Review: Jackie Greene @ The Aladdin

I turned my attention to The Truth & Salvage Co. as they manned their instruments. Two guitarists, two keyboard players, a drummer and a bassist. Four pair of cowboy boots, two pair of sneakers (thank the rhythm section for keeping it real). They began with a party anthem song, Hail, Hail, as in the gang’s all here. With their heads full of reefer and their bellies full of beer. They got my attention quick with that lyric.

Fraternity sing along aside, The Truth & Salvage Co. warmed the crowd well with their combination of Americana electric bluegrass. Born from half a dozen eastern states, they formed in late 2005 in Hollywood, four songwriters/lead singers brought together by fate a continent away from their roots. Truth & Salvage Co. are Tim Jones on guitar and vocals, Walker Young on Keyboards and vocals, Scott Kinnebrew on guitar and vocals, Bill Smith on (do you see where this is going?) drums and vocals, with Joe Edel on bass and Adam Grace on organ.

The diverse songwriting was heard in the stylistic differences of their songs. New Orleans gospel on one song blended to Cleveland ready rock on the next only to roll with the twang of the Carolina back woods before they were done.

That they were in fact four lead singers played right into the fact that they tended to write songs where tight harmonies would define the sound. When Young came out from behind the keys to sing Hi De Hay, Jones, Kinnebrew and Smith did their best fifties a capella to a rousing response from the crowd. On Lay Down & Die, Jones’ higher range brought to mind Neil Young while the harmonizing by the rest of the band conjured pleasant, Eagles-like memories.

Turns out Truth & Salvage Co. had quite the journey to get here tonight as well. A week ago they were wrapping up a three week tour of Iraq, entertaining the troops with Franky Perez. Judging from their Myspace comments they were a hit all over the war zone. Judging from what I saw from the front row Thursday night, they are a hit here in Portland as well. Kudos to the Truth & Salvage Co. for rocking the troops. (On a side note, President Bush the First once referred to Portland as “the Beirut of the West”).

Dee and Ron were beside themselves at this point. They had purchased the Truth & Salvage Co. CD at the Seattle show the previous night and listened to it in the car most of the day. They knew all the songs, lyrics and all. They even “Lah, lah’ed” along with the band during the fills. They were right, though. These guys were flat out fun!

Now, I have seen Jackie Greene a few times live. I think he is a totally different performer when away from the studio. Along with his crackerjack band, Jeremy Plog on bass, Bruce Spencer on drums and vocals, and Nate Dale on guitar and vocals, Greene brings a different intensity live. There seems to be no room for the laid back on stage with him. Tonight was no exception.

Starting out with Don’t Let The Devil Take Your Mind, from last years Giving Up The Ghost, Greene led us through a freewheeling, blues oriented set of originals and well chosen covers that had the dance floor full and the balcony bouncing. He apologized for being in poor voice, a cold he couldn’t seem to shake made it difficult to hit some notes, hold some others. But it wasn’t that noticeable from the front row. Musically, Jackie Greene brought his “A” game to the Aladdin tonight.

After Devil, the band lit into one from Jackie’s Skinny Singers sessions, Nothing Comes From Nothing, which featured the first of the evening’s guitar riff duels between Greene and Dale at center stage. They compliment each other so well in this situation. Greene’s melodic, rolling blues leads in turn attacked by Nate Dale’s power chord, rock anthem chops. The formula, if you want to call it that, works. And it worked well all night. Kudos also must go out to Evan Drath for the clear, crisp sound mix. Often muddled so close to the monitors, each note was given its own space and really took advantage of the acoustics of the old vaudeville and porn movie theater.

Already breaking a sweat after only two songs, Greene raised his white Bing Crosby-like fedora only long enough to toss on his harmonica. As the audience – Dee, Ron, Stan and Sheila included – shouted out requests, the tone for the evening was set. “We tossed out the set list last night”, he said. “Maybe we’ll have to do that again tonight”. And with that said, we were off on a collective musical journey, the destination of which we all had a say in, although Jackie had the final word, obviously.

Throughout the next two hours the band segued song to song with hardly a silent moment, as Greene called the next song to the rest of the players and they seamlessly slid into it. A great example was a stretch that started at Deep Elem Blues, snuck into Animal while we weren’t looking, kept tempo but got blusier with Parchman Farm.

Parchman Farm didn’t end. Instead the foursome jammed and played off each other till Jackie teased the audience with The Beatles’ Taxman which ended in a full length stomp along rendition of the Dead’s Shakedown Street (which Greene is sure to play often enough later this year when he opens for Bob Weir and Ratdog.)

The regular set closed with another floor stomper, Ball and Chain, which saw Greene and Dale once again stretch strings and imaginations. Rollicking is the word that comes to mind. Encores of Sugaree and the title song from his first album, Gone Wandering, finished up a dancing, fun filled night in the front row.

This was Jackie Greene at his best. Spontaneous, powerful, tender and out of control all at the same time. It seemed the band was stuck in blues mode, keeping the twang to a minimum and the backbeat up front all night.

I recently read a blog that Jackie Greene posted on his Myspace page. In it, he decries the current state of the record business and puts forth his reasoning for doing what he does. “(In concert), this is where the real magic will happen. Because after all, the most intimate form of a song is live and in person. It cannot be denied. In this world, what we want is intimacy. Connection. The best place for that is amongst the haze of smoke and sweat at a live concert.”

I couldn’t agree more.

~Rock on through the haze of smoke and sweat at a live concert~
A.J. Crandall

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