Honky-tonk swagger and bitter laments

Watsky, Green Leaf Rustlers, The Lil Smokies , Tedeschi Trucks Band

Green Leaf Rustlers
  • Green Leaf Rustlers

Green Leaf Rustlers

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2019, 8 p.m.
  • Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
  • 21+ / $28 - $49

Former Black Crowe Chris Robinson may be looking more and more like he posed for the Shroud of Turin, but his voice has only gotten stronger through the years, as heard over the course of several solo projects. His newest, Green Leaf Rustlers, pairs him with frequent Jefferson Starship collaborator Pete Sears, Barry Sless (Moonalice), John Molo (Bruce Hornsby & the Range), and Greg Loiacono (the Mother Hips). The group will pay tribute to classic country and roots music on a short ten-date tour that includes their first performance in Alaska, as well as a March 20 appearance at the Belly Up. They made their live debut in summer 2017 and embarked on their first tour last year. Being somewhat of a jam band that welcomes tapers, there are plenty of YouTube clips that demonstrate a tight, well-rehearsed ensemble, although be advised not to expect any Crowe-ing or anything by the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Instead, you’ll be presented with faithfully arranged, if sonically over-amped, versions of evergreen tunes such as “Ride Me High” (J.J. Cale), “Big Mouth Blues” (Gram Parsons), “Standin’” (Townes Van Zandt), and “Honky Tonk Song” (Mel Tillis). Looking over setlists from just this month, they’ve also been covering Parsons’ “Still Feeling Blue” and Cale’s “Ride Me High.” One recent performance closed with an encore of “Bertha” by the Grateful Dead, a number known well by guitarist Barry Sless and drummer John Molo from their stints with Dead Family acts like Kingfish, Phil Lesh, and the Other Ones.



Watsky and Grieves

  • Sunday, March 17, 2019, 7 p.m.
  • House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

If you just read the lyrics of songs by George Watsky with no aural context, you might think he was a country-western artist, only one who must sing really fast or write terribly long songs, so large are the text blocks. There’s a lot of honky-tonk swagger and bitter laments about the women who done him wrong, drinking that he either looks forward to or regrets, and places he’ll always miss, plans to go to, or never wants to see again. The rapper clearly fancies himself a bit of a poet, an aspiration only encouraged by landing his rambling essay collection, How to Ruin Everything, on the New York Times Bestseller chart. He just dropped his fifth full-length, the accurately titled Complaint (it’s full of ‘em, there’s little he can’t find to gripe about), with a support tour due to hit House of Blues on March 17. Now going by just his last name, Watsky came up through the San Francisco poetry scene, winning the 2006 Brave New Voices National Poetry Slam. His musical ventures have taken a little while to catch on, but he seemed to come into his own in 2016 with X Infinity, which debuted at number four on Billboard’s Rap Albums Chart. Representative of his chatty, snarky humor are videos currently streaming online for “Welcome to the Family” and “Mean Ass Drunk.”

The Lil Smokies

The Lil Smokies

Lil Smokies

  • Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+

As far as locals go, ours is a very bluegrass friendly city, as evidenced by the worldwide fame of homegrown acts such as Nickel Creek and its successful spinoff projects involving Chris Thile and Sara Watkins. And yet, for some reason, many if not most touring headliners tend to be MIA in San Diego, with few venues committing to more that the occasional themed event night. Acoustic bluegrass rockers the Lil Smokies first made the rounds at the Belly Up and Observatory North Park, but their appearance last March at the Casbah was so well attended and reviewed that the venue has invited the band back for an April 17 reprise. The Montana group’s history dates back to around 2009, but most people first heard of them when they won the 2015 Telluride Bluegrass Band competition and a 2016 IBMA award for Momentum Band of the Year. Luckily for them and other acoustic auteurs, there’s a thriving festival scene where they’ve become fan favorites at outdoor shindigs like Floyd Fest, Del Fest, String Summit, High Sierra, and FreshGrass. Their newest album, Changing Shades, features the same current lineup expected to man this tour, including Scott Parker (bass), Jake Simpson (fiddle), Matt Rieger (guitar), Matt Cornette (banjo), and Dunnigan (dobro). A rustic wood-filled video was just released online for the track “California.”

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Signs, the upcoming album from the Tedeschi Trucks Band, is marinated in personal tragedy. During the period that the Grammy-winning 12-piece group, fronted by husband and wife country rockers Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, worked on the album, multiple friends and family members passed away. Those losses, including two Allman Brothers (founder Gregg Allman and Derek’s uncle Butch Trucks) and mentor Col. Bruce Hampton, were compounded by the unexpected deaths of countrified contemporaries such as Tom Petty and Leon Russell, and dealing with so much pain all at once was a big part of the album’s inspiration. “This is the first record we’ve made where, when I listen to it, it puts me in a specific place,” says Derek Trucks in one press release. “It puts me in a zone and hits some raw nerves.” The album was recorded live to two-inch analog tape, using an original Neve console combined with a 1970s Studer tape recorder. The 11-song release, due February 15 via Fantasy Records/Concord, is so far previewed by a bluesy guitar heavy single called “Hard Case” currently streaming on NPR Music. Featuring guests such as Allman Brothers vet Warren Haynes, as well as Doyle Bramhall II, Oliver Wood, and Marc Quinones, a support tour kicks off this month that eventually rolls into San Diego’s Civic Theatre on May 12.

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