The Firehouse Saloon in Houston is one of my favorite venues in the entire state of Texas.
And on Friday night, Houston native Rich O'Toole played his hometown. He has the perfect mix for a Texas artist of country and rock and showed that throughout his 90-minute show.
Even his cover songs like Waylon Jennings' "Ramblin' Man" and Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" have their own distinct O'Toole twist on them. He's not like some artists who go note for note on a cover tune.
But this evening was really about O'Toole's sophomore album, "In A Minute Or Two", of which he played eight of the 11 songs. He didn't forget old hits from his debut, "Seventeen," like the tongue-in-cheek "Everything's Legal" and the rollicking "Robert E. Lee."
Just about everyone wanted to hear a song about a town north of Houston on U.S. Hwy. 59 - "Cleveland (Texas)". I was inspired by that song - I always tell people I'm going to Cleveland, and then say to their surprise, Cleveland, Texas.
But this was an extended version where O'Toole - a Texas Aggie - showcased his guitar skills and his three-piece band backed him up with some rocking drums and guitar licks.
If you know anyone named Kelly, you might want to tell them about, "When Kelly Comes To Town." Or maybe not - unless "you can finance all those Marlboro Lights." That was one of the highlights of the show, because that song was meant to be played live.
So is "You Wanna Rock and Roll," which isn't really about rock and roll at all. That was one of the songs that really got this Firehouse crowd fired up.
Another up-tempo tune, "In A Minute Or Two", landed the artist on GAC.
Rockers aren't O'Toole's only forte - ballads like "Urban Disgrace" and the Postal Service cover of "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" (both of which appeared on O'Toole's second disc) were top notch. He performed a stellar, solo acoustic version of "Urban Disgrace."
Every Texas Music artist needs a good sing-a-long song, and O'Toole's appears to be "Marijuana & Jalapenos," which he recorded live from New Braunfels on his sophomore album. It was the album's only live cut.
O'Toole fans - fear not. He's releasing a live album this fall.
But he had some special guests on stage this time for this live version of "M&J" - his sister, Amanda, who was celebrating a birthday, and his brother, Doug.
O'Toole knows his country - Texas and Nashville. And he proved it by covering Terry Allen's "Amarillo Highway," with a sound that leaned more rock than the original folk version. And closed out the show with a rousing cover of Hank Williams Jr's "Family Tradition."