Big D Opry Rocks Gilley’s Dallas

We finally made the pilgrimage to Gilley’s Dallas last night for the Big D Opry show and what a show it was.  Wrapping up a seemingly endless stream of CW talent was Buddy Jewell, a stellar performer and all-around, unassuming, nice guy.  Charismatic just begins to describe Buddy Jewell, who spent the balance of the evening hanging out and schmoozing with old friends and new, while the rest of the night’s entertainment rocked the house.  Buddy is an impressive figure.  Tall and broad in a wide brimmed black hat, he’s hard to miss and easy to talk to.  The consummate performer, Buddy took a leisurely pace through several of his hits, delivering big-venue performance to the scaled-down crowd at Gilley’s.

Big D Opry with Buddy Jewell

Buddy Jewell at Big D Opry

Jolie Holliday MC’d the festivities with her characteristic down-home style and humor – and the help of local celebrity Luke Barr.  As we expected, Jolie graced the enthusiastic crowd with a number of her songs interspersed through the night’s performances.  (Not as many as we would have liked to hear, but it was a big lineup.)  This is a girl we need to keep an eye on.  Great things are likely to be right around the corner for her.  If you see Jolie appearing in your area, make it a priority to get tickets.

A talent contest for female Country vocalists yielded some excellent performances by the three young women competing for the coveted prize.  First up was Amber Carrington, singing “Here Comes Goodbye”.  With one of the better performances of the night and smooth, beautiful vocals, Amber handily took the competition when the smoke cleared.  Up next, the youngest performer of the evening at 15 years old, was Lindsay Mendez, with her rendition of “When You Smile at Me”.  Lindsay’s performance was uneven, but give her a few more years to practice and refine her skills and we may be in for a treat.  Last, but by no means least in the competition was Rayla Ray.  Her performance of “Exactly What I Didn’t Want to Happen” was a show stopper and one of the best overall performances of the night.  What she lacked in vocal polish, she more than made up for with enthusiasm and flash.  Rayla owned the stage from the second she stepped onto it.  Sashaying from one point to the next and engaging the audience with zeal, we can expect great things from her in the future.  Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Rayla Ray.

A highlight for me was Shane Mathews, who exhibits the timeless look and feel of a younger George Strait, resplendent in his sparkling, bejeweled black jacket.  Classic is the one word that describes Shane Mathews for me.  I was transported back to a simpler time and place as Shane performed material that I grew up listening to – from the early days of Country.

Another brilliant performer of the night was John Arthur Martinez, who, luckily for us, made the trip up from Marble Falls to deliver his unique brand of Tex-Mex styling.  The highlight of his set was a song he wrote for his wife many years ago and the love he feels for his mate was unmistakable in his captivating delivery.  We really enjoyed his style and if another opportunity turns up to see him live, you can bet we’ll be there.

The King Bucks was another bright spot of the night.  They put on a great set, with Keith Kiloren being the highlight of their show.  He’s a character who not only plays guitar and signs, but exhibits the character of a classic rockabilly performer from yesteryear.  Great style and some excellent material.  These guys really look the part.  The King Bucks have the look of a bunch of country boys who hopped off their tractors and jumped in their well-used Chevy pick-em up trucks to get to the gig – And They Rock.

One of the features that made the entire event smooth as silk was the interchangeability of the musicians.  From one performer to another throughout most of the evening, there would be subtle changes in the backing bands, but few major alterations in the lineup.  The advantage of this arrangement is that you don’t lose continuity as a result of set changes.  The same drum set was used throughout and most other instruments (keyboards and amps) remained where they were.  This resulted in quick and seamless changes from one performer to another.  An exceptional lineup of musicians brought a consistency and quality to the evening’s performances.

Jenna Paulette, who put on her own solo performance in addition to doubling-up with Aubree-Anna was stunning in a frilly blue minidress.  Her performance needed to be pretty remarkable to take your attention away from her legs – and she pulled it off flawlessly.  You want to make sure you catch her show at the next opportunity.

Aubree-Anna.  Now here is a performer and a half.  This girl takes over the stage and just plain owns it from the first second.  Talk about “working it”.  She can sing, with a nice range of sweet to gravelly as the phrase requires, but the way she moves is a work of art.  Period.  Dressed in a sultry, slinky, full-length purple dress, this twenty-first century chanteuse knows she’s sexy and takes full advantage of it, slinking across the stage with some serious moves and style.  If you have the chance to see her, by all means get out to experience what D Magazine readers voted as the “Best Lounge Singer in Dallas”.

Star De Azlan, Brittnee Lee, Paul Eason and a host of other very talented Country artists all brought their unique style of the genre to the stage at Gilley’s Thursday night and it was an effort we all appreciated.

Paul Eason’s band backed up most of the performers for the evening and they did a killer job of it.  I was especially impressed by Paul’s steel guitar player.  I’ve heard a lot of steel players in my time (raised on Country in the 50’s and worked as a Recording Engineer for 20 years) and this guy is exceptional.  I’m rarely impressed by steel guitarists, because there are only a few that are the best of the best.  This man is up there.  During one song later in the evening, Paul, himself is a top-notch musician, singing every song and tearing through some gorgeous guitar solos.  During one song Paul tore the roof off with a Flamenco guitar solo that was amazing.  This was a surprise from a Country band, but when you consider Paul Eason’s roots are from rock and punk and that he’s a self-taught Country player, anything is possible.  Paul Eason and his band rocked the stage all night long with several of their own songs in addition to doing a killer job of backing the majority of the night’s performers.  Great job, guys!

On the subject of Gilley’s, they have a good sized stage with all the trimmin’s.  There’s a huge dance floor with the requisite lighting and even a mechanical bull back in the corner.   Some of the features of this classic honky tonk were surprising, though.  Maybe it’s because I’m accustomed to Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth (I’ve shot and reviewed quite a few shows there over the years) or the rep that the original Gilley’s had, but it’s just not nearly as big as I had expected.  The absence of restaurant / kitchen facilities was a shocker as well, with Blue Mesa catering the gig.  Not that Blue Mesa is anything to sneeze at, but just not what I expected.  So if you’re going to make a night of it at Gilley’s… I’d advise you to eat first.

A partial list of the night’s lineup:

June 5, 2010:


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