Not Published 1997

Tramps, May 15, 1995


It don't mean a thang
if it ain't got that twang!

NEW YORK -- All Tramps needed was a bale of hay on the floor, a Red Man dispenser in the corner and a drunken brawl involving two guys named Cletus and a bleached-blond truck stop waitress known as Lurlene to make the scene complete.

Packed to the gills and buzzed to the rafters, the crowd of slickers, slackers, scenesters and hackers that filled the popular New York City nightspot happily took advantage of one of those rare opportunities to let their guard down and enjoy a bit of real fun while Nashville's BR5-49 provided the twangin' backbeat they needed to break in their new Doc Llamas.

Hootin' and hollerin' as if possessed by the ghosts of Hank Williams and Conway Twitty, the audience reeled off spastic versions of the knee-slap two-step and impromptu attempts at line dancing that collapsed into free-form air guitar solos accompanied by rebel yells ("Yee-haaaa, youse guys!"), shouted-out song suggestions, tips thrown on stage, another trip to the bar and a heartfelt demand for three encores and every ounce of energy the nattily-dressed Tennessee five-piece could muster.

More country than anything to come out of Nashville since Hank last cruised Music Row in his ill-fated '52 Cadilliac; BR5-49 added just enough rock-a-billy beat and foot-stompin' Texas swing to the keening, hillbilly heaven harmonies of Chuck Mead, Gary Bennett and Hawk Wilson to make even the stiffest of stockbrokers shake a leg while a broad grin planted itself on his face and the slapback boogie beat took over.

Fueled by bib-overall wearin' multi-instrumentalist Don Herron's pedal steel, mandolin, fiddle and mini-Fender four-string skittering across Bennett's acoustic rhythm, Wilson's tasteful beat, Smilin' Jay McDowell's thumpin' bass and Mead's smooth leads; songs such as "Cherokee Boogie," "Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts)," "Crazy Arms," "Hickory Wind," "One Long Saturday Night," "Honky Tonk Song," "Ole Slewfoot," "Hillbilly Thang," "Knoxville Girl," "18 Wheels & A Crowbar," "Settin' The Woods On Fire," "Ubangi Stomp," "Humdinger" "Take Me Back To Tulsa" and "Me 'N' Opie (Down By The Duck Pond)" rang with a simple warmth and an authoritative richness that helped make up for the sins of modern country music and had new fans searching for Bob Wills and Hank Snow at Tower Records the very next day.

On the road promoting their self-titled Arista debut and six-song Live At Robert's CD for what seems like forever, BR5-49 will educate a new audience this summer when they open for Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco.

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