Deep Ellum may be pretty lively on the weekends, but unfortunately, it’s never a real hotspot on the weekdays. Like, this Thursday night for instance, because there’s rarely something major going on.
But this night, the Dallas/Fort Worth area favorites, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, were performing at The Doublewide, and playing with them was their buddies from St. Louis, Kentucky Knife Fight. No, it wasn’t a “major” show or anything, but it was one that was well worth going to.
Making it even better was the fact that Madison King and her band were opening the show. I caught her quite a few times back in 2011, but it seemed like her show schedule tapered off in 2012, and when she did perform, there was usually some other show I wanted to see more. So, needless to say, I was looking forward to finally seeing her again.
They were a trio this night, with Ms. King on the acoustic guitar, while the rhythm section was occupied by Jeff Dyer on bass and drummer, John Solis . They opened their 32-minute long set with what is quite possible the best song in their repertoire, “Here In Arms”, which just so happens to be a cover from a Dallas band with that same name. It was easily the best song of their set, despite Madison forgetting a line in it, which I think happened right after the line, “…If I’m the queen of dreams and runaways, you’re the king of patience, my love…” It didn’t seem to faze her much, though. Rather, she just pulled back from the mic on the small part she forgot, laughing, before getting back to it. They slowed things down a little with “Feel The Same”, before doing one of three new songs. It was incredible catchy, in terms of the music bed, and all around a fantastic tune. Pretty much the same can also be said of their next one, another new track called “The Mistake”, where the guitar, bass and drums intertwined with each other perfectly, allowing each to be the more dominant instrument at various points throughout it. “…This next song is one of the first I ever wrote…” Madison said, announcing it was another gem, “Tough As Nails”. After one more new song, Madison began plucking the strings of her guitar, progressively getting faster, starting the fast paced title track from her record, “Darlin, Here’s To You”. Their set had seemed to pass by too quickly, and they were already at the end, but they at least went out with a bang. “…This song is called Whiskey In The Morning” Madison told the meager crowd. It may be one of the shortest songs she has, but it’s also one of the most entertaining. For example, take the line, “…When I’m singing with the choir they say, “Girl you’re such a liar. I saw you last night drinking with my friends.” And I may have been there, too, but I’m still better than you because I don’t smell like whiskey in the morning…”
It was a good one to close with, and it ended what was a fantastic set. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I hadn’t seen her in so long, but she sounded impeccable this night. Her voice was gorgeous, and there were more than a few songs where it was nothing short of breathtaking.
To me, this show served to re-solidify the fact that Madison King is one of the most talented singer/songwriters in the area, judging from the new music they did, her next record should be just as remarkable as her first.
No telling when that will be, though. So, for now, be sure to check out “Darlin, Here’s to You” and keep an eye on her FACEBOOK PAGE for an future show updates.
They cleared off the stage in no time, and then Kentucky Knife Fight proceeded to set up.
It’s been right at two years since I first heard of the group, when they played this very venue for their first every show in Dallas. I caught them again in the summer of 2011 when they returned, but had missed all their other return trips since. I wasn’t going to miss this one, though…
The band is very close to releasing a new album, so it only made sense that their set this night would feature some of that new material. In fact, half of their set ended up being stuff that they have yet to release…
Like their first song, which was every bit as explosive as dynamite. It was a more intense, fiery song, and it found guitarist, Curt Brewer, often adding some backing vocals on the choruses, which really helped make the song pop. It may have been a knockout tune, but I was hoping they’d be some of my favorites of theirs, but especially one in particular. And wouldn’t you know it, they did that one next. “She looks bereft in her Sunday dress. Ruby red with the lips to match…” crooned vocalist, Jason Holler, which is the first few lines of “Always A Bribe, Never A Bride”. Most of his band mates joined him on the second chorus, as he, Curt, rhythm guitarist, Nate Jones, and bassist, Jason Koenig, harmonized to an extent, belting out, “She can tell I’m an only child. She knows why I can’t sleep at night. Has her fingers wrapped around the necks of every man, every woman, every breath…”. Then, as came to a close, Jason added some particularly long breaks in-between the final lines. “Every man…” he sang, before stopping and casually glancing around. By the second pause, the crowd started laughing, and it was indeed a bit humorous. After several seconds he put his face back in front of the mic and softly sang, “…Eve-ry breath.” Next up were a couple more new tracks of theirs, though these had at least been released as singles earlier last year. Easily the best of those songs is “Misshappen Love”, which was also arguable their best song of the night. Beginning with some sweet licks on the bass, it soon exploded into what was the loudest and most raw song of the set, and more than a few people were rocking out to it. The neatest part of it came near the end, when Jason H. picked up another microphone of his, which gave his voice a more gravelly sound, while he sang the chorus, “Why ya wanna to go and wreck my life? Why ya wanna go and bleed me dry?…”. “This next song is called Love the Lonely. It’s about loving the lonely.” Jason H. said, as they started into the slightly slower song. It still builds up to quite an aggressive tune, though, and several people were banging their heads along to the drumbeats, which were courtesy of James Baker. When it was over, Jason H. started chatting with the audience, then mentioned something about this was their “Birthday Tour 2013”, which made the rest of the guys laugh. “…It’s mathematically impossible, but today is every single one of our birthdays…” He said, then threw their merch guy into the mix, saying he was also celebrating another year of life this day. What made it so hysterical, though, was the fact that he seemed dead serious about it. They returned to the music after that, and I believe it was Nate who began picking at his guitar, starting “Herschel Walker”, which was the only song they did from the “The Wolf Crept, The Children Slept” album. It was still every bit as catchy as I remembered. They followed it up with three more new tracks, the first of which I really enjoyed. The second of those was pretty good, too, but the third was by far the best in my opinion, due mainly to this line from the chorus, “…The mistakes of the past are the ones that last…” At this point, they announced they had a couple of songs left, while Curt switched out his guitar for a banjo. Their Dallas fans seemed ecstatic upon realizing he was leading them into “Dream So Sweet”, which also featured Jason playing a little harmonica. They brought their 46-minute long set to a close with one last new song, which had an intro of sorts, that was pretty soft and consisted of only Nate lightly strumming his guitar, while Jason H. sang rather quietly. I didn’t think they’d close with something so slow, but it went on long enough, I began to doubt it ever would escalate into something more… Then it did. The rest of the guys finally added their talents to it, making it that much better, and a solid way to end the show.
There’s no denying that they were the most electric band of the night. They were all very lively and definitely commanded the crowd. Speaking of which, they had more eyes watching them then any of the other acts this night. In some ways, that’s sad, because this was an excellent bill, but in others it’s a testimony to how extraordinary Kentucky Knife Fight really is. ‘Cause to be a touring band, who, until two years ago had never even played Dallas, they now have a pretty good little fan base here.
The band has a couple show scheduled in the state of Illinois during mid-February, so visit their OFFICIAL WEBSITE for where, when and other such details. However, their big show will be a hometown gig in St. Louis at Off Broadway. They’ll be celebrating the release of their brand new record, and I imagine that will be a show not to miss out on. And before that new record hits digital retailers, check out their older stuff (and a couple new songs) on iTunes.
Finally, you had the Whiskey Folk Ramblers, who didn’t quite have the crowd they deserved. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a decent amount of people out for a Thursday night, but not as many as the band before them had.
They, too, have been hard at work on new material, and began their 55-minute long set with one of those new tunes. That wasn’t the only “new” thing about them, though, at least not for me. They were down a member from the last time I had seen them (which in all fairness, has been awhile), leaving them without a banjo player/multi-instrumentalist, and I was instantly curious as to how they would sound with its absence. Next, their drummer opened up their classic/fan favorite, “Gambling Preacher and His Daughter”. If there were any differences, they were subtle enough that I didn’t take notice of them, or perhaps the distinctive, twangy voice of singer and acoustic guitarist, Tyler Rougeux, was enough to cover it up. Whatever way you slice it, though, it was every bit as good as it always has been. Afterwards, they launched into a barrage of tunes, one of which, “Into That Slide”, came from their current release, “And There Are Devils…”. The next two were from their debut, “Midnight Drifter”, and included the catchy, “Moanin’ Rag”, before their drummer wound them right into “Goin’ Where I Don’t Know”, both of which are pretty short and very fast paced, making them fly by. To add some balance to it all, they then did a series of new tunes, one of which I recognized from the past few times I’ve seen them, and is a bit haunting as Tyler sings, “…I’ll follow you down…” A couple of songs later and they did one titled, “Drank the Bottle Dry”, before returning to some older stuff with “Curtains”. The music bed for that latter one is superb, with the acoustic and electric guitar, played by Mark Moncrieff, mixing quite well and they intertwine perfectly with the low end beats JackDaw Russell cranks out on his upright bass, though it is the Cory Graves’s and his trumpet that really makes the song pop. Tyler gave a simple explanation of what their next song was about, simply saying, “…It’s about sex…” Their next song got a nice lead in, too, when Tyler told everyone it was about an guy named “…Buster Brown…”. That made me assume it was another new one, but no. Instead, it was what is possible their most popular song to date, “Pies of Old Kylene”. They followed it with one final new song for the night, then slowed things down a little with “Sweet Waters”, which brought them to their final song. Now, a song or two before, Cory had lit up a cigarette, and could be seen periodically taking a drag off it. At this point, Tyler noticed it. “Well, look at that. Cory learned how to smoke a electronic cigarette…” he said. “At least I hope it’s an electronic one…” By that time it had been thrown to the ground and put out. They then began their final tune for the night, the lengthy, “Midnight Drifter”, which tells a story exactly like what the title suggests. “…So I took her out, stabbed her with my knife…” Tyler sings at one point, in a rather manically voice. As it neared the end, Cory walked to the front of the stage, looking like he could jump into the crowd at any moment. Sure enough, he did. Jason K. of Kentucky Knife Fight caught him, as Cory slid down the guys back, still shaking the tambourine he had exchanged his trumpet for.
This was as strong a show as I’ve seen the Whiskey Folk Ramblers do, and I have to say, I’m enjoying the new stuff. The bands first two records differ greatly in sound, and it would appear their upcoming third record will be different from those two. In a good way, though. It doesn’t come across as a complete overhaul of their sound, but rather a natural progression of it, simply evolving into the next phase. It still maintains what has been called a “spaghetti western” sound, though, and I find it interesting that a lot of the songs sound similar enough that they fit together almost seamlessly, but still maintain their own individuality.
So if you haven’t already, go check ‘em out, because I promise you haven’t heard anything like this before.
They don’t have anything on the books at the moment, but keep an eye on their FACEBOOK PAGE, as they no doubt will get something soon. Also, check out their two records in iTunes.
This was really an exceptional night, and turned out to be even better than I thought it would, which is saying a lot. And if you weren’t here, then you truly did miss out.