Category Archives: Twangfest

Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis dazzle at Day 2 of Twangfest 15 in St. Louis

By Barry Gilbert

The wait was more than worth it. Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis dazzled in a rare performance together Thursday night, their songs simultaneously reaching out to the head, the heart and the gut.

Headlining the second night of Twangfest 15 at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, Mr. and Mrs. Robison, backed by Will Dupuy on bass and Geoff Queen on pedal steel and guitar, offered 20 tunes over an hour and 20 minutes.

The set list mined the catalogues of each to good effect. But what made the night extra special was a handful of new duets that the couple unveiled, hinting of a career merger after about two decades of individual success.

It’s simply criminal that their mixture of country, pop and folk isn’t played on radio here, with the notable exception of Twangfest sponsor KDHX (88.1 FM). From the opening notes of “Sweet Sundown” to the closing masterpiece “Angry All the Time,” Robison and Willis displayed the honesty and simplicity that makes great songwriting.

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Hayes Carll tells the truth at Twangfest 15 in St. Louis

By Barry Gilbert

“Doesn’t anyone care about truth anymore?” roots rocker Hayes Carll asked Wednesday night at the Pageant, then answered his own question: “Maybe that’s what songs are for.”

That lyric, from the wonderfully titled “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,” closed out Carll’s encore and the opening night of Twangfest 15 at the Pageant, and a lot of what came before it from Carll and Elizabeth Cook had a lot to do with truth, broken hearts and, yes, bad livers.

Both artists are veterans of St. Louis’ roots music festival. Cook was making her third visit, Carll his second. But Carll’s represented a huge career leap from three years ago, when he opened for the Old 97’s at the same venue.

This time, fronting a full band led by guitarist Scott Davis, Carll was talkative, funny and charming, both in song and between them. He played 10 of the 12 songs from his new CD “KAMG YOYO,” military slang for “kiss my ass guys, you’re on your own.”

Carll and band brought out the CD’s stunning musical variety, from the rock of “Stomp and Holler” to the Irish-folk of “Bottle in My Hand” to the classic country sound of “Chances Are.”

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Twangfest 12 wrapup

The Waco Brothers
The Waco Brothers perform at Twangfest

The following post is an unedited version of my report for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which ran in a shorter form on Monday, June 9, 2008.

June 15, 2008

By Barry Gilbert

The Waco Brothers, an irreverent band of post-punk, country-leaning Brits from Chicago, and Ha Ha Tonka, young tradition-minded rockers from the Ozarks, closed out the four-night Twangfest 12 in style Saturday [June 7, 2008] at Off Broadway.

St. Louis’ not-for-profit, roots music festival came full circle with the Wacos, who inaugurated the series at Off Broadway in 1997.

Review of Day 1: Chuck Prophet, Centro-Matic, the Butchers and the Builders
Review of Day 2: The Gourds, the Dynamites featuring Charles Walker, the Deadstring Brothers
Review of Day 3: The Old 97’s, Hayes Carll, Miles of Wire, I Love Math
Review of Day 4: The Waco Brothers, Ha Ha Tonka, the everybodyfields, Caleb Travers

Clad in a variety of black Western shirts, the Wacos played for an hour and 45 minutes and tore through 20 songs, a set list that would have been longer if not for the Wacos’ nonstop onstage banter that ranged from British sexual practices to U.S. politics, with numerous checkpoints in between.

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