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Thompsons overcome the odds

Crazy Horse Saloon, Santa Ana, Cal., Feb. 20, 1998

By Dan MacIntosh

SANTA ANA, CA - The odds were stacked against The Thompson Brothers Band when it took the stage.

Although the club was close to its maximum capacity of 250 people, these attendees consisted primarily of either ticket winners or RCA/BMG executives.

In other words, the only excluded demographic seemed to be diehards familiar with the trio's music.

The radio station treated these contest winners like royalty, and even placed them right down in front of the stage. But the eyes of these contest winners told the story that they did not perceive this young and enthusiastic combo as fitting their well-established stereotype of what a modern day country band should look and sound like. Chances are, they were probably asking themselves which airline lost the group's hats, tight-fitting jeans, and cowboy boots.

But what The Thompson Brothers Band lacked in apparel expectations, it definitely made up for in musical smarts.

It's a quartet equally inspired by country music's legends (as it covered Willie Nelson's "Pickup The Tempo"), country's oughta-be-legends (by featuring two Steve Earle selections), and classic rock & roll (three Beatles songs!).

It's not a group which plays country-rock; it's a group that loves to play both country and rock and play each of these exceptionally well.

The band could have played it safe by sticking to songs from its great new album "Blame It On The Dog," and then featuring its single "Drive Me Crazy" early in the set.

Instead, these guys worked their butts off by playing 25 songs in a fulfilling 90 minute set with "Crazy" not played until three-quarters of the way through.

The music is driven by Matt Thompson's powerful drumming and brother Andy Thompson's gritty singing and tasteful guitar playing.

A Thompson Brothers Band performance is also propelled by the group's tandem jumping-for lack of a better term. If unison jumping were an Olympic sport, these guys would most certainly be gold.

For most of the night, though, this crowd stared on unmoved and unimpressed. When Andy introduced Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road" as a song by one of their heroes, the audience seemed to have no clue who Earle was.

The Thompson Brothers Band delighted (themselves at least) with their own beautiful ballad "Cry," which must certainly must have had Roy Orbison applauding from somewhere.

"Run Away With You" featured some pretty and melodic lead guitar lines from Andy Thompson, which immediately brought the guitar work of Duane Allman to mind. The group even threw in an unrecorded tear-jerker, called "The Price I Pay For Freedom."

Along the way, these guys joked and seemed to be having a great time-in spite of the mannequin-like audience. They had silly fun imitating the Gibb Brothers high falsettos on "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" and even chimed in with some animal noises in its run through on "Back On The Farm."

The Thompson Brothers Band proved with its performance that it has great taste in covering songs, and it has wisely applied its growing skills at writing songs.

Next time, though, it would probably be more fun to see it play before an audience with the ability to recognize an above average group when it sees one.

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