Friday, March 17, 2006


If you were hoping for a thoughtful analysis of Neil Young's keynote speech -- sorry! For the first time in my SXSW history I overslept and missed the keynote speech. Blame it on my blogging.

It was another strong night of music. So strong, after the triple assault of The Fiery Furnaces, The Twilight Singers and The Drive-By Truckers, my delicate ears are still ringing.

The day started off nice and mellow at the party at The Gingerman hosted by singer/songwriter/producer Ed Pettersen and his lovely wife Jane. Truly a class affair with good music, tasty food (including fresh pineapples, blueberries and mango slices) and good friends. (You folks know who you are.)

My new musical discovery there was Andy Hersey, an Arizona cowboy singer (whose music you'll soon be hearing on The Santa Fe Opry.)

Ed played the strongest set I've ever seen him perform, backed by ex Dictator/Del Lord and longtime Pettersen crony Scott Kempner, who also played a solo set.

A funny note: during Kempner's set, a band at the bar next door, began doing a sound check on the outdoor stage -- a loud and insane ruckus that sounded like New Year's Eve in the nuthouse. Scott growled, "I guess it's revenge. I think when when I was a kid growing up, all my records sounded like that to my parents."

The first official SXSW showcase I caught Thursday night was Bobby Bare, making a rare appearance to promote his latest album The Moon Was Blue. His son Bobby Jr. sang background and played some guitar, harmonica and keyboards.

Bare's friendly voice still is in fine form. He played most of his greatest hits -- "Detroit City," "Streets of Baltimore," "Marie Laveau" -- but the stunner was "Are You Sincere" from the new album.

For my next musical treat I chose a jolter -- The Fiery Furnaces.

This brother-and-sister-led band made one of my very favorite albums last year, Rehearsing My Choir, much of it narrated by and centering around stories told by their grandmother.

I had wondered how the group would handle this. I imagined them using the taped voice of Granny Olga. I was secretly hoping for a guest appearance by the lady.

Instead, the Furnances did radically different versions of the Choir songs. In fact, live, they sound much different than their records. The synth-sounds are gone, replaced by a full guitar attack. The results are quite pleasing.

Speaking of favorite albums, Greg Dulli routinely makes my yearly Top 10 lists -- with his former group The Afghan Whigs and his latest one, The Twilight Singers.

He was in excellent form Thursday, playing his dark, intense music. He played some familiar Twilight tunes -- "Teenage Wrist Band," "Martin Eden" -- but much of his set was new material, presumedly from his upcoming album "Powder Burns."

It sounds promising. There was a slow, slinky, almost voodooistic song that I loved,

My only complaint -- nothing from the Whigs songbook.

And then there was The Drive By Truckers, who didn't play any of my very favorite songs -- "Sink Hole," ""Lookout Mountain," "Putting People on the Moon," "Steve McQueen" -- but still managed to pull off a terrific show.

This is the first time I've seen them with their current line-up, which includes singer/guitarist Jason Isbell and bassist Shona Tucker. They also had a steel guitarist sitting toward the back of the stage.

They did some new songs from their new album A Blessing and a Curse but the one that impressed me most tonight was "Cottonseed" from their previous album The Dirty South.

I'm about to pass out. Too bad I don't have any speech to sleep through on Friday morning.

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