- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Many bands that tour together don’t have much in common other than sharing the same record company or being on the top of the charts at the same time.

Not so the four acts on the Big Noise From Springfield tour. The Missouri bands might all be on the HighTone Records roster, but the friendships are more than just professional.

“We’re a dozen guys that have things in common. We know each other,” says Stevie Newman, guitarist and singer for the Domino Kings. “We genuinely take an interest in each other. … If I wasn’t on this tour, I would be in the audience.”

The Domino Kings join the Bel Airs, the Morells and Brian Capps on the tour, which comes Monday to Iota Club and Cafe in Arlington and Tuesday to the Funk Box in Baltimore.

Plotting the relationships among the four acts is a bit like mapping out a giant family tree of music, Mr. Newman explains. Lou Whitney of the Morells has produced or co-produced all of the Domino Kings’ records, and Mr. Capps was the original bass player for the Kings before striking out as a solo artist.

All four acts have albums out now but never officially toured together on one bill before. Each brings something different to the roster, from the blues rock of the Bel Airs to the Buck Owens-style country of Mr. Capps and the eclectic mix of ‘50s rock, honky-tonk and rockabilly that defines the Morells.

As for the Domino Kings, the band’s mix of classic country and roots rock can be traced back to Mr. Newman’s musical upbringing. When he showed an interest in guitar, there already were plenty of them lying around the house for him to try.

“I figured out the process fairly quickly,” he says. “It was like learning to learn English or creative writing or math or anything else you learn in school. It wasn’t like you get smarter one day; you just learn how to learn.”

At the age of 14, he was playing at Grand Ole Opry shows in Nashville and beginning to feel torn between country acts like George Jones that his mother played at home and rock acts such as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Kiss.

He began to see the lure of a full-time music career in his teens when he began making more money than some of his teachers by spending his free time playing clubs and bars.

“I was restringing my guitar in class,” he says with a laugh. “I knew some days I’d have to maybe cut class to drive to Kansas City to make the show in time.”

By the mid ‘80s, he was disenchanted with both rock and country music until a new breed of country singers, including Dwight Yoakam and the Wagoneers, showed him he could mix classic honky-tonk country with rock. Thus, the Domino Kings were born, though it took a few more years for the name to come along.

The band has released four albums in the past six years, honing its sound by staying constantly on the road. Its latest CD, “Some Kind of Sign,” is the first to feature the band’s current lineup, which includes Mr. Newman, drummer Les Gallier, guitarist Richie Rebuth and bassist and vocalist David Sowers.

“It was hard to take the time off the road,” Mr. Newman says. “It’s not like we didn’t have songs. We had to pare it down from a larger list of songs.”

The title track is a hard-charging rock ditty that burns through three minutes and gives a good feel for what a live Kings show is like. It features tight harmonies, ferocious drumming and two guitarists trading solos in the middle as if they’re having a conversation through their instruments.

It’s no wonder Mr. Newman has been itching to get the tour started.

While doing some recent solo shows in Alaska, he says, he couldn’t help but work out set lists in his head for the current tour.

Whether Springfield is likely to become the “next big scene” is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard not to catch the enthusiasm Mr. Newman has for the upcoming Big Noise shows.

“Everybody on tour is known in guitar circles. Everybody on the bus is a guitar player,” he says. “It’s going to be as fun as anything I’ve ever done.”

• • •

Just as the Domino Kings took a page from classic country and honky-tonk in developing a fresh sound, the members of another “royal” band, the Kings of Leon, have been reading from the handbook of Southern rock.

The Nashville band’s unique background (three brothers who grew up traveling the country with an evangelist father) was the focus of many music critics when the group released its debut album, “Youth and Young Manhood,” in 2003. Now, as brothers Caleb, Jared and Nathan Followill and cousin Matthew Followill have released their sophomore album, they have shown they are more than just a gimmick.

“Aha Shake Heartbreak,” released earlier this year, is every bit as good as their debut and continues to meld the Southern sound with the kind of gritty garage rock made popular by bands like the White Stripes and the Strokes.

Caleb Followill has a deep, growly drawl that makes him sound decades older than he is, and his voice acts as a perfect counterpoint to the driving rhythms that propel many Kings of Leon songs.

With positive reviews coming in for “Aha Shake Heartbreak” and one of the band’s older songs, “Molly’s Chambers” featured in a car commercial, the quartet seems to be more than just a flash in the pan.

See what the buzz is about when they play the 9:30 Club tonight.

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