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.