From “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” Lubbock to be precise, the Josh Abbott Band brought the house down at the 9:30 Club on Thursday. Opening with “My Texas,” they proudly represented the tradition of that West Texas town that includes Buddy Holly and the Flatlanders.
Influenced by acts like Pat Green, Wade Bowen, and the Randy Rogers Band, Josh Abbott, a grad student at Texas Tech, started performing at open mics as a duo with his fraternity brother, Austin Davis, who plays the banjo. They have remained the core of the band, and have been joined by lead guitarist Caleb Keeler, fiddler Preston Wait, Edward Villanueva on drums, and their newest member, bass player Jimmy Hartman.
Earlier this year, JAB released the EP Catching Fire. “Surprise, Surprise,” which Josh described as “just a good ol’ country song,” is based on a true story. Referring to recent wildfires, “Catching Fire” begins “Hells’ gates on fire, Two million acres gone.”
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In the flirtatious “Little More You,” he pleads, “Don’t hold back one bit of your love.” Josh isn’t short on love songs. In his encore, he played “Real Damn Good” solo for his wife, calling her “genuine, one of a kind, hard to find.” Of his wife, who was in attendance, he said, “She hates the attention, but it’s part of the package.” It wouldn’t be a surprise if “I’m Only Your Flaw” was also inspired by his spouse.
Before “A Little More You,” Josh spotted a Astros fan standing next to a Nats fan and declared that the two should become “Best Friends.” (He periodically updated the crowd on the score of the game.) “I Just Wanna Love You” featured some hot playing, with a guitar solo by Caleb and the keyboardist using his foot to run across the keys.
After “Road Trippin’,” Josh talked about walking around the Capitol Building. He avoided politics, but honored the military, giving away a free t-shirt to any service members in attendance.
JAB is all about having a good time. Their last song of the evening was called just that: “We’re Gonna Have a Good Time.” One of their songs asks in its title, “Where’s The Party?” “Oughta Get Drunk,” from the new EP, celebrates Friday night tailgating.
During the encore, a fan offered a drink to Josh. He asked, “Is it rum?” Then he shot out the zinger, “Who do I look like, Kenny Chesney?” before introducing the band’s oldest song, “Taste.”