It takes a fair amount of gumption to perform outside of the so-called comfort zone musicians build within their main performance outlets. Jackie Green, Anders Osborne, and Hayes Carll ditched their bands and grabbed acoustic guitars for a sit down evening of old fashioned tune trading at the Center Theater on Sunday.
For Greene and Osborne—two new friends that are gifted as both singer-songwriters and guitarists—impromptu “jamming” is second nature and I’ve witnessed each thrive on that ball of energy as much as writing a powerful song. They’ve each shared experiences with Phil Lesh & Friends in recent years and each play in loud, improvisational rock bands. It was great to see a number of those rock tunes stripped down to the raw core from these two.
Hayes Carll sounded like the refined writer he is, a painter with words as his raw material. After Carll made light of the juxtaposition between him and the other two, the joke recycled throughout the night. The vibe was jovial and relaxed.
“Hey guys. You think one time during the night after we finish a song you could point at me like you just pointed at each other.” And then Carll turned to the audience and gave Green and Osborne props, “I’m just in awe of these guys.”
Osborne gave Carll a big hug and joked about how the crowd could sit-in on their couple’s massage, and that he couldn’t believe how funny Carll was compared to his unassuming demeanor at soundcheck. Carll is a straight-faced, witty dude and he made use of it at just the right moments. This came through in his songs, too, just listen to “Grateful for Christmas.” I thought for sure he’d comment on how Greene and Osborne were physically closer to one another on stage while Carll was off to the side, and amp-less.
The setlist pictured here, which they strayed from slightly, was floating backstage and was apparently written by Osborne. It offers a nice glimpse of what each musician chose to play. The “in the round” style had each songwriter taking a turn, with Osborne and Greene supplying accompaniment throughout the night. Backstage after the show, Green joked to Mark Fishman of KMTN that he has “musical A.D.D.” and thrives on figuring out where to fit into a piece of music, no matter how difficult. His skills on grand piano and slide guitar were always thoughtful and well-placed.
As a fan of all three and having shared bills with Osborne and Hayes over the years, song choice was on the front of my mind. A majority of Greene’s songs were from his album Giving Up the Ghost, which is arguably his best. He had a great moment behind the grand piano for “Hallelujah,” which transitioned from slow and sweet to a ramped-up, lets-take-it-to-church moment with audience clapping. It was Sunday, after all, and that grand piano in the Center sounds fantastic.
Carll’s alt-country story songs and Texas drawl were a harmonious contrast to Greene’s soulful Cali voice and Osborne’s dynamic strumming. He played with the vocal melody of the Ray Wylie Hubbard co-write “Drunken Poets Dream,” which may be one of the best written songs of the last decade, while “Magic Kid” about his nine-year old magician son was touching, and “The Sake of the Song” ties him to Texas royalty like Guy Clark.
Osborne’s voice sounded particularly nice without a mega amp stack behind him. He’s a big stage personality, not in an overbearing way, but in a performing artist kind of way. You can’t see his energy without feeling his energy. He debuted a heartfelt new song about conveying love to new buddy with “Friend,” though I think his most powerful moment was “Mind of a Junkie.” No, wait, then there was “Ash Wednesday Blues.” Nice job, fellas.
Jacksonites are likely to see more of these one-of-a-kind bills put together by Programming Director Shannon McCormick. The night closed with a great rendition of“Scarlet Begonias,” though it did leave Carll hanging, again. It’s all good, Carll, you were the wittiest and they loved ya for it!