LIVE REVIEWS: Cary Ann Hearst & Friends, My Morning Jacket, JJ Grey & Mofro 

Thurs Sept. 4 Art's Bar & Grill, Sun. Aug. 31 House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, Sun, Aug. 31 The Windjammer

Cary Ann Hearst & Friends Cary Ann Hearst
Thurs. Sept. 4
Art's Bar & Grill

Armed with a tiny Fender amp, two mics, two guitars, a red tambourine, and a lengthy list of hillbilly classics, blues, country, and rockabilly songs, Cary Ann Heart and a Fedora-wearing Michael Trent (of The Films) delivered yet another raw and entertaining double-set last Thursday. Hearst has been playing one or two weekly gigs as "Hearst & Friends" at Art's with bassist Jonathan Gray, guitarist Bill Carson, and drummer Jack Berg. While the duo shows are more stripped-down, they're intense and edgy.

The couple swapped string-bending guitar solos, animated facial expressions, and vocal lines throughout the night, covering an unusually broad variety of material — obscure waltzes, country blues tunes, and deep Motown hits. Highlights of the Thursday gig included The Band's "The Weight" and mini set off The Cramps' Bad Music for Bad People (a rendition of "Can't Hardly Stand It" stretched into a "Garbageman"/"Human Fly"/"TV Set" three-fer). Could these two be the next John Doe & Exene, George & Tammy ... or even a Southern-styled Sonny & Cher? Maybe. —T. Ballard Lesemann

My Morning Jacket
Sun. Aug. 31
House of Blues, Myrtle Beach

Lead singer and guitarist Jim James may have thanked the crowd at the Myrtle Beach House of Blues for bringing the thunder on Sunday night, but it was the guys in My Morning Jacket who stormed the stage, blasting their way through a tight setlist that included most of the songs on Evil Urges, their latest album, and some older gems that pumped the crowd into a frenzy.

The band opened with “Anytime” from Z and went right into “Aluminum Park” from the new album. The fanboys went crazy for title track, “Evil Urges,” a funky tune reminiscent of Prince’s early-era hits (of all things). My Morning Jacket is the kind of band that causes writers to rifle through old songs to figure out who they sound most like — but the thing about them is, they kinda sound like a perfect amalgamation of all that has come before, whether that be the ’70s pop of Dr. Hook, the folk rock of Bruce Springsteen, the smooth sing-alongs of Jimmy Buffett, the mellow noodling of the Grateful Dead, or whatever. It’s as if they’ve sucked up the sound of 1976 and reworked it for our modern sensibilities. It’s comfortingly familiar but thrillingly new.

James, the driving creative force of the band, is a happy front man, changing guitars, humbly thanking the crowd for the gift of their adoration, and high-kicking his way through blistering guitar licks. The sound they emitted from the stage seemed way too powerful for the small House of Blues venue. It’s like seeing Pink Floyd play a stadium show in a bar. Guitarist Carl Broemer not only played slide guitar on some songs but busted out a sax during “Dondante” and added his harmonies to James’ soaring falsettos.

On their current tour, MMJ have made a point of beginning as close to the advertised start time as possible — doing away with an opening act and playing a two hour set with a 30-minute encore. They worked their way through 25 songs, rewarding long-timers with “Cobra,” “War Begun,” and “Evelyn Is Not Real.” They even had time to play everybody’s favorites from Z, getting a rousing singalong for “Wordless Chorus.”

The highlight of the encore, though, was the ridiculously rocking and funky “Highly Suspicious" from their latest album Evil Urges. Peanut butter pudding surprise, indeed. —Stephanie Barna

JJ Grey & Mofro, Nervous Turkey
Sun. Aug. 31
The Windjammer

At the Windjammer, the smoke-filled air mixed with the salty breeze in a strange type of cocktail for the nose. Nervous Turkey of Tampa Bay got the crowd pumped up as the opener. They were what would have happened had Chris Farley been able to get clean and then decided to play harmonica and start a three-piece rock band. Frontman Ernie Locke was like John Popper-meets-Belushi from The Blues Brothers. The band was a treat live, energetic and unapologetic of their funky songs about booze and reefer.

JJ Grey & Mofro took the stage sometime around 11:30 p.m. to chants of their name, kicking off their set with the title track of their new album, Orange Blossoms. The Windjammer was thusly transformed into a juke-joint. It was clear that some of the crowd was experiencing Mofro for the first time, unsure what to think of their refreshingly original sound at first. Within four or five songs, the majority of the crowd was proudly displaying their whitest dance moves. Maybe it was the ice cold cans of Natural Light, but I soon found my own head bobbing and hips swaying to Mofro’s mix of front-porch soul, and deep-fried rock. Mofro supplies something rare in a world full of plastic pop and cliché rock ’n’ roll wannabes, originality. —Myles Hutto


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