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Andy Friedman, Chris Knight, Crazy Heart, and more…

Boy oh boy, I certainly took a break from blogging over the past couple of weeks. It’s so easy to lets things like this go to the wayside, being of marginal utility value to both writer and consumer. Anyway, I’m gonna aim for at least once a week posting for the next few months, see how that kind of steadiness feels. This is going to be a bit of a long blog, since there has been a lot of build-up during my non-blogging time.

1 – First off, there are some amazing shows going on in Columbia this weekend! Saturday sees two amazing singer/songwriters dueling for the Americana fan base. Dylan Sneed (of Hartsville, SC) is playing an early show at The White Mule, a venue he has played a number of times since its opening due to its suitability for his astute, energetic songwriting style that splits the difference between John Prine and Cory Branan, with nimble acoustic guitar picking to boot.

In this battle of country-folk though, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Andy Friedman, playing at the UU Coffeehouse, wins out for my money. Friedman has a powerful vocal presence and is a seasoned entertainer, and tends to cop to his influences with a surprising degree of both appreciation and self-deprecation, and his songs about family, the road, and colorful characters are wry, affecting and well-crafted. Friedman also wins points for bringing out-of-towner Caleb Stine with him as an opener, while Sneed tapped the young (and excellent) local indie-folk luminary Austin Crane. Both shows get started around 8pm, So take your pick.

Even if you pick Friedman over Sneed, you should at least give The White Mule some love on Sunday as they host the amazingly talented Nashville songwriter Chris Knight, who plays gutsy, rootsy folk-rock in the vein of Steve Earle. Knight, like Earle, writes so many amazing songs, one after the other, that it quickly becomes to pick favorites as you end up picking every single song in their catalog (Knight has 7 to his name). If you want to start, however, I’d recommend The Trailer Tapes and The Trailer Tapes II, which are acoustic (demo-y) takes of songs that put Knight’s lyrical talent front and center. Doors should be at 8, with a 15 dollar cover but trust me, this guy is worth it. For another write-up of this show, check out Todd Mathis’ show preview at SceneSC.

2 – I am really psyched about (eventually) seeing Crazy Heart, the new Jeff Bridges movie loosely based on the lives of hard-living country singers like Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, et al. It features a kick-ass soundtrack full of songs written by Ryan Bingham (whose name is also given to the lead actor in another recently-released critic favorite, Up in the Air) and producer T-Bone Burnett and sung by Bridges and supporting actor Colin Farrell intermixed with classic cuts by Waylon Jennings, TVZ, Buck Owens and the Louvin Brothers. It pretty much makes my mouth water. The film has already won two Golden Globes for best actor (Bridges first win, and about damn time) and best song (Bingham’s “The Weary Kind,” his lone songwriting contribution to the record and the “theme song” of the movie).

3 – I reviewed Two Cow Garage frontman Micah Schnabel’s solo record a few months back, and since then have only grown to love the album, and the back catalog of TCG, all the more. I was recently sent a couple of HD videos on YouTube from Schnabel’s recent solo tour that were done by Whiskey Bender Productions, a company that several years ago did a documentary on a (then) quite young Two Cow Garage that lovingly depicted the financial difficultly and hardship that a touring band trying to make it on the road goes through. The documentary might have gone a little long, and used some questionable editing and splicing techniques, but there is no denying the sincerity and hard work than went into both the film and the band’s music–it’s worth checking out if you are a fan of similar docs about Lucero and Wilco. Anyway, here is Micah doing his latest touring anthem, “Throwing Rocks at the Sun.”

4 – I usually only write about shows that are immediately upcoming on here, but I’m gonna break precedent for a show that I will probably mention several times before it actually happens. On Friday, February 12th at The White Mule (wow, they keep coming up…), a special singer/songwriter in the round performance will feature 4 of my absolute favorite singer/songwriters who call South Carolina home. Organized by Todd Mathis of American Gun, the show will also feature Charleston’s Mac Leaphart and Columbia’s Zach Seibert (formerly of Due East) and Rob Lindsey (formerly of The Friendly Confines) and promises to be a long, glorious night of songcraft. I have championed Seibert as the best pure songwriter in the state a number of times, and his heart-on-sleeve philosophical musings told through a dusty, gravelly road voice that recalls singers like Jon Snodgrass (Drag the River) and Jakob Dylan (The Wallflowers) are bound to leave you a little blown away. Rob Lindsey has a spitfire lyrical approach that brings to mind such disparate influences as Tom Waits, Mike Doughty, and Steve Earle. Leaphart comes across as a the archetype Southern boy raised on greasy rock n’ roll and hard livin’ country, and his sound takes John Prine and Gram Parsons and shoots it through peak-era Stones (’70-’74) until you want to hoop and holler. As for Mathis himself, he never sounds like anything but what he is–a Southern boy who grew up listening to country music, played in a couple of brit-rock bands, and now sings his heart out in best of the contemporary alt. country tradition. It promises to be quite a night indeed. You get all four of these amazing songwriters for 6 puny ones, so you better get your ass to The White Mule on February 12th.

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