Paintings by Loren Dann |

When we were swapping e-mails this week, singer Jeffrey Fields of Morning River Band shared a simple musical truth: “It’s tough being a country band in Philly.”

It got me thinking about how overlooked of a style it can be. You’ll still hear people talking about country in terms of “Oh, I like everything except…” Or maybe they’ll say they like Johnny Cash, but nothing new. Or whatever the excuse happens to be. I’d urge those folks to open their ears and their minds a bit, because there is a lot of talent in this distinctly American style of music right in our own backyard. Include, for certain, Fields’ own group of players.

A couple months back, Morning River Band made an appearance on XPN2’s Folkadelphia in a four-piece ensemble configuration, and man did they sound sweet. Dennis Bonfiglio’s pedal steel playing was warm and nimble, the rhythm section of Denny Barron and Philip Kunkle was taut and snappy, and Fields’ vocals were yearning. The vibe of the room hinted at the big touchstones – Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons, The Louvin Brothers – but in a reverential way, not something that attempted to falsely recast the style for city folk.

You can download two performances (both part of their “Drinking Blues” suite) from that appearance below. And, if you’re up for sharing your own drinking blues with them, Morning River Band appears tonight over at The Fire – one of Philadelphia’s havens for rustic overtones, for sure. Morning River Band plays with The Miners, Great Elk and Old Rival Hope at The Fire, 412 W. Girard Ave., tonight at 8 p.m. Admission to the 21+ show is $5