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The hip Glen Campbell reclaims stage

Cannery Ballroom/Mercy Lounge, Nashville, September 20, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Is Glen Campbell crossing over into hipness? First, he released a real fine covers CD, "Meet Glen Campbell," tackling songs by the Foo Fighters, U2 and Velvet Underground without coming off like William Shatner. And then he goes ahead and plays a short set before Americana music hipsters at a crowded club to good response.

Who'd a thunk it?

Campbell proved to be a big musical highlight not only of Saturday night's closing evening of the Americana Music Association festivities, but the entire week. Campbell bounded onto the stage with creased jeans and a blue cowboy shirt and a backing band anchored by producer/guitarist Julian Raymond, the brains behind "Meet Glenn Campbell."

Campbell sounded just fine. He started with British band Travis'Sing, with Jim Lauderdale on bass and a dose of tasty pedal steel. The highlight probably was an unlikely cover the high school graduation anthem from Green Day Good Riddance (Time of Your Life). Campbell maintained a country vibe with his singing and the instrumentation of acoustic guitar and pedal steel on the first time ever that Campbell has played the song live.

Campbell went to his chestnut song Rhinestone Cowboy, sounding as good as ever and not dated. Like the CD, Campbell's voice retains a lot of strength, and he certainly put his efforts into the lyrics.

That was seemingly about it for Campbell, exiting the stage, but quickly returning for the light hit of yesteryear Southern Nights. It seemed as if Campbell was intent on singing some more. Whether "Meet Glenn Campbell and this appearance is the start of something for Campbell, of course, remains to be seen, but with a healthy crowd response and good singing, it at least portends well.

This was not the only musical highlight of the night spent bouncing between the Cannery Ballroom and Mercy Lounge in the same building.

Nashville by way of Los Angeles honky tonker James Intvelt turned in a sterling 40-minute set. The guy can flat out sing honky tonkers in a career that is way too far under the radar screen. Not only can Intvelt sing, but the part wears well on him. He looked real good in a black and white jacket and had the right moves without looking stagy.

There was a big sound to the guitar in the led off Used to Be My Girl, making listeners pay attention. Intvelt turned in a good reading on This Place Ain't What It Used To Be from the new CD, showing off his solid voice, holding notes a bit.

While the vocals were mixed too low on several songs, Intvelt once again showed he's a fine honky tonker.

One of the beauties of the Americana showcases is that attendees can go up and down in this club anyway or run off to another club, but there wasn't much need for that this night.

Once Malo ended, it was time to see the remaining 25 minutes of Buddy Miller. The ace guitarist, one of the linchpins in Americana music, was on his A game. The sounded tended to be more bluesy than country during this stint with songs like You Really Got a Hold On Me and Baby Where Are You, which he performed with Bonnie Bramlett singing.

Miller whose presence was felt throughout the conference, brought a good energy vocally to the closing Trouble, which lasted awhile.

And then it was time for Raul Malo. He wasn't doing much country this night. Instead, it was more of a jazzy, Latin thing perfect for a late night dance party. Malo continued in the line of fine singers on this evening. He is a veteran and came off like one, meaning he had a confidence up there, but without any hint of ego.

The music that Malo and band made was exceedingly joyful and lively (I Said I Love You) during his 40-minute set, which included Dance the Night Away and the closing All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down. More solid music from Malo.

Then it was upstairs to catch only a few songs of former Jayhawks teammates Gary Louris and Marc Olson, who are releasing a disc together in early 2009. If the two-plus songs heard are any indication, it'll be a good one. They make great music together with soaring vocal harmonies on songs such as So Blue, which was well received by the crowd.

Chuck Mead and the Grassy Knoll Boys closed out the night upstairs with the former BR549 mainstay having a different sound than his former retro sounding brotherhood. Mead goes for a far harder edge to his music with his configuration. A good chunk of it didn't sound distinctive enough with too much rock to the music (I Went to Nashville), but Mead eventually got his footing with several good songs. He was funny with an old sounding - title-wise anyway - She Got the Ring and I Got the Finger. Mead left a mixed impression. There were certainly good moments, but not enough of them.

That set the stage for a trip back downstairs for the closing jam by the Sin City All Stars and quick appearances by various musicians, including a new female trio Those Darlin's, who left a good impression, although one wonders if it was a bit calculated.

That's something that Campbell could have been accused of - being too staged and schmaltzed - at points in his career. How times have changed.