In full disclosure, modern “Red Dirt” is not really my favorite sub genre of Americana. There just seems to be far too many similarities to what’s being pushed to commercial country radio these days. It seems that the identity and uniqueness the genre once had, has been lost in an attempt to cater to a wider audience. At least it seems that way to me.
One of my favorite things is to check out a band I’m fairly unfamiliar with, and get blown away. With that in mind, I ventured out to the Tower Theatre Friday night with optimism about Flatland Cavalry. I caught a bit of their sound check and that optimism grew. What I heard was solid musicianship as they honed their sound getting ready for the night’s show.
Taking the stage promptly at 8pm, Cleto Cordero and band launched into “No Shade” to a boisterous crowd. With quick call outs of appreciation to the crowd, the band ran through “February Snow” and “Summertime Love” as well. Guitarist Reid Dillion and bassist Jonathan Saenz stayed in constant motion, swapping stage location or engaging with the audience. For me, new addition Wesley Hall was the standout on the stage. No easy task, considering he just joined the band in July, following the sudden departure of longtime fiddler Laura Jane. On drums, Jason Albers held everything steady. “Traveler’s Song”, “Devil Off My Back”, and “Ain’t Over You” were all carried out with purpose as the band bounced back and forth from their pair of album releases. The audience was also treated to a performance of their newest single “Honeywine”, which officially releases on August 27th. In all, the band performed nearly twenty songs as their adoring fans sang along, song after song, perhaps none quite as enthusiastically as “Coyote.” They’re a high energy band, who underneath all the flash and posturing, have a solid catalog of songs courtesy of Cordero’s songwriting.
Did Flatland Cavalry change my mind about modern Red Dirt music? Unfortunately, I can’t say that they did. But, I will say the manner in which they engage their fans and the energy they get back was quite impressive. It’s obvious they work hard at what they do, and for that, their fans truly love them for it.
Earlier I mentioned how I always hope to discover a new artist that blows me away. I’m happy to report it did actually happen on this night. Oklahoma native Kaitlin Butts opened the evening’s music, with an absolutely stunning hour long set of solo acoustic tunes. Playing songs from her album Same Hell, Different Devil as well as some newer songs that only her “dog and mom” had heard previously, Kaitlin was the highlight of the evening for me without question. Songs such as, “Wild Rose”, “Gal Like Me”, and “Marfa Lights” were beyond lyrically impressive. Her songwriting is marked with such substance and maturity, that many more well known songwriters would likely trade a kidney for an ounce of her insight and ability.
I’m embarrassed to admit that until her set, I’d never heard her name or heard her songs before, though many in the crowd sang along word for word. Unfortunately, it became increasingly difficult to clearly hear her lyrics, as a large component of the crowd seemed intent to talk over the songs. Strangely, while the audience eagerly cheered at the completion of each song, they nearly immediately went back to their conversations, louder each time. It was incredibly frustrating, disappointing, and regrettably is becoming more commonplace at concerts all the time. Regardless, I was excited to discover Kaitlin, and look forward to catching her again soon.
Flatland Cavalry continues touring the remainder of the year. You can find the dates here: https://www.flatlandcavalry.com/ Kaitlin Butts will continue to open additional dates with Flatland Cavalry, as well as some shows of her own. Her dates are found here: https://kaitlinbutts.com/