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L-R: Sera Cahoone and Kevin Large, with Rusty Willoughby's leg in foreground

Love Me Some Townes, with Star Anna & Justin Davis, Pete Droge &

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Tonight! Love Me Some Townes @ the Tractor: Behind the Scenes @ Rehearsal

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L-R: Sera Cahoone and Kevin Large, with Rusty Willoughby's leg in foreground

Love Me Some Townes, with Star Anna & Justin Davis, Pete Droge & Elaine Summers, Kasey Anderson, Rusty Willoughby, Kevin Large, Gary Westlake, Shane Tutmarc, Sera Cahoone, and others.

Tractor Tavern, Monday, March 7, 8 p.m. 21 and over. $15.

Over the years, Debra Heesch of Seattle Theatre Group came to realize that there are certain musicians that all musicians have in common. From hosting rehearsals for her popular Hootenanny series in the basement of her West Seattle home, it was clear that Townes Van Zandt was one of them, because someone always seemed to be singing one of his songs. Something about the deceased Texas songwriter's takes of drifting, gambling, drinking, loving, and dying resonates with damn near everybody who's ever picked up an acoustic guitar. This was the impetus for her Love Me Some Townes tribute night, which happens tonight--Townes' birthday, just fyi--at the Tractor.

While Townes' music has a reputation for being rather morose, the musicians I saw at last night's rehearsal--in Heesch's basement, of course--were doing their best to liven things up by fleshing out his often-skeletal compositions with a little instrumentation. Joined by Gary Westlake, Shane Tutmarc, and Sera Cahoone, Grand Hallway's Kevin Large was able to turn his cover of Townes' "Waitin' Round to Die" into more of a rambling country tune, whereas Townes' version could inspire one to dig their own grave. When Star Anna took the mike for her rendition of "The Rake"--one of Townes' more emotionally flattening numbers--she added the right touch of cigarette soul.

Of course, Townes' reputation as a grim lyricist often overshadowed the fact that he could also be funny as hell and knew how to rock when he wanted to. This will certainly be evident tonight in the covers of his more rollicking songs like "White Freightliner Blues." But Seattleites are in for a real treat when native son Shane Tutmarc makes a return from his current home of Nashville, where he's been soaking up all that Music City has to offer. Tutmarc will be covering two little-known early Townes songs, "Black Widow Blues" and "Black Jack Mama," the former built on a soul groove a la Doug Sahm and the latter a bluesy shake not unlike Bo Diddley.

As Heesch says, an event like this is great in how it gives local musicians a chance to form new musical bonds. People who had never played together before last night will be backing each other up in front of a live audience. Equally important is how it gives these musicians a chance to be exposed to a new crowd. People will show up just to hear Townes Van Zandt songs, but leave as fans of some of Seattle's finest roots players.

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