November 27, 2005

Dale Watson, Jason Boland and the Stragglers

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 2:25 am

I love to go out and see musicians perform, and around here that almost always means going to a Texas dance hall. The only problem with trying to see musicians at a dance hall is, well, the damned dancing. I like to be able to see the pedal steel player tear up the slide, discover what chords the guitarists are playing, and try to learn something by watching the fiddler. When there are all these people spinning in front of the band, getting in the way and generally being annoying, it completely takes all the fun away for me. But whatever, they are there to dance and have fun too.

Tonight I drove out to Bracken, Texas to the Hangin’ Tree Saloon to see Dale Watson. I had never been to the Hangin’ Tree before, but as soon as I entered I could tell this was not going to be a place for me. The main room was long and narrow, with Dale and his band playing at one end at floor level. There was a buffer region between the band and the tables, and as you can guess, it was packed with dancers. I stood as close to the front as possible to try to watch the musicians, but every few seconds someone in a cowboy hat would say “‘scuse me, pardner” and I would have to reposition for them to squeese by. I stayed for a few songs and decided that it would probably be best to just cut my loses and head out.

I remembered that Jason Boland and the Stragglers were also playing tonight, out at Floore’s Country Store. I arrived out in Helotes around 10:15 and it was perfect timing because the band started playing about 45 seconds after I walked in the door and paid the cover.

Several months ago I bought the Straggler’s recent album, “Somewhere in the Middle.” I really liked a few songs on the CD, especially “If You Want to Hear a Love Song” and their cover of “Hank” by Aaron Wynne of Eleven Hundred Springs. Jason also has a terrific singing voice, along the same lines as Waylon Jennings.

The first hour of the show they played songs that I had never heard, which was ok, and the crowd seemed to be enjoying it. The only thing that seemed a little out of place was the fiddler. I am not sure if he is a recent addition to the band or what, but his fiddle leads didn’t quite match the rest of the music. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the fiddle is one of the most difficult instruments to master, but he took the lead on several occasions when it would have been best to let the pedal steel shine. This is a common problem.

Anyway, after an hour or so they finally played “Hank” followed by “If You Want to Hear a Love Song.” While it was great to hear each song performed live, neither sounded quite as good as the album version. I stayed around for another song, bought a t-shirt and headed home.

I think Jason and the gang probably have a shot at becoming something big. They’ve got that true Texas Country sound, and they definitely look the part.

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