A heck-ish and hellishly good time: Danny Click and the Hell Yeahs! direct waves of folk, country and rock into the Lobero
By JOSEF WOODARD
SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS correspondent
May 11, 2014 12:17 AM
Long-time, and newcomer, fans of the “Sings like Hell” series at the Lobero Theatre have come to expect some surprises in the mix, and variations on the core series theme of singer-songwriters, Americana artists… and Texans. Last month, for instance, we were treated to one of those eye- and ear-opening encounters of the youthful kind, when the truly dazzling Canadian Ariana Gillis brought on the full glory and fury of her young twentysomething talent to bear. She’s going somewhere, or the music world is less just than previously thought.
For a study in contrast, on several levels, cut to last Saturday night’s bill, and the previously announced “Mystery Date” show, filled on short notice with an artist who is a veteran on the singer-songwriter and alt country scene, and who has played this stage/series in different contexts going back a dozen years. To boot, the band name seems tailor-fit to the “Sings like Hell” brand: we’re talking the act presently known as Danny Click and the Hell Yeahs!
No doubt partly because of the trusted reputation and fan base of Mr. Click, a lanky, long-gray-haired and multi-talented Hoosier-turned-Texan-turned-Northern Californian, a healthy-sized crowd showed up for this “mystery date” and were treated to a roundly fine and generous show. For this occasion, Mr. Click and band “opened for ourselves,” as he said, with an acoustic opening set in which he provisionally re-dubbed his drummer-less band the “Heck Yeahs!”
This was the sitdown portion of the evening, as Mr. Click and his Yeahs! contingent — violinist Adrienne Biggs Tenant, bassist Don Bassey, and keyboardist Mike Emerson — made their skillful way through originals and covers. From the variously radio-friendly side of Mr. Click’s songbook, we heard the neatly crafted country tune “I Feel Good Today,” which crept up to the number 14 spot on the mainstream country charts, and the fetching “Wait My Turn,” which zoomed up to the top slot of the hipper, more boutique-ish “Indie Country” charts.
Touching on cover material by classic artists who clearly have left a mark of influence on Mr. Click, he served up Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” and the late, great Texan songwriter Townes Van Zandt’s “Strolling Over Time.” For that obligatory Van Zandt pilgrimage, he was joined by harmonizing guest Jude Johnston, a wonderful singer-songwriter in her own right, who played on the bill with Jimmer in January’s edition of “Sings like Hell.”
After intermission, powerfully and “feel-blessed” drummer Ernest “Boom” Carter, a should-be legend who has played with Springsteen and countless other notables, joined the ranks, and the leader cranked up his electric guitars (and riffing righteously on them), for the more rocking “hell yeah!” component of the Saturday night soiree.
It was country-blues-rock band game on as the leader, now bedecked in a bright red cowboy shirt, launched into “Hard Ride to Nowhere” and the quirky swamp-rocker “Baptize Me Over Elvis Presley’s Grave.” That offbeat gem’s songwriter, Timothy Paruszkiewicz, showed up in a special cameo — in dark glasses, befitting the “Mystery date” qualification. Mr. Click, whose nimble gifts as a guitarist have been utilized by Americana fave Jimmy LaFave (including at a “Hell” gig years back), switched to the humble but mighty 1966 Silvertone, which he informed us he bought for $39, and dove into “I’m Sober Now, but I Won’t Be Sober Long.”
Come encore time for this long, full-service and electro-acoustic show, the Hell Yeahs! gave their all to a pair of covers from the old favorite drawer: the Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling,” with feeling, and the ever-popular, post-Jimi Hendrix slow blues jam tune, “Red House,” with Mr. Click’s playing the guitar like ringing a blues bell. All told, this “mystery date” was a winner, and another memorable one in the ongoing annals of “Hell.”