Greg Trooper – Pine Hill Farm (Durham, NC)
A guitar, a picker, a living room. It’s a pretty foolproof combination, whether it involves your neighbor Sally who sounds a little like Lucinda Williams, or your Uncle Scott who swears his old outfit opened for a band who opened for Poco, or the latest Pine Hill Farm visitor, Greg Trooper. There’s no better way to experience music.
Perhaps there’s no better way to present music, either. Like other artists who have graced the Pine Hill Farm family room — Robbie Fulks, Kevin Johnson, Slaid Cleaves and Alejandro Escovedo among them — Trooper seemed genuinely surprised and appreciative that 60 strangers would drive to a ranch house in the woods between Chapel Hill and Durham on a Saturday night to hear him play.
Trooper’s two-set, 23-song performance was drawn equally from his three discs: 1992’s Everywhere, ’96’s Noises In The Hallway, and last year’s first-rate Popular Demons. (Good luck finding his late-’80s vinyl-only debut.) The highest point of the night was a five-song run featuring the meat of Demons, with “Bluebell”, the Joe Ely-ish “Lightning Bug”, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine”, “21st Century Boy”, and “Paradise”. A pair from Everywhere — the Steve Earle co-write “I Thought I Was Dreaming” and the epic title track, which Billy Bragg covered on his album Don’t Try This At Home — also made a big impression, as did the hilarious “I’m So French”, which has the good sense to rhyme Pepe LePew with Gerard Depardieu.
We also became privy to trivia, learning that Earle tackled Trooper’s “Little Sister” as the B-side to the UK version of the “Copperhead Road” single and that “Light In The Window” was co-written by the guy who played Jason on “The Waltons”. (“In New York, you write. In Nashville, you co-write,” explained Trooper.) Trooper also spoke with pride about Vince Gill’s cover of the Noises tune “We Won’t Dance.”
Most of all, we discovered that Greg Trooper is a funny fellow. “There’s a great tradition of guitar playing in this area,” he said early on, followed by a perfect comedic pause. “You won’t hear it tonight.” And don’t get me started on the polar bear joke.
As the night began to wind down and Trooper sang the namesake chorus to “Another Shitty Saturday Night” — hell, we were all singing it — it couldn’t have rung less true.