George McConnell’s Rockin Teen Combo
February 15, 2008
Former Beanland/Widespread Panic guitarist George McConnell debuted his new band, George McConnell’s Rockin Teen Combo (RTC) at Proud Larrys’ in Oxford, Miss. on Friday night. Outside of guest appearances with Rocket 88 and occasional acoustic shows with one-time Kudzu Kings guitarist Daniel Karlish (as Drunk & Disorderly), this was the first full concert by McConnell since leaving Widespread Panic in 2006.
The group, consisting of McConnell on guitar and vocals, Karlish on electric and pedal steel guitar, Jeff Colburn (Kudzu Kings) on drums and bassist Tommy Turan (Second Guess, Daybreadkdown), worked their way through two sets of material, including more than a half dozen brand new original songs by McConnell.
The remainder of the repertoire consisted of Beanland material, a re-worked version of McConnell’s Panic-era tune “Song for Sitara” and a lone cover — Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.”
McConnell and company dug deep into the Beanland catalog for some rare chestnuts. The instrumental “Mr. Cropper” had been played only once by Beanland, at their 2004 reunion gig at the Double Decker Festival. “Right or Wrong” and “Sleet Kleeter’s Dog” were among the choices from Beanland’s 1993 sophomore CD Eye to Eye. And the group provided a spirited version of “Fishin’ Impossible” that included McConnell and Karlish engaging in Allmans-esque twin lead guitar lines. A late second set version of “Doreatha” was an expected, enthusiastic crowd pleaser.
But the focus was on the new material, and it was clear that the band was well-rehearsed. The new tunes ranged in style from Stones-y shuffles and country ballads to rockers with Replacements-like urgency and R&B flavored grooves. McConnell’s RTC was comfortable and in command of the home town audience and played with a confident swagger.
The RTC seems to be a band brimming with the energetic promise of newness, and born with its own repertoire and identity. Based on their debut performance, they also seem like a band who harbors the anticipation of growing even stronger with more performances.