Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
aul Cauthen tells it like it is. As he sang in the second song of the night before a packed crowd, "Country As Fuck" (one of two songs that would have the F word on this night), "I was driving tractors before it got sexy/Real cowboys don't rock to Kenny Chesney." In other words, he doesn't have a whole lot to do with the country sounds of Nashville.
Not that he's exactly dyed-in-the-wool country either. The east Texas native covered country (with a song called "Tumbleweed," no surprise it's country) and soulful sounds throughout and even a bit funky (the closing song of the night, "Cocaine Country Dancing") at times.
Decked out in a black cowboy hat and white pants, Cauthen owns a rich baritone that served him quite well. It's a commanding voice that carries the songs and makes the listener pay attention (the chugging "Rain On My Mind" and particularly the soaring "Promise Me You'll Never Change").
Cauthen completely mixed it up with an excellent solo acoustic segment near the end of the regular set with the very intimate and confessional "Grand Central." Choosing to go the solo route made perfect sense when considering lines like
"I miss too many Sundays
Lord, if you hear me I could surely use some help
'Cause I like to ride the lightnin'
They ain't gonna hang me from a tree
'Cause the things I've done ain't hurt no one
The only one that's hurtin' is me
He reached back to his previous band, Sons of Fathers, for a stirring rendition of "To Whom" where he approached Elvis territory vocally.
Cauthen also danced around the stage, though his full-bearded, burly look would have belied that. He gave a number of kicks in the air as well as shimmying and shaking a bit to the music. Setting the groove can do that to you.
Cauthen has had his personal ups and downs, but he should have been on a real up after a night like this. Even if or maybe because he's not Nashville ready.
Fellow Texan Tanner Usery opened with a strong, complimentary set. Usery is more southern rock than country, but these days, anything goes. No matter what the genre, Usery has a voice well suited to his material and was aided by a superb backing band, particularly the lead guitarist and keyboard players.
Usery got a very well-deserved hand at the end and bears watching.