Jay Meehan: Weed, Whiskey and Willie
Now, as anyone who has known me for any length of time can tell you, I’m behind the curve. I don’t even try to keep up anymore. By the time I stumble upon the latest and greatest, they are passé. My pals call me out, make fun, and implore me to play catch-up.
A longtime Park City local and ol’ backstage-Waylon-buddy even went as far as to assign me homework. It appears my lack of hipness to the always-evolving country genre caused him grief. This most recent consternation came out of the Park City Institute’s unveiling of their Summer 2019 St. Regis Big Stars Bright Nights Concert Series.
Being a longtime fan of the Institute’s annual performance arts menu, I had already perused their press release by the time his email and the guffaw it rode in on had, using a one-handed clove hitch, tied up to the post.
I must admit to being stopped in my tracks by only two of the five acts, but both were perfect examples of the type of high art to which I’ve become accustomed from this outfit.
The first, Taj Mahal, always takes me back to L.A.’s wondrous Folk & Blues club, the Ash Grove down on Melrose Avenue. Catching Taj do, first, an all-acoustic set from his then-recently released double LP “Giant Steps/De Old Folks at Home” proved a grand introduction to the fruits of his UMass Ethnomusicology experiences.
But the rest of the evening was taken up by his very-much eclectic and electric country-blues-rock ensemble featuring Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar. These were the tunes from the “Giant Steps” half of the double-album and featured a hot and reworked rendition of Dave Dudley’s “Six Days on the Road.”
I became immediately smitten and, so far, my crush has lasted 50 years. Taj has appeared here in Park City both indoors and out many times, mostly through the largesse of PCI. I should also mention that Marc Cohn and the Blind Boys of Alabama, also on the bill with Taj, are two of my very favorite acts.
And that brings us to The Punch Brothers, Chris Thile’s extraordinarily accomplished acoustic bunch. They, also, have graced our ol’ mining camp stages multiple times. These lads, as many of you already now, are fearless! They’ve been known to take on everything from the likes of Claude Debussy to The Band.
Now, these two monumental evenings of live music would, by themselves, warrant an Imprimatur stamp of approval from the critical establishment and more than suffice as an entire summer’s worth of performance art. But there are three other acts on PCI’s 2019 summer agenda, none of which I was hip to. Go figure.
The Brothers Osborne is the act in question to whom my homework assigner couldn’t believe I was clueless. Where these people get the idea that I have my finger on the pulse of much at all is beyond me. So anyway, as long as I don’t have to get up in front of the class and give an oral report, I began stalking the Brothers Osborne.
Now, I knew going in that neither Ozzy nor Bobby & Sonny would show up via my search engine during class roll call and that was indeed the case. T.J. and John, however, both raised their hand and pleaded guilty as charged. They were the musical brothers-to-whom-I-was-not-hip.
Well, I busied myself peeking through various Internet sites and began listening to a smidgen of their Grammy nominated fare. By the time I tripped over “Weed, Whiskey and Willie,” I knew, whether or not I caught their act in person, that at least I would start paying more attention and that I had a column idea for this week.
Although it took “weed” twelve years or so to get me on the country music bandwagon, in all honesty, it took whiskey probably a few years longer than that. Once I had been properly introduced, however, it took Willie and Waylon and Haggard absolutely no time at all.
As far as the other two acts on the PCI 2019 summer schedule, I’m aware that “Gone West,” the pop-infused country group featuring Colbie Caillat and “Cam,” whose music has been called “haunting,” by Rolling Stone and Billboard, both deserve more of my attention.
“Weed, Whiskey and Willy” is a catchy tune. I like it. It’s easy to sway to. Look out! The Brothers Osborne will be riding into Park City as part of PCI’s summer series at the Eccles Center. Dig it! Get hip!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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“It was just the heads of the animal characters of the zodiac brought to life. It was dizzying to look up and see them all and to meander between the animals.”