Honky Tonk Tuesdays at Mickey's Tavern
But despite the fact that Pardekooper is often seen wearing a cowboy hat (and wearing it well) and Blake Thomas can write a song that'll have you crying in your beer in seconds flat, there isn't much about this trio that says honky tonk. Yet when their weekly gigs at Mickey's ended up with that name, they went with it.
Perhaps more then the other two, (Isthmus employee) Pardekooper has fully embraced the theme, often pulling out a classic country cover or two. Past weeks have included the Gear Daddies' "Statue of Jesus" and The Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers." This week, with a mellower mood being supplied by Harty's slide guitar (which he played standing up, no doubt inspired by Jon Dee Graham's guitarist Mike Hardwick), he crooned a lovely version of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart."
"We aren't putting you to sleep are we?" Pardekooper inquired just before Harty switched to electric guitar for Pardekooper's own "Young American." Not that there was ever really any danger of us becoming too sedate.
Not to be outdone, Harty threw an enthusiastic Charlie Daniels Band cover into the middle of his set of originals, and I overheard a woman at the bar claim adamantly, "I like him!' While his sincere North Dakotan aw shucks charm wins him plenty of fans, it's his positively stunning guitar playing that keeps them enthralled.
Confessional songs like "Day in December," "Home" and "Too Much on Mind" will make up the bulk of his long awaited second record, but surprisingly, it's the Dietrich Gosser penned "Empire Bar" that seems the most quintessentially Harty. On the eve of leaving for a road trip to Fargo (home of the Empire) and beyond, he seemed delighted at the prospect of spending happy hour in the bar where he "learned to drink whiskey and sing harmony."
That ability is most obvious when Blake Thomas joins him on stage. I was going to say I meant the harmony singing not the whiskey drinking, but c'mon, who am I kidding? As a duo they followed Harty's remorseful "Country Song" with Thomas' ridiculously catchy "How Long."
During his set, Thomas pulled out a Hank cover of his own, the broken hearted "You Win Again." But when it comes right down to it, nothing can beat his own "I Don't Want Your Heart, I Want Your Liver" for pure country goodness. He grinningly follows the title with the zinger, "Lord knows your heart ain't worth a dime/ 'Cause if I ain't crying you a river, I'm drinking just to get you off my mind."
The casual nature of these shows encourages other people to join in. Last week Phat Phunktion's Pauli Ryan and his tambourine joined the party. This week's surprise guest was the terrific Blueheels' guitarist Justin Bricco, who joined Thomas for his set. In fact, I'm never quite sure who is going to show up for these gigs. I just always know that it is going to be a blast.
Even with a pair of established Tuesday night shows vying for our attention (the High Noon's Gomeroke and the Hometown Sweethearts just down the street at the Crystal), Honky Tonk Tuesdays certainly seem to be catching on.