By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Recorded throughout the month of April 2011, this live effort serves as the sophomore release from Boxcar Bandits, longtime stalwarts of the Denton music scene, following up debut Smells Like Grass. The band's Monday night residency at Dan's Silverleaf has become one of the better hootenannies in the area, and nothing more accurately represents the ensemble's "skunkgrass" than a recording in front of their faithful horde.
Indeed, the 14 songs presented here are recorded with such precision one starts to question whether or not the audience reactions were dubbed in later. The playing is so skillful on "Whiskey Before Breakfast," "Mixed Up Mess of a Heart" and "Fool's Prayer" that it serves as testament to both the instrumentalists and the sound engineer.
And while folk and alt-country can sometimes be played with too much skill, the picking and fiddling of Austin Smith, Andy Rogers and the rest of this group is always just ragged enough to engage instead of impress. Special kudos go to accordion player Ginny Mac and percussionist Grady Don Sandlin for adding details that actually embellish the songs and never serve simply as window dressing.
What works best about Live at Dan's is the lack of hayseed silliness that sometimes accompanies music of this nature. There are no "Aw, shucks" moments in the entire show, no embarrassing stabs at Hee Haw humor. As a matter of fact, the best use of humor is the album cover, a clever and spot-on send up of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. Even the inside photos mimic the album. Rarely does a band, local or otherwise, create an effort where the album design is as intelligent and unique as the music contained within.