Alternative country music is becoming increasingly difficult to define. The amorphous genre now requires use of the infamous saying about pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
But it’s hard to know exactly what alt-country is, even when you see it, with such disparate acts as Wilco and local pop-country singer Dylan Jakobsen all claiming the label.
A few bands that embody the best of what alt-country should be rolled through Neumos on Monday night, led by Texas veterans Reckless Kelly. Before the show, a man sitting at the bar at Moe’s next door to the club summed up the band’s ethos.
“I’ve been on a country kick the last five years,” he told a pretty brunette who sidled up next to him to order a couple of Rainiers. “Not this Toby Keith bull—-. Good country. Rainier and whiskey drinking country.”
Apt, considering that Reckless Kelly, led by brothers Willy and Cody Braun, were in Seattle to kick off their Livers of Steel tour with Micky and the Motorcars, a band fronted by younger brothers Micky and Gary Braun.
If the brothers were feeling fatigued from playing and partying at the Braun Brothers Reunion, their three-day music festival in Challis, Idaho, over the weekend, they weren’t showing it.
After a solid set by opener Wade Bowen, who did a good job of getting the crowd pumped up with his single “Trouble,” the Motorcars took the stage to the delight of the 800 or so fans packed into the club.
They ripped through some of their best songs, including “Rock Springs to Cheyenne” and “Big Casino.” Micky Braun’s voice, already smoky, had some extra grit and gravel from a little over exertion at the Reunion festival but he didn’t let that slow him down and the crowd roared its appreciation for their hour-long set.
That the Brauns draw well in the Pacific Northwest is not surprising. The Motorcars got their start in Idaho, while Reckless Kelly formed in Bend, Oregon before moving down to Austin in 1997.
Reckless Kelly showed just how at home they are by producing a meaty, rocking set that dug deep into their catalog. Songs like “Nobody’s Girl,” off their 2006 album “Under The Table And Above The Sun,” had the crowd singing along.
The country rocker “Ragged As The Road,” the lead track on the band’s 2008 album “Bulletproof,” got the crowd dancing with their beers held high.
Things slowed down as a couple of band members took a bathroom break and Willy Braun launched into a poignant acoustic version of “Wicked Twisted Road,” which has the distinction of being the band’s most popular song on the music streaming service Spotify.
However, Reckless Kelly was at Neumos to party and the quiet moments didn’t last long. Things came to a fever pitch with “Hit The Ground Running.”
As lead guitarist David Abeyta hammered out a climactic, screaming solo on his red Gibson SG, it was hard to determine whether it was country or classic rock but those distinctions were on no one’s mind.
It sounded good, it felt good and that’s all that mattered.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails