Walter Tunis: Members of The Boxcars got around before getting together

Contributing Music WriterFebruary 21, 2013 

The Boxcars — Keith Garrett, left, Ron Stewart, Harold Nixon, John Bowman and Adam Steffey — play in Clay City on Saturday.

DEAN HOFFMEYER

  • THE WEEK THAT WAS

    The Who at KFC Yum Center in Louisville: One of the many telling moments within this grand nostalgia ride came during the opening minutes. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, The Who's surviving members, played The Real Me against huge projected images of their former, more youthful selves. As if devoting the bulk of the show to a complete performance of the band's seminal 1973 album, Quadrophenia, wasn't enough, the Who's chieftains, both on the cusp of 70, pitted themselves against the past. Find "the real me" in that.

    For the most part, though, Daltrey and Townshend were up to the task. The Who doubled the lineup it has toured with for roughly 15 years to 10 musicians (three keyboard players and a two-man horn section were the additions). That allowed Quadrophenia to come to life with bold, orchestral colors that shifted from the horns that drove 5:15 to the regal synths unveiled for the finale of Love Reign O'er Me.

    Vocally, The Who is a pretty ragged bunch these days. Daltrey seemed to know his limits and skirted the higher notes and many of the screaming crescendos. Townshend, when he remained in the light mid-register he normally sings in, was fine. For some reason, though, he often reached for lower, guttural expression, a sort of bluesman's bravura. When he did, his singing simply flatlined.

    The 2¼-hour show — performed without intermission or encore, leaving, as Townshend put it, "no time for coffee and biscuits" — wound down with a capable run of five true Who hits (Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Pinball Wizard, a still-rapturous Baba O'Riley and Won't Get Fooled Again).

    But the show-closer was a surprise: an acoustic version of Tea and Theatre from 2006's Endless Wire, the only new studio album released by The Who since 1982. The song pared the band to just its two leaders for a weary but affectionate reverie.

    Quadrophenia was the feast, and a satisfying one, too. But Tea and Theatre was the after-dinner cigar, a quiet conversation piece between The Who's glorious past and its grizzled but content present.

The Boxcars

7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane, Clay City. $12. (606) 663-9008. Kyfriends.com.

When a band takes The Boxcars as its name, imagery begins to flow.

You picture music in motion that is constant and unhurried yet still urgent. You envision songs with a folkloric sense of longing, distance and wanderlust.

In the case of All In, the second and newest album by this all-star bluegrass collective, all those topics and attitudes apply. The recording runs along the brisk but desperate side roads of Alone and Wondering Why, travels back to the Depression era with the dark orphans saga Crawford County and settles briefly under the cautiously shady shelter of Old Hollow Tree.

The music bears a lightness, a delicate and harmonious acoustic accent devoid of the kind of narrative and melodic sentimentality that has made a lot of contemporary bluegrass sound like modern country music. Credit that to the hearty traditional streak that runs throughout All In — especially the four tunes penned by Boxcars guitarist Keith Garrett. But toss in a patiently brewed version of Earl Scruggs' I've Lost You, and the extent of the band's roots-friendly journeys is revealed.

The Boxcars might be a new name to some, despite a strong showing at last year's International Bluegrass Music Association's annual awards ceremony (it won honors for instrumental group of the year). But its personnel should be familiar to even the most casual of regional bluegrass fans.

Let's start with bassist Harold Nixon and banjoist Ron Stewart, both of whom put in six years with J.D. Crowe and the New South around the time the Grammy-nominated album Lefty's Old Guitar was being constructed.

Stewart stuck to fiddle during that time. No need for another banjo picker when Crowe is in the band. In The Boxcars, however, fiddle is handled primarily by John Bowman, another Crowe alum who played bass during his brief tenure with the New South. He is perhaps better known for an extensive run with The Isaacs and, for about18 months, with Alison Krauss and Union Station, where he played guitar ahead of Dan Tyminski.

Another Union Station veteran, mandolinist Adam Steffey, who later co-founded Mountain Heart, completes the lineup. He also performed with The Isaacs.

Shoot, you need to jump aboard a boxcar just to keep up with where these guys have been, much less where they are going. On Saturday, though, The Boxcars' travels take the band to Meadowgreen Park Music Hall in Clay City.

Blue River will open.

Pile-driving gospel

The raunch and roll carnival that is Nashville Pussy returns to Lexington for an outing Sunday at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue. But the real news is that one of the show openers will be Kentucky BridgeBurners, a Nashville Pussy side project featuring a mini-reunion of local roustabouts Blaine Cartwright, Earl Crim, Todd Gorrell and Rob Hulsman.

The music they cut here at Nitrosonic Studio for their new album Hail Jesus can best be described as piledriver gospel, a collection of salvation-saturated tunes that include the Cartwright originals Look It Up in the Bible and Scream the Devil Away, the blues staple You Got to Move and a fire-and-brimstone update of Black Oak Arkansas' Keep the Faith. Definitely better suited for Sunday night rocking than Sunday morning sermonizing.

Sonic DeVille completes the bill. (10 p.m. $12. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.)

Solo Cinderdella

Tom Keifer, the vocal and songwriting force behind the pop-metal band Cinderella, is out on his own this month promoting his autobiographically inclined debut solo record, The Way Life Goes. He will perform hits new and old Saturday at Buster's Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester Street. (9 p.m. $20 in advance, $25 day of show. (859) 368-8871. Bustersbb.com.)


THE WEEK THAT WAS

The Who at KFC Yum Center in Louisville: One of the many telling moments within this grand nostalgia ride came during the opening minutes. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, The Who's surviving members, played The Real Me against huge projected images of their former, more youthful selves. As if devoting the bulk of the show to a complete performance of the band's seminal 1973 album, Quadrophenia, wasn't enough, the Who's chieftains, both on the cusp of 70, pitted themselves against the past. Find "the real me" in that.

For the most part, though, Daltrey and Townshend were up to the task. The Who doubled the lineup it has toured with for roughly 15 years to 10 musicians (three keyboard players and a two-man horn section were the additions). That allowed Quadrophenia to come to life with bold, orchestral colors that shifted from the horns that drove 5:15 to the regal synths unveiled for the finale of Love Reign O'er Me.

Vocally, The Who is a pretty ragged bunch these days. Daltrey seemed to know his limits and skirted the higher notes and many of the screaming crescendos. Townshend, when he remained in the light mid-register he normally sings in, was fine. For some reason, though, he often reached for lower, guttural expression, a sort of bluesman's bravura. When he did, his singing simply flatlined.

The 2¼-hour show — performed without intermission or encore, leaving, as Townshend put it, "no time for coffee and biscuits" — wound down with a capable run of five true Who hits (Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Pinball Wizard, a still-rapturous Baba O'Riley and Won't Get Fooled Again).

But the show-closer was a surprise: an acoustic version of Tea and Theatre from 2006's Endless Wire, the only new studio album released by The Who since 1982. The song pared the band to just its two leaders for a weary but affectionate reverie.

Quadrophenia was the feast, and a satisfying one, too. But Tea and Theatre was the after-dinner cigar, a quiet conversation piece between The Who's glorious past and its grizzled but content present.

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