Written by Eddie Ferranti
Apr 19, 2014 at 08:00 PM

ImageYears ago Wrigley’s came out with an ad campaign to “double your pleasure and double your fun” to describe their popular spearmint chewing gum. While I may be “dating” myself the slogan applied perfectly to the recent gig I covered at the cool Dosey Doe Music Cafe North of Houston. Nashville bands, The Black Lillies and The Howlin’ Brothers, formed a super double your pleasure team that left you more than satisfied by night’s end.

This was my fourth time to take in the Black Lillies and my last shot with them was a wonderful performance in Kansas City at Folk Alliance International in February. Had the pleasure of chatting with lead singer Cruz Contreras beforehand and he was glad to hear about stunning the crowd in KC with their rock sound. As he put it: “Glad you feel that we rock because we just do what we do and that’s it.” By the second song I could feel the winds of rock overwhelming the Dosey Doe especially when Tom Pryor got loose. This guy can pedal steel and stand up guitar jam with the best of them out there these days. Toss in Bowman Townsend on drums, Robert Richards on bass, Trisha Gene Brady on acoustic guitar and vocals and the man stirring the whole thing up Contreras on guitar and keys and you get an unique brand of Americana music. 

Their influences stem from country, jazz, blues, and bluegrass, but rock is the main thing that shines thru and puts this band on the map. Their breakout album, “Whiskey Angel” in 2009 shot them up the charts and the follow-up in 2011, “100 Miles of Wreckage”, proved that they have no boundaries to their sound. “Runaway Freeway Blues” came out in 2013 and they are riding it hard. They’ve played Grand Ole Opry multiple times to date and that says a mouthful of the respect they are getting! Gems from the night that blew me away included “Smokestack Lady”, “The Fall”, “Same Mistakes” and killer “Two Hearts Down”. Make no mistake about it Contreras is in total control directing this band to unpresidented heights with his knee bending kicks while on guitar and his Jerry Lee Lewis style on keys. His grandmother was in the house this night which made it even more special for him. All in all these guys lit a fire that built into a blazing inferno that shows no signs of being put out any time soon…………

ImageThe match that lit that fire was started by The Howlin’ Brothers opening up. This 3-piece high energy bluegrass blues tinged greasy soul sound caught my ear at Folk Alliance in KC. I only got to hear a couple tunes there and was looking forward to more of a listen this time. Ian Craft belting out the lead vocals and tearin’ up his fiddle, banjo and even drums made for a nice “Oh me Oh my” sound out of the gate. Stand up bass guru Ben Plasse and Jared Green (Springsteen look-a-like) on guitar and mouth harp brought a lot of heart and passion to every song. HMR was fortunate to get an advance copy of their current album, “Trouble”, and the diversity displayed on that piece is neato indeed. Talk about all over the musical map.  

To do zydeco, rockjazz and bluegrass so effortlessly is a tribute to the talent of these gents. “Big Time” is the hit tune that woke everybody up to their sound with Warren Haynes arranging and performing on the debut album “Howl”. Hell even NASCAR adopted the song! It kills live along with “Tennesse Blues”, “Gone”, “Hard Times”, Carl Perkins cover “Dixie Fried” and the last song dedicated to the Trishas “Pull It Down”. It is hard to put a finger on the bad to the bone boogey jam these men employ on stage. They remind me of a male version of the Swedish female band Baskery and that’s high energy praise.

Their light hearted poke fun humor coupled with cool hats and fast pace all blend to make for a get up and dance beat. Headlining tour should be next up for The Howlin’ Brothers in my humble opinion………….Have a good time listening to LIVE music soon!