By Brian Tucker
Drunken Prayer returned to Satellite Bar & lounge over the weekend and given the variety and ambience of their show, I hope they come back around frequently. The band has been around since 2007 and currently based in Asheville, N.C. touring as three-piece. And while guitar, bass and drums (and vocals) might seem like a simple setup on the surface, the result was a large, personal sound – a mix of soulful music across a spectrum of styles – rock, country and some spiritual.
Kicking off at 9 p.m., seemingly early for Wilmington shows outside the early starts at a venue like Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre, what followed amounts to a band playing a tight set of Americana and soul and rock music done not with a shrug but with reserve, like the humility of a friendly but firm handshake.
Off to one side the band’s bassist stood hunched over his instrument with a lit cigarette pointing from his mouth as the drummer hit cymbals and skins casually but with intent. Lead singer and guitarist Morgan Christopher Geer strummed and played leads seemingly effortlessly, as if the song were still new to him and performing for friends and family.
Geer and the band’s vibe was delivered much as it is on albums – rough hewn, sincere rock and roll that’s a mix of tattered country mixed a bit of Chicago electric blues. Their music Saturday night seemed rather fitting for the early July evening – warm and desolate, electrified and acknowledged so by the crowd that seemed beaten by the day’s heat. It was still hot inside Satellite, the faint mugginess hung just enough in the air to make you want to step outside. Most didn’t, preferring to drink and listen to the band.
Drunken Prayer played material from their catalog and covers familiar and not so familiar, like a Jimmy Rogers number followed shortly after a steely take on George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care.” They followed that classic with a great instrumental that recalled the electricity and strut of Hound Dog Taylor, all without losing their signature on it.
Dipping into their material, the band offered a heavy, lamented take on “Brazil” from the band’s last album Into the Missionfield. The beauty of the band’s set was that it wasn’t explosive or rambunctious, but rather material played from the heart for the hearts in attendance. I didn’t get to finish the whole evening’s set, a shame because I wanted to hear how they delivered live their “I’m Gonna Lay Dow in Front of My Lord” from the band’s 2006 self-titled album. On record it’s a Memphis horns loaded confessional, made even more potent with the song’s dual vocals, is a beautiful number that cuts deep . Maybe next time.
If you’re a fan of Leon Russell, David Dondero, The Band or George Jones listen to the band’s albums here (and though its summer, check out that groovy Christmas song).