On New Year’s Eve Day, Leroy kicked off the Northeast tour here in NYC. Rico, his lap steel player since the early days, was not on this jaunt so I got to jump in the rental car and see what it’s like to be on the road for four shows. He’s known by many names and projects—Hellbound Glory, The eXcavators, Leon Virgil Bowers, and Leroy Virgil. I’ve created a Smart Playlist in iTunes to encompass all his work. Having listened to little else since Thanksgiving, I was ready to kick off 2016 with the chance to see things from his side of the stage.
And the festival! It’s another family reunion with great music. It’s fan heaven, I love the feeling of star struck; watching Calamity Cubes walk by will always give me a shiver. The Godfather of the fest this year is Gary Lindsey. The fact that I was surrounded by people who also revere Gary Lindsey is just another cool part of this. If you’re a Tom Waits fan, ask him to tell you the story of how they met. It’s fantastic.
In the best beginning of a year I could hope for, I got to watch the artists’ process for a week. Hellbound Glory played a bunch of shows booked near here, and I was happy to host them. I attended two performances and heard Leroy singing this and that off and on. Heaven.
Another stellar Muddy Roots experience to recover from. Though I missed many who could not make it, the joy and magic is still there. Things could not have happened better. I spent the experience with close friends whom I’ve known for decades and ones I only see here. The serendipitous events of the weekend made it another amazing ride.
A mere week after the magic of Muddy Roots 2013 (I’m still processing), Hellbound Glory full band plays one of my favorite venues, The Bell House (also home to my Secret Science Club) and he sang my favorite song, Showing Off Sure is Fun, that he was creating last time they played here. From him snapping his fingers in my kitchen, to a full band with a stadium riff sent me sailing. I wish I could have experienced it large scale. Seeing it at Muddy Roots is a close second.
Fresh on their tour with Kid Rock, our very own Blake got to see Hellbound Glory play and got a backstage interview with Leroy. How cool is that? Better still? He asked all the questions we want answered:
Take care of the music, and the music will take care of you.
~ Jac Holzman, Founder of Elektra Records
And the momentum of greatness keeps keepin’ on! A gaggle of my favorite musicians, labels, podcasters, bloggers, and fans all gathered in Austin, TX this weekend to showcase our slice of amazing music that is happening today. Here’s the lineup
There’s also a charter: “The idea of XSXSW is to re-focus the event on music and people, to rekindle the spirit of the Austin music scene, as well as civic and Texas pride by using music to renew community, infrastructure, and people, instead of taxing them to their limits.”
Yeah, I said it, Ex South by South West. This is the alternative to alternative. It’s underground music at its best. If I had a teleporter, I’d so be at this! Just look at the lineup! Holy smoke! Thankfully, my pals over at Saving Muddy Hillgrass bring the awesome to me via radio and the internets. Here’s the lowdown via The Trigger Man:
You know that band your friends worship, and for some reason or another, you missed the fan wagon? Hellbound Glory is mine. Trigger Man’s been writing about them forever on his Saving Country Music site. Buddies of mine planned their elopement around them (see video below). I even poo-poo’d their song in my review of the greatest compilation CD ever made! I finally caught the fever when Leroy went live on Outlaw Radio Chicago and was blown away.
They played two shows here in NYC last week (Hank’s Saloon and Rodeo Bar) and I’m fully converted to their awesomeness. Leroy Virgil is the epitome of what a front man should be; talented, street smart, and oh so charming. His raspy voice and gritty writing are the perfect combination that wrap you right in. Eric “Rico” Peterson on Lap Steel is a hundred shades of gorgeous. What girl can resist a man’s instrument that moans and cries out his country songs? Frank Medina on Bass is the music encyclopedia of the band. I wish I had more time to get to know his likes and theories about music. He plays like a philosopher, all in his notes. The three of them combined onstage is fantastic energy. They sing, play, banter, and wholeheartedly kick a world of ass. Each show they pleased the old fans, and made a bunch of new ones.
I had the honor of them crashing at my apartment but, alas, I didn’t think to video a song of them playing in my kitchen for YouTube. Next time.
THIS is the music festival for you if you’re sitting there thinking (a) “I liked country music back when Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings ruled the roost, but what I see on CMT gives me a rash.” or (b) “I was weaned on rock and punk but I also have a Johnny Cash t-shirt.”
It’s during Labor Day weekend in Cookeville, TN (right outside Nashville). There’s camping, hot showers, and they’ll even set up a tent for you to rent. Or, if you’re a city slicker like me, the hotel down the road is $46 pp per night. (All the info is on their website)
And the music. Holy bunches of greatness, the music. The amazing Wanda Jackson is the big cheese, along with Don Maddox and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers are headlining. I’m looking forward to seeing every other band just as much. Nobody beats the voice of Wayne ‘the train’ Hancock or the pure energy of Possessed by Paul James. I could ramble on an on with my music nerd obsessions here but suffice to say if you’re wondering what’s going on in underground country, this is our Woodstock. So be there, ’cause it’s gonna be great!