Woodlands Concert Series is Mixed Bag

For Montgomery County residents who enjoy the free “Concert in the Park” series held on summer Sunday nights at North Shore Park in The Woodlands, last Sunday was the end of a favorite time of year. But fear not, park officials have already announced the fall concert series to be held Sunday evenings from September 22nd through October 13th.

Now maybe I should start with the words “No more Mr. Nice Guy,” but we all know I have a strong inclination to be the “kinder, gentler” critic. Maybe we can have it both ways. The two recent concerts that closed the season offered very different levels of satisfaction for this reviewer. First, came the solo country music concert of Austin’s Wesley Cox. Although the July issue of “The Woodlands” magazine declared in advance, “Country music fans will not be disappointed with this performance,” I would have to be an exception to that rule. The youthful Mr. Cox (who, to his credit, was on his way to the finals of a major country music contest) seemed to me to be attacking his guitars with a vengeance. He had several of the instruments arrayed on the stage. That was fortunate, because his vicious chording resulted in a number of broken strings, each of which caused the relief of an interruption of the performance. Certainly Cox deserves further credit for giving it his energetic all on a warm, sultry evening that had even the audience perspiring. What Cox needs to learn is that sometimes “less is more.” It takes some doing to ruin a tune like George Strait’s “This is Where the Cowboy Rides Away.” Cox accomplished that task with endless loud pounding on guitar, and a voice that seemed strident and lacking in the gentle caress that made Strait’s version a country classic. A similar fate awaited Cox’ rendition of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville.” It was more painful than some dental appointments I remember with a shudder. To paraphrase the Buffet lyric, Mr. Cox was “…wasting [our time] in Margaritaville.”

Now fans of noisy, harsh country music might groove to this after enough beers in one of Austin’s 6th Street saloons, but this audience looked to me like it had been hit with a giant shot of Novocain. In some ways Cox reminded me of guitar-wielding college dormitory mates from my Longhorn days, in the mid-1960’s, when I was a U.T. student in Austin. Fellows like my chum, Sam Barnard, played guitar by the hour, and even taught me a few chords. But those young musicians never made you feel like leaving town on the next train!

Still, with my usual desire to accent the positive, Cox clearly had a boyish enthusiasm and a love of music. He had the courage to face a large crowd alone on a suffocating night. But for future success, he needs to soften his approach to both guitar and vocals. He needs variety so the constant sameness of his chording doesn‘t wear out the crowd. Truthfully, time is on his side; and if he learns from mistakes I think he could eventually have much more to offer.

The season ended on a more upbeat note with the wonderful final concert featuring “Delta Blue.” Fans of artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King were in for a delightful performance. Start to finish, this was a gem of a show from a large “blues” band with fine vocals, several excellent guitarists, a great drummer, and some added pyrotechnics on harmonica. The group had a great appeal on several levels. The singing was rich, bluesy, and appropriately raspy in all the right places. Moreover, “Delta Blue” had a genuine collective sense of humor that came across the footlights and enriched tongue-in-cheek classics like “No Huggy, No Kissy.”(“Keep Your Hands to Yourself”). Several days later I still can’t get that tune out of my head. And then, to add to the joy, there was an outstanding rendition of “The Thrill is Gone” that couldn’t be beat. For the audience, the thrill was in the listening. Why in the world do they call this music “the Blues?”

(The Courier    8.4.02)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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