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Concert preview: The McEuens at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas (May 4)

05.02.12
Concert preview: The McEuens at Poor David’s Pub in Dallas (May 4)

The Metroplex is in for a treat this Friday night, May 4, at Poor David’s Pub in downtown Dallas as multi-talented, award winning John McEuen (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and his sons Nathan and Jonathan, collectively performing as The McEuens, take center stage.

The McEuens have time-treasured family harmonies that cannot be replicated by the manipulation of bits and bytes of a computer program. As pure as mountain stream water, and equally as refreshing, The McEuens bring the heritage music full circle.

Before you get any ideas that Jonathan and Nathan are riding Daddy’s coattails, let me set you straight. They are remarkable musicians, songwriters and performers in their own right. John might have donated the foundation of impressive genes and given them his last name, but their talent and abilities are their own. I can only imagine that as a father he must be both proud and in awe of their accomplishments.

The music business is tough, and in this day and age when everyone thinks they can make a record in their living room, sitting in their pajamas, its not gotten any easier. To his credit, John was straight up with them about what they were getting into. “I warned them against it, or about it,” he tells me, “But I did not discourage. I just made sure they understood the 2nd word as best I could: Music BUSINESS.”

Their debut project, The McEuen Sessions – For All the Good, is as inspiring and symbolic in many ways, as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken was way back in 1971. It’s more than time, for our roots to be replanted and tended to, and the family harmonies that weave the notes of the songs on this album together, are demonstrative of the effort that is needed to make that happen.

If there was ever any doubt that this family’s DNA is treasure load of talented genes, one only has to listen once to For All The Good. The McEuens’ individual talents shine throughout but also collectively meld into a distinctive sound all of their own. There is no doubting their connection, both on a family level, as well as artistically. It’s obvious they’ve been singing together a long time before this record was ever made.

As much as music can bring people together, parents often struggle with feeling a definite void as their children develop their own tastes and preferences in music. I found myself wondering if John McEuen ever uttered the fateful words “Turn that music down” that I so often heard in my own home. I had a chance to ask him about the proverbial generation gap. “I learn from them constantly, and they welcome the ‘heritage’ music. We do some of it (mine and NGDB) in the show.” he shares, before adding, “There were times, around teenage years, when they shied away from ‘the old stuff’, but later realized that what counts is what it means to people.”

I can’t imagine having a finer example of what music can do for multiple generations, than having John McEuen as your father.

Music labelled as traditional sometimes gets easily dismissed as unsophisticated and dated, and The McEuens music challenges that misnomer, by delivering pure familial harmonies against the background of impeccable instrumentation that makes some of its more traditional fare sound not only fresh, but as relevant as ever. Their songs will pull you in and keep you there until the last track has finished playing.

I wanted to tell you this was a folk album, but its not completely true. Nor is it completely a country album, or rock album and yet all of the components are there are certain times. Some might label it Americana, but its deeper and wider than that. What I can promise you is this: For All the Good is simply good music. It will touch, lift and surround you all at the same time.

The album opens with the familiar Rodney Crowell-penned "Long Hard Road," which the NGDB took for a ride up the charts previously, and is both indicative of where things have been for them as a family, and where they are headed. From that starting point, the album is a journey through generations of influences, both past and present. The highlights are many, but as a mother – the sound of Jonathan’s 11-year-old vocals drifting from the past to the present on Red Foley’s "Old Shep," touched my heart. Each one of them brought their own style and songs to the table and what was created was something that stands to represent all of them together. Fittingly the album ends with John playing an extended track titled "The Goodtime Suite," which conjures up images of years gone by, undoubtedly for them, and for us as well.

With over 40 albums to his credit, and more on the way, John McEuen rates this one in his Top 5. Never one to let grass grow under his feet, he’s got many projects on the way, but thankfully for us he’s taken the time to sit and sing a spell with his sons. This needed to happen, the time was right, and in the end, For All the Good is one for the ages.

Kudos to The McEuens for continuing to keep that circle forever unbroken.

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