Review and photographs by Tim Mack
It turns out what holds true in theater holds true for alt-country: The show must go on.
The Rodeo Barons have endured all manner of interruption during their winter-long residency at Saratoga Springs’ One Caroline Street Bistro: heavy snow, bitter cold, a special Samuel Adams dinner night and now paternity leave. With guitarist Mike O’Donnell and his wife celebrating the birth of their first child, this past Thursday’s show meant a change on the chalk board marquee. For one night only, it would be the Rodeo Barons Trio with special guest Kevin Maul on pedal steel guitar.
And for a venue well suited to jazz music, there’s nothing wrong with a little improvisation.
Based in the Racing City, the Barons were assembled four years ago by singer/songwriter Chris Carey. Now with Carey, O’Donnell, James Gascoyne (bass) and Sam Zucchini (drums), they’ve spent most every Thursday night this calendar year playing for wall-to-brick-wall crowds just below sidewalk level on Caroline Street. They bring a big sound to a tight venue, but it’s never too big for the atmosphere or the crowd.
A typical Thursday night would have the group dipping heavily into tracks from their 2012 self-titled, Kickstarter-funded debut album. With Maul on pedal steel, they kept to some of their originals including “I Like the Rhythm of It,” while filling the rest of the evening with work from Carey’s solo career, early Paul Simon and a little help from the Dylan songbook. It was four accomplished musicians covering territory that included folk-rock, roots-rock, rock and roll, alt-country and whatever occupies the space between.
It will be business as usual this week with O’Donnell expected back at the bistro with his six-string and, very likely, a smartphone filled with baby pictures he’ll be happy to show to anyone who asks. And unlike the long winter, the group’s residency is not destined to end. The Rodeo Barons can be heard at One Caroline Street every Thursday night from 8:30-11pm.