Modern Honky Tonk man, JP Harris, presented a two-man set at East Austin’s Historic Scoot Inn. While his ‘Tough Choices’ didn’t back him for this show, his lyrics bled the hard options life has dealt worthy of a song. He’s an artist who very much lives life and sings it – probably more so than most. His songs are his outlet – liquid truth poured out from the very bottom of the glass – a mix of classic country story spinning and real-life emotional rawness. This intimate set made that even more powerful. He definitely plays for the music and while he presents a playfulness interacting with the audience there’s a solid foundation of authenticity behind the balladry and the beard. A carpenter by trade, Harris constructs his music from his life, without any kind of forged façade and not the least bit reluctant to tear into the reality of the structure of his life. He shared what he described as the beautiful irony of listening to sad songs together and coming together over music – after all, that’s really the purpose of it all and JP Harris nails the genuine spirit.
Adorned in festive kitsch, dated 1950s silver tinsel and lights trimmed the stage alongside the giant cartoon ‘bad kid’ cover art of Socks, festively framing JD McPherson’s timelessly fun style for their holiday album tour and they undoubtedly delivered that refined retro rock they’re known for. As their music speaks from an earlier era, their timeless soul spoke to fans of all ages as seen in the audience that night. From the young girls front row center who haven’t seen much past a decade to the fans who lived the time that influenced their ‘proper rock,’ McPherson’s high energy show appealed to everyone in the crowd. And as any soul-driven rockabilly music does, it got the crowd swinging and singing, bringing a new kind of joy and tidings to their ears. The catchy rhythms Jason Smay pounds out on the drums hold together the upbeat party they throw. Their electric energy rolled through the audience as they rocked their latest album, weaving in other McPherson favorites with the playful yuletide themes. Socks breaks the mold of the traditional holiday album enough to create its own niche. Well curated both lyrically and stylistically, it’s comical and playful but in a solid way – each song holds its own and comes together as a stand out Christmas album which will easily become a staple on holiday playlists for years to come. They spin a new take on ‘joyous’ creating a soundtrack to modern holiday revelry naturally adding in their nostalgic twist – it’s all the novelties of the holidays wrapped together and tied with amusing themes and catchy riffs. The encore left room for tradition as McKinley James joined the band onstage for a rocking rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Run, Run, Rudolph” as well as their own “Skinny Santa.” At 17 years old and already well versed in early rock & roll rhythm & blues vinyl, McKinley deals out the authentic sound and was a fitting addition to the revival, not to mention a musician to definitely watch for on the scene. While all parties must eventually come to an end, McPherson and band wrapped up the night in style and most definitely let the good times roll in Austin.