Last Saturday Yahtzee and I saw Rob Thorworth at The Austin Grill in Canton. If you live in Baltimore you need to go see him soon, and preferably at a *band show*. Now that he's got himself surrounded by good players, he won't be around much longer if there is any justice left in the world.
They blew the lid off the joint. The crowd at the pub was enthusiastic, and an eclectic mix of people were dancing and having a blast. A group of college girls came in and joined all the 40-somethings already on the floor. Lots of booty shaking was going on. I haven't seen such a commanding guitar soloist live since SRV at the Towson Center in '85 (and I've seen B.B. King, Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Adrien Belew, Robert Fripp, David Gilmour, and Jeff Beck since then, to name a few). The addition of a keyboardist who also could rip a harmonica riff made the show that much more special. Rob did a few covers--a spectular rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?," a crunchy electrified take of Neil Young's "Old Man,"* a beautiful "Tangled up in Blue"--with all verses!--that segued nicely into his own song "Shelly," and a version of "All Along the Watchtower" situated elegantly between Dylan's original and Hendrix's re-working. At the end it became a slow reggae jam. He made each song his own with casual and earnest confidence, fitting them to his own vocal style, selling them convincingly.
The rest of the set was primarily from Rob's own album Dig It Up, with some hard-edged blues from his earlier catalog as well. It's interesting to see how far his songwriting has come of late. The Austin Grill has a great new space for live music, I recommend you check it out.
I ended up dancing with a tall blond who kept bugging us to get up throughout the night. She was an attractive woman in her early 50s, and as soon as we got on the dance floor she turned her ass into my groin. Um, sorry. I don't freak dance women who aren't my wife. But I was happy to dance because the music deserved it. Had the wife been with me we'd have been unstoppable.
I first heard Rob Thorworth when Yahtzee gave me a copy of Life is Suffering; and I don't mean a ripped CD copy, I mean an actual shrink-wrapped CD he bought from The Man himself. I was immediately drawn to Thorworth's blues guitar playing. He's got a really sweet touch, good phrasing, and a kick-ass sound. I also like his smokily emotive singing voice.
Dig It Up took a while to grow on me. I listened to it occasionally over a six-month period, but when I 'got' the album I was hooked. I think it's remarkable work by any rock standard, let alone by the "self-produced in my garage" standard.
*"Old Man" was covered recently by Natalie Cole. Ugh.