Some guys just have it. The thing that makes them cool just by rolling out of bed in the morning.
In Eric Lindell’s case, a combination of country roughneck and self-effacing humility — mixed with a talent for crooning blue-eyed soul and a decided commitment to having fun onstage — make for an enticing concoction. Judging by the number of ladies at Moe’s Original Bar B Que for Lindell and his band The Natural Mystics in Tahoe City last Friday night, Lindell’s innate cocktail is a house favorite.
Add in native Texan blues-master Anson Funderburgh, locals Peter Joseph Burtt and Sam Ravenna, and the smallish room at Moe’s felt like a raging house party with its own bar and restaurant attached.
This was my first show at the “new” Moe’s, which moved a few hundred yards adjacent to the Tahoe City Marina. The room is more rectangular and has its own bar stage right, rather than in the back. If you don’t want to fight the crowd, you can sit on the covered dining patio just outside and hear the show. The sound inside is loud but not overwhelmingly so, and the artists are well illuminated.
The BBQ is still the go-to spot in Tahoe City, and the biggest change at the new location? Parking! About 100 more spaces according to staff, most with four-hour limits, which is plenty to have dinner or see a show.
Kicking off the evening was Peter Joseph Burtt, playing a 21-string kora. Burtt, alone onstage and competing with the din of conversation, mixed originals and interesting vocal and instrumental arrangements of classic covers. Those who were yapping and not paying attention likely missed the cleverness of his phrasing. Too bad.
Lindell and band took the stage a little after 10 p.m. and with a set break to fix a broken string, they raged until after 1 a.m. While Lindell lives just outside of New Orleans (after growing up in Northern California) I’ve always heard more Texas Hill country in his music than New Orleans. To me, his songs conjure more visions of fireflies, barn still-made booze in a Ball jar and lights strung between pecan trees, than voodoo and swamp.
Perhaps that’s why the 64 year-old Funderburgh fits with Lindell like a glove. Paired with Lindell’s twangy Telecaster, on which he exudes a cutting shrillness, Funderburgh is controlled and buttery smooth. His white hair, combed straight back and cut in perfect proportion, is a clue to the detail and precision he produces through his Stratocaster. Arcing his notes with enough bend and effect to match the moment in a solo without overplaying is a trademark, while his chords are warm and coddling in a counterpoint to Lindell.
The house-party feel was complete when Truckee artist Sam Ravenna joined the band onstage during the first set. He’s been playing bass and doing some opening sets on this tour, but Friday just plugged in an electric-acoustic and sang a few background vocals despite the crowd urging him to do more.
Eric Lindell has a naturally engaging vibe. Combined with some fun soul and R&B, and a lot of laughs, it always makes for an engaging show. And guys, bring your wives and girlfriends next time the band is in town and let them swoon for a few hours. It’s all good.
— Michael Smyth