well i coulda been a saint and not a rank backslider
standing on the tracks with a bottle of wine
trying to find something that’ll never be mine
The first time I heard those lyrics, it was BJ from American Aquarium singing them; BJ takes credit for a lot of things, but he’ll never take credit for someone else’s songs, and he owned up immediately: it was a song called “Abe Lincoln”, by a Raleigh band called the Backsliders, a songwriter named Chip Robinson.
Before last night, I’d never seen the Backsliders. Three songs into their set last night, I twittered: @backslidersnc are as responsible for whiskeytown as ryan adams and uncle tupelo are. I meant it. It’s the genius songwriting and the twangy sound that has defined alt.country as long as alt.country has existed, and I was thrilled to experience first hand. Chip Robinson is a genius songwriter; the band is as tight as performers as I’ve ever heard. They’re one of the Triangle’s most revered bands, and I am so glad I got to see them. There’s so much music of my generation that came out of this band’s influence, and so many people have never heard them. I wish they would.
John Howie Jr & the Rosewood Bluff played second; John Howie is also a Triangle institution. Two Dollar Pistols, sadly now defunct, were the first local band I saw when I moved here, at a No Depression 10 year anniversary party that Ash took me to. He’s still got one of the best voices in the Triangle, all sorrow and country songs and whiskey, and he’s one of the best writers. He played “Hello Trouble” last night. I adore John Howie.
Michael Rank & STAG — you will hear more about these guys here soon — opened, and I was really happy to see them for the first time after hearing a ton of raves about them. Michael’s a romantic country songwriter, front porches and old pick up trucks, and his band is fantastically tight. He’s got a new record coming out in two weeks, and you should keep an eye on his bandcamp page for a stream. While you’re there, check out his 2012 release Kin, and hear some of the best songwriting, guitar playing, and mandolin percussion I’ve heard in a while.
Full set from last night is here.