I’ve never been to a Texas country show. I’ve seen Aaron Watson, a Texan, performing in California. That was pretty wild. Lots of very rowdy country fans drinking beer from jars and redefining audience participation. If this album accurately portrays the live Texan music scene as I’m sure it does, I guess we all need to include a visit on our bucket lists.
Live albums can be a bit hit and miss. Mostly miss and it’s for this reason that we usually don’t consider them for review. An exception had to be made for William Clark Green. This album was recorded over two nights in January at Gruene Hall (pronounced ‘green’), an iconic venue located predictably in Gruene, Texas. It bills itself as “the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas”. It was built in 1878 so it’s hosted pretty much anyone of note in country music.
I could fill this review with interesting facts about the venue but instead I’m going to include a link to their website just to highlight the opportunities our Texan friends have to attend great country and Americana events:
William Clark Green has been making music in Texas for about 8 years and has released four studio albums. The last, ‘Ringing Road’ made the top 20 on the U.S. country charts. He creates great southern rock and has an awesome band. He draws from all four previous albums in his live shows and this concert is entirely reflective of Green’s regular stage output.
If you are going to attempt to record a live album in an iconic venue, it had better be good. This album is very good. He recently told ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine:
“The building is wood, shiplap floors and they creak and move. The whole building shakes. There’s no AC. Beer and wine only. It’s the Texas music mecca, a 700 to 800 capacity room, standing room and picnic tables. It’s a true dancehall and a beer joint and it’s a blast”
The test of a live album is its ability to suspend belief, to imagine that you are actually there. This album does that in spades. The energy and intensity leaps from the speakers. No matter what those speakers may be, you’ll be turning the volume up. Is it the production? Is it the audience reaction or the sheer quality of the performance that makes this such a compelling listening experience? Probably a combination of all of three, but the quality and power of this album doesn’t let up. The crowd were having a great time but probably no more than Green and the band. He has since described these gigs as the best that he has ever played.
I wasn’t familiar with Green’s back catalogue until I heard this album. The songs were all new to me which is sometimes a barrier. It’s akin to reading the first pages of a new novel when the characters are new. Does it hook you in? From the opening guitar riffs of ‘Next Big Thing’ which opens the album, this ‘novel’ became a page-turner.
I am aware that there has hardly been any mention of the music on offer. On this occasion there would seem little point. Just sit back, play the whole damn lot and imagine you were there.