It’s a true thing. Once I get a country-flavored earworm working its way through my brain, I am apt not to let go and shake it out until the fever it produces runs its course, and I am returned gently to Earth, fried out but all the wiser about the greatness of the thing called country western music.
I’ve been listening since I was a child. When I was about 12, I somehow hit the right combination of keys on the old cable teevee converter to land at the station that played at least two episodes of “Hee Haw” per day. I came up with Buck Owens and George Jones and Merle Haggard and their vast entourage of hootenanny-loving humans just as much much as I did with the local FM AOR station, which used the god Pan as part of its logo, by the way.
On top of all of that, as a boy, I also got to see ZZ Top perform their Worldwide Texas Tour live at Tingley Coliseum. There was a live steer and a half-dead rattlesnake onstage for that one but I was still impressed at how damned delightful a properly countrified electric guitar could sound.
Forty years on, and that combo is still ill.
You can bet I nearly jumped out of my seat when I heard tell that country music star Josh Ward is making his way to The Duke City for an appearance at The Dirty Bourbon Saloon (9800 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Suite 4) on Saturday, May 4 at 8pm. Ward nails the gritty, windblown and starstruck, old truck-driven ethos of pure twang and has lately had much success with his honky tonkin’ ways. His recent single, “Ain’t It Baby” just swaggered to Number One on the country charts, and his latest anthem to the charm and dignity of country life, “The Devil Don’t Scare Me” is burning and hopping its way around Texas radio—slow and mad like some new language based on circumstance and piquant guitar licks formed in the heat of the night.
I’m serious, Ward’s new record, More Than I Deserve, has got an old-school vibe that’s tightly and tunefully woven together—sometimes lovingly, at other times with a certain amount of insouciance—with modern nuance and crystal clear production that makes listening to county music as joyfully sad and memorably rocking as it ever was and always should be. That this dude’s guitar playing is clearly descended from other Texas guitar greats comes off slyly with a subtlety that is disarming and downright delicious.