Pat Green Makes His Crossover Case

patgreen.jpg Pat Green
Pearl Street
September 7, 2007

With Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow and Uncle Kracker crossing over to country, it’s way past time for rock music to return the favor and make Pat Green the kind of national-level star he is in his home state of Texas.

Thursday night’s show at Pearl Street in Northampton had the requisite bona fides of a good country show, with more than a few cowboy hats in the crowd. But when the local honky tonk radio station emcee introduced Green and his band, she shouted “are you ready to rock?”

The lanky dirty blond guitarist is a worthy heir to Bob Seger, with a dusty tenor and easygoing stage manner that belies his punchy rock and roll sound. His five-piece band muscled through a set that proved just how conflated southern fried Skynyrd boogie and arena country music have become.

The blue state rednecks ate it up. When he kicked the show into gear with “Cannonball,” the title track from his first release for new label BNA, Green answered with a call to “tear down the wall.” With three electric guitars backing him, the sonic boom might have done it.

Talented fiddle player Billy Matthews gave early hits “Texas on My Mind” and “Three Days” a nice rustic touch, the latter made more charming by Green’s amiable banter about how his wife “used to love that song, now – nothing.”

Despite the classic rock vibe pervasive on the stage, Green’s Texas roots were never far from view, particularly on “Here We Go,” a song from his early “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas” that name checked Lone Star and Shiner Bock Beer. On “Southbound 35,” guitarist Chris Suoka snapped out leads like Eddie Van Halen while Green sang, “I got Texas in my soul.”

Equally incongruous but immensely entertaining was the selection of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” mid-set. “That’s probably the strangest thing you’ll ever hear me play,” cracked Green, but what’s truly bizarre is just how well a fiddle fit into the funked-up song.

When he hews to the edges where country and rock meet, Green makes a strong case for the renown lavished on performers like Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts. “Carry On,” a perfectly crafted track from Green’s first studio album, the semi-hit “Wave on Wave” from the album of the same name and “Baby Doll” from “Lucky Ones” (his final UMG release) are all sadly neglected outside the Lone Star State.

It’s a problem that performers like Kelly Willis and others solve simply by staying in Texas, but Green doesn’t seem so inclined. On Thursday, he explained his slowness catching on nationally: “My record company sucked.” There’s much hope that he’ll reach a larger audience with“Cannonball.” “Feels Like It Should” is making motion in the country charts, but like much of Pat Green’s repertoire, the Mellencamp-esque song has the elements to jump the rock and roll firewall.

While he waits for that break, Green soldiers on with his talented young band, opening shows for Dave Matthews as well as Kenny Chesney, and working the northern dance halls to small, but grateful crowds.



Local Rhythms – Hexerei Battles and Wins

hexerei.jpgAfter hosting many a battle of the bands, Hexerei found itself in the unfamiliar position of competing in one last weekend at Mark’s Showplace in Bedford. The stakes were high enough. The victor would open for Korn at the Family Values show in Mansfield this Saturday.

Winning meant exposure to thousands of fans for a band used to hundreds on a really good night. That many eyeballs could lead to song sales on MySpace, not to mention T-shirts, thongs and beer cozies at the merchandise table. The chance to be the only local group sharing the stage with a bunch of national headliners was too good to pass up.

Coming out on top in one of these involves music only to a degree. As in politics, whipping up your base is the real key to winning. Hexerei’s ability to attract fans to their shows is an art form. In many ways, it’s more impressive than Travis Pfenning’s bullhorn vocals. In the competitions they’ve hosted, crowd size and intensity are as important as overall sound in the judge’s criteria.

So Hexerei heeded the advice they’ve given to bands like Broken Mindz and Stonewall, and brought enough of their own fans to fill the club. Most of them wore band t-shirts, and all of them made a deafening noise when Hexerei started to play. They kept the energy level high throughout the show.

The band faced long odds in the competition. Split, a Boston-based band on the bill, was already getting airplay on WAAF-FM. The Worcester station co-sponsored the show, and also provided a number of the judges. But the band played the set of their life, according to those who saw it, and there was no doubt that they’d prevailed, something their final score quickly confirmed.

Tickets are still available for this Saturday’s show; the Tweeter Center is even offering a “4 for 3” special. Hexerei also plays a warm-up set Friday night at Electra, with Window Pain, a Dover-based band that includes Charlestown native Jared Streeter, opening.

After a spot of bad luck that included the disappearance of band property and, briefly, Pfenning’s voice, things are going good for Hexerei. Their summer tour led to an offer for a few more Michigan dates, and Claremont’s Moose Lodge has agreed to let them present a show October 7th.

In the meantime, here are some options for the coming weekend:

Thursday: Chicago, Hampton Beach Casino: In the annals of horn rock, this band is the Beatles, Stones and Who all wrapped into one. They’re famous for love songs, but also hard charging tunes like “25 or 6 to 4” or “I’m a Man.” The original horn section still provides the band’s backbone, though familiar faces like Peter Cetera and the late Terry Kath are gone.

Friday: Al Alessi, Sophie & Zeke’s: A welcome return from a guy known for everything from soulful jazz to Roy Orbison covers. A mainstay at Eastman’s annual “Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon” series – he’s booked this year as well – Al has an easy touch on the guitar, and a voice that inhabits Van Morrison songs as easily as his own originals.

Saturday: Oneside, Salt Hill: The buzz on this Boston combo is building. They’ve graced stages from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC to Austin’s SxSW festival. A blend of roots, rock and psychobilly that reminds me of Wilco or the Band, but is really too unique for such easy comparisons. Ian Knox on electric banjo is a revelation.

Sunday: Brad Paisley w/ The Wreckers, The Big E: It’s that time again. The Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA is the Humvee to every county Fair’s Prius, especially when it comes to music. He’s known for his singing, but Paisley secret weapon is his guitar. Michelle Branch goes country with the Wreckers.

Monday: Golden Smog, Paradise Boston: These members of Soul Asylum, the Jayhawks and Wilco have played (mostly) off and on since the late 80’s. After an eight-year hiatus, they released “Another Fine Day” in July. Their Paradise show is part of 6-city mini-tour, and the only dates Jeff Tweedy is playing.

Wednesday: Three Wheel Drive, Canoe Club: When CCTV went on the air, a tape from the Orford River Jam would occasionally pop up. Often, members of this band – Phil Singer, Bruce Brough and Byron Berwick were featured. Tonight, fellow River alum Laurianne Jordan joins them for a night of pickin’ and grinnin’.

Further out: Mark your calendars for shows from Rosanne Cash (October 4, Dartmouth College), and John Hiatt (October 14, Lebanon Opera House). Also, don’t forget the Claremont Fall Festival October 7, with the Chili Cook-Off and Apple Pie Contest, music from the Flames, and an evening performance by Gary Sredzienski & the Serfs at the Opera House.

Hal Ketchum at Claremont’s Historic Opera House 10/1/2006

hal_ketchum_small.jpgIt’s always a sheer delight to hear this man. Every note he sings is full of warmth and heart.”
Robert K. Oermann, Music Row


Nashville legend and Grand Ole Opry member Hal Ketchum returns for what promises to be a rousing evening of music October 1 at the Claremont Opera House. Ketchum’s blend of gritty country and good-hearted soulful rock propelled songs like “Small Town Saturday Night,” “Hearts are Gonna Roll” and this year’s “Just This Side of Heaven” to chart-topping heights.

Ketchum was born and raised in New York, his family steeped in musical traditions. “Everybody played – my brother and I had a bluegrass band when I was 14 or 15, my brother played banjo, my father played slide guitar and my mother played Hawaiian steel, of all things. My grandfather … was a fiddle player.”

He traveled south to Texas early in his career, soon finding himself swapping songs at Austin’s famous Gruene Hall with the likes of Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett and Jimmy Dale Gilmore.

Later he went to Nashville. “It seemed like absolutely the place to be for a songwriter,” he said. “It’s a great town for the written word, they really love songs and songwriters.”

Roy Acuff introduced him at the Grand Ole Opry in 1990; Ketchum became a member in 1994. “I love playing there,” he says. “It’s an institution, the Mother Church. The backstage environment is brilliant, it’s amazing to walk among legends … men and women who’ve been plying their craft for 50-60 years.”

As his star rose at the Opry, Ketchum released a string of hits, beginning with his version of Irish legend Mick Hanly’s “Past the Point of Rescue.” “The root of country music is basically Celtic,” he told Rattlebag Radio in 2002.

His unique mélange of styles produces music that’s appealing to country purists, Americana lovers and fans of hard-driving rock and roll. The rootsy “Awaiting Redemption” became an immediate critic’s favorite upon its release in 1999, with honest, rugged musical textures matched perfectly to Ketchum’s reedy tenor. The Rodney Crowell-produced “Lucky Man” was a back to basics affair that produced the hit “She Is” and featured a duet with Dolly Parton.

His latest record, “Just This Side of Heaven,” is a harmony-rich rocker that sits just as comfortably with Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen as Nashville hitmakers like Keith Urban and Brooks & Dunn. But the sound is all Hal Ketchum – a sound that’s sure to captivate an Opera House crowd eagerly anticipating this encore performance.

Today’s Free Download – Antje Duvekot

duvekotbdb.jpgIn anticipation of her performance Friday at Hooker-Dunham in Brattleboro, here’s the song that grabbed and held me by Antje Duvekot – “Judas,” from her independently released “Boys, Flowers and Miles.” She’s since re-recorded a more adorned version for “Big Dream Boulevard,” but I prefer the stark, hushed quality here.

Look for my story on Antje later today, as well as the full transcript of our interview done September 11, 2006.

Thanks to Aurgasm for posting this last year so I could Google it today. Check out their discerning site for more free tracks, placed strategically to encourage future purchases and live show attendance.