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A magical night true to Champ

Champ Hood Tribute, Austin Music Awards

Austin Music Hall

Any good wake has a proper ratio of tears to laughter, and that was very much the case with the Tribute to Champ Hood, perhaps the most emotional interlude at the Austin Music Awards. Spearheaded by his son Warren, and populated by the late guitarist-fiddler's former bandmates, cohorts and friends, the set ranged across the heart's landscape from a wrenching version of the Uncle Walt's Band classic "High Hill" to a reading of the mock-pompous eulogy from "Greater Tuna."

Though Hood, a longtime mainstay of the Austin music scene, never led his own band, he was indispensable to the Threadgill Troubadours, Toni Price's ensemble and Uncle Walt's Band, and each of those periods was represented here. Warren Hood's Austin Jug Band started off with a jaunty, Cajun-flavored version of Uncle Walt's "Last One To Know" that recalled the easy-gliding, backporch appeal of the original.

Lyle Lovett, who regarded Hood and his Uncle Walt's bandmates David Ball and Walter Hyatt as mentors, did a guest turn on Hyatt's "I'll Come Knocking" — and came up with one of the most intensely emotional vocals he has ever performed. There were moist eyes all over the house as Lovett yielded the stage to Toni Price and the Threadgill Troubadours.

Awards-winner Price, who was having a bang-up night of her own, performed "Sad As It Seems" from Hood's posthumous solo debut, "Bon Haven," and then set the crowd laughing with her "Greater Tuna" soliloquy before the band launched into a furiously jumping swing version of "Going To New Orleans." At the end there were a baker's dozen musicians onstage, playing like the devil. It was a scene Champ Hood would have relished.

John T. Davis
Friday, March 15, 2002 © 2002 Austin American-Statesman

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