Written by Samuel Barker
Apr 03, 2010 at 07:00 PM
ImageIt’s all about the songs.

That was the sentiment on this night as I made my way through the Heights to see Jonathan Byrd at a concert set up in the Suzanne Anderson Properties building. Not only did Byrd say that and point out how Texans hold songs so close to their hearts, but opening act, The Jon Hogan band said the same thing. The song was the focus.

This was also fitting in the context of how I got clued in on Jonathan Byrd. During Front Porch Society shows, I’d hear different people play Byrd’s song, Clean. Finally I asked which guy wrote it and was shocked to find out none of them did. That led to a chance encounter with a free download of Live at the Triple Door and the hook was set.

Since finding out about Byrd, this was the first time he’d been through Houston and I was not going to pass up the chance to see him. Sitting in for much of the evening was Butch Morgan, who added some nice slide work to Byrd’s songs.

In a fun move, Byrd opened with a sing-along, Waitress. The audience responded by singing along for much of the songs Byrd performed, which made the night. The audiences impromptu singing on The Ballad of Larry was heart-touching. Byrd was visibly taken back by the moment and it showed the type of emotion an intimate “house” concert has as opposed to a venue show.

New songs were peppered in the set with the old favorites. Father’s Day and I’m an Oak Tree stood next to the time tested songs perfectly. Father’s Day was especially beautiful after hearing the story of Byrd’s father, while I’m an Oak Tree fit perfectly with the turmoil of the world today without being preachy.

So much of the allure of Byrd’s songwriting is the mixture of beauty, message and inclusiveness, without any of those 3 features stepping on the others’ toes. Definitely quite an accomplishment.

ImageOpening the show was the aforementioned Jon Hogan Band. This group was definitely an anachronism, in a completely complimentary way. They could have been dropped in the 1920s with Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the like without ever turning a head. Guitarist Maria Moss’ digital tuner on the headstock of her guitar would be the only thing to stand out.

Their set was fun from beginning to end. The music bounced, Hogan tossed in enough light-hearted banter to keep the audience enthralled and the songs shined.

A major highlight of the set were the songs Hogan performed from lyrics he received that belonged to the late Blaze Foley. Those who love Townes Van Zandt are also huge fans of Blaze Foley, so hearing some new words from this legendary songwriter was a definitely treat.

Of course, the test of the night was whether Hogan’s own tunes could stand up next to such heavy hitters as Van Zandt and Foley. From what I heard, they did that job just fine. Hogan performed wonderfully and really left me with only one complaint, I did not hear enough of his songs. Those he played were great and the audience was captivated, which is key for an opening act.