After a quick turn round, the Sons of Liberty hit the stage with a whirlwind of energy. It’s My Bad segues into Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief and the first sing along of the set. Guitarists Fred Hale and Andy Moose Muse are a blur as they occupy every inch of the stage and encourage the audience to join in. New(ish) vocalist Rob Walker has settled into his role in the band and has a huge grin on his face as we venture Up Shit Creek, a destination with which many of us are all too familiar! As this tongue in cheek tale of woe ends with a sinking boat, the audience’s cheers are met by smiles all round on stage. After a quick hello and welcome from Rob, we move on to Damaged Reputation which has a seriously infectious groove. It is also bone rattlingly loud thanks to Steve’s huge drum sound which threatens to pin everyone to the back of the venue. Few drummers have a double bass kit these days; but Steve is old school and makes the most of the room afforded by Nightrain’s spacious stage. In fact it is so loud on stage that Steve asks for his monitor to be turned down; which has to be a first for a drummer!
Following a trip to Texas Hill Country things slow down for Black Blizzard which tells the tale of drought-stricken farmers in the dust bowl of the 1930s. Like many of the lyrics written by former vocalist Rob Cooksley, there is a deep understanding and empathy for the working class poor and indigenous people of North America. There are also songs that offer hope and insight, such as the next tune Don’t Hide Behind Your Weakness and the big ballad I Come In Peace. The latter’s message is that despite our differences, ordinary people are basically the same and that it is governments who provoke war and hatred. It also features an uplifting solo from Fred that propels the song to its climax.
After some thought-provoking songs, the mood is lifted by the tale of Doc Holliday and the most famous poker hand in history, two black aces and two black eights: the Dead Man’s Hand. As we know, the story doesn’t end well for Doc; but the song sure gets the crowd going again and in the mood for Free Man’s infectious groove and driving base line pumped out by Mark Thomas. This leads us into a singalong to Damned If You Do and the distinctly vegan un-friendly Beef Jerky Boogie which raises the energy in the room even more thanks to some dual guitar work and another blistering solo from Fred.
Now we’re coming towards the end of the set and a rousing Brotherhood from early EP …Shinola which includes an obligatory hell yeah! from the audience. The solo morphs into Fred’s most epic outing to date, the truly amazing Into The Great Unknown. Normally there’s no room in shorter sets for this lengthy piece, which is a personal favourite of mine, so it’s terrific to hear the solo featured in the current set. It is a masterclass in building mood and tension, showcasing Fred’s outstanding talent on the lead guitar. Judging by the rapturous response of the audience, I’m not the only one who enjoyed it either! Trust me, you really need to see and hear this for yourself. The set ends on a high with Fire & Gasoline and Ruby Starr, both big up-beat songs that raise the energy once more and leave everyone hungry for more.
The “Old Country Ramble” has proven that Southern Rock is alive and well, so dust off your Stetson, saddle up your horse and catch these two terrific bands live on a stage near you. Hell Yeah!