I consider myself not only a lover of country music, but also someone who truly appreciates artists at every level, but especially the who not only play the music, but feel it too. Winstar Casino in Thackerville, OK blessed me with two artists that fit that bill, Roger Craeger and Blake Shelton.
I have to preface this review by saying there has only been one other occasion when the music affected me the way it did at this particular venue. The last time was on a stormy night in Padre Island, TX and the artist was Garth Brooks. I realized back then, as the rain fell on my face, that the reason I was there was because of the music, and the music is and was so much more compelling than the face on stage. The music would live on long beyond the person performing it, all I had to do was listen.
Roger Craeger, a Texas music songwriter and singer whom I never consciously heard of before this performance opened the show. I was immediately drawn to his musical talent and his ability to perform for the crowd. Likely best known for his hit “The Everclear Song”, Craeger pays the trumpet, piano and harmonica simultaneously while delivering a soul felt performance. Influenced by artist such as Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff Walker, Craeger delivered an upbeat opening act that included “I’m From the Beer Joint”, “The Everclear Song” and the ballet “Late Night Case of the Blues”.
What do opening acts usually perform, 6-9 songs? Well, whatever the final count was, I know Roger Craeger left that performance with at least two new devoted fans.
“It’s All About Tonight” was the opening number for Blake Shelton, an excellent precursor to what lie ahead. Blake delivered on this songs premise, making his performance special for this mostly Oklahoman crowd. The opening song was followed by “Some Beach” and “Kiss My Country Ass”. These three back to back hits brought the crowd to life.
Blake delivered a nice mixture of down home country songs and beautiful country ballads the way only Blake can do, packaged with a lot of humor and wrapped up with a whole lot of heart. Songs like “Just Hold On”, “You’ll Always Be Beautiful”, a Conway Twitty cover of “It’s Goodbye Time” (also on Blake’s Barn & Grill CD), and “I Drink”.
Blake shared with the crowd that he borrowed his brother-in-laws truck to take a few hours and go visit his farm just up the road. While he was there he wrote a poem and shared it with the crowd. I’d share the poem but it’s not suitable for print. It sure had the crowd laughing. When he was done reading the poem from the piece of paper he pulled from his back pocket he gave it to a woman on the front row.
Of course he performed the hit that introduced us to Blake Shelton, “Austin”. It was during his performance of “Home” that I had my “just close your eyes and listen” moment. His version of that song is by far the best there is. (Move over Michael Buble – love your sound, but Blake owns this one!)
The encore was by far the funniest and best ever. He was trying to play to the crowd with his cover of Rupert Holmes “The Pina Colada Song”. When he didn’t get the reaction he expected it occurred to him that he was in Oklahoma with a bunch of rednecks who would clearly relate to “Hill Billy Bone”. The crowd went wild for this hit. It was a perfect ending to a perfect night.
Dallas TX Correspondent Kathy Wheeler