In Swift Current, Canada, a 13-year-old Colter Wall learned to play guitar by copying hard rock guitarists. He then gravitated to old blues and folk music. In his mid-teens, he heard Bob Dylan‘s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and was inspired to start writing and singing in addition to playing guitar. Blending blues, folk and Americana, Wall recorded demos of his songs, and in 2015 he took a leave from his university studies to build a music career from the release of a seven-song EP, Imaginary Appalachia. His songs were featured in the television show Dog the Bounty Hunter, and in the films Hell or High Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The track used in the films, “Sleeping on the Blacktop,” gained more than a million streams on Spotify. His debut full-length album was released in 2017, and according to Wall, most of the songs on the self-titled album were autobiographical. Wall’s second and most recent album, Songs of the Plains, was released on Oct. 12, 2018.
At age 23, Colter Wall has come a long way since his musical journey began just 10 years ago. He headlined at Irving Plaza, and the maturity of this raconteur’s lyrics and the profundity of this troubadour’s music belied his youth. Even his long grizzly beard and weathered appearance gave the impression of deep-rooted experience. Wall started with three songs performed solo, and then played with four backing musicians. His set was not simply country, blues or Americana; the performance resonated as downright cowboy, sung by a young man with a husky, rain barrel-deep baritone. Harmonica, pedal steel and slide guitar frequently led the songs and added to the authenticity of the old-timey western vibe. One can imagine that the plainsmen who settled in North America’s frontiers in the late 19th century played and heard very similar music. Throughout the performance, the dynamics were subtle rather than flashy, and the background images of the plains of Saskatchewan added to the homey, earthy atmosphere. How this unique style of music was unearthed and mastered by a millennial may remain a mystery.
Lucinda Williams & Her Band Buick 6/The Beacon Theatre/Nov. 7, 2018
Lucinda Williams began playing guitar at age 12 in her native Lake Charles, La. At age 17, Williams first performed live with her friend, a banjo player, in Mexico City, Mexico. By her early 20s, Williams was playing a folk-rock-country blend in Austin and Houston, Texas. In the 1980s, Williams moved to Los Angeles, where she played both acoustic and backed by a rock band. Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded a cover of Williams’ “Passionate Kisses” in 1992, earning Williams her first Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1994. Williams’ 1998 album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, containing “Still I Long for Your Kiss” from the film The Horse Whisperer, received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Williams has won three Grammy Awards and two Americana Awards. Williams’ 13th and most recent album, This Sweet Old World, a re-recording of her 1992 album, Sweet Old World, was released on Sept. 29, 2017. Williams currently is based in Nashville.
Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road 20th Anniversary Tour is a 12-date, 10-city tour, where she performs the 13 songs from her breakthrough album, followed by assorted songs from her catalog. The tour features her long-time band Buick 6, consisting of guitarist Stuart Mathis, bassist David Sutton, and drummer Butch Norton. At the Beacon Theatre, Williams also was joined on parts of her set for the first time ever by both keyboardist Roy Bittan (of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band) and vocalist/guitarist/harmonica player Steve Earle, both of whom co-produced the 1998 album with Williams. Performing for more than two hours, Williams used the bandwidth to mix the set, alternating fluidly between Americana, country, folk, blues and rock ‘n’ roll rooted songs. Chattier than usual, she also used the relaxed pacing to reveal the background of many of the compositions, even sharing quite personal anecdotes about a sour relationship with a live-in musician boyfriend who wrecked a hotel room. Slick and graceful, rich with passion and vulnerability, Williams’ exhaustive performance was perhaps the ultimate concert for her fans.
The Long Losts/The Red Party at Mercury Lounge/Nov. 10, 2018
In 2008, a man whose arm is a tattoo tribute to Boris Karloff, including a portrait of Frankenstein’s monster on his forearm, was introduced to a woman wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Frankenstein. This mutual affinity for classic horror movies led the New York-based guitarist, Patrick McGowan, and vocalist, Anka, into a relationship. In 2012, Anka announced that she was relocating to Prague in the Czech Republic; Patrick was concerned that he would lose her forever and so proposed marriage to Anka in a cemetery. Now engaged, they started a romantic gothic punk duo, the Long Losts. The first song they wrote together was a tribute to their favorite horror actor, a song entitled “If Only Boris Karloff Was My Dad.” The Long Losts’ second and most recent album, To Night…, was released on Oct. 1, 2017.
This month’s Red Party at Mercury Lounge featured several DJs and a live set by the Long Losts. Shortly after midnight, Anka sang and Patrick played guitar, with other programmed music completing the duo’s wall of electronic sound. Many of the song’s spooky lyrics were tongue-in-cheek tales of darkness and romance. Anka, who was seven months pregnant, sang the light, haunting melodies and occasional blood-chilling shrieks, and Patrick added punch with live hard rocking guitar leads. This was the ideal music for long, romantic graveyard strolls on cold misty nights, and it worked pretty well for the Red Party’s gothic and darkwave clientele.
Palaye Royale/The Gramercy Theatre/Nov. 12, 2018
When three brothers formed a rock band called Kropp Circle in 2008 in Toronto, Canada, vocalist Remington Leith Kropp was 14, guitarist Sebastian Danzig Kropp was 16, and drummer Emerson Barrett Kropp was 12 years old. By 2011, they all individually dropped their surname and changed the name of the band to Palaye Royale, adapted from the Palais Royale dance hall in Toronto, where their grandparents first met in the 1950s. Palaye Royale relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, and then again in 2011 to Los Angeles. The band’s second album, Boom Boom Room (Side B), was released on Sept. 28, 2018.
Palaye Royale is a young band with an old sound, recalling glam rock bands from the 1980s, complete with the genre’s legendary reckless abandon. At the Gramercy Theatre, the three brothers each sported a sharp fashion look, and Leith’s androgynous red and black face paint stated from the very beginning that this musical performance was going to include visual flair. Backed by three additional musicians, Palaye Royale performed a spirited, driving rock and roll set, highlighted by Leith’s snarly, bluesy singing and Danzig’s Aerosmith-styled hard rock riffs. The songs rolled with raw power, packing melodic compositions with sonic crunch, with the brothers cleverly playing to and engaging the audience. The recklessness became real towards the end of the concert when Leith took off his shirt and climbed sky high up the stage’s rig, ultimately leaning outwards with one hand on the metal tress and one hand holding his wireless microphone as he sang. Welcome the next wild and dangerous millennial rock band.