Episode 31: Brokedown in Bakersfield
Air date: 11.23.2011
In some circles, the names Merle, Buck and Gram don't require surnames. They're patron saints of a style of music that continues to inspire countless imitators - and although imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, Brokedown in Bakersfield is no cheap knock off. Assembled from the cream of the crop of Bay Area musicians, the 6-piece band's set list reads like the whiskey stained jukebox selection of a Nashville honky tonk circa 1972 - and they approach these classic songs with nothing less than reverence. All the key elements are here: two steps, Scully shirts, weepy pedal steel guitar, tear jerking harmonies and snappy Telecaster chicken picking. The band is fronted by the husband and wife duo of Motherhips' frontman Tim Bluhm and Gramblers chanteuse Nicki Bluhm - and the bearded Blum's laconic baritone blends perfectly with his wife's breathy and respectful channeling of Loretta Lynn. Backing them up are Telecaster twanger Scott Law and Lebo, Steve Adams and Dave Brogan from the funky San Francisco band ALO. Listening to this band's amped up take on classic country brings to mind another adage... if you're going to steal, steal from the best... or better still, just be the best.