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Wednesday, March 16 • 8:00pm - 9:00pm
Jack Grace Band

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With a new CD titled Drinking Songs for Lovers, one might be forgiven for believing that Jack Grace should ease up a little. A singer, songwriter and guitarist who has made a career out of following no one’s rules but his own is probably going to keep doing his thing until his liver lays down the law. He’s earned praise from press and peers, and even a couple of legends. Opening for Jerry Lee Lewis afforded him a quotable anecdote after Lewis, listening to the band’s set backstage at BB Kings in NYC, quipped, “he sounds like that Cash kid, only good.” After Lewis’ set, Jack shook his hand and told him it had been an honor to share the stage with him. Lewis leaned in and said, "I really enjoyed your set." The Merle story is also a favorite chestnut. Jack flew out to California to the Mountain Winery to open for the country legend. After his set, Jack asked Mr. Haggard if he would autograph his well-traveled 1947 Gibson LG2. At first Merle objected, saying he couldn’t imagine that Jack would really want anyone to write on it. After Jack insisted that he was more than happy to have him do so, Merle smiled and lifted the guitar and examined it. "Hmmm,” he said. “Feels like there's a few more songs in this one.” Jack actually came to the music thing a bit late. An aspiring actor, he didn’t even pick up a guitar until he was 18, and even then wasn’t very diligent about it. When it was time for his lesson, he often took off into the woods, leaving his teacher hanging. He eventually buckled down and learned it himself, his way, and for his own purposes. This was an early indicator of an outlaw characteristic that has been one of the hallmarks of Jack’s musical journey: his knack for breaking the rules. How else to explain an impromptu launch into Led Zeppelin during one the bridge of a folksy acoustic number or adding a little “Rapper’s Delight” in the middle of another? The answer lies with influences, as it often does with artists who don’t allow themselves to be pigeonholed. Some of his fondest childhood memories are of dozing in the back seat listening to Sinatra on his father’s car stereo. His earliest musical discovery involved a handful of Beatles albums among his parent’s record collection. An avid collector of Beatles memorabilia to this day, he still plays vinyl 45s of “Help” and “We Can Work It Out” after he’s had a whiskey or two. His teenage obsession with the Beatles got so intense that the mother of a buddy of his became worried about their friendship, saying, “A relationship shouldn’t be based on a rock band.” Poor Neil Young was the next victim. Buying all of his albums wasn’t enough for Jack; he had to chase the man down after a show once. Probably looking like a wild man in a poncho, ripped jeans and moccasins, he threw open the door of Mr. Young’s tour bus, where the alarmed singer (who was holding a baby at the time), recoiled from the crazed fan who breathlessly told him, “Oh, I just wanted to shake your hand!” It’s artists like Young, who have refused to be boxed in by any label, format or any other restrictions, that are the ones who’ve inspired Jack to move in any direction he’s wanted. He formed his first band in 1993 in Boulder, CO. Steak, an experimental, Zappa-flavored 4-piece, had an avid following in the West until the group officially disbanded in ’99. Frustrated by the restrictions of even an experimental outfit, Jack decided to go solo, working with a revolving group of musicians even to this day. Functioning more like a jazz bandleader, he has a main cast of characters but keeps two to three drummers on call at all times, all of who can be heard on his latest recording. Upon releasing his first solo recording, Introducing the Songs of Jack Grace, many noted the songs had a decidedly country feel. “Fine, call it country if you want,” he said at the time. “What you label it doesn’t mean all that much to me.” What it really meant was that there were new rules to be broken. Country? Fine. Let’s do a concept album called the Martini Cowboy, and throw in a bossa nova number with lap steel front and center. It worked. Alan Young of the New York Press raved, "Big Johnny Cash-style baritone singer with guitar, backed by a tremendously versatile, honest-to-goodness country band. Grace’s writing draws from such diverse influences as Merle Haggard, Tom Waits, the aforementioned Mr. Cash and Willie Nelson, but what sets his songs apart from rest of the country or alt-country scene is his laugh-out-loud, absurdist wit. Not only is this a great party album and a great driving album, but it’s also very smart and very funny. Humor is a function of intellect anyway." Kevin Canfield, writing for the New York Times, exclaimed, "Make no mistake: Jack Grace is an old-fashioned country musician." Except that he isn’t. His band rocks too hard to be country. It always has. And the band members come from all walks of life: jazz, pop, rock, blues -- you name it. Along for the ride on this musical journey are some of NYC’s finest. Bassist, vocalist and wife Daria has lent her considerable talents to the chamber pop group Melomane and her own quintet, the Pre-War ponies. Toronto-born Russ Meissner has played drums with Jack since the early days. Having one drummer on the case isn't enough for the man who divides his time between Brooklyn and Bearsville, so Jack also enlists the help of one Jason "J-Bird" Bowman. Bruce Martin from the Tom Tom Club also helps keep time a lot of the time. Mike Neer took over first chair after the untimely death of founder Drew Glackin, and fills the spot admirably with some tasty licks from his lap steel. Bill Malchow plays organ, piano and accordion, cracks jokes and sings a bit too. A practitioner of the New Orleans/Dr. John sector of the musical universe, when Malchow joined the band, he told Jack he was learning some country moves. “Don’t!” Jack exclaimed. “I hired you to be the piano player you are. We aren’t here to recreate the past.” Whenever someone tries to classify what Jack is doing, he pulls a jailbreak from the genre, and that is what makes his music modern rock. Even when he was promoting The Martini Cowboy, people wondered, is he more martini or cowboy? Now we have our answer. Unfortunately, Drinking Songs for Lovers is largely autobiographical. Jack didn’t intend for it to happen this way. He compiled his best-loved new tunes as he readied himself for the studio, and realized, not quite to his surprise, that nearly all of them seemed to revolve around a common theme: alcohol. Right from the start, “Morning Margaritas” hits you right, replete with mariachi horns and rollicking piano. The tune was inspired by a waiter bringing Jack and Daria just such a treat on the beach in Tulum, Mexico. The Grace’s yearly pilgrimage there may explain why South of the Border influences abound, particularly on “Margaritas” and “It Was A Really Bad Year” as well as the flagrant use of the aforementioned horns throughout the record. The many mood shifts on Drinking Songs for Lovers reflect different stages of intoxication, from playful (“If You’re Gonna Raise a Drunk”), to regret (“I Drank Too Much Again”), disapproval (“You Drank Yourself into a Corner”) to elegiac (“I Can’t Believe You’re Gone”). “Drinkin’ and Gamblin’” is a match made in heaven, and “Drink a Little Hooch” only sanctifies that marriage so much more. Jack even tackles the open road in “The Worst Truck Driver”. Every tune on the album has its own story. “True Tonight” came to Jack in a dream. He woke up the next morning with the song fresh in his mind and grabbed his notebook, an acoustic guitar and a tape recorder. He is steadfast in his belief that this is the best method for songwriting. A lament from a Woodstock old-timer about the town’s lack of a real gin mill was the genesis of “Drinkin’ and Gamblin,’” composed down by the creek behind the Grace’s Bearsville home. Friend Meredith Ochs, who co-hosts the “Road Dog Trucking” show on Sirius Radio, was stunned that Jack didn’t have a trucker tune in his repertoire. He quickly rectified that oversight. Dredging up some lingo from memories of repeated viewings of Smokey and the Bandit and a lit

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Jack Grace Band

With a new CD titled Drinking Songs for Lovers, one might be forgiven for believing that Jack Grace should ease up a little. A singer, songwriter and guitarist who has made a career out of following no one’s rules but his own is probably going to keep doing his thing until his liver... Read More →

Wednesday March 16, 2011 8:00pm - 9:00pm
Saxon Pub 1320 S Lamar Blvd

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