It’s a chaotic scene as the evening band breaks down their equipment, like the dozens of flashing signs and reflective traffic cones blocking what once was a short drive across Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin.
Dizzy patrons shake my barstool like a rickety amusement park ride, their voices like a bachelorette party amongst the clattering glass bottles being mercilessly tossed away.
A backlit poster of Willie Nelson greets everyone as they enter the Saxon Pub, an Iconic listening room that survived the condo boom on South Lamar. There’s a mass exodus between each performance, a new cover charge enacted for each act. Bar tabs fly across the service stage as new arrivals dash for one of the closest tables.
Willie Nelson greets fans at the Saxon Pub. Photo by Andrew Blanton
These wooden walls could tell you a million stories if you could pry them out. Opened in 1990, the Saxon Pub has been a home to rising stars and touring acts, local legends and transplants, and some who have been forgotten along the way.
The legends wall at the Saxon Pub. Photo by Andrew Blanton
Sam Morrow wastes no time warming up his four piece band, moving from southern rock and outlaw country to funky soulful numbers. The songs change style often, but they’re all glued together by a central theme.
Morrow’s black hat jumps from side to side as the groove gets going. Damon Atkins burns through the guitar solos on his Fender Telecaster throughout the hour long set. Many selections are from Morrow’s third album Concrete and Mud.
Sam Morrow and lead guitarist Damon Atkins at the Saxon Pub. Photo by Andrew Blanton
“I sort of found myself a little bit more in this record,” Morrow said. “I just kind of had more fun with the process of making it, and having more fun playing it, and I think that kind of translates to people.”
Morrow sprinkles in a ZZ Top song for the locals, a Waylon Jennings tune, and a few other covers throughout the night. The group is sharply dressed all in black, a western tie dangling from Morrow’s neck.
Bassist Mark Riddell and drummer Matt Tecu back Sam Morrow. Photo by Andrew Blanton
Like many Americana artists, Morrow’s previous albums focused on missteps in the past with drug use and other personal reflections. It’s a rite of passage for many singer-songwriters and a nod to their heros, but over time they find the joy in performing.
“I sort of just take myself less seriously, and I’m just kind of able to poke fun at my flaws, and I realize that writing songs doesn’t have to be this glorious, cathartic process,” Morrow said. “It could be fun and light. That’s kind of the discovery I made before this record that’s probably not new to most people, but it was new to me.”
A testament to the lighter feel, Concrete and Mud has fared well on Americana Radio, reaching the top ten list. Like watching a turntable needle wave soundlessly back and forth at the end of side B, Morrow leaves the audience hungry for one last encore.
See our review of his recent album here: REVIEW: Sam Morrow’s “Concrete and Mud” is Roots Rockin’ Funk and Deep Growly Grooves; and check for more info and tour dates, here: https://www.sammorrowmusic.com/