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Rockabilly with Dawson doesn't get much better

Mama Kin, Boston, June 28, 1996

By Jon Johnson

BOSTON - Rockabilly shows don't come much better than this one, gang!

Whoever booked this show deserves the booking equivalent of an Emmy - an old-timer from rockabilly's glory days still capable of knocking 'em dead (Ronnie Dawson), one of the three or four greatest American rockabilly acts today (High Noon), and some promising up-and-comers (King Memphis) equals an evening of top-drawer entertainment.

Maine's King Memphis (formerly the Memphis Mafia) have been New England faves for the past couple of years. They didn't disappoint, running through a 45-minute set of originals and covers, including an imaginative rockabilly arrangement of Aerosmith's "Mama Kin," slated to appear on an Aerosmith tribute album later in the summer.

Austin's High Noon was second on the bill, but to judge by the audience's reaction to them, one would have thought they were the headliners.

The group has cut back on touring to a considerable degree since lead guitarist Sean Mencher's move to Portland, Maine with his family several months ago. The show was one of only a couple of east coast dates the group was playing while they were close to Mencher's new home in Portland.

These are three guys who obviously love playing with each other and who have the songs, charisma, and talent to back up their reputation.

Lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Shaun Young is as good a frontman as you'll ever see, and the Merle Travis-inspired lead guitar work of Mencher had the attention of the hepcat guitarists in the audience.

Special mention should be made of bassist Kevin Smith, who has the daunting task of propelling the group without a drummer's assistance. Smith is a brilliant bassist who would do any group of this sort proud.

The group performed a rave-up 45 minute set of songs from their two albums, "Glory Bound" and last year's "Stranger Things," scheduled for an American release in September on Watermelon.

If you ever get a chance to catch them, by all means do so. With the possible exceptions of Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys and the Dave and Deke Combo, you won't see a better band playing this kind of blend of rockabilly and hillbilly boogie anywhere today.

Ronnie Dawson had his work cut out for him following High Noon's set and if he didn't quite match the power and energy of High Noon, he nonetheless delivered a rockin' set that kept the audience dancing for an hour-and-a-half.

Backed by a top notch band consisting of guitarist Tjarko Jeen, ex-Derailers drummer Lisa Pankratz, and High Noon's Smith on bass, Dawson focused on tracks from his latest album, "Just Rockin' and Rollin'," plus some older faves from a career dating back to the '50's.

Of special note were covers of the Go-Getters' "Mexigo," Lefty Frizzell's "You're Humbuggin' Me," and four songs from the new album where Ronnie and band were joined by a small horn section, which nicely filled out the group's sound.

By the time the show ended (at nearly 2 a.m.) the crowd was happy and exhausted, though Dawson, his band, and the members of High Noon stuck around to sign autographs and talk with fans for some time afterwards.

There's some talk of a Ronnie Dawson/Wayne Hancock tour a little later in the year which, if it happens, will be an unbeatable combo not to be missed. Be sure to catch it if it!

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