Southern Rock Allstars
Iron Angels Bike Rally
Angel City, Georgia
April 22, 2006
Riding from Greenville, SC to Unidella, Georgia with Scott at the wheel and Jimmy holding down CD selection duty from the back seat, we encountered sunshine one minute and dark skies and rain the next, and I began to wonder what type of weather would greet us upon arrival at the concert venue. As it turns out, the weather was nothing short of perfect, not to mention the venue. Angel City is a brand new concert venue, and whoever put it together really knew what they were doing. Beautiful fields, ample parking, very nice shops and a really nice, big stage complete with hydraulic lift to help with the load in and out.
The venue was great, the weather was great and the staff were all cordial and helpful, especially the stage crew who treated us all like rock stars.
The actual bike festival had been going since Thursday, and The Southern Rock Allstars had headlined Friday night. We had elected to make it a day trip, spend the night Saturday and drive home on Sunday in time for me to perform at the church picnic.(Another beautiful and fun day on the lake, picking guitar. We even got the pastor up to sing “Freebird” with me. My kind of church.)
A local band kicked things off before The Southern Rock Allstars took the stage. The current SRA features former Marshall Tucker drummer Ace Allen on drums, along with Jay Johnson, Charles Hart, Jimmy Farrar, Scott Mabry, and a cool cat named Larry “Cosmo” Bridges on keys. The band rocked hard through an eclectic set that included Jimmy singing some Molly Hatchet classics like “Beatin’ The Odds,” “Dreams,” and “Flirtin’ with Disaster.” The band normally covers several Blackfoot tunes, but since Blackfoot was headlining, they kept to the Hatchet, Skynyrd and such. The band played a rousing rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Jimmy Farrar laid everyone to waste with his vocal on “Mississippi Queen,” (Always a favorite of this writer!) I myself was honored to play and sing Toy Caldwell’s immortal “Can’t You See” with the band, whose set also included “Whiskey Man,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and a cool set closer, “Rock and Roll All Night.”
I know for the past few years Wet Willie has been playing shows and recording without front man Jimmy Hall, who has been tied up with Hank Williams, Jr., Jeff Beck, Chris Hicks, Mighty Jeremiahs and Prisoners of Love projects. The good news is, Jimmy is back, joining brother Jack Hall, sister Donna Hall and the whole band. The show was phenomenal, to say the least, with the highly animated Jimmy stalking the stage, jumping, running, blowing harp, playing sax and singing his Mobile, Alabama born ass off. The set rocked from beginning to the end, and included “Dixie Rock,” “Grits Ain’t Groceries,” “Rendevouz with the Blues,” and a slew of others. The entire band was on, and Jimmy seemed to be having the time of his life. At one point, the Iron Angels dancers came out to dance. At the end of the number, Jimmy said, “Sure does make an old man feel goooood!” They closed with a full on “Keep On Smilin.’” which brought cheers of recognition from the crowd of 15,000. Jimmy and the rest of the band were soaking wet with sweat by the end of the show, which prompted Jimmy to say "Now you know why they call us WET Willie."
Blackfoot has had their share of hard luck since regrouping in 2004. The biggest loss was the death of drummer Jakson Spires in 2005. Regrouping with a new drummer, Christoph Ullmann of Austria (whom Jak had been mentoring), the group featured original members Greg T. Walker and Charlie Hargrett, along with one time Blackfoot member (as well as guitarist for Axe) Bobby Barth, and Ullmann.
Earlier this year, Barth hurt his shoulder, and the band hired Jay Johnson (Southern Rock Allstars, Rossington Band) to fill in while Barth recuperated. It was the smartest move they could have made. Johnson fits Blackfoot like an old familiar glove.
The band has never sounded better, and I mean that. Kicking off in high gear with “Good Morning,” and rolling right into “Wishing Well,” the band had worked up a sweat early on, and it just got better from there. Charlie Hargrett had sweat pouring from his face like a fountain, no kidding. These guys were giving their all, 110-percent. The set included outstanding versions of “Left Turn On a Red Light,” “Train, Train.” and “On The Run.”
Jay Johnson was all over the stage, and for a minute there, shadows of Ricky Medlocke (the ultimate front man) danced through my head. Greg T. looked great in his Native American garb and sounded good as ever, as did Charlie Hargrett, and I swear the spirit of Jakson Spires was flowing through the arms and legs of young Chrostoph, who pounded the skins relentlessly.
The set list was as follows: Good Morning- Wishing Well- Line On You- Baby Blue- Railroad Man- Every Man Should Know- Fox Chase - Left Turn On A Red Light - On The Run- Rollin’ and Tumblin’ > Fly Away - Train Train- Highway Song.
“Highway Song” was awesome, and according to the set list, they had planned to end with “Dry County.” Unfortunately, the power to the stage went down for some still unclear reason, and Jay turned and said, “We blew it up!” Rumors were that someone in the crowd had suffered a heart attack, and they had cut power to get him out of the audience. Like I said, it is still unclear. Still, the show was an overwhelming success.
Now comes the question, when Bobby Barth is healed, will they keep Jay on board? If they are taking votes, mine has to go to Jay. Bobby is a helluva rocker to be sure, and amazing blues man too, but Jay seems to fit the front man mold for Blackfoot to a tee. Or keep both and make Blackfoot a five-man band. It's been a five-piece before. It will be interesting to see what happens. No matter which way the tree falls, the guys are positioned for a huge comeback, with a catalog of as of yet unrecorded songs co-written by Jakson and Jay, and some serious fans eager for their heroes.
This was absolutely one of the finest shows I have had the pleasure of attending in quite some time.
-Michael Buffalo Smith (article & photos)
Blackfoot ready to take the stage.
Jimmy Farrar of Southern Rock Allstars.
Greg T. Walker of Blackfoot.
Jay Johnson pulling double duty with SRA and Blackfoot.
GRITZman Michael Buffalo sits in with The SRA.
GRITZ staffer Scott Greene meets Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie.
Jimmy Hall wails.
Buffalo and friend.