Black Music Matters Festival

The Backsliders ease into Bay State

TT the Bears, Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 17, 1998

By Stuart Munro

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - The Backsliders finally brought their version of hard-core honky tonk to Massachusetts. In a too-short 10-song, 45 minute set (the band had the middle slot on a three-band bill), they offered up a handful of songs from last year's full-length debut, "Throwin' Rocks at the Moon," along with a couple of old ones, a couple of new ones, and the band's high-octane cover of Hillman and Parson's "High Fashion Queen."

The pace didn't vary much - the band didn't play any of the slower numbers from "Throwin' Rocks...," and the slowest thing we got was some nice acoustic bashing by frontman Chip Robinson that introduced "King of the World" - and if the band nonetheless seemed a bit lethargic (perhaps due to it being a Tuesday night in a mostly empty club in the midst of a sloppy New England storm), this band's lethargy still equals full-tilt for most others.

With the Backsliders, you know what you get: twin-guitar-driven shuffle beats, ridden by Chip Robinson's rasping vocals; classic, meat-and-potatoes country rock, Nineties style.

They finished the evening up with the menacing "Hey Sheriff." Robinson prowled and ranged around the stage like one of the dogs the song's protagonist threatens to sick on that sheriff and finally brought the proceedings to a howling close by sticking his acoustic guitar on the band's monitors so that their output was funneled through its pickup. And that was that.

Next time through, here's hoping they get a headliner's slot and a full house on a Friday night.