There are probably lots of good old boys in Nashville, as well as younger folk with a certain musical preference, wishing there were more like Ian Thomas. We could use some in a day and age when pop country, though it has its place, has replaced the “old country” rather than just take a seat within the genre.
Thomas and his band recorded 14 tracks live at Knoxville’s Preservation Pub, an ironic venue choice as the music resurrects all the old familiars in outlaw country, as well as one particular folk icon. And they sound amazing live; all of the life and uniqueness of a live performance is there but with a polished, distinct sound as if the entire thing was cut in a studio.
Each song goes one of three ways; when they aren’t charged with an Elvis or Waylon Jennings-like bluesy electric kick (“Ten Days Out, Two Days In” and “Ramblin River”), they channel Dylan’s harmonica chops in swinging shuffles. “Before the Sun Goes Down” is an almost bayou-flavored jaunt with Thomas’ trilling harmonica and some pretty sparkling electric guitar, and he lays another fantastic harmonica rhythm on “Johnson Boys.”
Finally, songs can take a cue from Hank Williams with saloon dance floor romanticism. Gorgeous steel (Brock Henderson) and strings (Greg Horne) on “Sweet Celeny” or the sweetheart song “Long Time to Forget” bring to mind starlit horseback rides in the desert or something like that.
These live cuts are old stuff done well. And influences like Hank, Waylon and the like rarely miss.