Jun 8, 2010

Drew Kennedy Says People are Idiots For Not Getting the Josh Grider Trio

Drew Kennedy Says People are Idiots For Not Getting the Josh Grider Trio
(co-signed by Matt Skinner)
Subtitle: Trailer Gherms at "Pickin' in the Pasture"

Saturday night I lived the life of a rockstar blogger. Hung out with some of my favorite singers. Took pictures from right beside the stage as they performed. Bought Drew Kennedy a Flying Dog. Tried one of Austin Collins' hand rolled cigs (tobacco!). Ate fine barbecue after standing in line chatting with Josh Grider and bassist Chris Grady. Sipped cold ones long into the breezy southern night.

A picturesque lakeside pavilion was the setting for "Pickin' in the Pasture," an annual event held in rural Madison County, Mississippi. It was a family event with probably a couple hundred folks in attendance, enjoying pulled pork with all the fixings and fellowship with friends. Kids played, dogs roamed and beer poured (politely).

Any other get-together of this sort across the south would feature whatever C-list mainstream country singer the host family had ties to. There'd be piped in radio country over the speakers, before and after the concert. Somebody would probably be funneling Miller Light in the parking lot. Drool would pour from the corners of attendees mouths.

Nah, not here. This was some throwback bizarro world with good taste.

There was a pre-supper feature of the host family's kids/grandkids playing fiddle with mandolin accompaniment (well I might add) then singing a pretty rendition of "Angel Band." It was an unexpected and sweet way to start the night. If I didn't have the photographic evidence, I might not believe it actually happened. What was this, 1953?

As this was finishing up, I finally met Dean Drew Kennedy in person for the first time. Nice guy. He said that he, Austin Collins and Matt Skinner were going on first and that we'd hang out afterwards.

Next was prayer and line-up for some delectable barbecue prepared by Fireman John's competition cooking team. Mmmm. Spoke to Josh
Grider and his bassist, Chris Grady, while waiting in line. Nice guys. My first impression of all the singers this night was "damn they're tall." I don't think one of them is a hair under 6'2".

The trio Drew mentioned earlier took the stage first. They traded off songs like Drew's "Rolling Around in the Bed," Matt Skinner's "If I Were a Painting" and Austin's "Conventional Lust" and his kickass cover of Whiskeytown's "16 Days," helping out with guitar parts and harmonies on one another's songs. I wasn't familiar with Matt Skinner's work before the event, but his songs easily held their own, and his guitar playing shined. It was a revelation, to be honest. I've rarely heard
anybody shred on an acoustic, but Matt did. I made sure to pick up one of his CD's after the show - an EP from his band with Dub Miller called Eleven Bones. It rocks, by the way.

I'll preface this next rant/review by saying I think all the guys I just mentioned should be much more well-known than they are. Matt's guitar playing and grit should have him being the toast of dancehalls across Texas and the southwest and aiming for national recognition. Drew's unique, soulful voice ought to have college girls swooning and critics acclaiming his original sound across the nation (his songwriting should land him some Nashville cuts as well). Austin's darker, more rocking alt-country sound has him well on his way, but the fact that his current output is better than anything Ryan Adams or Jay Farrar has put out in years should have him showing up on a broader radar.

All that said, the biggest surprise of the night was the Josh Grider Trio. I've got Josh's Sweet Road to Ride and Million Miles to Go albums and I've enjoyed them a lot, but whoa... to say they sound better live than on record is like saying the Titanic (never mind its final port of call) was more impressive in person than on design schematics. Why isn't the Josh Grider Trio huge??

Instrumentally, they were tight as my granddad's wallet (by that I mean working well together - not overly rehearsed sounding) and their harmonies were otherworldly. The songs are as catchy as anything coming out of Nashville (but twice as smart) or Texas (but with less Texas references). Josh, friendly, humble and down to earth in person, is a magnetic frontman on stage. Throw in a little Jason Eady, a little Dave Matthews, a little Roger Miller, a little Merle and some of that indescribable "it" factor and you've got Josh Grider.

If he comes off a touch flat in the studio, he's as animated and fiery as you could possibly hope for when the bright lights are on. Maybe that's one of the issues that's held them back so far. The production of his albums (the two I've heard) is not bad by any means, but maybe a little sterile. A bit more of an "off the cuff" raw feel could possibly benefit future cuts. I'm no production expert (hell, I'm not even a novice) by any means, so take that with a grain of salt.

Drew Kennedy says people are idiots (for not getting JG3) and Matt Skinner's got his back on that. So, is the JG3's writing too smart for wide commercial appeal? Possibly, but i don't see where that's a huge issue when the songs are this lively and enthralling, whether you're listening intently or using them as background music. You can think or you can shut off your brain, JG3's good for either.
(Seriously, I think they're accessible enough that they could sell out ...a la Pat Green fairly easily, but I hope they never do)

A lot of their songs are danceable too. No offense to my buds in the opening trio, but it was mostly dogs on the dance floor before Josh and his brethren took the stage, but songs like "Crazy Like You" and "Sometimes" had the couples and kids out in force.

It's not for lack of trying that they haven't hit it big. Each of the other performers mentioned what hard workers the JG3 are.

Maybe it's lack of promotion. I know for most up and coming bands, touring IS their promotion. There's no ad budget, no viral campaign, no fan club. It's just them and their instruments, their songs and a dream. To that end, the Josh Grider Trio did a helluva good job promoting themselves Saturday night. They could have mailed it in for a crowd of less than 300, but they played like they were in front of 5,000. Thanks guys.

They left the stage to as much applause as you can squeeze out of a small crowd. The music didn't end there by any stretch of the imagination.

After the bulk of the audience had headed home, a core group of friends and family (and one blogger) moved to the front and the guys once again took up their guitars and drums. They performed deep, deep, deeeeeeep into the night (I left at 3:15 and Matt & Josh were still going!), tossing off covers ("Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)," Son Volt's "Windfall," a host of Roger Miller songs, Waylon's "Wurlitzer Prize" and others) and a few of their originals (Drew finally got around to playing my fave, "Cincinnati") and lots of jokes and tomfoolery. Josh's drummer, Jeff Botter, was the class clown of the evening, sipping bourbon, making up songs on the fly and dancing with audience members.

All had a grand time. I left with a few new memories and a few new friends. And a lot more questions about why America can have steak for supper at the same price, but would prefer a Whopper.

I hope you'll take the time to check out all of these guys (links above), because, to the man, they're all truly talented and truly good folks who love what they do.

If all musicians and songwriters cared even half as much, there'd be no need for Farce the Music. Thankfully, but unfortunately for all our ears, that's not the case.

*Thanks to A.M. for some of the photographs!


  1. JG3 is the real deal. I just hope people realize it before Josh runs out of money and steam!

  2. We have all three artists at www.ourtracks.com for your readers downloading pleasure - it also enables me to send them checks! Austin has all 3 of his CD's with us, we have Matt Skinner's solo CD (not Eleven Bones yet) and also 2 out of 4 CD's from Drew (labels don't play well with us at OurTracks)

    This was a great read because everytime I see them live (I live about 15 minutes from Gruene Hall/New Braunfels), I am completely amazed! Thanks for the writeup on these very talented musicians!



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