Strong bill of Ricky Van Shelton and Suzy Bogguss shows relative newcomers bracing two sides of the current country scene. Headliner wears the biggest Stetson this side of Charlie Daniels and offers a very traditional repertoire. Bogguss in an earlier era would have been a folk or rock singer.
Younger listeners might not recognize the likes of “Statue of a Fool,””From a Jack to a King” or “Life Turned Her That Way” from their Jack Greene, Ned Miller and Mel Tillis originals of 20 or more years ago; all have been recent hits for Shelton, and the greater share of Monday night’s 90-minute set was such vintage material.
His is a sturdy and forthright persona, with a powerful and rangy voice reminiscent of Marty Robbins’. Singer’s bluesy, Elvis Presley-styled updating of the old Patsy Cline ballad “She’s Got You” was especially effective.
Shelton pulled out a few rocking surprises: Buddy Holly’s “Rock Around With Ollie Vee” is hardly standard repertoire, nor are Presley’s “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck,” Murry Kellum’s novelty hit “Long Tall Texan” or the obscure “Rockabilly Rebel,” written and originally recorded by L.A.’s Ray Campi.
Included, too, were a few songs that had been introduced by Shelton –“Backroads,””Somebody Lied” and “I’m a Simple Man” among them–but his heart was clearly in the past, and his show (which even included an old-fashioned band instrumental and some cornball comedy) was a powerful history lesson.
Curiously, Shelton didn’t include any material from his just-released Sony Music/Columbia album of gospel material.
Bogguss, 36, shows good taste for songs and a pleasant voice. She draws heavily from contemporary folk songwriters including Nanci Griffith and Cheryl Wheeler, but Monday night’s show was hampered by a sound mix more appropriate to a rock act.
With luck, the EMI/Liberty-pacted singer noticed that the strongest audience response came when she yodeled.
Music trivialists might have noted the presence of Lance Hoppen, formerly of pop band Orleans, as Bogguss’ bassist and primary harmony singer.