[1 November 2004]
“YeeeHaaw”. The good ol’ country boys are back to make some foot-stomping, Southern-fried rock of the down-south, sweet home Carolina variety. Pull out your white cotton made in the US of A cowboy hat, snap on that huge belt buckle, and button up that shirt, the Marshall Tucker Band is coming to concert. It’s 1981 y’all and there ain’t nothing better to do than celebrate one of, if not, the best Southern rock band round these here parts.
On this night in the Garden State, MTB delivered a stellar show that lives on in this DVD. These boys are true Southern gentlemen, surrendering their hearts and souls to the performance. The result is a homemade batch of deep-fried country rock flavored with some jazz and R&B. It was musical moonshine and as the sound escaped their instruments, the sweat poured. Toy Caldwell is the star of the show; his electrifying guitar solos sends shivers up your spine as the songs, mostly written by him, take you on an open-air tour of the South. Joining him are Paul T. Riddle, a fiery orange-haired drummer, rhythm guitarist George McCorkle, vocalist Doug Gray, and Jerry Eubanks, the man whose jazz background spawned a MTB staple, the swirling flute intros.
When Doug Gray runs out on stage with an MTV shirt, you get a sense that having a full-out video crew at a concert was something new and exciting. Still in its infancy, the cinematography is cut ‘n’ dry, nothing like the psychedelic Woodstock footage or shows by Led Zeppelin. However, it’s perfect because anything more would detract from the band’s laid-back attitude. As the concert winds down, the stage and the performers are bathed in this orange-reddish hue like the sun pounding down on you from on high and even if you weren’t there, you’ll wish you were. Sprinkled between shots of a band not afraid to break a sweat and then some, are shots of the fans, people MTB probably grew up with—real down-to-earth country folk who hoist their gals on their shoulders and sway to the relaxed rhythms and a slower pace of life.
Of course, I only agreed to review this DVD to see the group perform “Can’t You See”. In my mind, it’s the band’s most enduring song. Disappointment got the best of me, as Toy’s gruff voice just wasn’t up to par. It’s not terrible but it pales in comparison to the album version. MTB shift from country twang to the blues with ease and when Toy summons the blues his gee-tar sounds like sex channeled through his evocative finger plucking.
Included on the disc, the only MTB DVD on the market, is a half-hour bonus feature documentary called “Which One is Marshall Tucker?” by Daniel Meisner. It whittles down the band’s story from their early, but meager beginnings in Spartanburg, S.C. A year before this concert, MTB lost the glue that held the group together, bassist Tommy Caldwell, to a car accident. After a brief hiatus, his brother Toy decided to forge ahead with MTB. Tommy’s replacement was a close friend and in the feature, it’s an eerie moment when he remembers Toy saying, “If he was going to look to his left and see anyone playing the bass it might as well be me”. You also learn where the band got its name, with appearances from Travis Tritt and other music luminaries.
MTB performed three encores that night and still, you can bet the well-behaved audience wanted more. “It Takes Time”, “Fire on Mountain”, and “Heard It in a Love Song” remain timeless, even now. If you’re an MTB fan you’ll want to watch this DVD often, which is why the end should cop the narrator voice from the i>Dukes of Hazzard, another ‘70s export of Southern culture featuring some good ol’ boys, that usually ended with the cordial, “Y’all come back real soon now ya’hear”.