Two Dollar Pistols – Local 506 (Chapel Hill, NC)
Elementary physics applies to band lineups, too: For every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So while guitarist Steve Howell’s recent departure from the Backsliders is unfortunate and has thrown that band’s future into disarray, the upside is that he hasn’t gone far. Howell is hanging his hat in Chapel Hill’s Two Dollar Pistols nowadays, and kicking that band to new heights.
This show was the first of a two-night stand that was recorded for a live album (due out late summer on Yep Roc Records), and drew an unusually large crowd for a Tuesday night. After a couple of tentative songs to clear the cobwebs early, it was tremendous. The Pistols’ current lineup is the most stable one frontman John Howie has had since the band formed. It has solidified into a crack honky-tonk unit capable of putting plenty of backsides in motion, transforming Local 506 into a Bakersfield roadhouse for the evening.
As well as everyone played, the Pistols’ hole card was still Howie’s voice. Always a tremendously emotional singer, somewhat reminiscent of Roger Miller and Lefty Frizzell, Howie has lately taken on an added dimension of power. He showed it off on a fine selection of originals and covers, including “How It Feels To Die”, “Me, Myself And Wine”, Carl Butler’s “Honkytonkitis”, and a marvelously over-the-top rendition of the Bee Gees’ 1967 chestnut “To Love Somebody” that had to be heard to be believed.
Although Howell has been with the Pistols only a short time, his playing was just right — never obtrusive, always in place with just the right answer to Howie’s anguished yelps. There was also a hint of good things to come when the Pistols trotted out one of Howell’s songs from the Backsliders, “Lonely Avenue”.
Keep an eye out for this record.