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There was the breathy brunette who vamped her way through Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”; the tuneless trio (ZZ Top-bearded lead singer, black backup singer and timid chick clutching a Mason jar full of liquid courage) who took the time to mangle Modern English’s “I Melt With You”; the soulful sista who injected some flava into Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”; the tipsy, cowboy hat-wearing lug with a penchant for David Allen Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”; and the extended family — with what appeared to be no less than three generations on stage harmonizing together, including three infant-toting moms — collectively demanding a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Lewis estimated that song selection at Hill Country is reliably one-quarter country, while the rest is a hodgepodge of popular music. Of those who jockey to claim a slot, Lewis said that no more than 20 percent of the participants are regulars, with an even smaller contingent (perhaps one or two, he posited) shadowing the band from venue to venue.
Then there’s Camille.
The talented tween, a slip of a girl who’d be hard-pressed to flirt her way into a PG-13 flick, began showing up a few months back. Lewis said the Chevy Chase,Md., native, who is always escorted by her father, has since become a minor celebrity. Sure enough, when she thunders through Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” — displaying unparalleled maturity and a preternatural appreciation of the agonizing loss that fuels the source material — the crowd goes wild, waving the tabletop candles overhead while she builds to her crescendo and rocketing to their feet for a standing ovation when the pint-sized songstress brings it all home.
If seeking out the spotlight would require slogging back a bit of social lubricant, may we recommend giving the house cocktail carte a second glance. Sure, there are $2 bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon to be had during happy hour and $20 pitchers of the full gamut of Shiner beers all the time, but Beverage Director Alex Munoz has compiled nearly a dozen specialty drinks that will ably whet your whistle.
Those who favor the sweeter side of life should enjoy the dulcet tones of the Buffalo (bourbon and spiced rum swirled with a splash of Big Red soda) or the Austin Rattle Snake (more bourbon tempered with fresh watermelon and a slew of citrus juices). Fire-eaters can live dangerously with the Mayor of Lockhart (tequila, champagne and bitters bolstered by Serrano peppers) or Kreuz margarita (straight tequila and hot peppers). We most enjoyed tussling with the Amarillo Highway (marrying rye and honeyed-bourbon with fresh lemon) and the HC Cooler (a space-age screwdriver composed of domestic vodka and that NASA-approved, gravity-defying OJ known as Tang).
Dining in the song dungeon is a tad challenging, particularly if all the picnic-style tables have already been claimed. The best standing-room-only fare would have to be the brisket tacos, weaving together slow-smoked (16 to 18 hours) lean brisket with tangy pickled onions, creamy cotija cheese sauce, herbaceous cilantro and matchsticks of incendiary jalapeno, or the beef barbecue sandwich (seasoned, smoked and shaved beef shoulder heaped onto a bready bun).