Last updated on January 22nd, 2019 at 07:53 am
One of my favorite past times in the Twin Cities is attending late-night weekend shows at the Cabooze. From the party atmosphere to the friendly bar staff, the Cabooze has a way of creating a great atmosphere that is, at least in my eyes, largely unrivaled in the twin cities.
I was excited then when I learned I’d be getting the chance to cover two fantastic country songwriters in Kendall Marvel and Ward Davis at the venue on the second Saturday of November. The night lived up to great Sabooze Saturdays of the past, with dancing and singing, and hits old and new.
Opening things up on this cold night was Kendell Marvel. I wasn’t familiar with him, but it became very apparent early on that I and most of the audience was well acquainted with his work. A hit Nashville writer by day, Marvel was touring off his first solo release and brought both his own music and has several hits that he’d written for others.
The first song was unfamiliar, but the audience roared when he announced it would be on the hotly anticipated upcoming Chris Stapleton record. The name-checking continued into the next run of songs, which included a song co-written by Audley freed (The Black Crowes), a hit by Gary Allan in Right where I need to be and one of my favorite songs of the year in the Stapleton-cut Either Way.
It’s clear Kendell has friends in high places, and his talent as a songwriter was evident from the beginning. From there, he mostly stuck to songs from the new album. They were solid by and large, but the audience was less familiar with them. While I wished he would’ve saved some of his hits until the end of the show, he was captivating the whole time, and I enjoyed myself.
Ward Davis is a singer-songwriter who has been on my radar for the past few years. After years working in Nashville as a writer, Davis emerged with his debut in 2015, 15 Years in a 10 Year Town, to some acclaim within country circles. A mix of traditional, and outlaw styles with tinges of blues and rock, the album displayed lots of promise for the emerging artist. Suffice it to say I was interested to see how it would play out live.
The Arkansan established his groove early on with More Goodbye. The structure of the song stayed true to the album, though the lead guitar line was beefed up quite a bit. From the outset, it was apparent that Davis’ band was in top form. After a run through the foreboding leadoff track No going home, and a few others, the band came through with a tasteful cover, Something Big by the late Tom Petty.
The fact that the cover felt as home in a country set as the covers I heard last week at the punk show I covered speaks to the depth of Petty’s Influence. The arrangement was great, and Davis’ praises were earnest and heartfelt. Colorado, written by Davis and fellow singer Cody Jinks followed before a drum solo gave way to another well-placed cover, The Highwaymen’s signature Highwayman.
The cover was well executed, but part of why I love the original so much is the trade-offs between singers, and in only having one singer, something was lost. One more Willie Nelson song, the Davis-penned Unfairweather friend came next before a run of tracks from the album. Old wore out Cowboys and Get to work Whiskey were clear fan favorites, and highlights of the evening while “I got you” was mellow before going wild during the last chorus.
The nostalgic I get lost in my hometown felt relatable, speaking to change in an ever-changing world. Both Davis’ choice of covers and the influences in his work speak to his breadth of experience and excellent taste. After Running through Johnny Cash’s Big River, his self-proclaimed favorite cash tune, Davis went acoustic, for another hit he wrote on, Jinks’ ballad I’m not the Devil The rendition was tremendous, and the quality of his voice showed through.
After a few more tracks, Davis got on the keyboard, and fun really started. After the playing the album’s title track, the band played their final, and most fun cover of the evening, Ronnie Millsap’s Stranger in the House. The whole band rocked out, and the interplay between the lead guitarist and Davis’ keyboard was top notch.
After a short set break, Davis came out with only an acoustic guitar for the most heartbreaking track on the album, The Overpass. The night ended on a high note with “Don’t forget to get stoned, which included a key change that took the song to another level. The night was fun, the music was good, and the venue, as always, was on point. It all goes to show you can never underestimate the power of a great song.