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The 12th Annual KNBT Americana Jam
by Haley Forehand

92.1 FM Radio New BraunfelsFor the folks at KNBT radio in New Braunfels, Texas, and those that frequent the legendary old dance hall that holds down the main street in the historic downtown district of Gruene, Texas, a day filled with outstanding music, and a line-up which includes more than a couple of big names is not an uncommon occurrence. Such was the case on a hot Sunday afternoon in late May when KNBT 92.1 FM radio hosted the 12th Annual KNBT Americana Music Jam at one of Texas music’s hottest joints, Gruene Hall. Temperatures soared into the mid 90s, and the air was thick with the Texas Hill Country heat, but that didn’t stop fans - and artists- from flooding into the gates and through the doors of the old hall. The small dance hall, usually holding just over 400 people was busting at the seams, its guests covering every square inch of its old floors and benches, and spilling out into the grounds and under the oak trees outside its doors. Strolling around outside, with the sounds of an electric guitar or maybe the sweet melodies of a harmonica drifting out into the sticky Texas air, one might catch a hint of a sizzling Texas burger or the glimpse of face that is usually seen from this side of the microphone, as fans and artists alike ambled around the grounds, taking in the uniqueness of the day’s events.

In years past, the Jam’s stage has played host to some of the best names in the business, and this year was no exception. The powerhouse line-up included Zack Walther and the Cronkites, Corb Lund, Scott Miller, Bleu Edmonson, Tom Gillam, The Band of Heathens, Wade Bowen, Walt Wilkins, Stoney Larue, Mickey and the Motorcars, Reckless Kelly, Hayes Carll, Cody Canada, and Robert Earl Keen. The Jam, as always, is entirely a benefit concert, and artists play free of charge, raising money for an array of charities and organizations. It was estimated that this year’s proceeds would be in excess of $60,000, all of which would go to the benefit of the Comal County Junior Livestock Association and SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) Program.

Following the mold of years before, the day was packed with rocking performances and an energy, the likes of which is rarely seen outside the walls of this old dance hall. Wade Bowen, as always, engaged his audience in charismatic performance, delivering stellar guitar riffs alongside lead guitarist Garry Wooten and new bass and back up vocalist, Caleb Jones. Blue Edmonson followed Bowen, changing up the vibe a little bit with some rocker tunes and his own version of Wade’s single “Resurrection.”

By the time Walt Wilkins took the stage, the Shiner Bock was flowing, and the jam session was in full swing. Walt and the Mystiqueros rocked the crowd with a moving performance and narrations of some of his favorite songs. Solid performances from Mickey and the Motorcars and Hayes Carll followed, Hayes telling the crowd how honored he was to be playing on the stage. His first experience with the Jam was several years back as a fan. He said to himself, “I’d like to do that sometime.” The rest is history.

Cody Canada, lead singer and front man of Cross Canadian Ragweed left the rest of his band, which was at the time touring in Colorado, and flew in to New Braunfels for the jam. Slipping his guitar strap over his shoulder he told the crowd “If you all knew how much I hate to fly, you’d realize what a big deal that was!” Canada played a brief but sweet acoustic set, then accompanied long-time friends Reckless Kelly to open the show with their hit, “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah,” which Ragweed covered on their Live and Loud at Billy Bob’s album in 2002. The boys of Reckless Kelly who have a new album out on June 24th were joined by younger brother and lead singer of Micky and the Motorcars, Micky Braun midway through their show. The Braun brothers rocked on in pure Reckless Kelly style, priming the audience for a killer performance by Stoney Larue. Larue and his band jammed as only they can do, and Canada again took the stage joining Stoney and his crew for the second half of their set, playing songs the two co-wrote including “Oklahoma” and rocking on into the night with some classic vinyl rewinds.

By the time Robert Earl Keen took the stage, only he could have quenched the fire ignited in the crowd before him. And quench he did. Keen, honoree of the 2008 Steamboat Music Fest Tribute to a Legend, and one of the namesakes of Texas Music still delivers a performance as raw and real as the worn out boots on his feet. Keen played all of his classic favorites and threw in a few surprises, ending the night with a “poet speak” performance that left most everyone in that old dance hall in awe of his sheer genius as a performer and a writer, and longing for their next encounter with this “legend.”

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