Live Review: R.L. Jones - Old Museum

26 June 2012 | 6:19 pm | Mitch Knox

Despite the relaxed vibe and air of nonchalance floating around the Old Museum's halls this chilly weekend's eve, there's a lot of music to see here tonight, so we best get down to business.

First at the plate, ex-Rocketsmith Dom Miller wastes no time in demanding attention with his rich, vibrant voice, which echoes with clarity and power, backed by the alt-country twang of his acoustic guitar. The performance is a solid one; almost an Australian shot at something in the vein of The Good Life, replete with slightly embittered, even maudlin, narrative about life, love, drinking, and the regrets that manifest in all three.

The scope is widened a little bit for the arrival of the misleadingly named John + Alexander, heralded by the smooth fuzz of electric piano, a full drum sound, and deft acoustic guitar. They offer a gamut of sweeping, rollicking country-tinged blues, and are notable for their strong vocal work, with pristine harmonies interspersed with moments of typically country, hard-drinkin', hard-smokin' gruffness. There are some lovely ideas here played out with style.

The love of trucker hats and twangalicious rolling balladry continues with the appearance of former Daybridges frontman Pete Cullen and his cohorts, who offer their perfectly competent – albeit not overwhelmingly moving – take on things. Some elements of Cassadaga-era Bright Eyes peek their heads through, but in equal measure, the group offer more driven, bluesy country-rock fare. Technically they do nothing wrong, but their place on the card (after two similar acts) seems to fall victim to attention fatigue, which is unfortunate given their otherwise strong performance.

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If fatigue is the symptom, though, then The Blackwater Fever are the cure, changing things up significantly with a deep, rumbling darkness and ominous sense of atmosphere. Admittedly, blues strains remain prevalent throughout, but the underlying churn and weight brought forth by this Brisbane-based usually-two-but-tonight-three-piece, highlighted in songs such as new tune Can't Help Yourself, keeps heads nodding in appreciation straight through to the finish line.

It's been an unflinching evening of musical dexterity so far, and it all comes to a head with former Middle East man and Sydney-based beard enthusiast R.L. Jones. He's quick to show his determination to distance himself a little from his work with his feted folk collective, opting instead to hit the ground running with the meaty, psych-tinged swirl of On The Bayou. It's big, it's dirty, it's jammy, it's great, audience confusion about when to applaud notwithstanding. Hammertime offers a more restrained tempo as a wash- and reverb-laced shoegazer, a little reminiscent of songs such as Ugly Casanova's So Long To The Holidays. There's just a bit of early Appleseed Cast coming through in some songs, too, such as Jones' recent single Everybody Wants To Be Your Friend bringing rhythmic drive and ethereal melody to the fore. Right through to the closing bars of It Could Be Alright, Jones and his offsiders offer a dynamic and emotive performance through passages both fast and slow, the troubadour's inherent reflective vocal qualities and jammy musical tendencies perfectly suited to working in this more exploratory field. It's a standout finish to an impressive, satisfying evening.