Tim Carroll / Duane Jarvis / Lonesome Bob – Schubas (Chicago, IL)
A promotional tour for Nashville: The Other Side Of The Alley, Bloodshot Records’ third compilation of “insurgent country,” this show was like a good old-fashioned guitar pull with a stellar backing band. Songwriters Tim Carroll, Duane Jarvis and Lonesome Bob all delivered superb performances, whether singing their own compositions or providing instrumental support (along with drummer Rick Schell).
The evening began with Lonesome Bob singing a handful of his own songs, often about dysfunctional relationships. “Do You Think About Me?” featured Bob’s growling baritone on the shout-along chorus and a fierce guitar solo from Carroll. “What Went Wrong”, a hilarious meditation on therapy, conveyed a delicious bitterness about an effort to stay sane and make a romantic relationship work. The characters who populate Bob’s songs are often hopelessly clueless, such as the lovers in “Waltzing On The Titanic” or in “Love Is Not Blind”. Although these tales are sad, they’re couched in strong melodies, not syrupy ballads.
After getting the crowd worked up, Bob turned the mike over to Tim Carroll, whose songs have been recorded by Asleep at the Wheel and Sonny Burgess but who is also an immensely talented guitarist. He shone throughout the evening, singing his witty, carefully crafted originals and playing sharp, clean guitar lines that rocked hard. After performing “Open Flame”, his track on the Bloodshot compilation, Carroll continued to impress the crowd with “The House That Ruth Tore Down”, “Punk Rockin’ Honky Tonk Girl”, and “Good Cry”, another humorous tune about relationships and mental health. This song’s protagonist concludes that “behavior modification is found on the country station” and that George Jones provides better advice than a therapist.
Following Carroll would be an intimidating task for most songwriters, but Duane Jarvis held his own. Furthermore, the spirit of the evening was one of cooperation rather than competition. Jarvis and Carroll traded roles as bassist and lead guitarist for Jarvis’ songs, which included the rockers “Far from Perfect” and “Drive Back to You”, along with the humorous “A Girl That’s Hip” (cowritten with Carroll). Jarvis, who has toured in the bands of John Prine, Rosie Flores and Lucinda Williams, also sang “She’s Like A Drink” and “Good On Paper” from his 1994 solo album D.J.’s Front Porch (Medium Cool Records).
The band took a break and then played an even stronger second set. Lonesome Bob invited Jon Langford of the Mekons/Waco Brothers onstage to share vocal duties on “Point of No Return”, a Lonesome composition that the Mekons have recorded. One of the evening’s highlights was Bob’s awesome, divinely inspired reading of Clarence Carter’s “Patches”, delivered with perhaps just a touch of irony. Bob introduced the song with this anecdote: “Many years ago I heard this song on the radio and it was like a voice from God. And I don’t fuck with God.” Bob’s vocal performance probably gave some atheists reason to pause.
Carroll turned up the heat as the evening wore on, belting out “After the Hurricane”, which appeared on a Diesel Only Rig Rock compilation, and “Every Kind of Music But Country”, a song recorded by Robbie Fulks that is getting airplay on some Americana stations. Carroll got a huge crowd reaction for “I Don’t Think Hank Would’ve Done It This Way”.
Jarvis sang a gorgeous version of “Cocktail Napkin”, one of the best tracks on The Other Side Of The Alley. This infectious number reflects Jarvis’ skill as a lyricist: “Yes, I’m looking for Cinderella at the wrong end of the bar/One drink from her slipper, drive home in her car/Thank God for my imagination/It’s the only friend I have/Hardly ever argues, is never, ever sad/Found what the world means to me written on a cocktail napkin.”
The show ended with the band ripping through Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” and a mind-blowing version of the Velvet Underground’s “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”.
With the success of BR5-49 causing more label and media types to check out what’s happening in the Nashville club scene, these three excellent songwriters may receive more national exposure in the future. Those wise Nashvillians who frequent the Sutler, the Exit/In and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge have the opportunity to see these artists on a regular basis. The work of Tim Carroll, Duane Jarvis and Lonesome Bob serves as a welcome reminder that not everything coming out of Music City is slick, prepackaged and artificial.