Saturday Night: Robert Ellis Wins Nashville's Heart
"It takes a lot of balls to do that in this town, but y'all pulled it off," a man in the second row yelled towards the stage amidst a wave of applause.
Robert Ellis and his Boys had just finished a powerful rendition of George Jones' "If Drinkin' Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)," much to the delight of the packed room at Nashville's Mercy Lounge. A firm testament to the prowess of our hometown heroes, the statement capped a weekend that saw Nashville wrap its arms around Ellis.
Aftermath, who just happens to be in Nashville on vacation, managed to catch Ellis at both of his Saturday appearances - first at a crowded Grimey's, Nashville's premier independent record store - and later that night. Both performances were well-receieved, as Ellis performed to enraptured audiences that showed the degree of respect and devoted listening we always hope to see in Houston crowds.
His evening set started off with a slow burn, as Ellis opened with the more reserved Photographs cuts "Friends Like Those" and "Two Cans of Paint." But before long, the band ripped the night open with the solos on "Westbound Train" and backed up surprise guest Jonny Corndawg on his humorous ditty "Trash Day."
Good Intentions: Steel guitarist Will Van Horn
A thorough pounding through "Good Intentions" made anyone who hadn't already been listening intently immediately crane their necks. Heads were bobbing, one kid up front was bellowing the words, and raucous applause followed. Aftermath stood there beaming with delight at the throng's reaction as Ellis led the band through "Pride and "No Fun" before handling Jones' number with the great acumen we came to expect each Whiskey Wednesday.
As their new fan up front complimented the Boys for their prowess, it looked like Ellis and company will be just fine out in the world and could convert entire crowds like this one at each stop. It's not easy to sell country to Nashville, but the band sure made it seem that way, wrapping up the set with the Osborne Brothers' "Ruby (Are You Mad)" to a forest of beers thrust high and a smattering of cheers.
Aftermath would've been satisfied with seeing Robert and crew tear up the opening set, but Those Darlins and Ellis' fellow Texans and New West labelmates the Old 97's yet to come, so we ordered up another round. Mercy Lounge is a bit like the Continental Club, similar in size and skewing a bit towards the Wild West side. The bar top is emblazoned with pinup cowgirls brandishing six shooters and lassos.
Those Darlins are three guitar-wielding ladies in stockings and one very capable young man behind the drum kit. We're a bit of a sucker for animated groups, with those fronted by quirky females leaving us particularly rubber-legged. It should be no surprise, then, that the quartet quickly captured our heart with both their tunes and energy.
The sound made us recall the Dum Dum Girls, graced with adorable Southern accents and fuzz pedals disengaged. The drums rumbled with heavy hits as the blazing 13-song set that passed too quickly. With a gloomy bit of bounce and some kill-you-while-you're-sleeping crazy eyes, the Darlins also brought to mind The Black Angels, but without straying deep into psychedelia.