by Alexander Pirro
From California following Old U.S. Route 66, the average motorist may pass by a secluded hamlet aptly named Goodnight, Texas. Avi Vinocur knows this, and pays homage to his band name with a Route 66 trucker hat. After all, the exact midpoint between the respective homes of Vinocur and fellow frontman Patrick Dyer Wolf is the surely forgotten town where a few dozen reside. This is a fit metaphor for their musical collaboration, as they contribute equal parts to typify the mystic Appalachian wonders of Goodnight, Texas. Instead of Old 66 though, Goodnight, Texas travels U.S. Route 1 southbound along with The Bones of JR Jones on tour, keeping the patrons of World Café Live warm on a brisk Sunday eve.
As the amiable waitress directed me to a table nearest the stage, Jonathon Linaberry from the Bones of JR Jones permeated all of the lowly dinner conversations with propulsive twangy riffs in “Good Friend of Mine”. Vibrato heaves through the air as Linaberry slides upon the neck of his resonator guitar. Tonight, his voice is his stage presence, as he is plain-clothed and meek between the outcries of his songs. He bellows, as if to eclipse the reverb upraising his voice from a visceral jailhouse, as his kick drum throbs underneath him. Yet, he is not bound to his idle feet to produce percussion. During “Sing Sing”, Linaberry loops his guitar melody, embellished with harmonics, along with a backing rhythm line to free up his hands for his egg shaker and drum sticks. Categorically, he falls indistinguishably amidst One Man Band and troubadour. All murmurs of the crowd were washed away by the sheer crescendos of his voice. The finale is “Free”, the first time he picks up his banjo, and he busks away calmly, whittling down the minutes in his set.
Enter Goodnight, Texas: four of the most atypical Americana folk donning athletic sneakers and streetwear. Armed to the teeth with highbrow humor and a effortless nonchalance, the ambiance reflected a social gathering of sorts. The carpeted stage resembled a parlor as the crowd casually sipped drinks and observed. The rugged Appalachian and easygoing manner flowed through Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf, recalling an episode earlier wherein the band was kicked off of Rhode’s Field across from World Café for playing baseball. Wolf remained stout as Vinocur shrugged, tending to their instruments. All conversations were halted immediately, as the band introduced themselves with “Many Miles from Blacksburg”. This is one of the haunting songs plucked from their latest release, Uncle John Farquhar, retelling a solemn tale of a bygone era.
Throughout the set, the group locked into a buoyant groove each time, polarized moods of cautionary tales to witty banter between sets. At points, all four members were harmonizing their parts. Scott McFadden and Alex Nash, the drummer and bassist, respectively, were the rigid foundation of the chambered expanse of each tune. Fresh into the set, “I’m Going to Work on Maggie’s Farm Forever” fleshed out old workingman’s wounds in romance. All were silent in order to eavesdrop on the forlorn purgatory described in the third verse, Vinocur’s voice gilding themes of a vindictive love. As abruptly the despondence arrived, it soon vanished, as playful banter once again ensued between the lulls of the set list. “You all look better than ever and Ezra,” quipped Wolf, as he recognized fans of a past tour stop in Philadelphia. These transitions were seamless; the crowd eagerly awaiting the next anecdote to be uttered by Vinocur and Wolf. They channeled anecdotal gems of erstwhile ancestors; the mantras spoken vicariously through Vinocur and Wolf. Tales of yore customarily passed down through lineage were kept alive through each song. For instance, “Jessie Got Trapped In A Coal Mine”, recounting perhaps a doomed marriage by means of a coalmine accident. Even a historically relevant tale was told in “Dearest Sarah”, a song based on a transcribed letter from Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou leaving word to his wife of his hopeless situation in the military.
The urging polyphony of the dueling mandolin and guitar carried the folksy lyrical narratives upon eager ears. Fluctuations in dynamics fortified by a boomy bass guitar locked into methodical percussion illuminated a darkened era enough for the crowd to recall. The unison of voices contrasting the dueling of the mandolin and guitar cushioned every single tale. All of these stories are tucked away for the next show, and until then, Goodnight, Texas.