Dwight Yoakim/Damrosch Park/August 7, 2016

The son of a gas-station owner and a key-punch operator, Dwight Yoakam was born in Pikeville, Kentucky, and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he sang and played guitar with local garage bands. Yoakim wanted to play honky-tonk, but the country music circuit had gravitated toward pop “urban cowboy” music, so in 1977 he moved to Los Angeles, California, where Los Lobos, X and other bands were marrying cowpunk with roots rock and punk rock. Yoakim has recorded more than 21 albums and compilations, charted more than 30 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and sold more than 25 million records. On September 23, 2016, Yoakam will release his first exclusively-bluegrass album comprised of bluegrass covers of many of his biggest hits; it will be entitled Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars, perhaps comparing his life path to the Beverley Hillbillies.

Later this year Yoakim will turn 60 years old, and his concert at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors AmericanaFest reflected in part the music of his childhood. Backed by his sequin-suited musicians, Brian Whelan on keyboards and guitar, Eugene Edwards on lead guitar, Jonathan Clark on bass, and Mitch Marine on drums, Yoakim sang 11 cover songs originally recorded by the likes of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Johnny Horton. Opening with “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music),” Yoakim also performed nine songs from his own early career, including “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere,” “Honky Tonk Man” and “Guitars, Cadillacs,” plus four more recent songs. When the songs leaned towards traditional country music, Yoakim’s rich hillbilly vocals crooned like silk, but his most driving songs were the rockabilly-inspired numbers. Yoakam is mostly associated with West Coast country, early cowpunk, and the Bakersfield Sound, but his concert successfully spanned the width of roots rock genres.

 

Eric Burdon & The Animals/City Winery/August 8, 2016

The Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo formed in 1958 and became The Animals shortly after Eric Burdon joined in 1962. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, the blues rocking Animals was one of the leading bands of the British Invasion. By late 1966, the other original members had left, and Burdon reformed the brand as Eric Burdon & The Animals, sometimes called Eric Burdon & The New Animals, until that band split in 1969. Living in San Francisco, California, Burdon joined forces with the funk rock band War in 1969, becoming Eric Burdon & War. Burdon began a solo career in 1971 with the Eric Burdon Band. His 11th and most recent solo album, ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, was released in 2013. Although the original Animals reunited briefly in 1975 and 1983, Burdon’s present band of Animals consists of Johnzo West (guitar/vocals), Davey Allen (keys/vocals), Dustin Koester (drums/vocals), Justin Andres (bass guitar/vocals), Ruben Salinas (sax/flute), and Evan Mackey (trombone).

Eric Burdon’s career lasted beyond the British Invasion of the mid-1960s for two reasons; his hit songs were dynamic rockers and he possessed a unique, powerful voice. At City Winery, the 75-year-old blues rocker had no newer songs of that earlier caliber and his voice has lost considerable power, but he proved to be a remarkably formidable force nonetheless. Burdon and his new band opened with a fresh take on his 1970 hit, “Spill the Wine,” then moved through much of The Animals repertoire and sprinkled a fewer newer songs like 2013’s “Bo Diddley Special.” Some parts that were sung originally were now more talky, and the singing was sometimes more gravelly, yet the songs retained their fierce and passionate delivery. Burdon in concert is still classic, and rock and roll history would be incomplete without his distinguished presence.

Eric Burdon & The Animals will return to City Winery on October 10 & 11, 2016.

 

Piebald/Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom/August 10, 2016

Four high school students formed Piebald as a hardcore band in 1994 in Andover, Massachusetts, then moved to Somerville and gradually evolved into a popular emo band. Piebald split in 2000, reunited in 2002, and split again in 2008, though the band reunited briefly in 2010 at the Bamboozle music festivals in California and New Jersey. This year, Piebald reformed for the Wrecking Ball 2016 music festival in Atlanta, Georgia, and the band announced a “You’re Part of It” tour leading to that date. Piebald presently consists of its classic lineup of vocalist/guitarist Travis Shettel, guitarist Aaron Stuart, bassist Andrew Bonner and drummer Luke Garro. Piebald’s most recent album, Accidental Gentleman, was released in 2007.

Demonstrating how wit had become integral to its song craft, Piebald opened at Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom with “Karate Chops For Everyone But Us” from its 2002 album We Are the Only Friends We Have. Half of the 20-song set drew from that album, with the prior album, 1999’s If It Weren’t for Venetian Blinds, It Would Be Curtains for Us All, coming close with seven songs. The band introduced no new songs, for all intents and purposes revisiting where the curtain fell in 2008. The band has matured with the times somewhat, with a slicker presentation that diminished the earlier jangly indie guitar chords and occasional progressive hardcore spines. With story-songs designed with rallying, climactic choruses, Piebald saw its audience engaged in enthusiastic singing from the first lyrics. If there is still room for emo bands in the contemporary rock skyline, Piebald may not be soon forgotten. Footnote: tonight was Stuart’s birthday, and he knelt onstage and proposed marriage to his girlfriend in the audience midway through the concert.

 

Junior Brown/City Winery/August 11, 2016

Jamieson “Junior” Brown was born in Cottonwood, Arizona, and at a young age moved with his family to a rural area of Indiana near Kirksville. His father taught him to play the piano, and he taught himself to play a guitar he found in his grandparents’ attic. As a young boy, he performed country songs at parties and school functions. As a young adult, he sang and played pedal steel and guitar on tour with the Last Mile Ramblers, Dusty Drapes & The Dusters and Asleep At The Wheel. In 1985, Brown invented a double-neck guitar, his unique hybrid “guit-steel,” the top neck being a traditional six-string guitar, while the lower neck is a full-size lap steel guitar for slide playing. Since 1990, Brown has recorded seven studio albums including The American Original, which will be released by late summer. Since the 1990s, Brown and his band, including wife Tanya Rae, have been based in Austin, Texas.

At City Winery, Junior Brown performed many kinds of country-rooted music, including honky-tonk, western swing and bluegrass, but also blended shades of blues, surf, Tex-Mex, and even Hawaiian into the set. With his signature guit-steel hoisted onto a stand center stage, Brown moved behind it and frequently and effortlessly alternated from finger picking on the guitar neck to sliding on the steel neck, often on the same song. His other niche was the dry wit he sang through his lyrics. Brown provided an amusing performance, but city folk might find his concert to be more of a novelty than serious music.

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