Sunday, June 13, 2010


Thirsty Ear Collage

Lots of great music on the first day of this year's Thirsty Ear Festival at eaves Ranch. For those willing to withstand the wind and the dust (I still can't believe that nobody took the opportunity to sing some Woody Guthrie Dustbowl songs) it was a great time, as usual. And heck, Eaves Ranch is supposed to look like a dusty old western town. This year it was just dustier.

It was a bittersweet fun with the word that this will be the last Thirsty Ear to be held at Eaves Ranch -- where it's been held almost every year since 1999 (In 2001 it was at Bonanza Creek movie ranch and in 2004 it wasn't held at all). At this point I'm not quite sure what the future of the festival is. But it's been a great run.

All my snapshots from this year's festival can be found HERE.

Here's my favorite music from Day 1:

RICHARD JOHNSTON & PETER WILLIAMSAlthough he's not that well-known, Richard Johnston was one of the true highlights of the first day. This was his second Thirsty Ear appearance, the first being back in 2007.

For those unfamiliar, Johnston is a Memphis street musician, who earns a living giving performances on Beale Street. Usually he plays as a one-man band playing guitar or one of his home-made diddley bows with his bands and drums with his feet. He had a couple of his homemade cigar-box contraptions with him Saturday. "You don't have to spend $2,500 on a guitar to have a lot of fun," he said.

But he also expanded his one-man band show saturday with the addition of Santa Fe's own Peter Williams on bass for several songs. With Peter, Johnston sounded a lot like The Black Keys.

I bought a copy of Johnston's Official Bootleg #1. The album, recorded several years ago, is good, but it doesn't come anywhere close to his live performances.

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL As much as I loved Johnston, I think my favorite performance Saturday was Asleep at the Wheel.

I'd only seen them once before -- at Club West circa 1984. Some of the current members of the band might not have even been born at that point. But if anything, this band is even tighter than the old days, Eddie Rivers, who also has played with Wayne Hancock, is a monster on steel guitar -- and he doubles on sax. Jason Roberts is a great fiddler and singer, and singer Elizabeth McQueen is a delight. But deserving the most credit is frontman/founding member/western-swing visionary Ray Benson. He's the glue that holds it all together.

While I loved all the classic western-swing songs they did, ("Oh You Pretty Woman" is the one that got stuck in my head) I've got to say that Wheel's version of "Hot Rod Lincoln" Saturday nearly rivaled Commander Cody's and Bill Kirchen's versions.
Felix y Los Gatos was the last band I saw at last year's Thirsty Ear Festival, so I guess it's appropriate that they were the first I saw this year.

Last year the rain forced the Cats to abandon the outside main stage and play inside the hotel. But this year they were able to reclaim the main stage. And they did it like pros.

For those who've never seen them, Felix and the boys, who call Albuquerque home, play a mean mixture of ranchero, zydeco, country, blues and rock. Mostly they do originals, though they did sneak in a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Miss You" as well as their version of "Don't Mess with My Toot Toot." While Felix's version of this zydeco classic is a lot of fun, I have to admit I was relieved that this year that they didn't make it last 45 minutes like they did last year.

The Thirsty Ear Festival continues today with performances by Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women, Hayes Carll, Darrell Scott, Alex Maryol and more.

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