Ben Kweller and The Watson Twins @ Mercy Lounge, Nashville, 3/4/2009

Ben Kweller brought a little bit of that Austin, Texas country sound to Music City, while The Watson Twins set the stage for the Kweller show with some Cali good vibrations.

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Photographs by Laura Brown.

The Watson Twins, on the end-stretch of a month-long tour supporting Texas songster Ben Kweller, dropped some eerily close sibling harmonies on a recent Wednesday night at Nashville, Tennessee’s Mercy Lounge. The Watson backup band held it down pretty tight, with most of the jams being stretched out by monster keyboardist Jason Borger. I generally feel that their songs have a nice ’70s easy listening Cali rock vibe, although I also get the creeping feeling that I’ve heard the hooks somewhere else before (see ’70s easy listening Cali rock). When they are good – supporting Jenny Lewis on her stellar 2006 Rabbit Fur Coat – they are very good, adding warmth and charm to honest, folky numbers and feel-good jams.  And when they come up just a little short, I sometimes get a hint of that sentimental, upbeat theme song from ’80s sitcom Perfect Strangers. Anyway, as our female photog commented, “They are so beautiful. And there are two of them.” Ditto that for their voices.

One of The Watson Twins. Photo Credit: Laura Brown.

The other Watson twin.

Ben Kweller, like the Watson Twins, was in high spirits bringing his Austin, Texas country stuff to the Music City. His very good 2009 release Changing Horses throws back to an old school country sound which he grew up on, and Ben’s band was in full force with pedal steel and harmonies. The tight-knit band went seamlessly in and out of cuts from the new album and crowd requests for decades-old tunes. (Halfway through an impromptu “Tylenol” Ben addmitted, “I wrote this when I was fourteen and really into drugs,” and then gave the band a hint — “thrashing but slow” — and finished the last verse.) Other standouts included a few perfectly-played piano ballads and another impromptu number “My Apartment.”

Nashville was good to Kweller with a strong turnout at the Mercy on a Wednesday night — (the same evening a week before, the crowd for Black Joe Lewis was dead) — with fans singing along, shouting requests and creating a nice back and forth banter with Kweller. Longtime fans were satisfied with old tunes while fans of the newer Gram Parsons-esque, country-tinged sound got some weepy steel and southern harmonies to go home with too.



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