Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Lillies triumphant at Bijou

Every now and then, if you're blessed or just plain lucky, you'll find yourself in a theater filled to capacity. The atmosphere? Electric. The music? Magic.

It happened last night at the Bijou with the Black Lillies. Sold out. Super.

I was in the Old City nearly two years ago when I first heard Cruz Contreras (nee of the CCStringband fame) open up his mouth and sing. Having only heard his picking from his years leading the band for Robinella, my jaw dropped and my butt nearly hit the floor when he began his unique country crooning.

Oh, it's country, and then again, it isn't. This is Americana at its finest, music that needs no label, songs that stand alone.

You can read elsewhere about the band's history and personnel changes. Here, I will talk about last night, which will last with me for a long, long time.

It was a concert and a celebration, a release party, in fact, for the band's new CD, "100 Miles of Wreckage." Oh, how they jammed, Cruz and Jamie Cook and Robert Richards and Trisha Gene Brady and the terrific Tom Pryor, who plucks that pedal steel like nobody else. Cruz's brother, Billy, stopped by, too, to rosin up his bow.

Cruz and Halls High grad Trisha Gene weaved their harmony into a tapestry of tunes, Appalachian in its honesty. Jill Andrews (nee of the Everybodyfields) popped up, too, to sing her duet "The Arrow" with Cruz, from the new album. Awesome.

The showstopper slipped up on us, as the Lillies made their way to the lip of the stage to accentuate the Bijou's acoustics on "unplugged" renditions of "Go to Sleep" and the band's best single to date, "Whiskey Angel." You know you've made it when the entire audience sings along, even on the verses, no less.

And make it this band will. They must. It would give those who remember what roots music really sounds like a reason to believe in quality amid the crap.

We danced, we pranced and we pined for more. And the band obliged, coming back along with members of the opening act, the New Familiars, to jam on jumpin' versions of The Marshall Tucker Band's "Fire on the Mountain" and Townes Van Zandt's"White Freight Liner Blues."

It was a moment -- and it worked. Nearly religious. Neat.

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