There are few artists I know as well as Josh Grider and Drew Kennedy. I’ve been lucky enough to have been a fan since their earliest moments as performers in our state. I’ve seen each of them play dozens of times in all manner of settings from backyards to listening rooms to living rooms to bars to festivals and any other scenario you can imagine. As early as 2004, when Randy Rogers Band, Stoney LaRue, Wade Bowen and Bleu Edmondson went on a tour called ‘Til The Wheels Fall Off, Josh and Drew joked about doing a tour called ‘Til The Training Wheels Fall Off tour. That early humorous jab at their green nature and desire to get better was an indication of the direction the last 15 years would take this duo.
Few artists are as gifted at telling a story as Drew Kennedy. Be it in conversation or on stage. To a stranger or a longtime friend. Kennedy is a spirited and animated yarn spewer. He is the type of songwriter, much like the Paul Thorns and Todd Sniders of the world, who is best observed in a space where he can give you a 10 minute intro to a 3 minute song. It’s part comedy show, part musical experience. Kennedy’s previous live effort, Alone, But Not Lonely, detailed this in spades. Josh Grider has had a more traditional country singer path. Bands, Texas Radio hits, and his previous live effort was a prestigious release from the Live at Billy Bob’s brand that found Grider and his ace band delivering his most popular songs at the world’s largest honky-tonk. But, don’t let Grider’s route betray his songwriting talents. He’s adept at turning phrases and making songs that have commercial viability while remaining outside the box.
Somewhere along the adventure, the two became fast friends and realized their musical common ground put them on a path to play acoustic songswap shows together. They became co-writers, then neighbors. Their lives intertwined through the highs and lows of the music biz. Their legacy became proudly connected in the vein, as Grider mentions on the Main Street recording, of Guy and Townes; Pat and Cory; Robert and Lyle and Wade and Randy. Fans clamored for the duo to release a Hold My Beer style project and thankfully Matt at Main Street Crossing was able to put the pieces in place to make it happen.
Main Street Crossing is the perfect type of venue for this venture. A listening environment with enough unbuttoned pearl snaps to not feel stuffy. Grider and Kennedy played the spot for years building a sizable following in the area and were primed for the recording in June of 2018. The listener is immediately welcomed by a warm, lively audience and the unmistakable timbre of Kennedy’s voice as he leans into album opener “Jackson Square”. Grider follows with one of his more recent radio hits “You Dream, I’ll Drive”. Then, track 3 brings the first of the album’s true highlights…the song intro/anecdote. This time in the theme of Kennedy relating his college credit card freedom. And so it goes throughout the rest of the collection. Couple songs, one whopper of a tale. The top two moments like this are the well-worn tales of Blaine Martin and Grider’s inaugural trip to Luckenbach. Longtime fans may bemoan the absence of the intro to “24 Hours in New York City”, but that’s really all that’s missing here.
Kennedy and Grider have delivered their first official salvo in the great tradition of country duo records. It’s live, it’s personal, it’s real, it’s funny, it’s touching. Just like the artists themselves. There’s a reason these two are two of the most sought-after songwriters from our greater scene. This album pairs well with an open road, a back patio, or a long trip. You will feel like you’re in the backseat of the Prius as they’re riding to the next gig. They’re telling stories and singing songs they’ve done with each other many, many times…but for both they and the audience it’s as fresh as the first time.
PS—this record has the best album cover to come from this scene, possibly ever.