Sunday, August 8, 2010

Busy music weekend in Kingston Springs 8/6-7/10

The Kingston Springs music scene continues to be hopping big time. In one Friday night, we saw three great gigs happening steps away from each other. You had the debut solo gig by promising singer/songwriter Cat Carter at Studio Mills, Calico Trail packing them in as usual in two sets at Red Tree Coffee during their standing first Friday of the month gig there, and the always smoking hot Good Gravy at the Fillin' Station. Had I gotten the timing right, I would have taken in all three (and some people were able to pull that off). But like MeatLoaf says, two out of three ain't bad. I'm still looking for a way to be several places at once...

The next evening, Saturday, was one happening gig at the Fillin Station. The buzz was out on a newly formed musical combination (temporarily named "Duo of Duos") consisting of singer/songwriter duo Mark Elliott and Gary Culley, and the McCarter Sisters, Teresa and Lisa, backed by Chip Chipoletti on percussion and Good Gravy's Tom Good on bass. Fortunately, it was not quite as blazing hot as the last time the group played there, making it a bit more comfortable for the capacity crowd that showed up (and, hopefully, the artists).

The McCarter twins worked very hard to learn a sizable repetoire in a short time, consisting of popular favorites and Mark and Gary's original tunes. The harmonies were tight and strong,as polished as if they all had been together for months. The four are excited about working with each other, and have more gigs planned in the coming weeks.

By the way, this isn't all that's going on musically in the downtown Kingston Springs area. Bobby Pizazz hosts a new songwriter night on Tuesday evenings at the Village Corner Pub and I'll be reporting on one of those in a couple of weeks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Michael Jay Cresswell and Friends, Fillin' Station, Kingston Springs, 6/27/10

Our fellow Radio Free Nashville DJ and friend Steve Haggard asked T.J. Kirby and me if we could have on our show for a brief guest segment an artist who just released a CD on his label Wild Oats Records. Michael Jay Cresswell was in the U.S. from his home in France visiting Nashville for a month. The interview went well and Michael was one charming guy with an excellent CD and a great British accent.

Two CD release shows were set up in town at the tail end of Michael’s visit, and we were happy to have a chance to attend one of those at the Fillin’ Station. The band put together for the shows was an “all star” lineup from the Wild Oats circle and did a fine opening set before Michael came on. It’s always good to hear these folks play together: Steve Haggard on guitar, harmonica and vocals, Kimberly King on vocals, Joel Alan Lehman on guitar and vocals, Walter Egan on bass and vocals and Kathy Burkly on drums. Michael’s set consisted of most of the songs from his "It’s Time" CD and it was an impressive one, with Michael showing a strong, powerful voice, great stage presence and personality (he was having quite a bit of fun with many of the audience members).

Michael’s got a great product with this CD and I think he’ll do well. I must say I’ll miss him and his precious sweetie Tracey, as we all bonded in such a short time. Knock ‘em dead, mate, but c’mon back Stateside again soon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hirum Hickum Project, Red Tree Coffee, 6/25/10

On a hot night like this, it’s tempting to stay home chillin’ in your air-conditioned home instead of going out. But my instincts were urging me to go out as I planned. I’ve had enough near misses to start paying better attention to my instincts, so I did venture out. This time, I am mighty glad I did.

When I walked into Red Tree Coffee, I found a new group made up of several familiar faces: Louise Mosrie (vocals/guitar), Greg Foresman(guitar/mandolin/dobro/vocals), Julie Grower (percussion/guitar/vocals), Bruce-Jon Brigham (guitar/vocals), and Steve Peffer (keyboards/accordion/strings/vocals). This was the “dress rehearsal” debut for the Hirum Hickum Project. This group of friends have been playing together informally for some time (and in fact, this night was not the first time I’ve seen four of the five play together...Louise, Greg, Julie and Bruce-Jon played a memorable Bluebird CafĂ© round in March of 2009). They decided to form a group, and already have a four song EP available. A few songs into their set, I knew I was indeed hearing a “supergroup”. Hirum Hickum shined on the three newer songs from the EP, and the Greg Foresman favorite “Strike Up the Band”. Louise also did a popular song from her “Home” CD, “God Lives In Arkansas”, and the group closed their set with a fine cover of “Bellbottom Blues”.

I’ve said this’s a great feeling to discover new acts and really get excited about them, and to anticipate what’s to come. The Hirum Hickum Project is off to a great start. They’ve got a memorable name and a memorable sound. Can’t wait to hear more.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Back On The Beat...

If anyone had been wondering, no, I haven't quit writing this blog or haven't stopped caring about the local songwriter scene. I just haven't had as much time as in the past to devote to it. Other things have been taking up my time. Since March I've had an extended stretch of temp work which puts me back on the day shift...which also means I can't stay out too late at shows (well, maybe once in a while) because I have to get up early. My sidekick gig on T.J. and Company also demands a chunk of time, because I am also the show blogger and the tech person. A lot of work goes into planning our fun two-hour show. If you haven't yet listened, I hope you will. Finally, I had this three week virus bug which took up residence in my throat (instead of my nose, where these things usually hit),causing violent coughing spasms which fired up big time as soon at nighttime hit. Not an ideal scenario for listening to live music. The remnants are still with me at this point, but thankfully it's much more under control.

OK, enough excuses. Not that I've exactly been a hermit. Admittedly I spend most of my weekends in my "adopted home area" of Pegram/Kingston Springs supporting acts playing at Red Tree Coffee and The Fillin' Station, like Good Gravy, Mohawk Slim Band, Culley and Elliott and a host of others. But I've not abandoned my other regular haunts like the Commodore, where I've been at least a couple of times these past weeks, or Doak Turner's 3rd Sunday gathering. Also, my radio partner T.J. Kirby and I hosted a stage at the Nashville Songwriters Festival, where we were gifted with several songwriters' CDs you'll be hearing a track or two from over the coming weeks. And I do plan to check out many other writers nights and places, but there's always the happy Nashville problem to contend with: too many hot things happening in the same night. What to do, what to do? Can someone please split me in two?

Many events I've been to over the past two weeks have been flood relief benefits. Red Tree and the Fillin' Station each had one which raised a good chunk of money, with music by many first-class special musical guests. Debi Champion also hosted a great one full of hit writers at the Commodore raised over $1,000 by the early hours of the evening. Then there was "Rebuilding Our Community" at the Mud Puddle Pottery/Harpeth Art Center, benefiting South Cheatham County flood victims and featuring good eats and fine music by hit songwriters Wood Newton and Ron Hellard, guitarist Verlon Thompson and Culley and Elliott backed by Braided Chord. The local communities continue to pull together and support one another, and the music more than lifts the spirits.

There's one thing I've been very grateful for. Despite my absences and my slacking off from this blog, I am still thankful to be able to walk into places I've mentioned above and still get a round of hugs from writers and artists. Thanks for hanging in with me and not forgetting me. I have not forgotten you and intend to stick with you. Because you know, I do love this town.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

After the Flood...

Friday, one week before. We were all jammed into Red Tree Coffee in Kingston Springs at a benefit for musician Jack Kapanka, seriously injured in an auto accident. Kids were stopping by on their way to the prom and we all cheered as they walked in displaying their finery. Several musicians took their turns sharing songs and, as often happens there at Red Tree, the spirit was a special bonding between artists and audience.

Who knew...

Saturday morning. The rain came pouring down. Not being a big fan of driving in rain so hard I can't see well, I nonetheless steeled myself to make my way to my radio show on Radio Free Nashville that afternoon via Old Harding Road to Highway 100. It was getting pretty wet then, I observed. By the time I was on my way to join T.J. and Rene for an after-show bite at Borders, a stretch of Old Harding Road was completely flooded and I had to reroute back to Temple Road and Highway 100.

Who knew...that 24 hours later the road I traveled and the cities of Kingston Springs and Pegram that I'd become so fond of would become the sites of many rescues by boat of people from their flooded homes and unbelieveable devastation. I soon knew how lucky I be able to have gotten back and forth to my destinations on Saturday and that my Bellevue subdivision would be spared the damage of the flood waters.

I tell this story here because it is in these times that music speaks and brings us together. Telethons and benefit concerts and tip jars abound to raise money for flood relief. And indeed, one of the very sites of the calm before the storm, Red Tree Coffee, is a command post for volunteers and was a place of healing last night with the music of the beloved Calico always, closing the distance between artist and audience, bringing us all together.

We are Nashville...and Kingston Springs, and Pegram and all the other hard hit places. We'll make it through this together.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Judy Whiting: A Personal Reflection

This is one piece I didn't want to have to write. Not because I didn't want to share some thoughts about a friend. The problem is that sadly, we lost this friend today...those of us who shared her determined optimism that she would make it through this setback were very shocked and saddened.

I first met Judy Whiting virtually, on the Nashville Music Pros networking site, where I learned we had much in common. I met her personally for the first time at the Radio Free Nashville studios. She had accompanied John Heinrich, who was being interviewed by George Adams on "Geo On The Radio", the show that preceded mine at the station at the time. I will always remember when she came out of the studio, hugged me and said, "You're just as pretty as your picture!"

Judy became a friend and encourager to me, as she was to many musicians in Music City. Of course, Nashville at times can seem like one big "small town". At John Heinrich's steel guitar demonstration at the Country Music Hall of Fame, through Judy I met singer/songwriter Garry Jackson, who it turned out had a couple of other friends on Radio Free Nashville who I hadn't yet met at that time. Garry, Steve Haggard and Kimberly King have since become very dear friends to me. We're all connected. Judy was a great connector.

Judy and I shared a couple of fun lunch dates together. Besides a little bit of "girl talk" here and there, the one topic that consistently came up with us--and which we were both in strong agreement on--was when it came to dealing with musicians in the course of the business, the relationships and friendships were much more valuable and important than all the musical politics.

I'm comforted by my pastor's reminder this Sunday to us that "to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord."

Go rest high, girl. As you always told us, keep the sunshine in your heart.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Recent Roundup

Where have I been? Well, the truth is, winter and I don't get along very well. When I lived in St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN I pretty much hibernated between November and April. There, the winters average about five months. For my first couple of years here in Nashville, winter was, for the most part, just time on the calendar. Snow? If there was a sprinkling of it, it was a big deal. But now, this year's snow frequency and temperatures is almost giving the Twin Cities a run for its money (well, okay, no, so we haven't had the below zero wind chills). Like it did in the Twin Cities, it's gotten old. My snow driving rule has been in effect: ice or snow, the car don't go. (Perhaps the only advantage to being unemployed...I'm not forced to risk my life and my little old car to dangerous driving conditions).

Where I'm going with all the above is to make the point that this year's winter has not been conducive to me doing much of what I came here for and keeping up this blog of late. However, I did venture out now and then.

It had been a while since I'd been to Tunesmithing, regularly hosted each month by Chuck Whiting, out at Edgehill Studios Cafe. February's edition had a very strong lineup. There were some excellent songs and vocal performances by Gary Gulbergh (backed vocally by wife Susan Shann) and Melissa Javors. My friend Randi Perkins did one of his finest sets ever, with his warmth and honest stories, songs and vocals charming the crowd. Closing the evening was noted singer/songwriter/author Lisa Aschmann. I could have listened to her sing all evening. I've been blown away by her acapella singing in past gigs, but this time backed with guitar and percussion, she was just as impressive.

I also got out to see for the first (and sadly, maybe the last) time the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. It was quite a wonderful display of artifacts and memories paying tribute to some of the unsung heroes of the music we love: the session musicians and writers. The biggest highlight for me was the screening of the film about "The Wrecking Crew". There was so much history there, filled with music and interviews with hit making artists and the people who made them sound great. It was hard for me to pull myself away from the screen, but I didn't want to miss the ceremony honoring the 2007 Hall inductees. I'd hoped to have been able to buy a DVD of the film (and resolved to do so if I could have, job or no job!)...but unfortunately, one wasn't available (you can go to the film website to help make that happen).

It was a thrill for me to see some of the noted honorees, such as Harold Bradley, Pig Robbins and many others. It was also great to see so many singer/songwriter friends of mine there (and to meet those for the first time who happened to recognize me!). I'd missed a lot of the networking and camaraderie being so danged cooped up.

I also got back out to Red Tree Coffee in Kingston Springs--hadn't been there since before the first of the year. The house was packed for the increasingly red-hot Calico Trail. Their songs, vocal harmonies and performing skills are first rate. They are currently recording their first CD. Watch these guys...they're going to do something big in town.

Spring is coming...right?