It was almost two years ago when I slipped my way through a sea of middle-aged music connoisseurs (translation: dancing cougars) all packed in front of the stage at the Key’s Lounge, until I found my friend front and center at the Josh Weather’s show. At one point during the set, magical sounds started coming from the other side of the stage as a baby-faced, curly headed guy began a guitar solo. “That’s Chris Watson,” my friend whispered. When Weathers took a break, Watson took over for a couple songs. That was the first time I saw Watson play.
Between then and now I’ve seen Watson with a few different projects including the funky, jam-bandish Silverfunk and his main project, The Chris Watson Band. I saw his solo act for the first time a few months ago at Magnolia Motor Lounge (3005 Morton St., 817-332-3344) during his single release party for “Two Bottles.” His opener that night was Soul Track Mind from Austin, a long time personal favorite. They were great but when Watson and his band took the stage the room came alive, and it ended up being one of the best shows I’ve been to this year.
Fast-forward to three weeks ago when I opted to for beer and music over continuing to binge watch Daredevil on Netflix. I popped into Magnolia Motor Lounge to have a quick beer, and then go home. Alas, that wasn’t what fate had in store for me. When I arrived, the Chris Watson Trio was onstage. I ordered a beer, took a seat and listened. My beer ran out before the music stopped, so I ordered another, and ended up staying for the rest of the set. Watson’s weekly gig has been a part of my Wednesday night routine ever since.
This week, the Trio was actually a quartet comprised of Brian Miller on bass, Chris Hill on drums, Rodney Pyeatt on electric guitar, and Chris Watson on acoustic guitar, keys, and vocals. I arrived early while the guys were setting up. I surveyed the room and imagined the people in the crowd were the types who spent their weekdays in a boardroom and their weekends on the golf course. It was a seated audience, many of them were enjoying dinner.
After Watson ordered a Big Gulp of vodka, the band started and a few tables stopped their conversations and listened, while others chattered on. The guys played a few originals and several covers including The Band’s “Ophelia,” Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Bob Marley’s “I shot the Sheriff,” and my personal favorite: “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison. None of them were imitations of the originals; the band seemed to make each song their own. As a friend put it: “everything is so soulful and smoothed out that I like it and I know it, but I can’t sing along.” Afterward I spoke to Watson who calls his original music “southern soul, a little funky, but definitely not blues.” That would explain the more soulful take on the covers.
During the set, each member had a solo to showcase their talents and all of them are exceptional, but it’s Watson’s powerful voice that commands attention. It was Pyeatt’s birthday and he nailed several solos throughout the set. The band finished by having T, the bouncer at Magnolia, come up to do his own rendition of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” in which he sang “sitting on my granny’s porch, getting high.” The crowd ate it up and cheered throughout the song –– funny for a crowd I had judged to be predominately conservative. While I prefer Watson’s originals accompanied by his full band, Wednesday nights are a good time to grab dinner and hear some great music performed by a talented group.