Monday, July 11, 2011

Willie Nelson’s Country Throwdown Tour

Coolray Field

Lawrenceville, Georgia

June 12, 2011

For all of Willie Nelson’s well documented, well deserved status as a country music outlaw, he is in fact a traditionalist in one very important way. Willie understands the role of the musician as a craftsman, as the practitioner of a trade: one that shows up on time, does what the people paid to see and then gets back on the bus with an assload of cash, on the road again to that next gig. But that’s what any big touring whale does; it shows up, dazzles the crowd and sets up down the line to do it again. Willie’s wake encompasses a large area and swamps fans of both modern and classic country along with those who like him because of his choice of smoking materials, and that should set the bar a bit higher. And yeah, this thing was one well-lubricated machine.

Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real

You can’t knock the setup or the people at the wheel of the Throwdown – it ran as smooth as Hank Aaron’s swing.

The warm up bands played behind the outfield wall, while the main stage was located behind second base. (Once we were allowed on the field, we secured prime general admission spots on the third base side of the pitcher’s mound.) There was also a singer-songwriter tent with a Bluebird CafĂ© brand slapped on it.

the singer-songwriters get their moment on the main stage.

The absolute highlight of the day was Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, playing behind the right field wall. Willie’s son threw out plenty of high energy, crowd-pleasing guitar solos while fronting a blues rock outfit that had less in common with Waylon than it did with Santana.

you just can't tell 'em apart, can ya? that's Lee Brice and Randy Houser.

But still, it’s days like this that make me realize that today’s country music is the aural equivalent of olestra – slicker than goose snot, the manufacturer uses common materials to create something artificial and it lacks any real substance or importance and passes through you quickly . What fills this nutritional wasteland are backward hat wearing, posturing musicians who boast of their dirt road cred while cranking out tunes that have more in common with Don’t Stop Believin’ than Your Cheatin’ Heart. Indeed, Lee Brice came onstage to ACDC’s For Those About to Rock and that’s really what everyone did. If you believe that when confronted with unfamiliar bands and unfamiliar songs, you can tell a lot from their choices of covers, then Bob Seger’s Turn the Page, Muddy Waters’ Champagne and Reefer (served up in a blues rock style exactly how Texas guitar hero Ian Moore does it on the Hempilation compilation disc) and Skynyrd’s Simple Man (which, if you listen to the lyrics, is the defining, lasting Skynyrd legacy, not Free Bird) should tell you something about the day’s events.

Jamey Johnson.

For the record, Jamey Johnson had a solid set and Willie came out and did what Willie does, which is run through the songs you want to hear and he does it in style, with his impeccable guitar picking and vocals out in front of a veteran, family outfit that delivered at every turn.

Willie and son Lukas.

And yet, irony, thy name is Adam Hood.

During his turn at the songwriter in the round format on the main stage, he abruptly launched into his wry, eye rolling Play Something We Know (“Play somethin' we could sing to/Play somethin' we know/Man, play some Whiskey River man. Play somethin' we know.”) and I was the only one around me who knew the words.

Curtis Lynch

Playgrounds Magazine

July 2011