DIVERSITY RULES AT FIRST NIGHT OF TWANGFEST 11
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Thursday, June 7,
Published online at STLtoday
William Elliott Whitmore | Barry Gilbert
|Musical diversity was
the goal set and met for the first night of Twangfest 11
on Wednesday, which featured three acts with styles
ranging from Gothic soul to barroom Americana to hypnotic
An enthusiastic crowd packed into the second floor of the Tap Room for St. Louis annual roots-music festival, which continues through Saturday night at Blueberry Hills Duck Room. Each artist had a healthy contingent of fans, a good sign for a lineup of acts that are critics favorites if not mainstream brands.
Even the least-known artist, opener William Elliott Whitmore, had fans shouting out the titles of his raw, haunting, Gothic country blues and feeding him a series of whiskey shots. Whitmore, decked out in a pork pie hat and tattoos, accompanied himself on banjo or guitar, and a strong left boot for percussion.
Im from (upriver) in Lee County, Iowa, he told the crowd, and I got a thing for the river towns. So I appreciate you sharing this time with me.
|In a gravelly voice
reminiscent of Tom Waits but better, Whitmore
stomped and hollered through set of songs filled with
ghosts, sinners and losers fighting for redemption.
Killers walked From the Cell oor to the
Gallows; farmers battled nature when the earth went
Dry; and the dead rested or not
each in their Pine Box. Whitmore, who had
performed only originals to this point, then closed with
a surprising cover of Bill Withers soul classic
Aint No Sunshine, followed by another
original: an a capella hymn for the body
thats grown weary titled Cold and
At the other end of the spectrum was headliner Centro-Matic of Denton, Texas, a prolific band of excellent musicians who have taken their dense, transfixing sound from unpolished to blinding over the past decade.
Ed Anderson (left) and brother Matt of Backyard Tire Fire | Barry Gilbert
Centro-Matic headlines the first night of Twangfest 11. | Barry Gilbert
Will Johnson with drummer Matt Spence and
multi-instrumentalists Scott Danbom and Mark Hedman
performed about a dozen tunes, several from their new EP
Operation Motorcide and last years CD
Marked by heavily chorded guitars and anchored by Spence, Centro-Matic eschews choruses to weave an often dreamy wall of sound and voices, flavored occasionally with violin and piano. Whether ballads or rockers such as the fine Patience for the Ride, Centro-Matic had their fans swaying.
Connecting the night was Bloomington, Ill.s wonderfully named Backyard Tire Fire. Everything you need to know is evoked by the images in that name.
Singer-songwriter Ed Anderson fronts this trio, which includes his brother Matt on bass and Tim Kramp on drums, and incorporates influences from the Band to ZZ Top in its appealing mix of down-home tunes. The band looks the part, too, like they just hopped out of their pickups at the feed store.
BTF started off somewhat soft, emphasizing acoustic guitar and sibling harmonies on tunes such as Up & Down from their CD Barroom Semantics before Anderson cranked up with slide guitar on Gray Sky Blues.
A highlight of the set was
the pairing of Billy Joe Shavers Black Rose,
with its perfect line the devil made me do it the first
time, the second time I done it on my own, with
Andersons ironic ballad Trying to Get Paid.
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