Walter Tunis: Texas musician Riveted to irreverent fare

Contributing Music Columnist,by walter tunisJuly 31, 2014 

  • The week that was

    John Fogerty at PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati: At this stage of his career, John Fogerty would have every right to let the swampy, textured rock and soul hits he fashioned over four decades ago as chieftain of Creedence Clearwater Revival, as well as some of the more streamlined tunes penned since then, stand on their own. But last weekend, there he was, racing from one end of the PNC Pavilion stage to the other, guitar in hand, egging his audience on as the 1970 Creedence classic Up Around the Bend roared away.

    In a way, it was quite endearing to find the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer still playing the role of cheerleader for one of the most distinctive catalogs of any pop era. But it was also encouraging to witness Fogerty, at age 69, still in possession of enough vocal and physical stamina to fuel such performance vigor in the first place.

    The concert opened with eight Creedence songs — seven hits led by Travelin' Band and Green River along with the Cosmo's Factory epic Ramble Tamble. The latter was especially arresting as it showcased the program's two most dominant instrumental voices — Fogerty's guitar work, which revealed a level of range and invention the heavily rhythmic musicianship of his Creedence days only suggested. The other belonged to drummer Kenny Aronoff, whose playing reflected elements of New Orleans groove that made it a natural fit for the Southern inclined Creedence hits. But the downbeat in Aronoff's playing was also exact, tireless and potent to the point of being atomic.

    Beyond that, one could wax on for hours about the set list alone. At the midway point came Suzie Q with its glorious feedback-enhanced guitar solo. A few songs later we heard Mystic Highway, the show's newest work, which tempered the Creedence mystique with an Americana reality check. Best of all, perhaps, was Who'll Stop the Rain, Fogerty's faithfully performed remembrance of playing Woodstock.

    "Everybody else got naked and stoned," Fogerty said of the legendary festival. "But I actually remembered it."

The Hot Nut Riveters

8 p.m. Sunday at Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade. $10. (859) 259-2754, beetnik.com.

Just over 18 years ago, Guy Forsyth came to town as part of an irreverent, all-acoustic Americana vaudeville troupe out of Austin known as the Asylum Street Spankers. The ensemble would become a popular local draw in the ensuing years. But by the time the Spankers played their second date here, Forsyth had already departed for a solo career devoted to stylistically diverse and often topically irreverent roots music.

Forsyth will be back in town this weekend. But instead of showcasing his newest solo enterprise, he will be leading a new vaudeville-savvy troupe called the Hot Nut Riveters. Self-described as "Texas' Original Recession Era String Band," the Riveters avoid the more country-conscious avenues of the Spankers in favor of blues, folk, Eastern European swing and bordertown waltzes. But on the band's debut album, Moustashe Girl, those elements complement, as well as collide with, each other.

The sounds embellish the oddball characters at the heart of the band's original songs (like the hapless gasoline addict in Leadfoot Larry), enhance the authenticity of several vintage works (the 1939 Fats Waller hit Your Feet's Too Big) and re-imagine songs that originated on another stylistic terrain altogether (the 1973 Billy Preston pop-soul staple Nothing From Nothing, which becomes a brassy blues-ragtime shuffle in the hands of the Riveters).

To complete the concept of the album as a full performance piece rather than a collection of songs, Moustashe Girl slips in six spoken word vignettes between the tunes to serve as makeshift commercials. Among the lot is a 30 second bit titled True Romance that declares the band's music can be appreciated by anyone "whether you're just on a joyride or actually have some intentions."

The current Riveters lineup also features "guitar bully" Matt Smith, vocalist/guitarist Nevada Newman (another Spankers alum), upright bassist Kristopher Wade, ex-Bad Livers fiddler/banjoist Mark Rubin, banjoist/vocalist Albani Falletta and accordionist/trumpeter Oliver Steck (whose bio claims him to be a clown college graduate).

See how all of these Nuts coexist on a single stage when the Riveters set their strings in motion on Sunday at Natasha's.

Flux redux

After spending the better part of the summer on the road as a member of Alison Krauss and Union Station, former Lexingtonian Jerry Douglas — "Flux" to his fans — will be on his own again this weekend for a performance at KCD Theater, 4100 Springdale Rd. in Louisville that will showcase more of his visionary playing on the resonator guitar known as the dobro (8 p.m., $25-$35).

Douglas has two new recordings awaiting release this fall. One is Three Bells, a multi-generational summit of three pioneering dobro stylists — Mike Auldridge (who died in December 2012 just after sessions for the album were completed), Douglas and Blue Highway's Rob Ickes. The second record is somewhat cheekily titled The Earls of Leicester and features an all-star band devoted to the groundbreaking '50s and '60s bluegrass music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Both recordings will hit stores on Sept. 16. Call (502) 814-4367 or go to www.kcdtheater.org.

Unlikely hero

The list of guitar heroes to creatively come of age during the '80s usually favors a host of MTV-friendly artists with arena-sized fanbases. Eric Johnson isn't a member of that club. But for over 25 years, he has assembled perhaps the most accomplished recorded body of rock and fusion inspired music of any contemporary guitarist outside of Jeff Beck. His splendid new concert album Europe Live spells that out in the alert but unflashy electric playing that highlights the opening moments of Zenland.

Johnson returns to the region on Tuesday for a performance at the Taft Theatre, 317 East Fifth in Cincinnati (8:30 p.m., $24). Call 1-800-745-3000 or go to ticketmaster.com.

Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.

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