The musicians need so little amplification that if Marie wails on the piano hard enough you can hear it without the help of the tired old microphone. This intimacy‚ the choice of songs‚ and the openly on-the-fly feel of the night have made it what it is: it's a place to simply go and have a good time. Mistakes are made‚ and Brett is the first to laugh when they happen. There's no hiding the music stand that holds a folder full of lyrics. And there shouldn't be. At Honky Tonk Tuesday‚ everyone knows what they're going to get: an unpredictable‚ rollicking mix of people and music that feels like a family reunion every week -- with great beer and a pedal steel.
Even though Honky Tonk often feels like some secret place in a world gone wrong‚ things are about to change for the musicians -- and the fans. "Bonnaroo had offered a slot‚ and I had said no because I planned on not doing any gigs this year‚ just writing‚" says Mike. "But my studio wasn't ready and other projects were coming my way. In January‚ Bonnaroo called and said they were still holding a slot for me. And Honky Tonk Tuesdays were so fun that it made sense to take it on the road." Soon afterward‚ Brett got a call from Mike that he remembers with a smile: "Mike called up one day and said‚ 'Yeah‚ so‚ well‚ I've got this thing at Bonnaroo‚ and Honky Tonk is the thing I'm having the most fun doing right now. What would you think of us going down and playing Bonnaroo?'" Brett laughs at this point before saying in an Are you kidding me? tone of voice‚ "'Yeah‚ that would be cool.'"
With the decision to play Bonnaroo‚ Mike and Brett sat down to discuss who would make up Ramble Dove (sharing the name with the fictional country band in Mike's film Outside Out)‚ and there were ideas tossed around about bringing in different musicians into the fold who weren't Tuesday regulars. But with each passing week it became more and more evident that the band was right there. The only outsider from the weekly gig added to the band was guitarist Scott Murawski from Max Creek‚ who's frequently collaborated with Mike over the years‚ including the band Mike put together in 2003 for a run of shows in support of Inside In.
"He's a real good listener. And he translates the melody really quickly‚" Brett says of Scott. "He hears that melody and jumps on it. And his soloing plays around the melody really well. He's really sensitive to that part of things‚ which is the best stuff that happens in real honky tonk music. The melody's the thing. And so he's picked it right up."
The newly formed band is currently rehearsing on the weekends‚ working on material for both Bonnaroo and a short tour that will give them a chance to get used to being on different -- and bigger -- stages. "I have to say‚ I'm a little nervous to leave the comfy‚ familiar confines of the Radio Bean‚" confides Marie. "However‚ when we get up to play‚ we just have so much fun‚ so whatever happens‚ I know it's going to be a great time." Brett seconds her thoughts on bringing the Tonk on the road: "The other day‚ I was actually really pretty anxious about everything. The whole this-is-happening-really-soon thing‚ you know? We've got it pretty well together‚ and the great thing is having the Honky Tonk thing at Radio Bean has a built-in ability to try stuff on. That process has helped us a lot more than I realized‚ because we all got together yesterday and suddenly song after song was falling into place pretty good. And a lot of it is stuff we keep coming back to at Honky Tonk."
Wrapping up our interview‚ Brett's sipping on a pint of Guinness and talking about playing music: "I find myself standing on a stage just thinking there's nothing else in the world I want to be doing right now than what I'm doing. I feel like I'm lucky as hell‚ all the time." And we're left with one obvious question: "What next? What happens after Bonnaroo?" True to his Kansas upbringing where he listened to "old AM radio" and had a "bluegrass nut" for a father and a mother who taught piano lessons‚ Brett is excited but down-to-earth about playing in front of tens of thousands of people. "We're going to play and just hang out and see everybody and just enjoy the hell out of Bonnaroo. And then we'll be back to play at the Radio Bean the next Tuesday. I've had a great time at the Radio Bean. And it's not like I expect anything out of it. We're going to go and I'm going to have a great time‚ and I'm going to come back and do what I do. And Mike will move on to another project along the way. And everybody's going to keep doing … I mean‚ we're musicians. That's the thing you do‚ because you love doing it. I'm psyched to come back and play at the Radio Bean. I'd love that. There's nothing I'd rather be doing on a Tuesday night."

HONKY TONK ESSENTIALS brought to you by Brett Hughes
Here's a very short list of some of the pure pleasures to be found in the Honky Tonk pantheon, a little heavy on the lyin,' losin,' drinkin' and carousing...

Hank Williams... the quintessential honky tonk song. They called him the Hillbilly Shakespeare, perhaps because he could express so many emotions in such profoundly simple language.
"If you are sad and lonely, and have no place to go
Just call me up sweet baby, and bring along some dough
and we'll go honky tonkin, honky tonkin'...
We'll go honky tonkin' round this town"

Evidently it took three people to write this simple, perfect song, performed by a whole lot of people, with Carl Smith probably being my favorite. Pathos, regret and resignation hogpile on to this poor guy who is getting unrepentantly drunk and admiring the intoxicating vehicle of his soon-to-be-roaring hangover. Here's a little swig on the beauty of this one:
"There stands the glass, that will ease all my pain
That will settle my brain-It's my first one today"

Ernest Tubb. Whoa. This is one of those songs where a guy is real upset that his girl walked out on him. He's pacing around and worrying, but he's also in the mood for some revenge and by the last verse he wants her to feel like he does at that moment (but he still loves her...hmm).
"Now someday you may be lonesome too
Walkin' the floor is good for you
Just keep right on walkin' and it won't hurt you to cry
Remember that I love you and I will the day I die"

Loretta Lynn wrote this one about her honky-tonking husband, one of many songs that chronicled their sometimes tumultuous relationship. This one's pretty self-explanatory, and this just about says it all:
"You never take me anywhere because you're always gone
Many a night I've lied awake and cried here all alone
And you come in a-kissin' on me-it happens every time
No don't come home a-drinkin' with lovin' on your mind"

Lefty Frizzell's ode to letting the girl pick up the tab for going out on the town, and getting randy in the park in her Cadillac. This was covered by Willie Nelson and is a staple of his live shows. Lefty Frizzell was a great singer and songwriter, and many of his greatest songs expressed a frustration with not getting the kind of lovin' he was after ("Always Late"), even after making lots of promises ("A Thousand Ways"). This song could very possibly have been modeled after Hank Williams' "Honky Tonkin.'"

George Jones was the undisputed master of the kind of song where a guy's trying to convince himself that he's over someone (probably Tammy Wynette, who he married and divorced a couple of times, and made many great records with). This one is just about as good a song as they get, and George recorded it several times, with Billy Sherrill cramming more and more strings and back-up singers onto them as they went along. Still, the unbelievable singing George pulls off on EVERY song makes you end up wondering if any of the songs are actually good, or if it all just gets over on the strength of his voice. Given a choice, I'd probably rather listen to a "bad" George Jones song over a "great" Garth Brooks song (are there any of those?) any day. Make that definitely.
Here it is, gloriously clueless:
"Just because I asked a friend about her
Just because I spoke her name somewhere
Just because I rang her number by mistake today
She thinks I still care"