We first discovered William Clark Green with his breakthrough album, 2013’s Rose Queen, and 2015’s Ringling Road was even better. When I heard at the beginning of 2016 that he was going to record a live album at Gruene Hall, I had high hopes and expectations.
And they were wildly exceeded. Band, singer, and audience are all in top form. As good as the studio versions of the songs are, the live versions take them to another level, particularly with the cuts from Green’s pre-Rose Queen albums. The balls-to-the-wall 11-minute “Wishing Well” jam is worth the price of admission all by itself (Green belting out the first line of the chorus on that song will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck), and “Caroline,” Gypsy,” and Tonight” also receive excellent treatment here.
Now, that’s not to say that the songs from Rose Queen and Ringling Road, which make up the bulk of the set, are in any way subpar in comparison. “Sympathy” rocks just as hard as the RR original, and “Still Think About You” is the album’s most moving moment, with Green paying poignant tribute to his mentor and co-writer Kent Finlay. And the “She Likes the Beatles” singalong is a lot of fun, even if I did get a bit worn out on it from hearing it on the radio all the time back when it was a big hit here in Texas.
But Green does say that that song changed his life. It may well have gotten him the status he needed to have to be able to record this album. If so, it was more than worth it, because Live At Gruene Hall is more than deserving of a place in the pantheon of great Texas live albums, right alongside the likes of No. 2 Live Dinner, Unleashed Live, and Viva Terlingua!. Very, VERY highly recommended.