Live Review: Bill Kirchen’s Honky-Tonk Holiday Revue @ The Birchmere — 12/12/21

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Bill Kirchen (Photo courtesy the artist)

Known as “The King of Dieselbilly” and “The Titan of the Telecaster,” Bill Kirchen has a distinctive, powerful style as a guitarist. There’s twang, but it rocks hard, and it grooves. When he plays “Hot Rod Lincoln,” the top-10 hit he had as a member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in the ’70s, Bill shows off the range of his influences as a player. He spent several minutes playing a few bars in the style of many different artists during a set at The Birchmere recently.

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Live Review: Hiss Golden Messenger @ 9:30 Club — 12/8/21

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Hiss Golden Messenger performs at 9:30 Club on Dec. 8, 2021. (Photos by David LaMason)

MC Taylor, the singer/songwriter at the helm of roots music outfit Hiss Golden Messenger, isn’t afraid to let his California influences show. Though he now lives in Durham, North Carolina, he began his musical career on the Pacific Coast with alt-country band The Court and Spark, and his music is deeply indebted to Laurel Canyon folk-rock and the psychedelic country-rock of the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead never played DC’s 9:30 Club, but HGM’s recent performance there was perhaps a glimpse into what that might’ve been like. After an opening set by Philadelphia singer-songwriter Rosali, HGM took the stage for a set that ran far more than two hours, with plenty of long instrumental jams. They even closed the evening with a cover of the Dead’s “Bird Song.”

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Live Review: Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road to Christmas” w/ Waylon Payne @ Lincoln Theatre — 12/6/21

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Robert Earl Keen (Photo by EMG/Shutterstock)

Legendary Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ear Keen’s annual Christmas tour is highlight of the holiday season. Built around his fan-favorite “Merry Christmas From the Fam-O-Lee,” every year REK and his band design a show around a theme.

Past themes have included “Country Gold” and the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. This year, the theme was “The Road to Christmas.” Each year’s show presents a collection of REK originals and cover songs fitted to theme, and his recent performance at the historic Lincoln Theatre in DC was no different. Costumes were a part of the deal, too; this year, all involved wore white jumpsuits, meant to suggest mechanics. It was truly a collective performance, as REK let his band members sing cover songs of their choice.

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Live Review: Dar Williams w/ Emily Scott Robinson @ The Birchmere, 12/5/21

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Dar Williams (Photo by Ebru Yildiz)

Dar Williams returned to The Birchmere, where she’s been playing since 1994, on Sunday evening. As she told the audience during her set, she first played the esteemed venue when she opened for singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey. She also mentioned that she has an interview in a new book that explores the history of the concert hall, All Roads Lead to The Birchmere. She’s currently touring behind I’ll Meet You There, her first album in six years.

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Live Review: Deer Tick and Delta Spirit @ 9:30 Club — 11/19/21

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Deer Tick performs at 9:30 Club on Nov. 19, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)

The Friend Ship tour, featuring indie rock bands Deer Tick and Delta Spirit, recently rolled into the 9:30 Club for an early split set. Each band performed an hour-long set before they took the stage together for an encore.

Fronted by John McCauley, Deer Tick hails from Province Rhode Island, and includes guitarist Ian O’Neil and half-brothers Christopher and Dennis Ryan, of neighboring Pawtucket, on drums and bass. The band’s unusual name comes from an experience McCauley, a lifelong outdoorsman, had while hiking in Indiana, when he found one of the titular pests on his scalp.

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Live Review: Los Lobos @ City Winery — 11/18/21

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Los Lobos (Photo by Piero F. Giunti)

One of America’s longest-lived and best rock ‘n’ roll bands, Los Lobos, played the first evening of a two-night stand at City Winery on Thursday. Though they like to humbly refer to themselves as “just another band from East L.A.,” Los Lobos have been hailed by rock critics like Steven Hyden as one of America’s most underappreciated and important bands.

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Live Review: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band @ The Hamilton Live — 11/17/21

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The Reverend Peyton fronts his Big Damn Band at The Hamilton Live on Nov. 17, 2021. (Photo by Ari Strauss)

Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band recently played The Hamilton in DC, and the church of the electric country blues was in session. This was gritty, authentic music with, as the good Reverend declared, “human hands playing real instruments.” It was American roots music at its finest, steeped in traditions brought forward with a modern sensibility, performed with skill and passion.

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Live Review: Dinosaur Jr. w/ Ryley Walker @ 9:30 Club — 11/16/21

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Dinosaur Jr. (Photo by Cara Totman)

For nearly 40 years, Dinosaur Jr. has established a reputation as one of the best, most innovative alternative rock bands — and one of the loudest. On Tuesday evening, they lived up to that reputation when they appeared at a sold-out 9:30 Club, with Chicago guitarist Ryley Walker opening.

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Live Review: Brandy Clark @ The Birchmere — 11/10/21

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Brandy Clark (Photo by Chris Phelps)

As a songwriter and a performer, Brandy Clark straddles the division between contemporary country and Americana music. Touring behind last year’s Your Life Is a Record, she appeared recently at The Birchmere with her band, where she treated the audience to some of the finest songs being made today.

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Live Review: Buck Meek @ Jammin’ Java — 11/5/21

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Buck Meek performs at Jammin’ Java on Nov. 5, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Buck Meek is best known as the guitarist and harmony vocalist for the band Big Thief, but he also makes excellent records of his own. On Friday evening, he appeared with his band at Vienna’s Jammin’ Java for an intimate performance.

A native Texan, Buck was raised in Houston and Wimberley, a small town in the Austin hill country that’s currently home to musicians like Ray Wylie Hubbard and recent Grammy winner Sarah Jarosz. By the age of 6, he was already playing guitar, having learned the instrument from his mother, and, in his teens, he was playing outlaw country and jazz manouche. He later attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, graduating in the late 2000s.

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