A View From the Judges Table: Week Six of The Shiner Rising Star contest.

Shiner Rising Star Competition: Week Six
La Grange
August 26, 2010

For night six of the still ongoing first round of this year's Shiner Rising Star competition, hosted by KHYI-95.3 FM The Range, things reverted back to the local flavor that had been largely missing over the previous couple of weeks.

Two of the three bands that hit the stage in Deep Ellum's La Grange call Dallas home, while the other resides just southwest, in Mansfield.

Another similarity that last night's event shared with the first two or three weeks of the contest is that the depth of DFW's country scene is far greater and extremely more diverse than most people often realize.

Yet again, the evening's performances unveiled a sonic diversity that made it beyond difficult to truly compare the bands to one another, as the evening progressed.

The Driftin' Outlaw Band, along with Andrew Delaney & The Horse You Rode In On, repped the Big D, while the Robert Donahue Band told the comfortably packed bar what life is all about on the other side of DFW Airport.

Joining me at the judges table again were KHYI DJ Brett Dillon, and the owner of Shiner Records, Joshua Jones, who will soon be the boss of one of this competition's bands.

The first band of the evening getting off to a slow or rough start has been a trend that has developed over the course of the contest. Sure, there's been an exception or two, but last night's opening act, The Driftin' Outlaw Band, not only had the smallest crowd joining them, but also suffered through some technical difficulties thanks to a back-up acoustic guitar that wasn't cooperating with lead Outlaw Jon Rust. While the effort of this raw, rootsy band always seemed genuine and their cover of Roger Miller's "Chug-a-Lug" was pretty fun, the downtime that was brought on by the issues with the instrumentation proved to be too much of a buzz-kill. Ultimately, while this wasn't The Driftin' Outlaws night, it's easy to imagine that on a good night, their brand of bluegrass-flavored, goth-country could provide a whale of a time.

Taking full-advantage of the sizable Robert Donahue Band t-shirt-wearing crowd they brought with them, Donahue and his extremely professional and polished band of rockers took the stage and proceeded to provide an insane amount of contrast to the previous set, from a purely sonic standpoint. With his boot planted firmly on the pedal, Donahue tore through tunes dealing in memories, both fond and not so fond, as well as number that is as red-state ready as they come, in which Donahue implored the crowd to "not forget about 9/11," while he also encouraged anyone who might want to speak to him, but are from another country, to learn English in order to do so. The sheer tightness and forceful energy of the songs, regardless of lyrical content, was impressive and there was little doubt that they made the most of their opportunity.

The raucous cheers that greeted the evening's final act, Andrew Delaney & The Horse You Rode In On, wasn't terribly surprising given that this four piece has become a Deep Ellum fixture in recent times. The sound that Delaney and company dealt in seemed to occupy a pleasing, middle ground between the two styles of the nights previous, polar-opposite acts. At times folk-laden and at other times, heartily rocking, Delaney's style was hard to pin-down, but even harder to ignore. As was noted from the judges table last night, each of their tunes, regardless of genre label, had a distinct and substantial groove; a credit to both the writing and the playing. While, at times, the vocals seemed to engage in a bit of a battle with the lead guitar for the audience's attention, Delaney's well-executed cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" was engaging and inspired.

In the end, the crowd-pleasing Robert Donahue Band triumphed and earned a spot in the semi-finals, where they will be one step closer to a recording deal with Shiner Records.

As for a couple of items that are perhaps a bit beside the point; the alcoholic sno-cones at LaGrange are pretty crazy. Imagine what little league baseball games would be like if you could shove an ounce or two of your favorite liquor into the concession-stand offerings? Also, for those looking for real-world proof that the Shiner Rising Star contest churns out stellar talent, head to the Granada this weekend for the Chris Knight show. 2008 winners, Somebody's Darling, will be opening up, along with another past winner Merrol Ray (formerly of Miles From Nowhere).

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