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JONNY CORNDAWG with WILL CURRIE AND THE COUNTRY FRENCH and CHARLOTTE CORNFIELD at Lee's Palace, Wednesday, July 25. Rating: NNN
It was an awkwardly small crowd out for Jonny Corndawg and his band - it was pouring out, and he joked that if anyone was soaking wet and shivering from the rain they'd give them a glow-in-the-dark Corndawg t-shirt half price.
Festooned with a big cowboy hat and his name written on his guitar strap (and inlayed on the neck of his guitar), Corndawg occasionally got a twinkle in his eye while hamming it up for those huddled close to the stage with cameras.
He had less patience for the people gabbing in the shadows, at one point shaming them a little with a silent group stare.
He's a country singer known for fun and dirty jokes and a 70s throwback vibe, but his live show is thankfully more nuanced than that.
Working with material from 2007's I'm Not Ready To Be A Daddy, more recent Down On The Bikini Line and yet to be released Dad Country (yeah, he's got a dad theme going on), Corndawg managed to sing about the anonymity and malaise associated with touring, social climbers in L.A. and suicidal thoughts and depression. This before slyly turning the set in a more upbeat direction, at least vibe-wise, moving beyond country to encompass early rock'n'roll, soul and even a little funk.
Corndawg seemed to grow tired of performing, but the set was carried by the strength of his songs and his excellent band. (A few times, he was hangin' by the side of the stage with the bass player while drummer Jerry Pentecost and fiddler Joshua Hedley held it down, and he gave Hedley a few turns in the spotlight, both on a ridiculously extended fiddle solo, and in covering one of Corndawg's older songs, sexy/sweet Sherry.)
Corndawg bid the audience adieu with his standard encore of late - an a capella faux-gospel song called Silver Panty Liners - which demonstrated the best thing about Corndawg isn't his sense of humour, but that he's a really good musician. I wish he'd encored with the band.
Wild-haired opener Charlotte Cornfield played a summery, acoustically rocking set to a pretty empty room (it was early) backed by her producer and drummer Ryan Granville-Martin, while middle band Will Currie And The Country French played strong if homogenous-sounding piano pop that got their fans and friends dancing, but had me wondering if they might be more suited to headlining a poppier, jazzier bill.