Real Country Music
Cotton Club and Steakhouse
October, 12, 2012
A funny thing happens as you leave the confines of a city, especially a city like Austin, things change. Gone are the retro wear looks that mark the Continental Club, or the “swing dance” heavy moves of the Broken Spoke. Instead of those claiming something country, you’ll find country. Hats worn by wear, shirts unchanged after the workday, boots scuffed, and probably a bit of dirt under fingernails.
Of course there are some people, on a Friday night, that dress up a bit. You’ll see some men with pressed shirts tucked in, and a few women with that type of bedazzled rhinestone cross like marking on their pants, purses, and such. And most, men included, will have the latest cell phone as an accessory. Time still exists outside the skirts of town, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect on existence.
Granger, outside of Austin by about 40 miles, is marked with Mitt Romney signs, and the look and a feel of a once busy small town. Friday nights offer football and the Cotton Club and Steakhouse. Owned, and operated, by Jill and Bubba Cox (Bubba Cox and Eazy Goin’, and the present Sunday afternoon house band at the Cotton Club, Can’t Hardly Playboyz) , the Cotton Club offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Frequent acts include Janice Maynard, and the once charting Debonaires [their take on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” stalled at #79 in 1985]. The cover charge for most Friday and Saturday nights is usually ten dollars.
Tonight the charge was double the usual $10, quite an amount for a small town dancehall. But to be fair most of the usual acts and local bands that play the Cotton Club don’t have the added expense of the tour bus that was parked across the street…Or the expenses involved in bringing a six piece band and two artists from Nashville all the way to Granger, TX...
We made our way in and found our seats near the dance floor shortly before World Champion Bull Rider turned recording artist, Justin McBride started his set. His set list was comprised of songs, many of which he has recorded, that you might expect given his background. Chris LeDoux’s “Cadillac Cowboy”, Moe Bandy’s “Bandy The Rodeo Clown”, George Strait’s “Unwound” were all delivered in a way respectful of their better known versions.
On Stage: Justin McBride
Between songs Justin mentioned how he considered LeDoux a personal hero. Of course, LeDoux found much success in the music world after achieving greatness in the rodeo arena, and McBride is attempting the same feat. And like LeDoux, Justin has a voice marked more by experience than years and years of vocal training. A press release from earlier this year describes his vocals as being “as gravelly as a country road.”
Favorites from his set, “That’s Why I’m Here” (…And She’s There) and “It Makes Me Lean” are both found on his just released “Everybody Loves A Cowboy”. With the built in market of fans from his previous success, I’m sure McBride will be around a while. And as it did with LeDoux, I’m sure time will see his vocals become stronger and grow beyond the natural Western hard clip that best lends itself to the most Western of material.
But it was the next act I truly wanted to see…Daryle Singletary. Since his arrival in 1995 with “I Let Her Lie”, Singletary has created some of the best Country Music ever made. Tim McGraw has called Daryle “the best country singer that we’ve still got singin’ today!” While Houston’s very own Miss Leslie describes Daryle as being “able to sing the phone book.” And since several years ago, after seeing Daryle singing at the Opry, I thought to myself that his records may not even show how good he really is….how could I miss tonight?
But that’s not to say that I wasn’t worried that his vocals had slipped a bit since last seeing him. Hearing his turn on the latest Brian Mallery record had me worried that he was now only good. But I’m very happy to report that Singletary has not lost anything.
On Stage: Daryle Singletary
And in a building only slightly more than a honky tonk, having the opportunity to find the dance floor while Daryle ran through some of his best including “I Let Her Lie”, “She Sure Looks Good In Black”, “Amen Kind Of Love”, “I’m Living Up (To Her Low Expectations” is about as good as it gets.
On a bit of a personal note, I remember an evening about thirteen years ago, while dancing under the stars to George Jones singing “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, that I decided my now wife might just be the one. On this night, as we danced to “I Let Her Lie”, I find myself glad she’s still around. We’ve been through a lot…but we still manage to remember to dance sometimes. (And that’s the power of a good country song.)
But enough about me….
As he has proven on several releases, Daryle also knows his way around a cover and can rival, if not surpass, most of the original versions. “Miami, My Amy”, “Bartender’s Blues”, “Black Sheep”, “Make Up And Faded Blue Jeans” were all done as well as can be done. And any fan of music should understand that’s saying a lot, but Daryle is left in a class all his own now that Keith Whitley and Vern Gosdin have passed, and Haggard and Jones have aged.
Hands down, he is simply the finest singer on the road today and an absolute can’t miss if ever within 100 miles of you.
Even More Fun: With Singletary and McBride
Sadly, after the show Daryle told me that he’s been working on writing and finding material and waiting for another record deal. The recent deal announced with Dirt Road Records (of Canada) is off. So, it may be while before we have another release, so, all the more important to catch him when he comes your way.
Many dates are already on the books, mostly within the U.S., but some as far away as Europe, and according to Daryle, more are added all the time, so you’ll have a chance soon enough. Table any excuse you may try to have and make your way to the front row, and see what country music truly is and should be.
Donnie Ayers And Daryle Singletary
After The Show: McBride and Singletary with Notable Attorney Sue Dillon Ayers