So Friday night I just happened to be in Madrid and I was lucky enough to catch the double-bill of Joe West and the Saltine Ramblers at the Mineshaft Tavern. For years, I never got the fuss on Joe West - he reminded me of fellow Frogville Records label mates Tha Musemeant too much for me to care.
Oddly enough, I came to actually *like* Joe West's music through his Myspace page, (never underestimate the power of having one), when I had a chance to really listen to his version of americana traditional music. Tracks like "The Human CannonBall" caught my attention as a mournful gem that I could listen to endlessly - "Sometimes Lovers, Sometimes Friends" captured the essence of what NewMexico Bands dubbed "The Elvis Costello of New Mexico music" in describing Joe's song-writing style.
By the time I saw Joe West open for the Violent Femmes at the Paolo Soleri amphitheater last summer, I was primed to really hear him for the first time. It didn't hurt matters any that one of my favorite people on the Santa Fe music scene, drummer/DJ Paul Feathericci, played stand-up drums for Joe, and my vision and my ears were also sugared by the romantic reality of seeing a few of our own open for the The Violent-Fucking-Femmes! (The Hollis Wake also played that show in the parking lot and they really kicked ass and showed mad (and angry) spirit, and gave the gig a real festival feel.)
Joe's sets at the Mineshaft didn't fail to amuse, but their headlining act really blew the roof off. The Saltine Ramblers are (at least) a six-piece string act - fiddlers, bass, guitars, mandolins all had ample stage in a sort of "best-of-cow-punk/new grass" or what the band itself calls "Cock Grass" on their myspace page. I saw them a few years ago at Stella Blue, "when we sucked" according to one of their players, but this time around they really kicked it. If you like traditional music with the fire of punk, then these guys are totally worth a trip to whatever venue they play at these days.
Joe West tipped me off to a gig the following night at the Santa Fe Brewing Company - a record release party for Grant Hayunga-fronted band Goshen. I wore out Goshen's last CD, "From Bedlam to Ballyhoo" on my CD-player, then sadly lost their MP3s off my hard-drive during a gut-wrenching hard-drive meltdown, but their latest release "Lioness" is now burning grooves in my player and my ears. Southern rock hasn't had such a good time in my CD-player in a goodly while, for Goshen is blessed with Hayunga's twangy Kentucky vocals that make you feel like you just stumbled on a moonshine fueled redneck jukejoint somewhere down in the holler.
I woulda liked to have seen the actual party and heard the tracks live, but alas, a manic series of events in Madrid kept me in southern Santa Fe county until around midnight. Still, one tends to expect that a Saturday night gig will be unhappily ending too soon at 2am - imagine my surprise when I rolled into the Santa Fe Brewing Company at 12:30 only to find everybody packing up. Maybe I spent too many years on the rave scene - 12:30 seems like an ideal arrival time, but maybe that's what I get for wishing Santa Fe had a great live music scene - lord knows there are enough great acts kicking around to make it so.