All of 27 years old, seasoned singer-songwriter Ben Kweller, who was penning tunes at age 8, still projects a youthful charm. Even with his new album, Changing Horses, he showcases his always-there country side on some Dobro/pedal-steel-soaked adult material ("Homeward Bound," for example, about a junkie living under a bridge - a heartfelt highlight live).
At the TLA on Friday, whether bantering about taking his (thrilled) 21/2-year-old son to see the Liberty Bell that day or digging deep on solo piano mid-set for a maturely introspective song like his older "On My Way," the mop-topped Texan came off like an enthusiastic big kid, a wise-beyond-his-years teen.
Yet although he once was that precocious talent - leading his power-pop-punk band Radish to a label deal at 15, signing solo before 20 - he is now an assertive grown-up, with four stylistically diverse albums under his belt. Whirling about the stage strumming plugged-in acoustic guitar, he recalled both a bounding Springsteen (maybe more Nils Lofgren, actual E St. Band guitarist and family friend) and Dwight Yoakam, occasionally holding the six-string out straight by the neck like the latter as his four-piece band kicked out rockin' bubblegum honky-tonk.
Earlier, the identical L.A.- based Watson Twins (touring collaborators on Jenny Lewis' 2006 solo album), offered much from their 2008 Fire Songs album. Kentucky-born sisters Chandra and Leigh also pleased with the Bill Withers goldie "Ain't No Sunshine" and, best, their gorgeous Americana slow-drag cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven."