We’d all like to think that our country heroes live out the words to their songs. Some do, some don’t, and some it’s somewhere in the middle. The truth is getting sloshed at the bar every night till you have to fight your way to the exit and then end up in jail is probably not the lifestyle that lends getting your music to the masses.
However after not only seeing Lucky Tubb and the Modern Day Troubadours at this year’s Johnny Cash Bash, but spending a good amount of time hanging out with him, I can say he’s the real deal, on and off the stage.
Think of that one kid in school that was ALWAYS getting into trouble. Now think of that kid as a grown man. Lucky Tubb is like a buzzbomb. If you take your eyes off of him, he’s gone, and he’s likely doing something wrong. People in positions of responsibility are always on edge when Lucky’s around. You feel the need to always keep your eye on him, but you never can. If you hear a commotion coming from somewhere, there’s no need to rubberneck, it’s probably Lucky.
I talked to a girl that night who does some promotional work for the great nephew of Ernest. She said he will make you nervous right up until he gets on stage. Maybe you can’t find him. Maybe he’s had a little too much too drink, or a little too much of something else. But he always shows, and let me tell you folks, when he gets up on stage, it’s one of the best true country shows out there.
Lucky Tubb is so much more than just a part famous, part catchy name. The man is a natural born talent, showbusiness in his blood you might say, but no there’s bit of acting on his part. He is the real deal of real deals, and along with other compliments I heard him receive that night, this was the most common.
Lucky’s set was nothing less than spellbinding. On a night full of big names, he was a show stealer. But his set was loose, and showed signs of needing practice. At the end of nearly every song, the band was looking at each other nervously, and the landings were sloppy. If someone yelled out a Johnny Cash tune to play from the crowd, Lucky and the Troubadors were right on it. They played “Folsom Prison,” and “Cocaine Blues” on request, but both songs Lucky repeated verses and left others out. This might have slipped unnoticed at other times, but at a Johnny Cash tribute show, it stuck out like Johnny’s middle finger in that famous photo.
But somehow you forgave Lucky for this; his mistakes held their own own endearing quality. He’s Lucky Tubb, and you appreciate that bad boy, genuine, half cocked nature about him. You probably don’t want him to date your sister, but there’s no suspension of belief needed when he’s up there singing about being in the slammer.
Lucky Tubb had my #1 song for 2009, and what I noticed about seeing him live is that he had a unique cadence and drawl that doesn’t completely come across in his recorded material. It is there, but live it is even more pronounced. Lucky knows how to work a crowd as well. He’s a hell of an entertainer.
BUT. With Lucky there’s always a “but,” and that’s the problem. His stock has risen greatly since he toured opening for Hank III, BUT he has done little with that momentum, and you can start to feel it beginning to fizzle. Because of the nature of Lucky’s music and his stage presence, he needs to be out there touring coast to coast, hitting the honky tonks mercilessly, and putting on the same show, whether he plays to 3, 30, or 300 people. Instead there’s changeover in his touring band and poorly booked weekend junkets, partly hindered by a reputation that precedes him, and I’m not talking on the music side.
We’ll see what the future holds for Lucky, but he’s not getting any younger. I tried to pep talk him. I told him how many fans he has out there, and that we needed fresh faces like his. Lucky was self-admittedly spoiled by the crowds the Hank III opening slot afforded him. And now it looks like the chances of him touring with Hank III in the future are up in the air at best.
Lucky is a loose cannon. He maybe has improved from his younger days, but he still has demons to tame. It is hard to say where Lucky goes from here. Still, I’m rooting for him, and if you pass up a Lucky Tubb live show, you’re a fool.
Props go out to the Modern Day Troubadours as well; a superb group of musicians that each bring a lot of uniqueness to the show, musically and personality-wise, and help take the Lucky Tubb experience to the next level.
To read a review of the full Johnny Cash Bash, click here.
PS: I talked to Lucky Tubb extensively about the mixup with Hank III and the opening tour slot, and I will have that for you very soon, along with my comments about Kyle Turley opening.