Butch Trucks and The Freight Train Band Pull Into Melbourne
The difference four months can make in the life of a touring band can be monumental. And band is a key word here. Since seeing them last in late December, Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band have grown and morphed into the sort of outfit where they finish each others musical thoughts and read one another effortlessly.
The Freight Train Band is more than a bunch of sidemen (women) backing a legendary musician so he can churn mindlessly through his famous back catalog to keep the lights on. The line-up tonight included Barry Oakley Jr, Bruce Katz, Damon Fowler, Tad Isch, and Heather Gillis. Vaylor Trucks was unable to attend, but is still very much involved in the band.
They opened with an animated version of The Allman Brothers Band classic, “Hot’lanta,” But this wasn’t going to be a night of older hits. There were original compositions by both Damon Fowler and keyboardist Bruce Katz. A hard shuffle reading of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” proved to be an inspired choice.
“Jessica,” was a mesmerizing highlight. Katz and Fowler’s soloing proved to be inspired and the band delivered an stunning reading of the tune. Trucks seemed more at ease with his vocal delivery of Dylan’s “Highway 61.”
Vocals were divied up by Oakley, Gillis, Fowler and Trucks, and truly there seemed to be a sense of camaraderie between them all. Halfway through “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the house lights came on, signaling someone thought it was time to wrap it up.
After a brief break, Trucks said, “Do you want and encore?”
And the audience roared in response.
“We had planned on playing a longer number, but we are out of time.” with that, the band launched into a fiery “Statesboro Blues.”
No one wanted to go home. Not the band, not the audience, and when when all the ushers in the house have been dancing, whether discreetly or with gusto, the length of the show, odds are good they were in no rush to leave either. Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band may not have the same name recognition as other, previous band mates, but this show, offers real insight to the adventurous streak his playing has always encouraged.
Opening act from Clearwater, Florida was the sibling duo of The Ries Brothers. When you mention one handed drummers, the obvious though is of Rick Allen and Def Lepard. Charlie Ries has both hands but chose to keep his left one occupied playing bass synthesizer, and himself singing while also keeping rock steady time. Brother Kevin, 17, more than ably proved himself on guitar. They served up a soulful set of blues. Barry Oakley Jr. joined them onstage for a great rendition of “Roadhouse Blues.” The Ries Brothers are a band to be on the look-out for.