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Joe Nichols, Heather Myles enjoy the real country stuff

The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, Cal., Dec. 12, 2002

By Dan MacIntosh

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA - Joe Nichols looked like an unlikely country singer - what with his stringy black hair and stylish black leather jacket - when he took the stage on a cold Orange County night at The Coach House.

But once he tore into the old barroom strains of "A-11," he left no doubts about his country music authenticity. Nichols has one of those wonderfully low voices, which adds extra authority to almost everything he sings. This night, he mixed in favorite tracks from his Universal South album, "Man With A Memory," with a lot of familiar old country standards, for a satisfying evening of exceptional music.

Around about the middle of his set, while accompanied by only an acoustic guitarist, Nichols sang a few old standards, such as "Are The Good Times Really Over For Good" by Merle Haggard, and "Country Boy Can Survive" by Hank Williams, Jr. Yet Nichols' own songs, which included "Brokenheartsville" and the hit "The Impossible," didn't pale at all in comparison to these established classics. Backed by a strong band that equaled his love for diehard country music, Nichols' warm singing provided a much-needed stream of heat, in this otherwise ice cold club.

Earlier, Heather Myles appeared happy to be performing not far from her Riverside home in opening for Nichols. And like Nichols, Myles also enjoys the real country stuff. She also writes well, and this was exemplified by her kitschy wedding song, called "Little Chapel," which tells the story about a church in Las Vegas that is overseen by a Elvis look-alike minister. She also sang her latest single, "Big Cars," as well as a rocking "Sweet Little Dangerous." And when it came time for her to throw in a cover song, she chose Jimmy Webb's "By The Time I Got To Phoenix." Oddly enough, one rarely hears this fine song sung from a female perspective, but Myles certainly did this excellent song justice.

Sadly, this beach city club was only half-filled at best. 'Tis the season to Christmas shop, rather than honky-tonk, perhaps. But cold beer and real country music beats circling the mall parking lot and praying for an open spot any old night of the week. Too bad so many others sacrificed a trip to "Brokenheartsville" for a wasted journey to "Brokenbumpersville."

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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