Sunday, October 02, 2005

Lonesome Paul and the Ramblers Come Back

I drew this picture on a slow song while taking a break from dancing.A week ago last night I was at Irene's watching Lonesome Paul and the Valley Ramblers. Which is exactly what I'd have been doing eight years ago. But then Lonesome and Irene had their differences and he moved the band to the Lockmaster. We hardcore fans followed him and it lasted more than a year, but the Lockmaster started playing porno on the TV and then bumping the band for WWF bouts and Hockey Games. So one night, Lonesome Paul rode off into the sunset. Leaving a big hole in our lives. A hole which was filled for a while when Lonesome brought the Ramblers back to celebrate Irene's Pub's 20th Anniversary. It was a great night. If you like true country music - Merle Haggard, Jim Reeves, Handsome Ned, Johnny Cash - you would love what Lonesome Paul and the Valley Ramblers do with it. When Paul sings a hurtin' song, you don't just get the feeling that he's lived what he's singing, you feel that you've lived it too. When he sings a fightin' song, you look around to make sure that if he comes after you, you've got a doorway to dive through. Not everyone who has ever been a Valley Rambler was on stage on Sunday, but most of them were. Drummer Corky Kealy, formerly of Heaven's Radio, was Lonesome's first backup musician and with him through it all. Danny Artuso, virtuoso electric guitar and pedal steel, gives Lonesome's music a quality that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. James "Sweet Jimmy" Stevens and Michael Ball spelled each other on fiddle and bass. Michael has a sparse style on both instruments, when he plays something sad and sweet, my eyes always tear up. Sweet Jimmy doesn't play much any more, he's mostly producing, but he used to be everywhere playing solo gigs and in Fat Man Waving and the Black Donnellys (as did Danny Artuso). He can play a lot of notes on those stringed instruments. The famous Lynn Miles hopped up and joined Lonesome on several songs, and, when things got really hopping, Jody Benjamin (of the Toasted Westerns and Michael Ball's partner in Ball and Chain) joined in on the triangle. (Which is a lot harder to play than it looks.) There was a funny moment during the first set. The band seemed distracted during one of the songs. When it ended, Paul said into the mike, "in the old days, I had an amp that used to play the taxi dispatch radio whenever a cab drove by. Tonight we've got the Johnny Cash Live Album coming out of the monitors." I know things change and people move on, but that Sunday night hole is still there. I hope we don't have to wait for Irene's 25th anniversary for the next gig. I don't think the ghost of Johnny Cash wants us to wait that long either.

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