Monday, March 10, 2003

Riders in the Sky come to rescue

By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Riders in the Sky went contemporary Nashville Saturday night, when the cowboy-music preservationists put on a performance at the Taft Theatre with Music City singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale and '80s-'90s country hit-maker Suzy Bogguss.

The two-set show included tapings (one per set) to be broadcast at a later date for the group's syndicated public-radio show. Both half-hour programs featured a radio-theater skit framed by musical selections.

Before each taping, the Riders - guitarist Ranger Doug, bassist Too Slim, fiddler Woody Paul and accordion player Joey - warmed up the crowd with a few songs.

Bogguss was the featured guest in the first set. Her voice sounded great, but unfortunately her acoustic guitar did not. It appeared to be a problem with a chord or a pickup, and a truly awful distorted noise emanated with each strum that pretty much ruined a solo take on "Outbound Plane."

The next song, "Night Rider's Lament," faired better, because Riders in the Sky's accompaniment helped to drown out the distortion.

The band made it through the song without incident, and afterward Ranger Doug remarked they hadn't rehearsed it. However, "Cupid Shot Us Both with One Arrow" could have used some polishing.

It was clear Bogguss and Doug hadn't practiced their vocal parts when they repeatedly missed lines and sang over each other.

The song was part of the first radio show. The second set began with a "Cupid" "reprise performance by popular demand" that was nearly as flawed as the first. Listen for it when the show is aired locally on WVXU-FM sometime in April.

Lauderdale faired better. His mini-solo set after the "Cupid" do-over included "Lost in the Lonesome Pines," the title track from an album he did with Ralph Stanley.

Each song had an introductory story with the name of a country-music great attached. He jokingly admonished himself for name-dropping.

He said "The King of Broken Hearts" was a tribute to George Jones and Gram Parsons and noted that Patty Loveless recorded "Halfway Down."

The Riders backed him on his best performance, a version of the Bob Wills Texas-swing song "My Confession" revamped as a Ray Price shuffle.


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