Live Review: Turnpike Troubadours in Asheville

The Turnpike Troubadours made the most of a brief North Carolina visit last week…

The relatively short time span from an announced show in Asheville to performance didn’t leave much room for promotion. Fortunately, the Turnpike Troubadours are one of the biggest and best bands currently in the red dirt scene, word traveled fast and a sold out crowd greeted them at Salvage Station in Asheville last Thursday night.

A small venue with a capacity of around 1,000 for their indoor performances, the unique facility provided both an indoor and outdoor stage. Better weather would have made for an entertaining performance on the outdoor stage with crowds along the French Broad River banks but with periods of rain, the cozy confines of an indoor facility were perfect.

Rising star Jaime Wyatt, who sings alongside Shooter Jennings on his new album in ‘Fast Horses and Good Hideouts’ got things going with her honky tonk style songs off her latest record Felony Blues.

Following, Evan Felker and his band took to the stage with ‘The Housefire’ and for nearly two hours rarely showed signs of slowing down. An upbeat set list with only brief interludes to share a story about former member and friend John Fullbright, in addition to band introductions were the only breaks in the action until time for an encore.

From his initial countdown to get things started, Felker looked like a revived and refreshed band leader. Our seventh Turnpike Troubadours show in the past seven years and it was the most fun we’ve seen him have on stage. High on life? Sober? You’d have to ask him but the performance was on point all night long.

High energy, solid performances all the way around and even nearly 1,000 miles from home playing to a packed house with the majority singing along. Felker did mention their latest album, A Long Way From Your Heart, was partially recorded in the North Carolina mountains of Asheville presumably at the historic Echo Mountain Studios.

Potentially their best album to date, which is saying something considering the band hasn’t put out a bad song in nearly a decade, many of the favorites were featured throughout the set with a sprinkling of older songs mixed in between.

Felker turned over the stage to bass player R.C. Edwards to take a short break and his song ‘Drunk, High and Loud’ went over extremely well before the full band was back together for ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’ (Beatles) and ‘Long Hot Summer Day’ (John Hartford).

The encore was a perfect two song finale showcasing the talents of everyone in the band and how well their combined efforts come across on stage. Like a well oiled machine, the Turnpike Troubadours executed a flawless performance on a tight stage putting together one of the best live shows we have witnessed this year.

FULL SETLIST 05/17/2018

The Housefire
Every Girl
7 & 7
Morgan Street
The Bird Hunters
Whole Damn Town
Kansas City Southern
Good Lord Lorrie
The Winding Stair Mountain Blues
Pay No Rent
Pipe Bomb Dream
Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead
I’ve Just Seen a Face (The Beatles)
Drunk, High and Loud (R.C. Edwards)
Long Hot Summer Day (John Hartford)


A Tornado Warning
Something To Hold On To

Live Review: Aaron Watson in Charlotte

The Queen City got a taste of West Texas with Aaron Watson on Saturday night…

These Old Boots Have Roots was a fitting opener for Aaron Watson as he took the stage at Coyote Joe’s on Saturday night. The upbeat anthem not only makes a promise of being committed in a relationship but also to remember where you come from. Watson has remained true to those words over his 17-year career, forging a path in his own way while bringing numerous fans along for the ride.

Not only did Watson make it a point to continuously highlight the mothers in attendance on Mother’s Day Eve but he also took the time to listen as fans shouted requests, making his best efforts to connect with the crowd and entertain with his music.

At one point Watson even pulled his own phone from his pocket attempting to take a selfie with the audience but eventually passed off the responsibility to his drummer for a better shot. The roughly 90-minute set started off fast but slowed in the middle as Watson shared the story behind July in Cheyenne which concluded with the Lane Frost signature wave.

A bride-to-be celebrating with her friends was invited on stage by Watson and assisted with the band for a brief moment before a unique introduction of each band member and a rollicking finish.

After disclosing there would be no traditional encore, in appreciation for the fans who Watson believes shouldn’t be left to beg for music after having purchased a ticket, the set continued.

As Watson highlighted every member of his band, Orphans of the Brazos, they were each granted a couple of minutes to showcase their own individual talents. From playing the popular Uptown Funk on bass to epic drum and guitar solos, the brief intermission filled with continued music fit nicely into the set.

As the first few notes of Outta Style rang out across the Coyote Joe’s dance floor there was a sense of closure to the evening and everyone in attendance knew this was it. The crowd sang along as the set came full circle before Watson leaped from the stage, shaking hands and passing out guitar picks to fans who were in the first few rows.

It was evident that Watson cares about his fans and their appreciation for his music from the set alone, but an even deeper understanding of this fact became apparent following the show.

After a short break fans lined a few walls of Coyote Joe’s near the merchandise table where Watson would soon reappear. For nearly as long as the Texas native had entertained with his music, Watson stood taking pictures with fans, shaking hands, and extending his own appreciation for them being in attendance.

Watson may not consider himself a star but he is indeed a bright one and someone taking the time to act in such a manor says a lot about their commitment to music, entertainment and understanding that it is the fans who aid in their successes – much like many of the other musicians inside the Red Dirt and Texas Country scene.

FULL SETLIST 05/12/2018

These Old Boots Have Roots
Freight Train
Real Good Time
Raise Your Bottle
That’s Why God Loves Cowboys
Take You Home Tonight
That Look
July in Cheyenne
Getaway Truck
Run Wild Horses
Fence Post
Amarillo By Morning
Barbed Wire Halo
Outta Style

Live Review: MerleFest 2018, Friday

One of the largest music festivals in the world, MerleFest, recently took place here in North Carolina…

MerleFest 2018 began on a rainy Thursday evening but Friday’s weather could not have been more perfect. A more festival feeling took over the grounds of Wilkes Community College as attendees filled their seats early in the day and were set up for the long haul. Performances taking place across 11 different stages at various times throughout the day helped to break up the crowd while the valley in front of the Watson Stage remained near capacity.

Artists were in and out of their various appearances as fans were entertained and individuals had more than a fair share of opportunities to see and hear whatever they wanted. Throughout the day, a few of the sets stood out above the rest as we made our way through what would unfortunately be our final day of the festival.

Brandy Clark

The Washington native singer/songwriter took to the Watson Stage on Friday afternoon a bit behind schedule but well worth the wait. Clark got the attention of everyone with her story telling capabilities and detailed lyrics behind many of her songs from her most recent album, “Big Day in a Small Town.”

Never one to mince words, Clark wowed those on hand with hits like, “Girl Next Door“, the title track “Big Day in a Small Town” and “Daughter” – a revenge song of which Clark is particularly proud. Looking around during her set, there were many on hand who were familiar with her work but it is also a safe assumption that Clark gained many new fans by putting together a well rehearsed set and connecting to the audience via her small town stories to which many on hand could relate.

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer with Sam Gleaves

Earlier in the afternoon, the duo of Fink and Marxer with special guest Sam Gleaves entertained the main stage crowd from the front porch of the Cabin Stage. One of our favorite pre-festival interviews, Fink and Marxer are prevelant members in the folk music community having won multiple GRAMMY Awards while creating original music for fans of all ages.

Rosie and the Riveters

Making their North Carolina and MerleFest debut, Rosie and the Riveters brought their unapologetic approach to many of today’s controversial issues through song to the crowd – also from the Cabin Stage. The female trio recently released their second album, “Ms. Behave” and included the title track into their unfortunately brief 25-minute set.

Jamey Johnson

Country music icon Jamey Johnson concluded the main stage lineup to end night two of MerleFest. Johnson beckons the memory of many past entertainers who can captivate an audience with simply a guitar and his voice. There is no need for flashing lights, background tracks, computerized sounds or anything not man made live when Johnson is on stage.

The simplicity of his set, where Johnson shines as he doesn’t work from a list but instead plays anything he pleases, is anything but … while his entertainment value reaches peak perfection. Earlier in the afternoon, Johnson shared his thoughts on a number of subjects via an interview with many of the media members on hand.

When asked about his favorite writer, Johnson said, “Nobody turns a phrase like [Kris] Kristofferson.” The Texas legend who had graced the Watson Stage just one night prior. It was an epic ending to the second day of MerleFest here in North Carolina.

The weekend continued as many more artists and entertainers graced numerous stages throughout the complex over Saturday and Sunday. The MerleFest experience is unique in a variety of ways and should definitely be attended, regardless of the lineup – which is annually too good to pass up.

Taking place over the last weekend of April every year, go ahead and prepare for the thirty-second installment set to occur next year.

Live Review: MerleFest 2018, Thursday

One of the largest music festivals in the world, MerleFest, took place last weekend, here in North Carolina…

MerleFest may have gotten off to a rainy start but the lineup and performances happening on Thursday kept everyone entertained, warm and ready to party. The annual festival regularly draws crowds over 75,000 to the rural northwestern North Carolina town of Wilkesboro (population 3,554) and the city along with Wilkes Community College are both inviting hosts.

Beginning with parking and shuttle rides from off site locations, the volunteers manning lots and bus drivers greet every guest with a smile and warm welcome. Most in attendance and everyone working appeared to be in a great mood – music has that capability and live performances kicking off an epic weekend in the mountains for MerleFest was guaranteed not to disappoint.

Gates opened at 2:30pm on Thursday for Day 1 and the crowds pouring into the venue were greeted by the Kruger Brothers on the Watson Stage (main stage) with a set beginning just thirty minutes later. The international born brothers (Switzerland) settled in Wilkesboro and have become an iconic group within the folk genre.

One patron in attendance referred to MerleFest as the “Coachella” of Bluegrass but the lineup often features groups and performances from a variety of musical genres – though most do possess folk or bluegrass origins and tendencies.

The Thursday lineup took a turn south for Texas following the opening set of MerleFest as each of the next three performers hail from the Lone Star State. Shinyribs got things going, followed by Kris Kristofferson and Robert Earl Keen before another band with ties to the Texas music industry, The Mavericks, closed out opening day.


If you have never witnessed Shinyribs live, then make it a point to find them wherever they are and go see a show. Just the introduction along before Kevin Russell comes sashaying onto the stage is worth any price of admission. Known for his flamboyant wardrobe selections, Russell greeted the MerleFest audience with a purple suit and bright pink tie.

While the rains began during their hour long set, it didn’t deter the crowd who was up and dancing along with every beat by the end. Russell, the combination of Shiny Soul Sisters with Tijuana Trainwreck Horns backed by the rest of the band form a funky-roots outfit that entertained with both originals and a few covers.

Kris Kristofferson

The iconic Kris Kristofferson made his MerleFest debut on Thursday night and fans in attendance seemed to genuinely appreciate the contributions to music made from such a legendary superstar.

Backed by The Strangers, Merle Haggard’s original band and son Ben, Kristofferson doled out 18 songs and an encore before calling it a night. A member of country supergroup, The Highwaymen, featuring Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, his original songs and those he wrote have been performed by numerous other artists since their inception.

Kristofferson gave way to Ben Haggard during his father’s “Okie from Muskogee,” much to the delight of the crowd. Ben is a rising star in his own right and playing alongside the storied Kristofferson will only serve to bolster his pedigree.

Kristofferson setlist:
-Shipwrecked in the 80’s
-That’s The Way Love Goes
-Darby’s Castle
-Me and Bobby McGee
-Here Comes That Rainbow
-Help Me Make It Through The Night
-Okie From Muskogee
-Casey’s Last Ride
-Loving Her Was Easier
-Just the Other Side of Nowhere
-Sing Me Back Home
-The Pilgrim
-Jesus Was A Capricorn
-Stay Here And Drink
-Sunday Morning Coming Down
-For The Good Times
-A Moment of Forever
-Why Me

-Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends

Robert Earl Keen

Fellow Texan, Robert Earl Keen was up next on the Watson Stage as both the rain and crowd excitement intensified. Keen managed to transform a valley full of festival goers into what felt like a small listening room with his stories and upbeat songs like, “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” and “Feelin’ Good Again”.

Keen also allowed bassist and songwriter, Bill Whitbeck a.k.a. “Rusty Pliers,” to assist the crowd in spelling New Braunfels, during a performance of “Copenhagen” that he promised a member of the media he would play during his set.

An impressive musical performance came to a rousing conclusion with Keen’s anthem, a finale of “The Road Goes On Forever” that had everyone in attendance up on their feet and in appreciation of both the musical talents of Keen and his band.

Robert Earl Keen setlist:
-Hot Corn
-Feelin’ Good Again
-Twisted Laurel
-If I Were King
-Man Behind Drums
-I Gotta Go

The Mavericks

Finally, the Latin influenced group of Tex-Mex and rockabilly song styles of The Mavericks brought the first night of MerleFest to a close on the main Watson Stage. While performances kept going into the night by other groups on other stages, of which MerleFest has 14, the main events were over.

Off to a rainy beginning, the performances by each of the artists on the main stage were well worth battling the elements and many in the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Preparations were made, tarps were ascended and ponchos were on hand as a majority of the crowd was ready for the MerleFest opening main stage lineup come rain, wind, hail or high water.

And it was well worth the sacrifice.

Live Review: John Moreland Weekend

John Moreland covered Charlotte and Black Mountain over the weekend…

John Moreland is one of the best songwriters in the industry and his addition of a full band has only served to increase his level of entertainment. While previous encounters with the Oklahoma based singer were far from stale, the backing of another guitar, bass, and drum kit plus an occasional keyboard or harmonica (sometimes both!), adds a different level of flare to his live performances.

Having witnessed Moreland on three separate occasions prior to his two-day run through North Carolina, it’s also refreshing to see him incorporate both aspects of his arsenal into every set.

Now, not only can Moreland rock the lyrics of ‘Sallisaw Blue’, ‘Love Is Not An Answer’ and Tom Petty covers but he can also slow it down for his acoustical renderings – always a crowd favorite.

Both appearances by Moreland this past weekend were in festival type settings as Tuck Fest at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on Friday featured numerous attendees for the many various other activities taking place and Saturday celebrated Pisgah Brewing’s 13th Anniversary.

Regardless, there were still those in attendance who came to see Moreland specifically – especially in Black Mountain. Moreland entertained both crowds with similar sets and each crowd was entirely receptive. No matter the initial reason for being in attendance, it is safe to assume that many left as new fans of Moreland and his many talents.

Not only did the crowds appreciate the up-tempo approach early but each was close to reverent when Moreland sat, guitar in hand and doled out the agonizing lyrics to ‘Cherokee’ and ‘Break My Heart Sweetly.’

If you didn’t get an opportunity to be at either of the shows this weekend, Moreland is returning to North Carolina on Friday (April 27) of this week. You can see him at The Ramkat in Winston-Salem, so start making plans to end your week right – you’ll be glad you did.

Two unique venues and one amazingly talented singer/songwriter made for an awesome combination of live musical entertainment this past weekend!

Live Review: Casey Donahew in Charlotte

An electric Coyote Joe’s welcomed Texas native Casey Donahew back to North Carolina…

Fans of Casey Donahew appreciate both his upbeat storytelling and ability to slow things down with love songs that are in stark contrast to the rowdy tales of Carl Wayne. Critics however, attempt to put his musical stylings in the same file folder as today’s pop country musicians hailing from Nashville – on the opposite end of the spectrum from traditional Red Dirt and Texas Country music.

Regardless of where you feel Donahew’s sound falls in the genre, there is no denying his commitment to legends like George Strait, Chris LeDoux and Garth Brooks. His music is inspired by classic country and his live show a combination of each, capable of running around the stage, firing up the crowd and slowing the tempo when needed. All of these characteristics were evident on Saturday night at Coyote Joe’s in Charlotte.

Nashville based Jacob Powell started the night before giving way to Donahew and his band. Kicking things off, Donahew opened with ‘Feels This Right’ to set an upbeat tone for a majority of the night. He quickly followed with ‘Double Wide Dream’ warming the crowd up for other hits like ‘Stockyards’ – an anthem about his hometown where he began this “wild ride” he’s been on for 15-plus years.

After mention of the Cantina Cadillac, Donahew dialed up LeDoux’s ‘Cadillac Cowboy’ to the excitement of all on hand. Later in the evening, new music was on tap as ‘He Ain’t A Cowboy’ is sure to be another hit in a long line of Donahew favorites with a powerful line, He can’t saddle up no horse / so he ain’t never gonna ride away. Earlier in the evening, Donahew shared his commitment to writing songs about cowboys and belief that people still exist who appreciate just that – many were in attendance and expressed their gratitude for the sentiment.

The Matchbox 20 cover of ‘3 AM’ was included and every bit as entertaining as the original before Donahew broke into his third cover with a brief rendition of, ‘In Da Club’ by 50 Cent after noticing a fan celebrating a birthday in the audience. He also took a request and played, ‘White Trash Bay’ prior to launching into a partying finale.

Announcing prior that he didn’t see the point in walking off stage and returning, the crowd received instead a two-minute warning of sorts before ‘White Trash Story’ sandwiched ‘High’ as the crowd sang along at full throat to end the evening.

An entertaining performance worthy of ranking alongside artists like Pat Green, Cody Johnson and countless others hailing from Texas who have graced the stage at Coyote Joe’s.

FULL SETLIST 4/14/2018

Feels This Right
Double Wide Dream
No Doubt
Kiss Me
Country Song
Cadillac Cowboy
Whiskey Baby
Back Home in Texas
What Cowboys Do
One Star Flag
Breaks My Heart
Go to Hell
He Ain’t A Cowboy
3 AM
12 Gauge
White Trash Bay
Going Down Tonight
White Trash Story

Live Review: Brent Cobb in Charlotte

Georgia native Brent Cobb captivated the Queen City on Friday night…

Brent Cobb has recently been making the rounds throughout North Carolina with stops in Asheville and Raleigh, prior to his show on Friday night at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte. It was the last of his local dates before a spring spent mostly on the west coast touring prior to joining up with Chris Stapleton on his All American Road Show, traveling throughout the country. Once he does, even more people will get to witness the magical sound that immediately connects with listeners in a small venue but remains capable of translating to stadiums and amphitheaters.

In a world where every artist attempts to separate themselves from the next, whether by sound or unique instrumentation, Cobb achieves both. Immediately, his voice is recognizable no matter the song being played, while his use of the guitar keeps the momentum going with a solid sound.

Cobb took the stage at Neighborhood Theatre in front of a good crowd with many who were there to sing along. Word for word, a majority of the audience was ready for “Diggin’ Holes,” “Down Home” and “South of Atlanta,” despite some in attendance who needed a lesson in concert etiquette from American Aquarium front-man and North Carolina’s own BJ Barham.

Regardless of the unnecessary chatter taking place, Cobb declared that while he normally prefers to tell tales, he would instead stick to the music in an effort to fit as many songs into his two-hour set as possible. The time passed quickly as another highlight included the tribute song for Wayne Mills when “The King of Alabama” and our very own Tuesday Tune of the week, “Ain’t A Road Too Long” were played.

Overall, an exciting show with a receptive Charlotte crowd who was familiar with Cobb’s music because once he graces stages across America prior to Stapleton, his stock is only going to rise. For those in attendance on Friday night and in audiences recently throughout North Carolina, remember your time well spent when friends ask you about him in October, following dates with Stapleton in Raleigh and Charlotte.

You had a chance to witness his musical mastery in an intimate setting and while it may briefly continue, once more individuals are exposed to his relatable lyrics, then the opportunities similar to what Charlotte experienced on Friday night will diminish.

Cobb is on the rise and we are thankful he chose to spend multiple dates within his northeast neighbor before moving on across the country. See you again soon and while we’ll always be thankful for choosing the smaller venues, we’ll simultaneously appreciate your continued rise to whatever the future has in store.

Live Review: Sunny Sweeney in Charlotte

Charlotte definitely “got Sweenered” on Saturday night at Puckett’s Farm Equipment…

Sunny Sweeney? Never heard of him. A funny line for those who have been following Sweeney for sometime as the play on her name often elicits thoughts of an outlaw, independent artist writing about drinking, drugs and partying. Sweeney does all of the above and can entertain with the best of artists, proving it on Saturday night at Puckett’s Farm Equipment in Charlotte in front of a sold out crowd.

North Carolina native Jonathan Parker got the night started with an hour long set of original songs and an homage to Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson with “Mama Tried” and “Shotgun Willie,” respectively. A perfect start to the night ahead, opening for Sweeney who arrived in Charlotte just hours before her scheduled set.

Sweeney took to the stage and immediately garnered the crowd’s attention, which she wouldn’t relinquish all night. Telling tales behind a few songs including an embarrassing story of meeting country superstar, Vince Gill, before she was invited to spend some time writing at his cabin just outside of Nashville. Describing her first two encounters in nervous context then coming full circle with Gill taking Sweeney and her band out to breakfast just a few days ago.

From “Trophy,” the title track off of Sweeney’s latest album to older hits like “From A Table Away” and “Drink Myself Single,” the Texas singer was entertaining and thoroughly impressed with the crowd singing right along with her word for word. She introduced some new music with “You Can Tie Me Up (but You Can’t Tie Me Down),” which was not a favorite of her mother’s according to Sweeney but better than the cleverly named “Whiskey Richard”.

From the stage Sweeney recognized a number of fans in attendance with shirts or hats supporting her friends Cody Jinks and Ward Davis, who she has been recently on tour with in the southeast and has a few more upcoming dates with the addition of Tennessee Jet, though not here in North Carolina.

Although the capacity crowd was guaranteed a return from Sweeney, who genuinely seemed taken aback by those in attendance, at one point saying, “how do ya’ll know this?”.

Sunny Sweeney? Never heard of him.

Yes we have and if you recognize the names Jinks and Davis but not Sweeney then do yourself a favor and immediately acquire all of her albums. One of the most talented and entertaining singer/songwriters in the business with abundant success and a commitment to independent Texas country.

Expect another North Carolina date in her future and you too can sing along when she returns.

Live Review: Corey Hunt Band in Granite Falls

With an acoustic set, Corey Hunt entertained a midweek crowd at Granite Falls Brewery on Wednesday night…

A recent six song EP release from Corey Hunt Band called “North of Low Water” has the frontman and his right hand band member, Eric Wise, touring here, in Texas and across the southeast all spring. After opening for Eli Young Band in Greensboro, hosting a show in his hometown of Asheboro and kicking off a tour of Texas last weekend with events in Dallas, Houston and San Angelo, the resident North Carolinian returned home for a midweek gig before hitting the road … again.

The official spring tour features nine performances across the Carolinas, 10 Texas dates and other shows in both Georgia and Alabama through the end of April. Criss-crossing the southeast over the past seven years, the Corey Hunt Band continues to build a loyal fan base who appreciates original song writing and pure musical talent.

On Wednesday night the crowd wasn’t on hand for covers of conveniently packaged radio material but instead present to hear only what Corey Hunt was all about. He impressed with lyrics relaying the every day dealings of life, hardships, heartache and happiness with Wise keeping pace alongside.

Corey Hunt Band

GRANITE FALLS, NC – Corey Hunt Band performs at Granite Falls Brewery on Wednesday – March 21, 2018.

‘Uwharrie River,’ a song off the new EP was a crowd favorite in addition to a song Hunt said he wrote that day behind a rhythmic tune and chorus, ‘Dancing Down the Hall.’ Back in North Carolina for just a few days, Hunt and Wise left their touring van in Texas but will fly back for two more dates this weekend in Fort Worth and San Antonio.

Hunt introduced himself to the crowd with a few poignant words between the second and third songs of his set. A simple name and band introduction followed by breaking the news that if you had previously listened then recognizing his songs would be easy, but if not, then hopefully you’d learn as the night transpired.

As stated, there were no covers and no one cared. His ability to entertain without relying on work by other musicians or stereotypical “crowd pleasers” only further demonstrates the lengths to which Hunt has honed his craft by playing whenever and wherever possible.

It continues to pay off as ‘Hannah Belle’ broke into the Top-50 on Texas regional radio at one point and a few songs from “North of Low Water” have potential to do the same. The relentless touring, interviewing and a sincere appreciation for his fans should keep the Corey Hunt Band momentum building and moving forward throughout the year.

For those who appreciate and are fans of original music – a staple in the Red Dirt, Texas and Americana music scenes – the time is now to broaden your horizons by realizing there is some great music coming from North Carolina originals.

Corey Hunt Band is one of those who has been paving the way for quite some time and will continue to do so well into the future.

Live Review: Flatland Cavalry, Shane Smith and the Saints in Charlotte

For a moment on Saturday night, the Queen City experienced a heavy dose of Texas music…

Initially seeing that Flatland Cavalry with Shane Smith and the Saints would be making two stops in Charlotte was exciting but to be absolutely honest, we hadn’t listened to either nearly enough for an immediate ticket purchase. We were wrong.

After thinking back to seeing Flatland Cavalry on the front cover of The Music Fest Magazine for the Winter 2017/2018 edition, we knew they were an up and coming band with big things ahead. Having attended Mile 0 Fest, we spotted many Shane Smith and the Saints t-shirts even though they hadn’t been booked for the four day marathon. Both groups were on the radar but still hadn’t registered completely, although we (thankfully) decided to attend.

Puckett’s Farm Equipment is a small corner store that has been transformed into a live music venue perfect for fans who understand what they’re getting into and are there to experience good music in a unique environment. The sold out crowd on Saturday night knew both bands and for those that didn’t they won’t soon forget either. We binged on music from both groups in order to prepare and immediately became excited at the prospects of getting to see each in such a small space. Having witnessed The Turnpike Troubadours play a set here in June 2013, it felt as if both groups are on a similar trajectory.

Flatland Cavalry opened the night and front man Cleto Cordero immediately engaged the audience with his lyrics while fiddle player Laura Jane Houle kept pace alongside him. The group’s musical expertise aside, they have also managed to transform many of their songs into response style sing-a-longs, including “A Life Where We Work Out” off their latest album, released nearly two years ago.

Flatland Cavalry

CHARLOTTE – Flatland Cavalry performs at Puckett’s Farm Equipment on March 10, 2018

Although it wasn’t the same without female vocals added from fellow artist Kaitlin Butts, Cordero still nailed it before adding that it is, in fact, not about gym memberships.

Shane Smith and the Saints were up next and just seconds into their set it was evident this group has a unique sound all their own. The harmonies are so on point it is almost uncanny and their lengthy, carrying fiddle tunes provided by Bennett Brown initially brought back memories from “The Last of the Mohicans,” a Daniel Day-Lewis film, directed by Michael Mann which was filmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

The French and Indian War tale syncs nicely with their sound, especially given their second album, “Geronimo” carried the title given Smith’s fascination with the character and dual meaning of taking a leap of faith by producing songs and music unique to your own group and going against the grain.

Shane Smith and the Saints

CHARLOTTE – Shane Smith and the Saints perform with Flatland Cavalry on March 10, 2018 at Puckett’s Farm Equipment

Behind Smith, lead guitarist Tim Allen is extremely talented mixing in with bassist Chase Satterwhite, as all are kept in time with the base drum kicking Zach Stover in the back. The four-man ensemble kept the crowd entertained and wanting more once their set neared completion.

Smith addressed the crowd with time to play one more song and was met with a boisterous chant from the audience on hand. “Dance the Night Away” was repeated in succession four or five times before Smith, who may have actually been planning to play something else, thankfully succumbed to the will of those on hand.

An electric performance to end the set and leave those exiting with the tune lingering in the their heads before inviting Flatland Cavalry back on stage to conclude with what is quickly becoming an anticipated grand finale.

After catching video online of Cordero playing a kazoo during a show previously on the tour, we were hoping it would make an appearance when they arrived in North Carolina and both groups didn’t disappoint. Sharing the stage and instruments, the two bands left an impression on those in attendance at Puckett’s before exchanging a few pleasantries with fans and displaying a genuine appreciation for those in attendance.

Both Texas based bands were met with a sell out crowd for their first of two stops in North Carolina and will hopefully be returning soon. When they do, we’ll be among the first to grab some tickets.