|Joshua Hedley and his band The Headliners|
After years of playing Nashville honky-tonks, Joshua Hedley became a legend in the local music scene. He mastered the fiddle and learned every classic country song. Hedley performed with everyone and everywhere in the music city. When he began to front his own band, Jack White (my personal Lord and Savior) signed him to Third Man Records. I expected Joshua Hedley to appear dressed in a flashy country western suit with a cowboy hat like he’s pictured on his album cover of Mr. Jukebox. But when he stepped on stage, Hedley was just wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, and a baseball cap. He announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen this is an informal show.”
Hedley began with the classic Willie Nelson’s Night Life that seamlessly flowed into Hedley’s original song I Never (Shed a Tear). The tunes could easily have been on the same 1960’s era album. After playing mostly original material, the band left Hedley alone on the stage. He proceeded to take requests from the audience for their favorite country classics. The crowd yelled out for Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, and Jimmie Rodgers songs. Hedley played them flawlessly (his nickname is Mr. Jukebox for a reason). When someone yelled out for a Marty Stuart song from the 1980’s, Hedley replied, “His songs are too new.”
After the band came back to join him, Hedley covered Johnny Paycheck’s Colorado Cool-Aid – “What is Colorado Cool-Aid?/Well, its a can of Coors brewed from a mountain stream/I’ll set you head on fire an’ make your kidneys scream.” After that epic tale about drinking and a switchblade, Hedley confessed that he didn’t understand beer. “It’s a long way to get to where you want to go.” That’s when he asked someone to bring him a shot of Jack Daniels. The band closed with Mr. Jukebox the title track to his album and the slogan on the sweatshirts the entire band was wearing. Hedley yelled, “We are trying to sell the f*ck out of these.”
Singer songwriter Kelsey Waldon was the second artist on the bill. Her retro-sound is also influence by classic country. After graduating from high school in Western Kentucky, Waldon went straight to Nashville to pursue music. Her set consisted of autobiographical songs about Tennessee, tobacco, and heartbreak. Waldon also performed my favorite Neil Young song Powderfinger. She previewed a new track about bourbon from her upcoming album that will be released next year. Waldon whispered, “Thank you for being quiet with me. Now Josh is going to turn it up.”
Local band Extra Gold started the evening of music. Lead singer Evan Holm and steel petal player Ben Waligoski suspiciously have the same long hairstyles I wore in the 80’s. The band played a Merle Haggard whiskey song. That started a theme of drinking tunes that were performed throughout the night. Original songs about Northern Michigan and a girl named Emily (complete with yodeling) made the crowd nod along to their country swing. The band will have an album release party on November 30th at the Hi-Dive in Denver.
See you at the next show. I’ll be the one refusing to drink Colorado Cool-aid. It doesn’t sound healthy.