Last night, songwriter and titular figure of Kendell Marvel’s Honky Tonk Experience, Kendell Marvel and his band took the Exit/In stage at around 8:45, following a set from Outlaw country outfit Ben Jarrell’s Roadside Revival. They kicked off the show with “If You Know What’s Good For Me,” a blues rock song from Marvel’s upcoming, Dan Auerbach-produced album, Solid Gold Sounds.
Leveling off this groove, drummer Brian Kilian led the six-piece band straight into “Heartache Off My Back” from Marvel’s 2017 debut LP, Lowdown and Lonesome. These two swampy, delightfully sneering selections set the stage for the tamer, R&B-tinged “Untangle My Mind,” which was co-written by Marvel, Chris Stapleton, and Jaron Boyer.
At this point, it’s important to note that Marvel’s bandmates, Kilian, rhythm guitarist Jabe Beyer, pedal steel player “Cowboy” Eddie Long, bassist Philip Pence, keys player Billy Justineau, and, for many songs, guest vocalist Melonie Cannon (Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss), were at once preternatural rhythm players and soloists who could chime in incredible licks at a quick glance’s notice.
Next up was “Watch Your Heart,” a reluctant ballad from Lowdown and Lonesome. Then, Marvel introduced guitar legend Big Al Anderson to much applause before leaving the stage for the first time. He played his 1996 tune “It Came From The South,” embellishing it with his signature virtuosic stylings I’m going to pen here as popcorn-chicken pickin’ — a bubbly, twangy technique effected with a messy, plaintive tone, bringing Roy Buchanan to mind. Anderson left the stage, and Marvel returned with singer Hailey Whitters (who’s slated to open a few dates for Maren Morris in the fall) — she took the main mic to sing “Over You.”
After Whitters departed, Marvel and his band played “Blood in the Water” from Solid Gold Sounds, before country crooner Paul Cauthen, garbed in a matching carmine button-down and cowboy hat, played his ballad “Prayed For Rain,” sans band. His tender solo performance and sonorous voice arrested the crowd just in time for Marvel and band to join him, backing him for one more classic country song before he departed. They played “Let It Go,” a sampling of Solid Gold Sounds which premiered last week, before, unexpectedly (well, it’s all unexpected) Exit/In co-owner Chris Cobb walked onstage.
“Kendell has been partying with us on Elliston for a long time,” he said. “This is the 20th Honky Tonk Experience. … We call all these names on the wall behind you the wall of fame, and not a lot of people go up there. I want y’all to help me make a bunch of noise and celebrate an addition to our wall of fame.”
The audience cheered massively as Marvel’s written name was unveiled behind the bar, where countless other music legends’ names have been battened. Marvell invited “Rita Is Gone”-singer Marcus King onstage before leaving. After a few refreshing blue-eyed soul songs, King left, making way for Marvel and band to render his new tune, “Hard Time With the Truth.” Marvell left, welcoming The Vegabonds members Daniel Allen and Richard Forehand, who played one original tune and one cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider,” with Marvell on rhythm guitar.
After Allen and Forehand exited, Marvel and band rocked through a high octane cover of Charlie Daniels’ classic “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye.” 2018 Americana Award nominee Daniel Donato jumped aboard for a breakneck-speed rendition of Waylon Jennings’ “I Ain’t Living Long Like This,” before Marvel and band played “Cadillac’n,” another song from the new album.
Foo Fighter and Americana artist Chris Shiflett was welcomed onstage for a cover of Hank Williams, Jr.’s “Whiskey Bent and Hellbound,” before Marvel played “Gypsy Woman,” a favorite from Lowdown and Lonesome. Next to bat was Warner Bros. artist Charlie Worsham, who was recently enlisted as a member of Old Crow Medicine Show — the ensemble group rendered a rollicking rework of Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line.” Next up was “Lowdown and Lonesome,” the LP’s title track, before Shiflett rejoined for the final song: a cover of The Allman Brothers’ classic, “One Way Out.”
Solid Gold Sounds is slated for release on October 11.