Like many bands, I’ve been trying to see Smoke Wagon perform live for quite some time. I finally had the opportunity to see them last Friday at Billy D’s in Universal City. The acoustics weren’t optimal, but the sound was well balanced and filled the oddly arranged room well. Smoke Wagon plays primarily Texas Country and Red Dirt tunes from the more popular bands of the last decade, and they do this very well. With highly capable musicians in all corners and the recent addition of a clasically trained violinist turned fiddle queen, it really rounds out their sound and enables them to match the instrumentation of many bands such as Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen, Reckless Kelly, Turnpike Troubadours and more.
Smoke Wagon was formed in 2011 which involved a Craigslist post and an urge to put together a band to cover a better brand of popular music. Going back a bit, lead singer Jay Brown and bassist Dave James were already comfortable playing together as they were both founding members of the raunchy, San Antonio-based parody band “Skunkweed” since the mid-90’s. Skunkweed members Jay Brown and Leon Waddy branched out and started an additional band “The Country Fried Pickles” in 2008 which played primarily in New Braunfels and achieved some level of success. However, life eventually got a little too hectic for Jay to keep up with the demands of two bands and “real life” so he had to step down as lead singer of “The Country Fried Pickles”. To make a long story short, “The Country Fried Pickles” hired Dave Fenley as lead singer after Jay left, renamed the band to Poor J. Brown (because it’s kinda funny), Fenley went on to become a semi-finalist in Season 8 of America’s Got Talent in 2013 then moved off to Nashville to further his music career and remains there currently with his wife Eden.
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