Arty Hill and The Long Gone Daddys
Sally O’Brien’s Bar and Grill
335 Somerville Avenue
Somerville, MA 02145
Open 11 AM -1 AM
Here’s a clue about the vibe of this place - on the “music” tab of their site - that tells you all you need to know.
“NO COVER. Remember your bartender. We hope you dance.”
Question. What’s a remedy for these last dog days of summer, hot and humid, that are sucking the marrow out of Boston’s bones? If you pointed your pony over to Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville last night you’d have found an answer.
Honky Tonk and cold beer. Arty Hill and The Long Gone Daddys were in town for a night of light-hearted, story-telling, twangy, ultra danceable country western music.
Practitioners of the under-appreciated genre of Hill’s Honky Tonk style don’t get to town often. If you’re a dancer, you get ready to ride hard and get put away wet. If you’re a listener, you order a long neck Corona, pretend it’s Lone Star Beer -‘The National Beer of Texas’ - and feel like you’re in a Lone Star watering hole.
My friend Luster says this place and its music comes as close to Galveston as it gets around here - minus people packing guns in the pickup, attitude, and a reason to tell you to step outside. There is zippo pretension to this sweet pub.
Sally’s isn’t a far cry from the Cheers -Where Everybody Knows Your Name - kind of establishment. Friends hang out at the bar for solace, self-expression, and suds. The occasional loner watches a plasma TV on the wall behind the bar with the same sense of contentment he’d have in his living room, sort of like having company without needing to engage them in conversation.
And of course every night there’s the music and people who come here for the release. Short of confession, music is the best way to let go of your sins or at least forget them for a few hours. I guess we could rename this place Saint Sally’s of Somerville.
Arty Hill writes songs that mine heartbreak, longing, love lost, love found, and rowdy-fun-times that come across as two step operettas. You probably don’t have the twang but I’m betting you’ve felt the ups and downs Hill narrates in his three or four minute musical novellas. Hill’s covers of Hank Williams (“You Win Again” and “Lovesick Blues” complete with yodeling!) and Ray Price (“Crazy Arms”) underline how closely his own songs hew to the tradition set by the masters of the genre.
There’s an uncomplicated honesty in Hill’s honky tonk music. No bubble gum, no syrup, and, thank God, no string section - just straight-up intelligent lyrics. In case you’re wondering, this is not the high-pitched, nasal kind of singing and banjo music you heard on the soundtrack of Deliverance. Just Arty Hill on electric guitar, and the Daddys on a standup bass, drums, and a laptop steel. The chain without the saw.
Hill's well-crafted songs, from uptempo "It Ain't Workin'" to ballad "Hall Of Fame Of Nothin'," are layered with that gritty sense of playful energy and survival that make you tap your feet or take a sip out of that longneck in solidarity with the people he's singing about.
There were a bunch of dancers there last night who only sat down because Hill and The Long Gone Daddys took a set break. I was one of them. At the end of each dance, I had the choice of rushing back to write song titles and tidbits into my pad on the bar or staying out on the dance floor. Full reportage suffered a bit.
The term honky tonk, first used in print in an Oklahoma newspaper in 1894, referred to rough-around-the-edges establishments that offered alcoholic beverages, piano music and occasionally women plying the world’s oldest profession, to miners, cowboys, cattlemen, and laborers. The Galveston Daily News used the term honkatonk in 1892 to describe an establishment in Fort Worth. The music in these honkatonks was more upbeat than classic blues and was and still is rhythmically suited for dancing.
Honky Tonk music eventually influenced ragtime, boogie woogie, rock ‘n roll, hillbilly, country, and in turn was influenced by them. It's now in its present incarnation as western swing. You don’t have to be on a road trip through Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, or Montana to hear honky tonk influenced music these days. It seeps into country stations around America.
In case I haven’t made it abundantly clear, if you have a dancing bone in your body, it will begin keeping time when Hill and the Long Gone Daddys rev up the music. If you know how, you'll dance a Texas Two Step, or any kind of swing, or anything else you think you can imagine leading with a partner.
When I asked a woman who was swaying along with the music if she'd like to dance, she smiled, reached for my hand and said, "I don't know a thing about dancing, can we just make something up?" We did just fine, thank you very much, with a bunch of other happy dancers on the Persian rug sized dance floor at Sally O'Brien's last night.
And yes, Sally, I remembered the bartender.
The Long Gone Daddys (based in Baltimore, MD) who played tonight
Standup Bass - Steve Potter
Drummer - Ed Hough
Mike Castellana of Framingham, MA, on pedal steel
PLAYLIST first set partial list
Unless noted as ballads, these were all country swing or two step songs of varying tempos and singularly danceable to anything else you could make up on the dance floor.
“Living On The Road Again” Arty Hill original, uptempo
“Driftin’ In” Arty Hill original with lines like “Every bar’s a harbor when she comes driftin’ in…” mid tempo
“You Win Again” Hank Williams ballad
“White Lightning” ? not verified, uptempo with big time guitar and laptop steel
“Julie Don’t Get Married” slow tempo with Framingham’s Mike Castellana’s pedal steel wailingly weeping all the way through the lyrics like “Julie, wait for me because someday I’ll be free…”
“I’m Thinking It’s Better This Way” Arty Hill, mid tempo
“Church On Saturday Night” Arty Hill original
“It Ain’t Workin’” Arty Hill uptempo original
“If You See Me Comin’ Around” Arty Hill original, uptempo
“Make My Wishful Thinking Come True”
Second Set: partial list
“Lovesick Blues” Hank Williams two-step with yodeling!
“Crazy Arms” Ray Price mid tempo
“Hall Of Fame Of Nothing” Arty Hill ballad
“It’s All Your Fault” Willie Nelson
“The Race Is On” Arty Hill
“Bar Of Gold” Arty Hill
“Me And My Glass Jaw” Arty Hill
The band played on but ptatlarge had an uncharacteristically early curfew.
Try going to http://www.artyhill.com/v3/ or
to hear some audio clips
To be investigated soon: “This place has the best burgers and fries around ” - from a regular patron, who spoke with great certainty.