A Night with the Viper of Melody
Last night Alison and I went to the Jalopy in Red Hook for the Andy Friedman, Jack Grace Band, and Wayne Hancock show. Andy had informed us about the show when we saw him with Jeffrey Foucault at Joe’s pub a little while back. We were on the early side and as Andy left the stage from his set-up he remembered me which I thought was some serious points. Whether it was due to his memory for faces from his portraits or the fact that Alison thinks I was wearing the same shirt as last time is unclear.
This time Andy played with his band, the Other Failures. Overall their sound was good. The lead guitar had some nice, varied solos and the bassist put down a nice groove. The drummer, however, seemed to have something of a heavy hand and laid down beats that seemed a little sluggish at times–in one instance the song definitely called for a delicate touch or brushes and neither were there. As the set went on she improved and established a stronger, more confident rhythm. Drumming aside, I still prefer Andy solo in the format I saw him in with Foucault. Essentially, I want as little detracting from his seriously quality lyrics. He also emotes so well with his voice that it would difficult the other instruments and vocals to really mesh with him in a truly compatible way. Andy and his guitar do achieve this though.
Andy Friedman was followed by the Jack Grace Band that consisted of Jack, his wife Daria Grace on bass, a drummer, pianist, and lap steel player. Even if they hadn’t been excellent and if Jack hadn’t had a standout voice, I would have been happy to have had a particular mystery somewhat solved. At the beginning of the show Andy Friedman was basically performing for me, Alsion, and the Jack Grace Band, but I hadn’t known who Jack Grace was. He looked incredibly familiar and now I can suppose it’s possible I’ve seen him perform before at shows like the Johnny Cash Birthday Bash or other Brooklyn Country music events (Jan Bell and Sean Kershaw were in the house at least for Wayne Hancock’s set).
The band was nice and tight and had a lot of fun on stage. One song commemorated, or at least included a line about the night his grandfather lost a bar in a poker game and won it back by morning (“That time,” Dalia noted. “He had to drive a cab for a while once,” Jack added). They also had the song title of the night I think, “What I Drink and What I Do at the Track Are My Business.”
During a brief run to the bar for a Tecate I saw Wayne Hancock preparing for his set. His music channels the old soul of an amped up Hank Williams and adds a touch more swing. It’s hard to explain how much the man visually fits the part. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t come through with paraphernalia like boots or a cowboy hat. Instead it’s in his face and body language. He just naturally has this face with the expression of a mid-century longshoreman that, as the night went on, became filled with sideways glances, knowing smiles that bordered on smirks, and the general love of making musi
The band was excellent. Bob Hoffnar played a classic swing pedal steel. He traded solos back and forth with (if I have the name right) James Hunnicutt [jameshunnicutt.com] while Huck Johnson slapped a serious stand-up bass. Hancock’s style of country-swing is classic–built, as far as I could tell from just a few chords and followed the format of a few verses and choruses with a large number of solos back and forth between Hoffnar and Honeycut to fill out the mood and make for dancing time. And dance people did. In front of the stage, in the aisles there was a swirl of tattooed limbs and vintage dresses. It reminded me of a Brooklyn country music version of the more buttoned-down Red Stick Ramblers shows I’ve seen where there just wasn’t enough space to dance.
Another thing was notable. When people started shouting out the songs they wanted to hear, Hancock didn’t ignore them or snipe at them (except for one instance where someone kept insisting on “Lonesome Highway”) but instead said, “You want to hear ‘Big City Good Time Gal?’ Alright, boys this is in E as in ‘effort.” And away they went. Sadly, it was a school night and Alison had to work the next day so we took off around 12:15 — an hour and a half into the set which I’m told ran to 1:15 (about two-and-a-half hours) which apparently was nothing compared to last year’s four-and-a-half hour show that ran until 2 last year. I’m just excited for next year when I can plan appropriately. Set list for Wayne is below up to 12:15.
1) California Blues
2) Viper – Hancock does a solid version of this Fats Waller tune. I was happy he broke it out.
3) No Loving Tonight
4) I thought I heard him say this was the Milk Cow Blues, or Moo Cow Blues but I’m guessing it was actually Cow Cow Boogie. Hoffnar made the pedal steel moo before the song.
5) Working at Working
6) Tulsa – WH [to the newer guys in the band]: It’s basically the same song. But not really.
7) Freight Line Blues
8) Juke Joint Jumping
9) Johnny Law – Guy in audience: Johnny Law. WH: Aw! But we’re all having such a good time. Why do you have to bring up Johnny Law. Guy: ‘Cause he sucks. WH: Yeah, well we all know that. Luckily I haven’t had a run in with him in a while. Last time I said that I was in jail 24 hours later. . . . that’s a joke. Well, not really.
10) Miller, Jack, and Mad Dog – “Do yourself a favor and don’t go driving while you’re high.”
11) Viper of Melody
12) Big City Good Time Gal
13) Freight Train Boogie
14) Drinkin’ Blues
15) Your Love and His Blood – This is a solid track off the new album, Viper of Melody.
16) 87 Southbound – Solid been done wrong and walking out song.
17) Thunder Storms and Neon Signs – This song is just incredible. Maybe none better on the draw to the lonely life of the road. I kind of sensed Hancock might have been on autopilot for this one though.
18) Louisana Blues – WH: You gotta go to Louisiana before you go to Oklahoma.
19) Oklahoma Stomp – Instrumental – Bob Hoffnar on lead.
20) Drikin’ Wine Spo Dee O Dee – Very energetic version. Only time I’ve heard it live since I saw the Killer do it at Town Hall.
21) Double A Daddy – The singer lauds his attractive quality of always being able to drive a lady around because he’ll always be sober.
And then he played for another hour.