jams that seamlessly transitioned into the quieter “The Promise.” Next, “Railroad of Sin” reached the night’s most frenetic moment, with Joamets, Simpson, Kevin Black on bass and Miles Miller on drums as a locomotive in danger of hopping off the tracks, the dance floor exploding with a manic energy. After a triumphant, cathartic take on his self-professed favorite song on the new album, “Just Let Go,” Simpson’s voice as strong as it had been all night, the show closed with a crowd-pleasing sing-along on “Turtles All The Way Down,” leaving everyone feeling boozy and elated and wondering if there was still time for one more shot before hitting the road. The band obliged the thunderous ovation with two fingers of Simpson spirits, a soulful crooning of “I’d Have to Be Crazy” (“for the ladies”), his voice nearly channeling Otis Redding,  and finally a cover of the Osborne Brothers’ “Listening to the Rain,” which opened into a full-fledged T. Rex cover before looping back around to finish out in didn’t-think-it-could-be-topped fashion. Simpson and Co. exited the stage to more raucous applause and then, the strangest thing, that new honky-tonk disappeared. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


The White Buffalo Headline The Bowery Ballroom on Sunday Night

October 17th, 2014

Passionate singer-songwriter Jake Smith (vocals and guitar) grew up listening to country music and then punk before he began writing his own songs and enthusiastically performing them live while in college in Northern California. He eventually made his way back to Southern California and began working under the name the White Buffalo, joined by the rhythm section of Tommy Andrews (bass) and Matt Lynott (drums). With songs about outsiders and rebels, plus Smith’s whiskey-tinged vocals, the L.A. trio’s own winning take on Americana has been compared to Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr. and Townes Van Zandt. Following the release of several EPs, the White Buffalo (above, doing “The Whistler” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!) made waves amongst critics and fans alike with 2012’s Once Upon a Time in the West (stream it below)—about which American Songwriter opined, “The gravity of these tracks serve as somewhat of an announcement of Smith’s arrival, and it appears he doesn’t plan on going anywhere soon”—and 2013’s Shadows, Greys & Evil Ways (stream it below)—PopMatters said it’s “an album that always seems to find the perfect note. Is it a barrel of laughs? Nope. Is it worth listening to? Definitely.” Of course, you might also recognize some of the band’s tunes from Sons of Anarchy, which is perhaps why Paste labels their music a “biker-friendly brand of folk music.” But, regardless, you can experience the White Buffalo live and in person on Sunday night at The Bowery Ballroom. Local four-piece Swear and Shake open the show.


Pat Green Brings a Taste of Texas to Terminal 5 on Saturday Night

April 17th, 2014

Inspired by Lonestar musical royalty like Waylon Jennings, Robert Earl Keen and Willie Nelson, singer-songwriter Pat Green has been making Texas country music since 1995, while he was still in college. But he’s been fairly prolific ever since graduation, releasing nine studio albums and a pair of live LPs, in addition to becoming known as an energetic live performer, all of which has made him very popular in his homestate. Green’s most recent album, Songs We Wish We’d Written II (stream it below), highlighted by covers of “Even the Losers” and “Soulshine,” came out two years ago, but he’s currently working his way up and down the East Coast. And you can see Green (above, performing “Wave on Wave” for Texas Music Scene) this weekend on Saturday night at Terminal 5. Cory Morrow, who appears on Songs We Wish We’d Written II, opens the show.


Josh Ritter Closes Tour in Style at Music Hall of Williamsburg

March 10th, 2014

Josh Ritter – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 8, 2014

Do you like stories? Well, if so, you’re in for a treat any time you listen to any of Josh Ritter’s lyrically rich songs. The singer-songwriter has been weaving tales for more than a decade now, and his spring 2013 release, The Beasts in Its Tracks, only continues his great tradition. After an uproarious welcome to the stage of a sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night, the crowd hushed as Ritter opened with “Wildfires,” from his fifth album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, accompanied by two very accomplished musicians in Josh Kaufman and Zack Hickman. Kaufman’s prowess on the electric guitar shone early, on “Southern Pacifica,” while Hickman wowed with the lap steel on “Wings.” A pair of tunes from the last album, “A Certain Light” and “Bonfire,” had fans clapping and stomping their feet.

There was no questioning what spirit animal Ritter was when, as if an animal himself, he dropped to his knees and howled into the rafters during “Wolves.” The songwriter revealed that fan favorite “Joy to You Baby” was written just four blocks from the venue and that he was sincerely thankfully to be completing the tour in Brooklyn. Although Ritter touched upon gems from his catalog like “The Temptation of Adam” and “Change of Time,” he also treated fans to covers (Waylon Jennings’ “Abilene,” Ricky Nelson’s “I’m Not Afraid” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me a Place”) and introduced new material, “Cry Softly” and “Strangers.” For the latter, Ritter requested “romantic lighting” and got darkness in return, which only provided a better first listen for the new song without visual distraction.

By the end of the show, the audience had happily joined in to sing sections of “Galahad” and “Kathleen.” The trio returned to the stage after a brief exit to encore with “Snow Is Gone” and “Lillian, Egypt.” Properly concluding the evening, Ritter called for opener Gregory Alan Isakov to sing on the final song, “Wait for Love,” with everyone singing along to the chorus, “We all got to wait for love/ Wait for love, wait for love,” which continued even after they exited Music Hall. The conversations I overheard as I left ranged from “He was great. He was just smiling the whole time” to “He sells out everywhere.” There’s no doubt why Ritter is so beloved: his masterful storytelling and his sincerity—but most of all, for his songs that speak to the chronicle of love. —Sharlene Chiu





See Shooter Jennings Tonight at The Bowery Ballroom

May 21st, 2013

Despite essentially growing up on a tour bus as the only child of outlaw-country royalty— Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter—and later becoming a professional musician, Shooter Jennings has been able to successfully make a name for himself since his debut album, the Southern-rock-and-country-hybrid Put the “O” Back in Country, came out in 2005. Since then, Jennings has remained busy touring and putting out new material. Plus he settled down with Drea De Matteo, of The Sopranos fame, had a kid and relocated to New York City, much of which is reflected in last year’s Family Man. However, his most recent album, The Other Life (stream it below), released this past March, covers some darker terrain. And tonight at The Bowery Ballroom, Shooter Jennings (above, doing “The Deed & the Dollar” for Music Fog) plays a hometown show. Don’t miss it.

Exclusive Video: Jonny Fritz Walks the Streets

December 14th, 2012

Jonny Fritz—formerly Jonny Corndawg—was destined to become a country singer. Growing up in rural Virginia, he developed a clever sense of humor and the ability to be crass without being insulting. As a result, his music is more outlaw country, in the vein of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and David Allan Coe, a distant cousin. The Oxford American calls his 2011 release, Down on the Bikini Line, a “mix of plucky guitars, clean drumming and honky-tonk humor that he’s perfected in live performances.” And while walking along Houston Street, he performs one of its songs, “Chevy Beretta,” with Josh Hedley, exclusively for The Bowery Presents Live.

Fritz also talked to us about how country music flows from the South and that he writes that kind of music as a result of always listening to it. Watch the interview: http://tbp.im/SVv9C1. Check out his performance of “Ain’t It Your Birthday”: http://tbp.im/TPuhMP. And subscribe to The Bowery Presents Live to see more cool performances and revealing interviews like these, plus the latest info on our upcoming live-streaming shows.