Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
t wasn't the most fun street party when it came down to it - don't blame WKLB, the Boston radio station sponsoring the annual event right next to Fenway Park. Chalk it up to the weather because the downpour caused the crowds to thin considerably a few hours into the seven-plug hour event.
But that didn't seem to effect the music all that much, although it was hard to call most of what was heard during the first four acts what a previous generation would call country even though two of them - A Thousand Horses and The Cadillac Three - stood out anyway.
In fact, the act that hewed most to country's past was the opening act, the Josh Abbott Band, which is trying to make a name for itself outside of its home turf of Texas where many a country band has earned a living by never crossing borders.
Abbott has sufficiently good songs and voice. He also happened to employ a banjo player and fiddle, something in short supply among other acts seen. Preston Wait especially received a prominent role with his fiddle playing, while Abbott was far more than throwing out a bunch of party songs, even if he did talk about the launching the party.
But the rains soon came with a portion of the street flooded and the crowd - there were a lot of 20 somethings there, particularly a lot of young women - soaked.
RaeLynn, the perky, blonde-haired country singer, claimed she preferred being out in the crowd, but somehow she never did leave the confines of the covered stage. Decked out in red high tops, RaeLynn has a bit of sass about her and throws around her Texas drawl.
She seems to have songs that give women a sense of empowerment. Sort of. Her hit, "God Made Girls," which had a hand in writing, seems to want it both ways with the woman as put on earth to serve bro country males, while later standing up for themselves, only to close with the servitude idea.
RaeLynn may have a bit of twang in her vocal delivery, but she is more of a pop and rock singer. She claimed she was going to put a country spin on Meghan Trainor's hit "All About That Bass,' but it was not at all clear what rendered a song country for RaeLynn.
The best was yet to come with the one-two punch of A Thousand Horses and The Cadillac Three. The two acts would make a fine touring combination together because they both know how to rock even if they are characterized as country.
Finally playing after a sound issue delayed the start of their set, A Thousand Horses has yet to even release its first country disc (don't worry because "Southernality" is coming June 9, although they did release a major label non-country marketed EP in 2010), but they are riding high with their big hit single "Smoke." But that song is not exactly what the band typically sounds like.
That would be a decided bent for the Nashville-based band towards Southern rock with the Black Crowes clearly part of the recipe. This band rocked from start to finish with charging electric guitars. Lead singer Michael Hobby looks the part of a Southern rocker with a hat, shades, beard and longish hair (bassist Graham DeLoach more clearly has the long-haired Southern rock thing down with much longer hair) and the playing.
While not so easy to hear what Hobby was singing about, they sure made it sound good, including the new single, "(This Ain't No) Drunk Dial." Guitarists Bill Satcher and Zach Brown layed down a lot of licks. They employed three backing female vocalists, who tended to be under heard for the most part.
Okay, so A Thousand Horses may not be dyed-in-the-wool country, but unlike other rocking country bands out there these days, they at least make it clear where their influences lie, and they learned their lessons well.
The Cadillac Three also fall in the southern rock vein with Jaren Johnston, who has enjoyed a lot of songwriting success (Jake Owen's "Beachin'" and Keith Urban's "Raise 'Em Up'), on lead vocals and guitar, Kelby Ray on lap steel and Neil Mason on drums.
They may be a trio, but they had no trouble filling the sound, mainly thanks to Johnston's guitar playing. Like A Thousand Horses, The Cadillac Three also didn't let up with songs like their first single, "The South," which pays tribute to their region, and their brand new single (out June 1). Well, they did take a bit of a breather with "White Lightning." (No, not the George Jones song), a ballad about how he fell in love with his wife.
Despite having some sound issues early on, The Cadillac Three were a no holds barred group that tore it up live - even with the rain coming down and the crowds either going for the inside comfort of restaurants and bars on the streets or the warm of home.
The party later featured Chase Rice, Eli Young Band and Joe Nichols.
In the hands of A Thousand Horses and The Cadillac Three, this street party was fun enough.