Written by James Killen

DSC03170It was back to the cozy Americana this Thursday night for an early show. Charles Bryant started at 6PM for the last part of the 4-7PM Happy Hour. He had already brought in a number of his dearest fans and was busy saying hellos and taking requests for the show. Charles kicked it off with “Here I Am Again”, about Robin Williams’ struggle with depression. He followed that up with five numbers from his latest disc, “Kiss the Sun” (21 Days, Evan’s Song, It’s About Love, Nursing Home and The MRI Song). Next came the ironic, “Happy Song”, all done in major chords. It was back to “Kiss the Sun” for “Kill ‘Em All”, “Never Pass this Way Again” (dedicated to Chris Cornell), and my request for the evening, “Give You”. To end his set, Mr. Bryant strapped on a banjo to do a claw hammer rendition of Ralph Stanley’s “I am the Man Thomas”. Charles really kicked it off strong with his energetic strumming and poignant lyrics.

During the brief stage change, the Americana began to fill up with fans of Byrd and Street. Tommy Byrd was a member of the Geezinslaws and before that was a Stax recording artist in Memphis. Kathy Street was a grade school teacher and sang in several folk groups as well as performing in musical theatre productions. Tommy and Kathy met in 2001 and found a harmony together that has become a fixture in South Texas folk institutions like Kerrville and SWRFA. They write original tunes and perform their own versions of some classic hits. Their music lives at the corner of country and folk.

The duo started out the set with “I Need a Small Town” and “Lightning Bugs” on glockenspiel and guitar. The stories that Tommy tells sets the tone of the show, as if you’ve just been invited to sit down on their back porch to swap songs and stories. It’s a very relaxed show and their voices meld beautifully. Not shying away from social issues, Byrd and Street performed “Man with a Cardboard Sign” about a guy they passed on the roadside that held a sign that read, “Not begging, just hopeful”. Kathy lent her beautiful voice to the harmony of “Mighty Long Road” after that.

DSC03189They followed that with “I’ve Got it All” about being satisfied with what one has, and then “I’m Gonna Swim” (out to my ship because it ain’t coming in), leading in to the inspirational country gospel, “Higher Ground”. Kathy took lead vocals on the traditional American folk song, “Shenandoah”, playing xylophone and pianica accompanied by Tommy Byrd on guitar and backing vocals. The set continued to entertain with “Rock Away the Blues” about slowing things down in a rocking chair, “Love Broke the Fall” about how love helped someone overcome depression and turn their life around , and one of Tommy’s hits from the Stax era, “Watch the River Flow”.

After a rendition of “Money’s Good” (time is better and love is the best of all), Kathy took the lead vocal with her smooth voice on their version of Little Willie John’s hit, “Fever”, while Tommy added guitar with lots of harmonics and his own voice in harmony. The duo kept kicking out the songs with “When I Hear Her Sing”, “Long Line of Love”, and “My Airplane in the Backyard in the Sky”. Kathy again reached back for a vintage pop song singing Pat Ballard’s “Mr. Sandman”.

That started to wind the set down as Byrd and Street played “You Have Been My Friend” and the lively “Lay Your Troubles Down”. The encore was “Let Me Be Your Friend” written from the perspective of a dog in an animal shelter.

Byrd and Street created a comfortable, friendly and relaxed atmosphere while they entertained us with their vocal and instrumental talents. The styles of music were diverse, touching on pop, jazz, blues, country and folk…truly an Americana experience. If this is the sort of talent that will be drawn to this little venue, The Americana might be putting up with me for a while.