Dylan Earl and John Howie Jr at Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC - October 1, 2021 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, October 21st, 2021  

Dylan Earl and John Howie Jr at Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC - October 1, 2021,

Oct 07, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Oh boy, did we have a party at Local 506 on Friday night with Dylan Earl opening in support for John Howie Jr and the Rosewood Bluff. The small, dimly lit back room of the nearly 30 year old Franklin Street icon steps away from the University of North Carolina campus was the perfect setting for what was on tap. With other events in town over the weekend, including the Carolina versus Duke football game and parents’ weekend, it was sure to be an unexpected treat for any of the out of town visitors lucky enough to happen onto the performance.

Dylan Earl is a throwback to the golden days of the great storytelling country music artists. He was joined on stage by Grant D’Aubin on the standup bass, Hamilton Belk cranking out sad sounds from a pedal steel guitar, and a little dog named Bo Diddley curled up and napping peacefully. Earl and his band reminded those in attendance of a time in country music when drums were as welcome as ants at a picnic. Dylan’s birth and early childhood in Louisiana, upbringing in the Ozarks, and time spent with friends in the Arkansas delta area amongst the cypress trees are obvious influences to his musical style and songwriting. Dylan’s sound is reminiscent of hot and steamy summer southern nights on a screened porch with a cold beer in hand. Dylan and his band kept those in attendance entertained with stories about being on the road and song writing inspirations. The set included a couple of songs off an album planned for spring 2022 with the first single slated for release before the end of 2021. The Local 506 performance was one of the last of the current run of dates. The band played Sweet Anisette Bakery in Raleigh the following night and The Thirsty Beaver in Charlotte on Sunday afternoon before heading back home to take a break from the road, and we can hope they continue writing and recording the upcoming album during the pause from burning up the highways on the way to the next gig. Look for them back on tour in December.

John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff made up of Mark Connor on bass guitar, David Hartman (also of Southern Culture on the Skids) on drums, Tim Shearer on the electric lead guitar, and Nathan Golub playing the double neck pedal steel took the stage and launched right into Trying Not to Think to kick off the set. It only takes a few notes to know that this is real foot-stompin’ honky-tonk country music. You don’t need to add “alt” or any other qualifiers to describe it. John has been cranking out great unqualified country music since way before the recent y’allternative and Americana movements. He formerly fronted the notable, but unfortunately defunct, Two Dollar Pistols and released a solo record, Not Tonight, documenting the dissolution of a relationship.

The rest of the approximately 90 minute set included an emotional cover of the Etta James song I’d Rather Go Blind highlighting the surprising singing range of the baritone Howie, and a scorching rendition of the Michael Nesmith classic American Airman, which could be a little biographical based on John’s former experience as a drummer for Sarah Shook and the Disarmers. The crowd’s energy was palpable following it, and the smell of draft beer and mixed drinks hung in the air. It felt like the end of a great night of country waltzes in D, two-steppin’, and hearing stories about the relief found in the use of doctor prescribed medication for anxiety; however, John and the band weren’t done with us yet. They closed out the night with Only Problem and a cover of an old Mickey Newbury tune to the delight of everyone.

Despite the lyrical content of honky-tonk music being depressing stuff, everyone there looked really happy at the end of the night. The catharsis of sharing some of the issues of heartbreak and loss as a communal experience provides a relief outlet for some of that misery. Since nature abhors a vacuum, feelings of joy and exuberance brought on by a night of dancing with a room full of strangers rush in to fill the void created when those negative emotions were pushed out by the twanging of guitars belting out songs in G. John and the boys aren’t currently on tour, but thankfully they still pop-up in venues around the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle on occasion. Song writing for a new record is rumored to currently be in the works.


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