The Blasters, Fraidy Cats, Al FoulWednesday, Jan. 11, Club Congress
Just about all the roots-music bases were covered last Wednesday at Club Congress' triple bill.
Al Foul performed sans his Shakes, in a one-man-band setup that had him simultaneously singing, playing his trusty hollow-body guitar, and using his feet to play a bass drum and a wooden box fashioned as a makeshift tambourine, which took the place of a high-hat. The configuration gave Foul more freedom--to gruffly croon, to yelp and holler like Screamin' Jay Hawkins, to play with song tempo (closer "Rock Island Line" began at a moderate pace, but by its end was a speedy, syncopated blur)--than he enjoys with a backing band, and he had the then-smallish crowd eating out of his hand. Because he performs around town so often, it's easy to take Foul for granted. We shouldn't; he's as charismatic a performer as any you'll find in Tucson.
Next up were the Fraidy Cats, a local supergroup of sorts that comprises singers/guitarists Jefferson Keenan and Al Perry, drummer Tommy Larkins and bassist Jim Parks. The band, which performs mostly country classics, on this night tackled Tom T. Hall's "Harper Valley PTA," Johnny Cash's "Big River" and "Honky Tonk Song," and "Little Sister," made famous by Webb Pierce and Elvis, respectively. For good measure, they tossed in the Nightcrawlers' Nuggets classic "Little Black Egg" and closed the set with a raucous version of Perry's "99 Pairs of Shoes," which Keenan sang. The Fraidy Cats rarely perform live, but last week's set was as relaxed and enjoyable as we've ever seen them play.
Headliners The Blasters never flagged while covering their entire 25-years-plus catalog during their set, which opened with a guns-a-blazin' take on 1983's "Long White Cadillac," included classics like "Border Radio" and "American Music"--a theme song of sorts--and new songs, such as the title track from their latest album, 4-11-44. Maybe it was the amount of alcohol being consumed by the crowd, which now filled the room, but if anything, things got rowdier as the night progressed. (The Blasters' amalgam of blues, country, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll is exactly the type of music that sounds better with a belly full of beer.) Relatively new guitarist Keith Wyatt proved to be quite the gunslinger, and Phil Alvin was, well, Phil Alvin--singing in that huge, resonant voice of his and grinning maniacally when he wasn't.