Published June 4, 1997, The Aquarian Weekly
As one BR5-49 song so eloquently puts it, "She done traded in her Docs for kicker boots, [her] safety pin T-shirts for Manwell suits her punk rock records are gathering dust, Little Ramona's gone hillbilly nuts."
Such was the case Thursday at Tramps and Friday at Philly's Theater of the Living Arts when Nashville's BR5-49 turned both big city venues into their own personal version of Billy Bob's back country road house and managed to convert enough Northerners to their cause to make Hank senior smile blissfully down on 'em from his baby blue '52 up there in country music heaven.
As authentic as grits 'n' fresh-squeezed milk with a Jack Daniels chaser, the happy whine of Don Herron's pedal steel and fiddle sliced through the twangin' rush of Gary Bennett's acoustic and Chuck Mead's Gretsch hollow body electric as Hawk Wilson slammed out a boot-stompin' beat on his vintage drum kit and Smilin' Jay McDowell humped his upright bass as if it was honeymoon night in 'Vegas.
Transfixed by the keening harmonies of Mead, Bennett and Wilson and responding as if the rebel flag hung high in their front yards, the audiences at both clubs displayed their appreciation for the simple warmth and driven beat of songs such as "Cherokee Boogie," "Honky Tonk Song," "Crazy Arms," "Hickory Wind," "One Long Saturday Night," "Ole Slewfoot," "Hillbilly Thang," "Knoxville Girl," "18 Wheels & A Crowbar" and "Me 'N' Opie (Down By The Duck Pond)" with wild versions of the two-step, broad grins, impromptu line dances, drunken rebel yells, shouted-out song suggestions, enough hootin' and hollerin' to actually drown out the music at times and an unprecedented and heartfelt demand for three extended encores and enough autographs to give all five band members writer's cramp after the lights were finally turned up.
Consider yourself lucky if you were there. If you missed 'em this time around, mark your calendars for the return of BR5-49 to the tri-state area Thursday, July 24 at the Lincoln Center Fountain Plaza, NYC; or Friday August 15 at the PNC Arts Center, Holmdel (opening for Ani DiFranco and Bob Dylan).
Look for BR5-49's self-titled Arista debut or the six-song Live At Robert's CD at a record store near you or visit 'em on the web at: http://www.BR5-49.com.