With everything going on last weekend, unfortunately I didn't have a chance to check out Alex Battles' annual Johnny Cash Birthday Bash at Bell House and Littlefield: raucous affairs where Alex and his partners in crime played Cash's At San Quentin and At Folsom Prison in their entirety. So, I was happy to hear that Alex and his Whiskey Rebellion would be onstage at roadhouse-themed Rodeo Bar on Friday night, playing a late night show along with Minnie D'Moocha and her burlesque friends. When I arrived around 11pm, Alex - dressed Cash-style in a dark suit and tie - was just getting warmed up, the crowd of Texans (and wannabe Texans) whooping it up as the the band traversed three sets of covers and Alex originals while the lovely ladies took off their clothes. As the night wore on, Alex's voice got more and more ripped as he continued to drink more and more whiskey, but he never took his eye off the ball, working the crowd like an old-school entertainer. In spite of all his antics - or maybe because of them - Alex is the real deal: an authentic, homegrown country boy singing through tears and beers about life in NYC. And doing it with style.
On Saturday night, I made my way out to Red Hook to see some old and new friends in the M Shanghai String Band at Jalopy. In the classic old-time tradition, the nine-member outfit is all strings: banjo, guitar, a couple of fiddles, a mandolin and an upright bass (with Brian Geltner on drums/washboard and Shaky Dave on harmonica.) Everyone took turns singing, creating a cheeful, campfire vibe that was just the right antidote for a windy night out by the water.