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Call It Americana - Jesse Dayton's Honky-Tonk and Hot Rod Music Festival


Red Mountain Drifters

Red Mountain Drifters

Kathy Coleman

Whoo hoo! Strap in and enjoy a long night of hot music and cool cars! Americana time is never quite the same as real world time; doors at the Rhythm Room were indeed open at 3 (ish), but groups didn't start arriving until around 4:30 or 5:00. To be sure, the Room's chairs aren't the most comfy in the world, but it's a cool refuge from Arizona's July heat, and the music compilation provided by the festival's publicity company, the awesome Hillgrass Bluebilly Entertainment, was terrific.

When the bands started arriving, it proved to be worth the wait. First up was the thrash-hellbilly group, Blackout Radio. Now, I'm not familiar with their work and I couldn't understand a word that was being sung (this was more because of the occasional muddiness of the Room's acoustics - some groups don't seem to notice in their sound checks), so I couldn't tell you what they sang, but it was pretty good. The playing was terrific and it was a head-banging Americana way to start off the evening. Sadly, their website is thoroughly under construction and there's no information on their music at all there, so I can't even guess what they sang. They did at least tell us they came down from Portland, so their opinion on Phoenix's heat was understandable.

Next up were the Red Mountain Drifters, a pretty damned awesome group who I believe said they came from Tennessee to play for us (I thought they might be local, since we have a Red Mountain here, but my friends heard Tennessee), but they brought no CDs, and they have no website, and it's like they arrived fresh out of a past time, with their strong music and clever, catchy lyrics. They opened with the delightful "Frank's Love Letter to a Neighbor" and followed up with the tongue-in-cheek "Dead Memphis Girl" (a song my whole table just loved!). The songs which followed, "The Land Beyond," "Dead to Rights," "Rolling Bones," "Memories Make Us Cry," and "Germany" were equally as good; and they did a pretty hot cover of "Carmelita." I'm not sure if the next song was called "Turn Away From Heaven," but it was poignant and soul-searing, then they closed with "Try Again," a cover of "I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow," and "Look Away." I hope they come back to visit us again, because they were just tremendous! If not that, then at least they need to get a disc out.

But the night was just beginning, as in came Heather Rae and her Moonshine Boys (also known as Heather Rae Johnston on guitar, fiddle, and vocals; Shannon Marino on vocals and doghouse bass; and, on this night, Jeremy Wade playing lead guitar, with special guest Vince Ramirez on snare drum), back home again after having moved to Austin earlier this year. I've seen Heather Rae play out at the Yucca Tap Room, and she never fails to give a hundred percent to every one of her songs and her audience with a kick-ass powerhouse voice and awesome fiddle playing. She kicked it up with "Something's Going On In The House Next Door" and kept it swinging with "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke," "Got A Lot of Rhythm in My Soul," "Baby's Gone," "Shadetree Mechanic," "Blue Highway," "Short Life of Trouble, Long Life of Sin," "Anywhere the Music Sends Me," "Smokin' Mary Jane" (a great double entendre!), "I'm So High," "Mountain Girls," "Ain't Walkin' the Floor," "Big Iron Skillet" (another great one), a wailin' cover of "Jackson," then "In the Doghouse," and "I Don't Wanna Think, I Wanna Drink." Heather Rae and the boys can come on back to Phoenix any time at all, because they sure do know how to do it right.

Next, the incomparable Moot Davis, that New Jersey-born honky-tonker, who shone in a sparkling white Manuel-style jacket. He was, as always, backed by guitar god Pete Anderson, as always at the top of his game as they swung into Moot's opener, "Thick of It Now." Moots's voice came through strong after the producer side of Anderson did the sound checks, and the lead guitar was dazzling (one of my friends commented afterward that Anderson must have killed Dwight Yoakam's grandmother, as that could be the only acceptable excuse for having split with him). They played a combination of originals and covers, with "Highway Kind," "Jug of Wine," "Wide Open Road," "Used To Be You," "Big River," "Whiskey Town," "Thanks For Breaking My Heart," "Last Train Home," "Stay Gone," "Pocket Full of Pennies," "One of a Kind," "Fourteen-Carat Mind," "The Man & The Myth," "Three Days," "I Go Alone," "No One To Talk to But the Blues," "Tennessee Stud" (proving once Johnny Cash sings a song, it's his; Moot did Johnny's version, with two verses missing), "Nothing," "Why Baby Why," and "One Woman Man." I can never get enough of listening to Pete Anderson play guitar, and when he's backing someone as good as Moot, it's entertainment that can't go wrong.

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