Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
andy Houser took a left turn when he released "Magnolia" back in January. The Mississippi native went a bit on the bluesy side, seemingly very much at peace with staying away from a more overtly commercial sound.
Playing live, Houser offered the best of both worlds in a well-constructed show mixing old and new plus a few choice covers.
The new material was up to snuff, starting off with the bluesy "What Whiskey Does" as the opener of the 85-minute show. "No Stone Unturned," about life on the road, and the nearly 10-minute long workout of the rocking boogie of "Whole Lotta Quit" in the encore were particular standouts.
Vocally, Houser brought Ronnie Dunn to mind with his intonation, and whether rocking more or toning it down a bit, Houser's vocals were at the fore.
You can often tell just where a country artist's heart lies based on covers. In that case, Houser paid appropriate homage to a few influences. He made that clear quite early as the second and third songs of his set.
First, was a rollicking take on Waylon Jennings' "Good Heart Woman" followed up by Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again." Houser had a lot of reason to play Nelson, saying before he offered his take on the standard, "Willie sent me a video last night. He just recorded one of my songs a few weeks ago." That song is slated to be the title track of Nelson's next release.
Houser also offered some of his bread-and-butter hits like the stirring "Like a Cowboy" to close out the regular set and "Runnin' Out of Moonlight" to close out the night. They helped Houser gain an audience, but, fortunately, Houser still has something to say musically.
Texas singer Paul Cauthen opened with a set that was on the Outlaw side of country. Folks like Cody Jinks and Ward Davis are his musical compadres. Decked out in shades and a baseball hat, he displayed a lot of confidence with his big baritone.
Cauthen galloped along on "I'll Be the One." But he also toned it down and put his vocals to good use on "Prayed for Rain," which he wrote with Davis, along with an unrecorded song, "Smoke and Mirrors," offered solo acoustic for a change of pace.
Based on the response he received, Cauthen clearly already had more than a few fans up here. After his set, he left with some more.