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KIKK 10-Man Acoustic Jam scores with Texas artists

Arena Theatre, Houston, Nov. 10, 2001

By Brian Wahlert

HOUSTON - A typical country concert concert features two, maybe three acts. Sometimes an all-day festival, like the ones George Strait has put on in recent years, will have seven or eight acts.

So you can just imagine the honchos at Houston's KIKK radio station brainstorming amongst themselves, "How can we put on the ultimate country concert?" And the ideas started rolling out, "Let's have 10 acts." "Let's make it free for our listeners." "Let's cram it all into one evening."

And then they must have had a realization, "We can't fit 10 bands on stage in one night. The only way we can do this is to make it acoustic." And thus, the KIKK 10-Man Acoustic Jam was born.

The evening was divided in half - the first with roughly the less popular five artists and the second with the more popular. They also decided to make the stage rotate so that everyone in the audience got a fair amount of time watching the performers from the front.

Out of the first group of singers, Darryl Worley was the most pleasant surprise. He was the first singer to come on stage, and his strong voice and acoustic guitar strumming on the hit "Good Day to Run" got the evening off to a promising start.

He is a very poised performer, too. His friendly, easy-going nature held the first group of artists together well. And even though it wasn't a chart topper, his pretty ballad "Second Wind" got the attention of the crowd.

Chris Cagle was another impressive newcomer. He grew up in Houston and recalled seeing B.J. Thomas perform at the Arena when he was a kid. From then on, he'd dreamed of playing the Arena.

He performed songs off his debut "Play It Loud." The hits "My Love Goes On and On" and "Laredo" were crowd pleasers, and he sang the ballad "I Breathe In, I Breathe Out" beautifully.

Lee Roy Parnell is a native of Abilene, Texas, and of course, Texans love their own, so his songs went over well, particularly "South by Southwest," a song that extols the virtues of Texas.

His guitar playing really stole the first set, though. His solos before and after "Holding My Own" constituted the most amazing guitar work, but he proved his ability to improvise, too, by add slide acoustic guitar picking and solos to many of the other performers' songs.

Country fans haven't heard much from David Ball for several years now, but he's back on the radio again with "Riding With Private Malone," a wonderful story song about a '66 Corvette and its ghostly fallen war hero owner. Ball performed that song to the crowd's delight, as well as his older hits, "Thinkin' Problem" and "When the Thought of You Catches Up With Me." He also led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to Cagle.

Roger Creager, probably the least talented of the lot and the only one without a record deal, nevertheless got the biggest crowd reaction of the evening's first half. He's a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, and often plays in Houston, so when he introduced "The Everclear Song," the crowd went wild. It's a dippy, fun song about the virtues of grain alcohol.

After a particularly bawdy line involving a rhyme between "chick" and "lipstick on my..." (Creager pointed at his neck, but the crowd screamed something else), he said, "See that is the reason right there that I'm never gonna get a record deal. And two," he said with a laugh, "that's why I love to come and party in Texas."

After each of them had performed three songs, Parnell started singing "T for Texas," and the others joined in, some with real verses and others with verses made up on the fly. It was a great finish to the first set.

But the best was yet to come. After a brief intermission, native Houstonian Jack Ingram began with "Biloxi," off his Lucky Dog debut, "hey you." Much like Creager, Ingram is a singer-songwriter who makes up for a mediocre voice with hard work and a crowd-pleasing stage demeanor.

Radney Foster, a native of Del Rio, Texas, is a singer/songwriter who has unfortunately fallen out of the limelight in recent years. He played his big hits, "Just Call Me Lonesome" and "Nobody Wins," as well as "Tonight" and "Texas in 1880."

Gary Allan was extremely popular with the female fans in the audience. He was also the only performer to bring along another musician - and a plugged-in one at that - the lead guitarist from his band. He performed the funny title song off his latest album, "Alright Guy." He also sang Bruce Robison's hilarious "What Would Willie Do."

Far more hard-hitting, however, was "No Judgment Day," an Allen Shamblin song that only made Allan's debut album as a hidden final track - and even then, only after much cajoling from Allan and Shamblin. The song, a true story about a friend of Shamblin's father, is about three small-town kids who beat and kill a 70-year-old man with a baseball bat. Allan sang, "God have mercy. We're livin' just like there's no judgment day."

Rodney Crowell is a native Houstonian and something of a legend in country music. A fabulous songwriter who has written songs recorded by Willie Nelson, Bob Seger, Alan Jackson, Emmylou Harri, and Waylon Jennings, he has also produced records by Rosanne Cash and Jim Lauderdale. And he's a great singer and guitarist, too.

So when he was introduced on this evening, he was met by a roar of applause from the crowd. He played "Telephone Road," a wonderfully evocative song about growing up in Houston, and his number-one hit "Crazy for Leavin'." He also played "Ashes by Now," a song that he wrote back in 1974 that Lee Ann Womack recorded for her hit album "I Hope You Dance." He finished with "Like a Rolling Stone," which got the crowd singing along.

But very few artists, not even Rodney Crowell or Gary Allan, can match the popularity of Robert Earl Keen when the audience is a bunch of beer-drinking Texans. Although far from the greatest singer or guitarist in the world, Keen writes songs that appeal to the Texas beer drinker crowd, and on this night there were plenty of those in attendance.

He performed "Feelin' Good Again," a beautiful, well-written midtempo song off his "Walking Distance" album. But far more popular was the ludicrous ditty "That Buckin' Song" with the classic lyrics, "She bucked me on the pick-up truck, she bucked me on the fence. My daddy said, 'Son, you got no buckin' sense.' Yahoo. Hey hey. Yippee yi cy yey." The crowd ate it up.

But that inane song aside, Keen has written many other good songs. "Merry Xmas to the Family" was the first one he performed on this evening, and it's an absolutely hilarious song about Christmas in small-town USA. The reason this song is so great is that there's not a single wasted word - every single line of this song contributes to building an indelible image of what Christmas is like for the trailer-trash crowd. An example lyric is, "When they tried to plug their motor home in, they blew our Christmas lights," but you have to hear the song to get the full effect.

Keen finished with his signature song, "The Road Goes on Forever." Most of the crowd was singing along, word for word, because they'd heard Keen and Joe Ely, who also recorded it, sing it so many times.

Keen then led the group in a rendition of "Sittin' on Top of the World," and Ingram closed the show out with the pretty "Good Night Moon."

The show didn't go completely without a hitch. The drawback of the in-the-round stage configuration is that the stage can be accessed from all directions. Several fans took advantage of this easy access by walking up on stage right in the middle of the show, and while one performer was singing, would request an autograph from another.

This was permitted to continue until a woman snatched Roger Creager's hat from where he had left it on the stage, right behind his stool. After she'd gone back to her seat and worn the hat for a few minutes, seemingly having no intention of returning it, one of the stagehands went over to her and took it back.

Shortly thereafter, several policemen positioned themselves right in front of the stage to prevent further transgressions by the audience. Several fans were escorted out thereafter. One woman bought tequila shots for all the performers on stage at the time, and the police were met by loud boos when they kept her off the stage.

But this ugliness was merely a humorous distraction in a great night of country music.

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