He may be best known for "We Bleed Maroon",
but Granger Smith has a bunch of great songs
The perfect venue. The perfect dining menu. A couple of talented songwriters and performers, alone with their acoustic guitars.
So what, if it was Tuesday Night? Fans packed one of the best music venues in Greater Houston (And The Great State of Texas) for some coffee and dinner, but most of all, to see Granger Smith and Trent Willmon at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands, Texas.
From the Interstate 45 south feeder road, this place doesn't look that much different than all of the other business, restaurants and venues with one neon sign after another.
But step in its doors, and you feel the magic immediately. Once a barn in Kentucky, it was dismantled and shipped to Texas.
Nashville hasn't given him his due as a performing artist yet, but Trent Willmon has already proven to be a very good songwriter.
If you build it, the country music artists will come to play. And they do, from Texas Country to Traditional Artists. Contemporary Nashville artists. There's even some folkies, for good measure.
But tonight belonged to Granger and Trent. They traded banter back and forth, swapped stories, pointed out family members in the audience, made jokes, and switched off singing songs - all of them acoustic in this small setting. It was like having these guys come into your living room and play their tunes.
Smith mostly played songs from his newest album, "Don't Listen To The Radio." The title track was his only Texas Top 5 hit, which is ironic - he pointed out - given the title.
Willmon offered a mix of hits, past and present, such as "Medina Daydreaming" and "On Again, Off Again." He also performed songs that he's written for other artists - both Nashville (Montgomery Gentry's "Back When I Knew It All") and Texas (Roger Creager's "Cowboys and Sailors") and his newest single, "Keep On Lovin' You."
Smith spoke about "Before It All Comes Down" and how it was one of three final cuts to be considered for a Diamond Rio album. One of his friends had the other one. His song didn't make the cut, his buddy's song did - and it was "What A Beautiful Mess." And the rest is history.
When someone in the crowd shouted for "We Bleed Maroon," Smith's sentimental ode to his alma mater, Texas A&M, he said - "I think people know that song more than they know my name."
He talked about playing it in Lubbock before the Aggies upset Texas Tech, 52-30. He also complimented Houston on being one of the most "Aggie-Friendly" big cities in Texas.
Willmon gave Smith some good-natured ribbing on his being an Aggie, but turned serious after Smith played his signature song about the "town on the Brazos."
"It's a great, well-written song," Willmon said. "If you're not an Aggie, it makes you want to be."
So much of the show featured the back and forth banter, and Smith encouraged the audience to sign a petition to get Willmon to move back to his native Texas, from Nashville. That got lots of applause from the audience.
On a more serious note, the duo discussed their trips to entertain U.S. Troops in Iraq.
Smith told a moving story about a soldier - who along with his family - became fans of Smith after he was given the assignment of guiding the band through their trip on base. Two months after receiving an e-mail that complimented his music, Smith got another e-mail that informed him of that soldier's death in action.
He now wears a black wristband on stage to honor that soldier's memory and said the experience of knowing the soldier influenced him in writing the song, "Five More Minutes," on his latest album. The song also speaks of the bravery of Smith's grandfather, a World War II veteran.
No evening would be complete without a cover of a classic country song. And the duo finished the night with "Don't Let Your Mamas Grow Up To Be Cowboys."
It was impressive, but not as cool as seeing Smith and Willmon swap interesting stories and sing acoustic versions of their songs. It would be great to see these two do a tour with a format like this - if it's as good as it was Tuesday night, it will be well-received.