Dirty Guv’nahs Rock the House

The Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

 I’ll admit upfront that I’m a groupie. If I was a newspaper writer I would have to confess my conflict of interest and disclose that this was the ninth time I’ve seen the group (for pictures of their most recent Sundown show go here). I’ve seen them more times than I’ve ever seen a musical act with the exception of Bob Dylan, who I’ve seen around 30 times, so his record isn’t likely in jeopardy. I was in good company at the sold out Bijou Theater as most of the audience seemed to know every lyric.

Black Cadillacs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

 The show opened with the Black Cadillacs, a local group who I also happen to have seen twice before, though both times they only played abbreviated sets of Bob Dylan music. Tonight they played what I assumed was original material and they proved to be a good opener for the Guv’nahs. I feel they’ve grown as a band since the first time I’ve heard them. If my memory is correct, this is the first time they’ve had a keyboard player and the organ was a good addition to their sound. They suffered a bit from vocals that could have been more out front in the mix. With some work on the tightness of their sound and some honing of their song-writing skills, this could be a band with a bright future.

Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, Septemer 24, 2010

Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

 The Dirty Guv’nahs took the stage by storm from the beginning, opening with “Brown Little Bird,” and showing the results of months of hard touring with a muscular, yet crisp performance throughout the night. Some of the songs appear to have evolved on the road, including a slightly different intro to “Lovely Bones,” which was a highlight. As they did at their last Bijou performance, friends stepped onto the stage to add their talents to the mix, including a female vocalist, who could have been higher in the mix. Also joining them onstage for several songs – particularly songs off their most recent effort Youth Is In Our Blood – a saxophone player formerly with Gran Torino who added a Stax Records, Memphis soul sound to the songs. Finally, a violin was added by another friend, to very nice effect.

Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Guest Vocalist

Dirty Guv’nahs with extra vocals and saxaphone, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee

To say that this band has gotten better doesn’t begin to cover their transformation. From a fun band with a good rock-and-roll sound, they have evolved into extremely competent musicians with a solid stage presence. The writing of James Trimble (lead vocals) and Michael Jenkins (guitar) has always been exceptional, but now pushes beyond anything they had achieved in their early work. While songs like “Blue Rose Stroll” remain crowd favorites, and justifiably so, the newer songs such as Baby We Were Young, We’ll Be The Light and New Salvation are quickly becoming the mainstay of their repertoire.

Cozmo with the Dirty Guv’nahs – He played his sunglasses off – literally!

James Trimble and the Hoskin boys: Aaron and Justin
Also, Cozmo seems to have finally been completely integrated into the band. It may be that he fit seamlessly from the beginning and my own connection to the earlier incarnation of the band took this long to give way to the current lineup. He has given the band far more musical muscle than they had previously, and while I’ll always love the old sound with Michael playing all the lead, they play nicely over each other, with Cozmo supplying the muscle on his Fender and Michael supplying the nuance and texture on his hollow-body Gibson guitar. There also seemed to me to be another shift: I thought Chris played more organ than electric piano than he had in the past, but maybe I’ve just not focused on it before. In any case, I really liked the work he did on the organ and his harmonica playing wasn’t half bad, but the song, which he wrote was an excellent addition.
There were also semi-comedic points: James’ mother going crazy when he waved to her, Cozmo playing his sunglasses off and stepping on Jame’s mic cord, James knocking his microphone stand over and dramatically counting eight to the next part of the song – which had just ended.
Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

As with most Guv’nah’s shows, there were juicy covers. When they pulled out “Like a Rolling Stone,” I was completely caught off-guard. It could use more polish, but it was great sing-along fun for the crowd. “Give Me Some Lovin’,” the nugget by the Spencer Davis Group was less surprising and a perfect fit for the band. They also included “Instant Karma,” (John Lennon) and ended with “The End,” by the Beatles, with the jamming portion perfect for the band, but the final portion needing a bit more polish if it is to be used in the future.

Dirty Guv’nahs, Bijou, Knoxville, Tennessee, September 24, 2010

It was a fantastic night to listen to music in Knoxville. The Dirty Guv’nahs seem destined to become something much bigger than a local band. James declared this was his favorite concert they’ve ever done. I think I’ve heard him say that during at least five of the shows I’ve seen. I hope he keeps feeling that way and I hope each phase of their career surpasses what went before it. I believe that to be true, so far, and I greatly anticipate what comes next for this excellent band from our city.

I’ll end with their video for “We’ll be the Light.” After you hear it, you’ll want to follow this link to buy their latest CD Youth Is In Our Blood. Happy listening.