Photos by Ellis Jones
In 2009, Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman and ex-band mate guitar player Audrey Freed put together a group. The side project also consisted of Jimmy Herring on guitar and Nick Govrik on bass. Trigger Hippy was born and played a handful of well received shows. With The Crowes on hiatus, Steve wanted to revisit the project. Herring, who was busy focusing on Widespread Panic, was replaced with the multi-talented Jackie Greene and vocalist Joan Osborne. The new line-up showcased their talents with a half dozen shows in as many days throughout the sweltering south. The mini tour wrapped up in Memphis at an intimate venue within throwing stones of the University.
Upon entering the locale, opener Jabe Beyer was entertaining the crowd with his compelling voice and delicate guitar licks. An artist out of Nashville usually surrounded by his band, Jabe seemed comfortable solo as he played a short set of refreshing originals. His genuine lyrics and appealing guitar riffs were effective in warming up the room. His talent was undeniable and it was obvious why he was selected to open all six shows.
The anticipation of how these accomplished musicians would sound together was answered when Trigger Hippy took the modest stage a little past ten. The band immediately established that this wasn’t going to be an evening full of covers, as they opened with the original “Turpentine.” The sound, well-grounded in southern roots, was extremely tight with screaming solos by Audley Freed. Jackie played the song on guitar as Joan and he shared in the vocal duties. Another original followed with “Cave Hill Cemetery.” Jackie switched to the keys, changing the dynamic of the band, as he did often. Joan sang this soulful number as the boys led the song in a blues direction with peaks galore.
The next couple of numbers were new arrangements of Jackie Greene songs. The chemistry between the band members was impossible to ignore, especially between Jackie and Joan. They sounded as if they have been playing together for years, not weeks. Steve Gorman drove the sound behind his simple drum kit all night, while Nick Govrik’s thumping bass rounded out an explosive rhythm section. The arraignment of Jackie’s “Rise Up Singing” was especially interesting. He was behind the keys and sharing vocal duties, giving this gem a gospel feel. Joan was in her element and she looked and sounded more comfortable than during her short stint with The Dead. Black Crowes fans were treated to a version of “99lbs” that resembled the sound of early Crowes. When Jackie was exploding on the keys he traded solos with Freed. With huge hands that wrapped around his stick and quick fingers, Audrey delivered a dizzying amount of notes that painted exceptional jams. When Jackie armed himself with a guitar, it was double trouble.
The show ended with a stirring version of Neil Young’s classic “Ohio.” Jackie switched back to guitar and led the charge through this sing-along. For the encore they brought back Jabe Beyer for Dylan’s masterpiece “Isis.” As they all took turns singing the timeless lyrics it was obvious this was just the beginning of Trigger Hippy. It is rare that a group consisting of this much talent put their egos aside for the greater good of the music, but that’s exactly what this band accomplished and busy schedules aside, here’s hoping that they continue with this promising project.