Written by James Killen
Aug 11, 2012 at 04:00 PM
ImageI took a run out to the Cypress Saloon, Saturday, with honky-tonking on my mind, as the Cypress Saloon qualifies as a big honky-tonk and honky-tonk hero, Billy Joe Shaver was headlining the schedule for Dewey-fest 2012. Cypress Saloon is a big tin barn-like building with a full bar sitting behind P.O.’s Burgers on Telge Road off of 290.

One of the first things that you notice when you walk in is the Big Ass (yes that’s the brand name, Google it) ceiling fan pushing the breeze down on the tables of beer drinkers and story-swappers. Dewey-fest itself was an all-day event that featured some really talented musicians that was put together by C&W artist Dewey Wayne to benefit MOMs USA, an organization dedicated to sending packages to our troops overseas. The money raised on Saturday from ticket sales and silent auctions was earmarked to send Girl Scout cookies to an entire battalion.

Although the music started at noon, I didn’t arrive until around 4:00PM when ex-Romeo Dog, Mitch Jacobs took the stage with his band, the Two Dollar Lone Stars. He delivered a satisfying set of original and cover songs including Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and Chris Isaac’s “I Don’t Want to Fall in Love” showing off his vocal range from the lows to the highs.

The format for the event became apparent as three stools were dragged up in front of the stage while the set up for the next full band was being done. Mikes were set in front of the stools for three singer songwriters to do a song swap, providing almost continuous music for the day. This spot featured Luckenbach songster, David Harris, ex-Derringer lead singer, Tim Nichols and 105.3FM TexMix DJ (and MC for the event), Kenny Allen. Tim Nichols, a veteran songwriter that had collaborations with Steve Wariner and Eddie Rabbit to his credit, showed good stage savvy and had a solid country voice. Kenny Allen, a songwriter in his own right, delivered a few humorous ditties that kept the mood light.

ImageThe Brant Lee Croucher band was next on the main stage. I found these guys to be an interesting act. The sound is mainstream country, but Brant is not the typical C&W heart-throb, being a little skinny with a scraggly, unshaven general appearance. The songs are a fresh twist on traditional themes. He tends to emphasize words or phrases by preceding them with a pause to put the attention where he wants it. This makes the songs hard to two-step to, but very listenable. All of that, with an acoustic lead guitar that brings to mind the sharp tones of Jorma Kaukonen, made for an enjoyable set.

The stools were dragged back out for a set by Tim Fralik, Mike Amabile and Southern Backtones leader, Hank Schyma. Schyma immediately took control of the stage, cracking wise and introducing the other fellows. Between performing his own tunes, Fralik added leads and fill to the other two until Hank Schyma belted out an aggressive acoustic version of “Bring Back My Angel”. Fralik announced that he wasn’t touching that. I have to say that Mike Amabile stole the show for this set by delivering a smooth upbeat version of Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluiah”. I’ll be looking for him around town, just to get a little more taste of his talented voice and song.

Johnny Falstaff was lined up for the main stage next but called in with a bad case of food poisoning, so the stools were immediately occupied by Andrew Wade and Brad Boyer bringing their own Texas singer-songwriter talents to the stage. Boyer covered Townes Van Zandt tune, “Loretta” and even shared a Townes joke, that involved a drunk and a missing car, but that’s about as much as I can share in polite company.

Ziggy Moonshine and the Bootleggers were next to the main stage. They played a country boogie that got a few dancers up on the floor. They did a cover of the Band of Heathens’ favorite “Jackson Station” and did their very best to look like rock stars.

ImageThe stools were dragged out one last time for the evening to be occupied by Cody Kouba, Matt Harlan and Christin Sawyer. Cody had a list of his own songs that featured his bluegrass-fast acoustic guitar strumming. HMR favorite and old friend, Matt Harlan, performed “Darker Shades of Grey” off of his latest disc and “You’re Just Drunk” and “Something New” from his first CD. The pleasant surprise from this set was Christin Sawyer. She played an acoustic country set of original tunes with all of the energy of a Texas Ani DiFranco. Her first disc is due out very soon and I do believe that I’ll be picking that one up.

The main stage opened up again featuring Dewey Wayne (host of Dewey-fest) and his band. Dewey is a Houston area mainstream C&W singer-songwriter that fit this old honky-tonk like a glove. With songs like “I’m Drinking Whiskey Again” and “Jack and Hank” Dewey plays to the traditional honky-tonk crowd.  The band was tight and featured guest guitarist, Big John Mills on Telecaster. Dewey showed his Gulf Coast origins with the almost Cajun rhythms of “I Reckon I’m Fixin’ to Drink Me Another Drink”. Many thanks are due to Mr. Wayne for sponsoring this event in support of our troops overseas.

By 11:15PM, the stage was taken over by Billy Joe Shaver in all of his honky-tonk glory, wielding a long tried and true song list and working with a young rocking band. Billy Joe is 73 as of August 16th and nothing in his performance would suggest that he’s feeling his age.

ImageHe opened up with “Heart of Texas” followed quickly by his rock and roll cross-over “Georgia on a Fast Train”. With scarcely a breath between, he rolled into “Honky-Tonk Heroes” and the unrepentantly suggestive “That’s What She Said Last Night”. “Wacko from Waco” addressed the true story (or at least Billy Joe’s version) of the shooting incident after one of his shows that made news lately.

Not missing any of his most requested numbers, Billy did “Old Chunk of Coal” and “Live Forever” with a spoken word version of “Star of my Heart” between them. The band kicked into a rock and rolling version of “Hottest Thing Around” that featured a killer solo by guitarist, Jeremy Woodall. After a gospel inspired “Lay Your Burdens Down” the band used “Thunderbird Wine” to set up a rock and roll drum solo by percussionist, Jason McKenzie.

A Billy Joe Shaver show is almost guaranteed to have at least one incident of what Guy Clark would call hillbilly haiku, or a spoken word version of one of his songs or poems. Billy Joe followed up the drum solo with a recitation of “You Wouldn’t Know Love if You Fell in It”. The night grew later as the band cranked up again for “In the Good Old USA” and “Bottom Dollar”. After eight and a half hours of honky-tonking, this honky was about tonked out. As I strode out to the car, I heard the band kick in to “The Get Go” and all that I could think is that there is no way this guy is 73.