LIVE: Woody Pines @ Valentine’s Music Hall, 2/8/11

There’s something happening here.

Dan Johnson’s Americana Tuesdays at Valentine’s seem to be taking flight, judging by the very eager, sizeable crowd of locals who came out to get a taste of this wide-ranging musical genre. It was the first night of the new Americana series, and it felt right from the moment the cheerful doorman Al welcomed me inside. It was the same old Valentine’s, but for some reason it felt kinder, gentler and a little more laid back. Bringing it down a notch from the typical Valentine’s ear-ringing fare, Dan Johnson and Expert Sidemen – drummer Jeff Arensberg, bassist Pete Murphy (also of Flood Road) and guitarist Dave Walsh – set just the right tone for an evening of tasty music, and did not miss a beat. They played a short intro set, anxious to get the out-of-town guest, Woody Pines and his band, up on the stage.

It was indeed a solicited stop in Albany, a fortuitous opportunity discovered by Mr. Johnson, who asked Woody and friends (who hail from Ashville, NC) to stop in Albany. They willingly accepted the invitation, recognizing that the pay may not be great, but that they would meet an appreciative audience of Americana fans. And they were headed north anyhow, having just picked up their new album, hot off the presses in Pennsylvania, on their way to several stops in Vermont, including Jay Peak and Burlington.

Friendly and warm to talk to, these guys also knew how to play. Their Louisiana influence dripped like heavy dew from the mic while their instrumental sound was tight. So tight that it was a complete shocker to learn that the mandolin player, David Long, was joining the band for the first time that very night. You wouldn’t know it, as he and Woody sang harmonies side by side like old-timers. Woody Pines played most of the set on the resonator guitar and harmonica, and Zack Pozebanchuk provided a quick-paced upright bassline, perfect for that Cajun blues feel. Highlights of their hour-long set included the catchy “Stewball” and “Counting Alligators” about their trip to New Orleans in a 3-cylinder Geo Metro, when they ran out of gas in Mississippi, causing them to grab their instruments and set out on foot, whereupon they happened to come upon a southern blues jam and all was merriment after that.

As one audience member said to me, relaying his quick research on Woody Pines’ website from earlier that day, “Viper Jazz, Ragtime, and Country Blues…how could I go wrong?” Simply—you really couldn’t have gone wrong here.

Dan and the Sidemen finished up the night with a set even better than the first, having dusted off their rough-around-the-edges (the good kind) sound to help the audience taste the grittiness of Americana.

So, mark your calendars, and make Tuesday nights something to look forward to. As past local Americana music series have passed away (RIP: Tern Rounders’ Moonlight Jamboree at the Bread and Jam), it is really wonderful to see new gatherings taking roots, and hopefully to stay around for awhile.

The next Americana Tuesday at Valentine’s is slated for February 22, and Dan Johnson and Expert Sidemen will welcome special guests the Blackwell Sinners. Showtime is 8pm, and admission is just $5.

Review by Kim Kilby

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