LIVE: The Doornails @ the Ale House, 10/22/11
With verve, wit and impeccable musicianship local favorites the Doornails (with special guests Kevin Maul on dobro and Hawaiian steel, and Peggy Lecuyer on occasional vocals) celebrated the release of their new CD “BackPorchDaze” with an appreciative crowd of music lovers at the Ale House in Troy. Playing more than 20 songs, the band revealed a gift for cooking up originals and a tremendous range in their choice of cover material.
Opening with “Fact or Fiction,” a song that was a staple of his days with the legendary Scotty Mac & the Rockin’ Bonnevilles, Ted Hennessy critiqued the sordid tales of national and local villains and emphasized the humor with a manic harmonica solo that quoted “If I Only Had a Brain” to a Johnny Cash hoedown beat. Louis Jordan’s “Early in the Morning” got a fine rhumba mood going; seamlessly, guitarist Michael McCann took the band into epic bluegrass territory, allowing all to get in a few whiplash cool solos on “Mountain Boy.”
Next, “Don’t Shoot Me”, Hennessy’s hilarious take on “housekeeping habits” showed off the fine blues spirit of all involved, especially a gritty solo by Maul. Billy Joe Shaver’s “Georgia on the Fast Train” was pedal-to-the-metal fun, showcasing McMann’s deft picking and Gene Lemme’s spot on upright bass work. “What’s the Use in Getting Sober?” slowed down things briefly, and let Hennessy play some of the best late-night blues harmonica you’ll ever hear.
Mid-set, the Doornails unleashed “Bring Back Roosevelt Franklin”, a funky, jaw-dropping original from their CD that chronicled the travails of the most radical Muppet who ever hung out on “Sesame Street.” The crowd got into it, belting out the chorus with the band and leaving everybody feeling like they had done more than just occupy the Ale House. Equally compelling was a moonshine bottle spin on Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” with McMann ripping out a flurry of Kentucky bluegrass notes and doing his best Sid Caesar-ish French in the closing verses.
Lecuyer joined the band for an appropriately woozy take of McMann’s “Woke up on the Floor” (accentuated by some droll playing from Maul) and a stomping “Pig and Pen.” For those who dream of a second career, look no further than “Stan the Hot Dog Man,” a whimsical original from the Doornails’ new cd that got everybody singing along with a beaming Hennessy, who looked like he had won the lottery and shared the proceeds with the band.
Irish traditionals, a Tom Waits song from his romantic prime (“Long Way Home”), a Johnny Cash signature song and a timeless gospel tune (“I’m Goin’ Home”) were among the many other songs that entertained the crowd, who laid crisp Yankee dollars down on the table for the new album during interludes, late into the night.
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Ed Conway