Honky Tonk Throwdown VI – Thank you JD and Liz!!
For the past six years, JD Mackinder (bass for Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils) and his wife Liz Mackinder (vocals for the Brunswick Brawlers) have been putting together the Honky Tonk Throwdown each spring in Detroit, Michigan. This event is a labor of love for country music and is held on the intimate stage of PJ’s Lager House. The Honky Tonk Throwdown runs for 3 days and I made it out to the Saturday show to hear some of the best country music in the Midwest.
Getting the show cooking was Andrew Ellis. A one-man band armed with a guitar, a harp, and assorted kick drums. Andrew Ellis played bluesy delta roots music, which folds in nicely with country music. He has a rich and gritty voice, which sounds fantastic and fits his music like a glove. He performed a new song called “Prison Walls” that had me thinking about the music of Otis Taylor. I’m very glad I got to the show early to see this fine singer/songwriter.
Stop by the gallery for more pics of Andrew Ellis.
Next up was Bull Halsey from Chelsea, Michigan. Not sure if this group is named after the famous World War II admiral or not. However, like the admiral they were at the show to “hit hard, hit fast, and hit often”. This band was outstanding. They played down and dirty blues with a boat load of emotion. Every member of the band was spot on. The rhythm section of Garth Girard (bass/vocals) and David Oesterle kept the band humming. This allowed harmonica player Danny Pratt and guitarist Ben Vermeylen to tear it up. I smiled the whole set as these guys played a great set of uplifting blues music.
There are more pictures of Bull Halsey in the gallery.
John Holt and the Sequins
The stage at PJ’s transformed into the Grand Ole Opry when John Holt and the Sequins took the stage. Apparently the band behind John Holt had only recently gotten together for this show. You would never have guessed it from their performance. They flawlessly played some great old country music with a heavy dose of the great Mr. George Jones. It was just the right feel for a honky tonk to get your foot tapping and hands clapping.
Check out more photos of John Holk and the Sequins in the gallery.
There is one word that best describes the Brunswick Brawlers; fun. They were having a ball on stage and that feeling was infectious. Rockabilly blues mixed with good-time country swing fueled the good times this band generated. It even got a few people moving on the dance floor. The range of vocal combinations added to the dynamics of this band’s music. Especially when they mixed it up with Liz Mackinder singing along with Niko Pittman (guitar), Rudy Varner (bass), or Jarrod Champion (keys). This was a very talented high-energy band.
Stop by the gallery for more pictures of the Brunswick Brawlers.
Ingham County Regulars
The Ingham County Regulars had not done a show together in over 10 years. They picked up right where they left off and didn’t miss a beat. They play honest and true country music that reminds you of the greats such as Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams. The added twist is the intensity. They play hard and fast. A big blazing nitro fueled funny car of country that makes you smile from ear to ear. These guys have some serious chops and I was happy to hear that they plan to keep on making music together.
See more of the Ingham County Regulars in the gallery.
There was no rest for the wicked as a storm of bluegrass music blew in when Rickett Pass got on stage. I’ve seen this band a handful of times and they always play all out and with a ton of heart. It took only a few songs for them to start breaking strings as they went for broke on “Let It Ride” and “Can’t Scare Me”. The beauty of this band is that they are always full of surprises. They wrapped up their set by getting down and soulful with an impromptu cover of “Lets Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.
Check out more Rickett Pass goodness in the gallery.
Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils
I’ll admit that the main reason I wanted to check out this show was to see Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils. I had heard lots of good things about this band and wanted to experience it for myself. I couldn’t have asked for a better night to see them. Jennifer Westwood has an incredibly powerful voice with range. She can move from a velvet whisper to piercing highs. The handsome devils are damn fine musicians. The guitar playing of Dylan Dunbar was hot and greasy. I didn’t catch the drummer’s name, but he and JD Mackinder were rock solid. Jarrod Champion handled the keyboards with stylish flair.
Stop by the gallery for more photos of Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils.
Dallas Moore Band
Sporting a road worn Alvarez guitar covered in autographs, Dallas Moore Band set out to bring the crowd a healthy helping of salty outlaw country. With a big southern drawl in Dallas’s voice, I was reminded of Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels. Every song was a story that just about anyone could relate to. That was what made the music resonate with the crowd. They ate it up and howled for more. Every song was great, but I really enjoyed their song about being on the road called “Texas Tornado”. It was a great tune about living hard and free.
Swing by the gallery for more pictures of the Dallas Moore Band.
Ryan Dillaha and the Miracle Men
Last but far from least was the Ryan Dillaha and the Miracle Men. These guys batted cleanup up at the Honky Tonk and hit a home run. With some catchy tunes these guys had the crowd cranked up and ready to rock all night long. It was clear from the first note that the band has a hell of a good time when they jam together. Brothers in arms bringing whiskey soaked rocking country music to the masses. Ryan and the Miracle Men brought the house down and closed out a great night of music.
I’m not sure I’ve seen such a phenomenal cast of musical acts all on the same stage in one night. It was inspiring to see so much great music coming out of the Midwest. Put the Honky Tonk Throwdown on your list for next year’s must see shows. Oh and be sure to stop by the gallery for more pictures of Ryan Dillaha and the Miracle Men.
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