Real Country Music
Janice Maynard and Leona Williams Family and Friends
Liberty Hill, TX
Sendero Events Center July 13, 2012
What?... You haven't heard of Liberty Hill, TX? Well, that just means you don't get around much. Liberty Hill is located about 20 miles northwest of Austin, and it has provided many moments of musical pleasure for me. About 12 years ago or so, I would often find myself at Henry's, a crossroads spot that served, as best it could, of a reincarnation of an Austin bar named the same and also ran by James Henry. The original Burnet Road location gave nights regularly to the likes of Junior Brown, Don Walser, and others.
The later version of Henry’s hosted the likes of Ted Roddy, Cornell Hurd, Roy Heinrich, Roger Wallace, and Floyd Tillman. The last time I spoke to James, another bar in Liberty Hill was hosting a benefit of sorts for him and his family. Unfortunately, we lost James several years back. The truest words for James were said musically, that night of the benefit, from those listed above and more. It was truly a who's who event for Austin area country. The highlight was surely Junior Brow playing through a power outage. The power was out for about ten minutes, but Junior and crew continued without missing a note while gladly watching the crowd grow closer to the stage.
Another highlight was that the later Henry's served as a first date, of sorts, for me and my, now, wife. Thanks to Roy Heinrich, and the dearly missed Beth Kelley, we are now going on twelve years of marriage. Sadly, both Henry's and the other bar, whose name has escaped me, are gone....but the music continues. However, this night, the music was found in a very non honky-tonk, roadhouse, or beer-joint setting.
And as good as it might be to have staff open and hold doors open for those entering or exiting, the smells and feel of a true dance hall does lend itself to the kinds of sounds to be heard tonight. The music was true country and nothing but. But this is not to say that the location was a bad choice, the Sendero Events Center, being well-suited for banquets or weddings (as their website will attest) did provide ample space for dancers, and a full bar. Another nice thing about the venue, we felt fine going as a family. I will never choose to take an eight year old to a beer joint, but I had a feeling my daughter might enjoy tonight. An hour or so into the night she found a group of teenage girls to dance with, and mentioned how “next time” she “was going to dance sooner”. It was a nice moment that most dance halls, say even the Broken Spoke, might not offer, but tonight was very much family friendly.
Arriving a few minutes after the posted start time of 8PM, we walked in to the sounds of CMP favorite Steve Maynard. Anyone who heard his great album from a year or so ago would have been struck by how much better he is live. How his original, Tell Me A Lie, is not a standard is for mystics from far away to explain. Playing both Piano and Acoustic Guitar throughout his set, and singing mainly originals, in a voice more pure and true than any recent chart topper, Steve Maynard is maybe the best kept secret Texas has to offer. Of course, readers of CMP have been told that time and time again. And Steve acknowledged such in saying “CMP, and especially Duncan, have been real good to me.” To which, I responded, “yeah, the mag's pretty good, but about that Duncan, the jury's still out...” (Duncan, had to...it was to easy....thanks for standing up almost twelve years ago!)
Steve Maynard and Donnie Ayers
Following Steve was Jerry Maynard (....yes...a brother...if you haven't kept up your reading of CMP). Jerry contributed a nice version of Amarillo By Morning, and most impressed with a somewhat more shuffling version of Storms Of Life. Also a highlight (what might well be the first live version I've heard) was the Keith Whitley classic, Miami, My Amy.
Following Jerry was Janice (wife of third brother Ricky), whose name was most prominently displayed on advertisements for the night. Janice, whose voice I've recently seen described as being reminiscent of Janie Fricke, had me on the dance floor with her take of I'll Need Someone To Hold Me (When I Cry). With control of the band, and adding one well-suited cover after another, Janice, showing her strength as front person, kept the room engaged.
Before turning the set over to the band for an instrumental (Orange Blossom Special), Janice made sure to introduce the band, which included husband Ricky on acoustic guitar, brother in law Jerry on acoustic guitar, brother in law Steve on Piano, her son on electric guitar, her daughter doing background vocals, and then the drummer, the lead guitar player and the bass player and the fiddle player and the steel guitar player. A full band was present to say the least! All the players did a commendable job, especially long time favorite David Leroy Biller on steel.
After a short break, the band backed some others. And by others, I mean some of the most respected names in true Country Music circles. Bobby Flores was next to the stage. Now, I have Bobby Flores records in my collection, but I can honestly say that he is one who becomes better with each listen. His live versions of My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You and Big Mamou were as fine as, if not better than, any other. Also notable was a very warm and tender fiddle instrumental version of America, The Beautiful, played as a tribute to troops both past and present, that had many standing with hats off.
Following, Bobby (no short feat) was Ron Williams. To quote last months issue of CMP, “if there was any justice in the world (Ron) would be giving Alan Jackson a run for his money.” I couldn't agree more. Ron covered tracks from each of his three discs. With songs such as I Would Have Loved You All Night Long, The “F” Words, and I'm Tired of Being Something (That Means Nothing To You), Ron has firmly cemented his name as one who carries the torch for proper Country Music. His set went over so well, that at the end of the night several fans asked him to sing songs left off his list. Ron agreed and was seen off in a corner doing several numbers with just his guitar. After which, he said, as a response to me saying that that was nice of him, “Well...they're fans.” Perhaps, more telling was the look about him when making the remark, it was one of “I wouldn't think of anything less.”
Another short break followed Ron's set, and then appeared the one and only Leona Williams (yes...Ron's Mom.....this was truly a night of family and friends). Hers is a voice I've heard often, but I cannot believe how strong it remains. She easily impressed with her originals such as Yes Ma'am, You Take Me For Granted, and Someday When Things Are Good. I, along with everyone I spoke to, was impressed with her continued strong vocals, as well as her charm on stage. Her set was a treat, and one any fan of the genre should see.
To add to the night, included in both Ron's and Leona's set, was Jade Jack. At 16, she has the fiddle playing ability to share the stage with the likes of Bobby Flores, and the vocals to earn a place in Leona's set. And if that's not enough said....hers was the only CD we purchased this night. Listening to the CD, around the breakfast table, it is clear that she has plenty of potential. And I may just place my money on her being the one to watch over the next decade as her voice becomes a bit more mature.
Overall, a great night of music served up by the Maynards. This was a show, especially with this lineup, that, without a doubt, would kill on the festival circuit in Europe. Maybe someone will get working on it, and you can invite me over, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing it again.
And who would have thought.....Liberty Hill.
Jade Jack and Leona Williams
Janice Maynard and Leona Williams
Ron Williams and Leona Williams