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Walker takes no prisoners

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., July 17, 2017

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Country music has enjoyed its share of funny performers over the years from Minnie Pearl to the vibe of Hee Haw. In more recent years, Cledus T. Judd has filled the song as a parodist. And then there's current musician/comedian Wheeler Walker Jr., who in his real life is a comedian by the name of Ben Hoffman.

Wheeler would not exactly be everybody's cup of tea, to put it mildly. Live and in recordings, he's brash, crass, hyper misogynistic and oh yeah, plays something you hear very little of these days, traditional country music.

Subtlety was not Wheeler's strong suit. Decked out in shades as the man in black, Wheeler and his Outlaw image went at it with song titles like "Pussy King," which some in the crowd were chanting before Walker hit the stage, "Fuck You Bitch," "Fuckin' Around," Can't Fuck You Off My Mind" (Wheeler sings of screwing a number of women, but somehow he can't keep his ex- off of his mind) and "Sit On My Face." You get the idea.

Yup, overt for sure, but that was par for the course. Somehow it just seemed incongruous seeing someone sing such songs like he meant it, but that, hopefully, was the joke. The songs and subject matter were so raunchy, it was as if Walker was pushing the envelope above and beyond.

Truth be told, a number of folks in the 300-some odd crowd were believers or at least ready to have a good night out by singing along and smiling. There were even a few (emphasis on the "few") females in the crowd, though the material wasn't exactly going to appeal to women.

Wheeler was very good at what he does. Make no mistake about that. In listening, though, one wonders how long the "joke" can last. How many more songs can one man sing about the various angles of sex and messed up relationships in Walker style?

Wheeler did opine with a touch of humor onstage, taking no prisoners. The F bombs were frequent. He even went after a heavy-duty supporter in the front row. He had a few choice words for Florida Georgia Line, Back Street Boys and Dylan Scott as well, calling for the return of traditional country music.

Fact of the matter is, that is something that Walker did seem to take seriously. If you weren't concerned about the subject matter, the songs certainly spoke to those who yearned for the country sounds of yesteryear. Pedal guitarist/Dobro player Josh Kaler was huge throughout. Walker may have been spot on when he said that's an instrument you don't hear a ton of these days in country.

About the only serious moment came during the encore when Walker said he would offer the only cover of the night, Waylon Jennings' "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand." One wonders if Walker meant it about himself.

Kasey Tyndall opened in a set that mixed a country vibe with rocking songs. On the very first tour for the North Carolina native, the positive was that she seemed very comfortable on stage and was a very strong singer.

But she also came off more of a covers singer than anything else with songs such as "I Love Rock and Roll," "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Family Tradition." She handled all the songs just fine, but doing her own material would have given far greater insight into Tyndall.