Salutation Hotel, Perth
31st July 2016
Sound: Atmosphere: Performance:
The ballroom of the Salutation Hotel is one of the alternative venues used by Southern Fried to hold its gigs and concerts. It has a more intimate atmosphere and lends itself to smaller, subtler acts than you tend to get in the main auditorium of the Perth Concert Hall. For the Owens / Meade afternoon concert the hotel’s small ballroom was set out café-style, with tables covered in white linen (specially imported from the streets of Laredo? – how would I know!), and plush chairs.
Dean Owens’ three-piece fits the subtler bracket. There’s a kind of ad hoc feel to them, and although they might have been playing together on-and-off for the past twenty years or so, since Dean and bassist Kevin McGuire formed The Felsons, it’s like they just got together for the gig, and that gives it a family-feel. Another example of a bunch of middle-aged Scotsmen getting up to sing and play, this time country rather than blues – another group of lovable, embarrassing uncles!
Their set this afternoon was almost exclusively Hank Williams songs, which Dean executes brilliantly, having learned to emulate rather than imitate the singing of ‘The Hillbilly Shakespeare’. His delivery is absolutely convincing, and by the time he got to the encore of ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’, well… yes… you could! Stuart Nesbit delivered a low-key accompaniment on pedal steel that fitted perfectly. I was less convinced by his singing and by his picking of his No.2 guitar, a Gibson ES-355 (unless I mis-identify it), but – hell! – I can’t play a note myself. There is a knack to making a standard guitar sound like a pedal steel, and I did hear that coming through from time-to-time. If you are a Hank Williams fan, Dean Owens’ outfit is well worth checking out if they come to a pub or club near you.
Daniel Meade and the Flying Mules came close to swamping this venue with sound. I don’t honestly think you could ramp it up any more than this and get away with it at the Salutation, and the result was that sometimes vocals were overdriven and got lost. Having said that, what a brilliant act!
Meade stands there, his face as dour as an Easter Island statue, a lean figure, sartorially somewhere between a 60s Mod, Oasis, and Gram Parsons. Occasionally he smiles, occasionally he has a brief word with the audience. That all seems to go with the band’s fairly minimal approach – there’s no fancy-Dan multi-instrumental nonsense, they just get up there and do what they do, full scale deflection on the meter, and that’s that. They play fast and loud, they play with a frantic rockabilly drive, they harmonise, and they’re amazing. You tend not to notice Thomas Sutherland’s drumming, but that’s how it should be – a Chevy V8 ticking over in the background, like a getaway car waiting for the gang to burst out of the bank. Mark Ferrie, in a bowling shirt and selvedge Levis with four-inch cuffs, plays slap bass. No, he plays slappitty bass. No, he plays slappitty-slap bass. No he… doggone it, boy, just how many slappitties you got in that thang, anyhow!
On to Lloyd Reid, the Meade sideman who deserves a special, individual mention. A dude with a George V beard, he gets more sounds than I would have thought possible out of an amplified, vintage Hofner arch-top. There’s no need for him to have an extra guitar, this old axe of his is enough. Earlier on I mentioned the sound of a pedal steel being occasionally heard courtesy of Stuart Nesbit’s Gibson. Well, on Reid’s Hofner it came through clear as a chapel bell on Sunday. Not only that, he can make it rock, make it cry, hit it so hard it’s a wonder the damn thing doesn’t hit him back! He is a phenomenon. His guitar is the same model as one I have at home, and I’m now ashamed to pick mine up. Wow! This is how I like my Country music, just how Daniel Meade and the Flying Mules play it, like drinking bourbon straight from the bottle. Dammit, like getting hit over the head with the bottle! Brilliant. Walk over broken glass to hear them play – that’s an order.
Reviewed by Paul Thompson