Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Big As Texas: Ethyl & the Regulars

Fill 'Er Up, the fantastic 2009 album by Denver's Ethyl and the Regulars

In my last post I discussed many of the neo country bands that I've been following lately.  Well, as I mentioned, my adopted state of Colorado has a very solid neo country scene and has several bands that are producing outstanding traditional country, including Bonnie and the Clydes, the Blue Mountain Ranch Hands, and the Railbenders.  But recently I got to see what might arguably be considered the best of a very excellent bunch, Ethyl and the Regulars.  They played at the Oskar Blues Grill and Bar in the small mountain town of Lyons and they were OUTSTANDING.  I've really come to enjoy their music, having purchased their lone album, 2009's Fill 'Er Up, but seeing them live was on another level entirely.  These guys play rock solid country mixed with honky tonk, western swing, and rockabilly in a way that is absolutely riveting.  This was one of the best gigs I've seen in the past 25 years, and I've seen everyone from Madonna to the Weirdos to Itzhak Perlman in concert. But this was no "concert"; part of what made it so enjoyable was that this was just a honky tonk band playing a honky tonk bar in a honky tonk town for a honky tonk crowd; no hipsters here, just mostly regulars and people who like real country music played hot and live.  The size of the crowd was disappointing given how good these guys are but everyone there seemed to really enjoy their 3+ hour set, with many older couples jumping up and cutting it up western style.  Their lineup of stand-up bass, acoustic guitar, Telecaster, pedal steel, and fiddle with minimal amplification sounded warm, rich, and organic.  They ripped through most of the songs on their album, including my personal favorites "Canada Day", "Love's Gonna Get You", the western swing influenced "Big as Texas", "Knee Deep in the Blues", "Good Morning Blues", the rocking hillbilly boogie of "Cash on the Barrelhead", and "At the End of My Blues".  During their break I talked to lead singer Jeff (and bought a t-shirt and CD from this terrifically nice and talented guy) and requested my favorite song by them "Cook County Jail", which they ripped through with the ferocity of a man eating tiger.  They also roared through a wicked number of fantastic covers, including "Together Again" by Buck Owens, "Mind Your Own Business" by Hank Williams, a phenomenal version of Johnny Horton's "One-Woman Man", and a blistering countrified romp through the Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville".  This was a terrific night of authentic country music and I cannot wait until I can see them again live.  They have ascended my personal Top 10 in dizzying fashion and I am just so excited that a band of their talent and stature is in my neck of the woods.