THE BACKSTABBERS' LUMP OF COAL CHRISTMAS with the RATTLESNAKE CHOIR , TAD FEY and others, at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), Saturday (December 23), 9 pm. $10. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
While there's no beef between Jenny Whiteley and Col. Tom Parker over their same-night Christmas fests, you know that deep down neither one wants to be remembered for putting on Saturday night's second-best party. At some point, the competitiveness that makes them two of the city's finest musicians is bound to take over.
The Backstabbers' bill might not have the surefire drawing power of the Stars' Amy Millan and Justin Rutledge, but they do have a couple of surprises planned. In addition to a few songs from the promising Rattlesnake Choir, featuring singer/guitarist John Borra and Sam Ferrara (on slinky and saw), with Tony Benattar on upright bass and accordionist Treasa Levasseur, they've also got the Toronto debut of Tad Fey, whose main claim to fame is being "new country before there was new country."
Those who've attended previous Lump Of Coal Christmas events at the Canadian Corps Hall may notice a striking resemblance between Fey and corn-pone cut-up Billy Buck, while others will swear that Fey could be the body double of Christopher Bolton, who plays the hockey-obsessed former synth-pop star Cake on the Showtime series Rent-a-Goalie.
For now, we'll have to rely on Parker for the lowdown on Fey, since the mysterious singer/songwriter is said to be on his way from Nashville and can't be reached for comment. It's kind of strange that he wouldn't have a cellphone with him.
"I just got a call from his manager, Brad Bradley," says Parker. "Tad's car broke down somewhere in Ohio. And he's really mad because he just bought that Buick Riviera and paid a lot for it. The back seat looked so nice, he didn't think to check the engine.
"And he does have a cellphone. He just bought this fancy new device that does all kinds of things, but he hasn't yet figured out how to answer incoming calls although he told me he enjoys listening to the Ernest Tubb ringtone that came with it."
Provided Fey makes the gig, he's slated to perform three new songs accompanied by a local Fey fan, guitarist Steve Briggs of the Bebop Cowboys.
"I know Tad's got this one tune called A Little Bit Of Rain (Can Go A Long, Long Way), which he told me came to him while watching the grey light of morning through cigarette smoke. He's a very sensitive guy, and just a few drops can leave him feeling depressed for days. There's another one he does called Rent-a-Wreck, which is a metaphor for his own life. You can have Tad for a while, but soon enough he'll be back on the road with someone else. He's just a ramblin' guy."
It sounds like Parker has learned to appreciate Fey's skills as a composer since their first meeting at Robert's Western World in Nashville on Brazilbilly night.
"Not really," confesses Parker. "His lyrics sound kinda familiar to me. I think he's a bit of a song thief. But he tries hard and puts a lot of emotion into whatever he does. You can hear some of that George Jones growl in his voice whenever he cries and Tad cries a lot.
"He also likes to wear loafers without socks onstage because he says they're more comfortable than cowboy boots.
"Hey, whatever works."