Honky Tonk Throwdown VI brought a cavalcade of down home country music for an old fashion hoedown at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit, Michigan.

Honky Tonk Throwdown VI brought a cavalcade of down home country music to an old fashion hoedown at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit, Michigan.

For the past six years, JD Mackinder (bass for Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils) and his wife Liz Mackinder (vocals for the Brunswick Brawlers) have been putting together the Honky Tonk Throwdown each spring in Detroit, Michigan. This event is a labor of love for country music and is held on the intimate stage of PJ’s Lager House. The Honky Tonk Throwdown runs for 3 days and National Country Review made it out to the Saturday show to hear some of the best country music in the Midwest.

Getting the show cooking was Andrew Ellis, a one-man band armed with a guitar, a harp, and assorted kick drums. Andrew Ellis played bluesy delta roots music, which folds in nicely with the country music genre. He has a rich and gritty voice, which sounds fantastic and fits his music like a glove. He performed a new song called “Prison Walls” that had was reminiscent of the music of Otis Taylor.

Next up was Bull Halsey from Chelsea, Michigan. They were at the show to “hit hard, hit fast, and hit often.” This band was outstanding. They played down and dirty blues with a boat load of feeling. Every member of the band was spot on. The rhythm section of Garth Girard (bass/vocals) and David Oesterle kept the band humming. This allowed harmonica player Danny Pratt and guitarist Ben Vermeylen to tear it up.

The stage at PJ’s transformed into the Grand Ole Opry when John Holt and the Sequins took the stage. The band behind John Holt had only recently gotten together for this show, but you would never have guessed it from their performance. They flawlessly played some great old country music with a heavy dose of the great Mr. George Jones. It was just the right feel for a honky tonk to get your foot tapping and hands clapping.

There is one word that best describes the Brunswick Brawlers: fun. They were having a ball on stage, and that feeling was infectious. Rockabilly blues mixed with good-time country swing fueled the good vibes this band generated. It even got a few people moving on the dance floor. The range of vocal combinations added to the dynamics of this band’s music, especially when they mixed it up with Liz Mackinder singing along with Niko Pittman (guitar), Rudy Varner (bass), or Jarrod Champion (keys).

The Ingham County Regulars had not done a show together in over 10 years. They picked up right where they left off, and didn’t miss a beat. They play honest and true country music that reminds you of the greats such as Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams, the added twist they use to bring their own flavor is their intensity. They play hard and fast. A big blazing nitro fueled funny car of country that makes you smile from ear to ear. These guys undoubtedly have some serious chops.

There was no rest for the wicked as a storm of bluegrass music blew in when Rickett Pass got on stage. It took only a few songs for them to start breaking strings as they went for broke on “Let It Ride” and “Can’t Scare Me”. The beauty of this band is that they are always full of surprises. They wrapped up their set by getting down and soulful with an impromptu cover of “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.

Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils didn’t disappoint audience members who had come out specifically to see them, their performance was impeccable. Jennifer Westwood has an incredibly powerful voice with range. She can move from a velvet whisper to piercing highs. The Handsome Devils accompanying her are also fine musicians. The guitar playing of Dylan Dunbar was hot and greasy. The drummer and JD Mackinder were rock solid. Jarrod Champion handled the keyboards with stylish flair.

Sporting a road-worn Alvarez guitar covered in autographs, the Dallas Moore Band set out to bring the crowd a healthy helping of salty outlaw country. With a big southern drawl in Dallas’s voice, fans were reminded of Waylon Jennings and Charlie Daniels. Every song was a story that just about anyone could relate to. That was what made the music resonate with the crowd. They ate it up and howled for more. Every song was great, but their song about being on the road, called “Texas Tornado,” was particularly enjoyable.

Last, but far from least, was the Ryan Dillaha and The Miracle Men. These guys batted cleanup at the Honky Tonk and hit a home run. With some catchy tunes, these guys had the crowd cranked up and ready to rock all night long. It was clear from the first note that the band has a hell of a good time when they jam together. Brothers in arms bringing whiskey-soaked, rocking country music to the masses. Ryan and the Miracle Men brought the house down and closed out a great night of music.

It was inspiring to see so much great music coming out of the Midwest with this phenomenal cast of musicians. Put the Honky Tonk Throwdown on your list for next year’s must see shows.

Ryan Dillaha and the Miracle Men

Dallas Moore Band
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Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils
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Rickett Pass
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Ingham County Regulars

Brunswick Brawlers

John Holk and the Sequins
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Bull Halsey
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Andrew Ellis

PJ’s Lager House
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About The Author

Chuck is a native Michigander; he grew up in Detroit and later Pinckney. He now calls Ann Arbor home. Running is in his blood. Chuck began running at age 12 and never stopped. He has run several marathons and numerous other races. His favorite is the off trail race, Dances With Dirt, ran in Hell, Michigan. Chuck was first exposed to photography in a 7th grade class. He has been a photographer ever since, honing his skills shooting landscapes, nature, people and places, and over course, concerts. In addition to experiencing music from behind the camera, Chuck is a musician in his own right. He has been playing guitar since his teen years. He played in Detroit area metal band, Battalion, recorded two independent releases, and toured. Today, when not chasing concerts with a camera, you can find him online at his blog, Life in Michigan.

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