Saturday April 29th 2017

A Week of Alt Country Bliss

Last week provided some of the best live music I’ve seen in awhile. From kicking the week off with Jay Farrar to rounding this out with The Jayhawks and Rosanne Cash – with a little James McMurtry thrown in the middle – alternative country was alive and well in New York City last week.

I’ve already shared my thoughts with you regarding Jay Farrar’s performance at City Winery: “It’s a unique experience and one that proves just how important Farrar is to the history and future of alternative country music.”

Farrar performed on Sunday October 16th. On Wednesday, I returned to City Winery to enjoy a night with one of the greatest rockers around, James McMurtry. It wasn’t too long ago that he rolled through town to play Hoboken and Brooklyn; I had the distinct privilege to grab a bite to eat with the singer/songwriter and chat with him for a few minutes. You can imagine my excitement when I found out he’d be returning to New York to play at one of the coolest venues around, City Winery.

I was a little worried about McMurtry playing the Winery since the crowd is sitting around tables. He creates rock and roll that requires a little movement…Fortunately, the crowd did not let the tables and chairs keep them from enjoying the night. During the epic rendition of “Choctaw Bingo,” you could spot the fans in the crowd who were there to see the son of Larry McMurtry; they jumped out of their chairs, squeezed toward the stage, and started dancing.

The only bad thing about the show? It was a shortened set as McMurtry co-headlined with the great Jason Isbell (formerly of Drive-By Truckers). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you have never seen James McMurtry live, check out his tour dates and make it happen. You’ll be in for a night of real, genuine rock and roll.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to see The Jayhawks for a second time in New York City within a year! The alt country pioneers played two nights at Webster Hall in January, and in October returned to the City to co-headline a night with Rosanne Cash at The Beacon Theatre.

Cash opened the night with a 50-minute set, including a song with The Jayhawks’ own Gary Louris formerly of Golden Smog (who recorded a Cash tune back in the day).

When Cash was finished, The Jayhawks took the stage for the rest of the night. Playing several tunes from their latest album Mockingbird Time and sprinkling in crowd-favorites from classic albums like Tomorrow the Green Grass, the evening was beyond fantastic.

In my opinion, the highlight of the set had to have been when Gary Louris and Mark Olson took a step back and gave the spotlight to drummer Tim O’Reagan. O’Reagan performed Rainy Day Music‘s “Tampa to Tulsa” to an awe-struck crowd.

The week that began with Jay Farrar, moved to James McMurtry, and ended with The Jayhawks will be a week that I will never forget. Alternative country isn’t just alive and well; with acts like these, alt country is thriving and moving forward.

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