Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Steve Craig, Nikki Cole, Stephanie Layne, Elizabeth Runde - Bluebird Cafe 12/18/07

The last time I saw Steve Craig out at the 3rd Sunday gathering, he told me that he was excited about three female artists he was working with: Nikki Cole, Stephanie Layne and Elizabeth Runde. Steve put together a row at the Bluebird Cafe to showcase these three singer/songwriters who each did a very fine job of interpreting Steve's songs, and he in turn supported them well with guitar and backing vocals.

Steve kept noting through the evening about how "cute" Elizabeth is. Indeed, she is a darling young redhead with a powerful voice...currently a student at Middle Tennessee State University who plans to study music at Belmont University, Elizabeth has won several talent contests. Steve made good song choices to fit her voice, particularly "That's A Different Story", "Just A Dream", and "Way Too Many Tears Ago" (which Steve sang last time he was at the Bluebird in June).

Nikki Cole has a good stage presence and strong voice, as she showed on Steve's very clever song "Frequent Liar Miles", and her own composition "Roses" (accompanied by Tim Smith on guitar), a song about people trying to be strong on the outside in the face of trouble. Nikki has opened for several major acts including John Michael Montgomery and Tracy Byrd.

Northfield, MN native Stephanie Layne did a great job capturing the joys and sorrows of trying to carve out a career in Nashville in the song she and Steve co-wrote "Heart Wide Open". I also enjoyed her songs about cowboys and falling in love at the county fair. Stephanie fronted a band for a couple of years at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.

Steve seems to have a wonderfully successful gift of writing songs that just flow out of him easily. He described a few of the songs he did last night as having come forward that way, and every one of them were good. I've yet to hear a not so hot song from him. I find his songs very easy to picture hearing on the radio. Keep an ear open...

Speaking of Doak's 3rd Sunday gathering, I want to share with you a link to an article about it that Tennessean columnist, and songwriter, Rick Moore wrote:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Buddy Greene and Friends Christmas Concert, Christ Community Church, Franklin 12/14/07

It's been a wild week. I spent three days at Gaylord Opryland for Mark Lowry's Christmas Celebration Senior Trip. On Friday, it was off to Christ Community Church in Franklin for Buddy Greene's Christmas concert featuring Buddy, Jeff Taylor, and Tricia Walker.

Sometimes when you get a few moments into a show, you know it's going to be special. This one truly was. What I liked the most about it was that it wasn't a concert where the same tired Christmas songs were sung. Buddy, Jeff and Tricia took it out of the box and also brought in songs that really reflect the values that should be remembered at this time and beyond: loving and caring for one another. If you go to one of Buddy's shows, you'll also find much of his gentle humor, and that too was mixed well into the concert. (Best line of the evening: while introducing Jeff Taylor, Buddy said "One of Jeff's ministries to me is being balder than I am.")

Admittedly, I wasn't very familiar with Tricia Walker, but the buzz on her at the product table was accurate. A singer/songwriter with songs recorded by Faith Hill, Patty Loveless and Alison Krauss, her voice is exquisite and her song "Heart of Dixie" grabbed the soul. Jeff Taylor is one of the most diverse musicians around, supporting Buddy superbly as usual on piano, accordion, penny whisle and perhaps other instruments I've left out. One moment that brought down the house was Buddy and Jeff's "movements for accordian and harmonica, two lost instruments of the classical era".

As for Buddy...aside from his musical excellence, I love his soul, and I love his spirit. His rendition of the Stephen Foster classic "Hard Times" was passionate and heartfelt, a highlight of the evening. He also shined on "Glorious Impossible", a widely acclaimed song that the Gaither Vocal Band recently recorded, and of course, no way could he do a Christmas show and not do "Mary Did You Know". He told the audience the story of how Mark Lowry handed him the lyrics and asked him to come up with the medley, and that the reaction he got when he first played the tune in South Africa told him the song was something special. It was a neat experience for me to hear both composers put their own stamp on their performance of the song in the course of the same week.

Buddy told us not to go home early, as he would have a surprise for us at the end of the show. Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you in the picture--that is indeed Amy Grant, who joined Buddy, Jeff and Tricia on stage. Buddy and Amy did a couple of special appearances together in the past weeks and she stopped in on the show as a was a treat for all of us. Amy sang "Tennessee Christmas" and joined in at the end for "Go Tell It On the Mountain".

I'm here to tell you too that Buddy Greene is the real deal onstage and offstage, a guy who walks his talk and has a lovely family. Love ya, Buddy.

And of course, I love this town.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Michael McDonald, Ryman Auditorium, 12/2/07

OK...of all the great things that have happened to me since I moved here to Nashville, this one has to be the icing on the cake at this point. I got to meet the man himself, who has ranked high in my world of singers for 25+ years. Yes, that's right, Michael McDonald.

In truth, it's not really the first time I met him. A few years ago he played the Fine Line club in Minneapolis. I had planned to be visiting family out East then, but changed my flight plans for this show. He did an autograph signing after that show amidst a mob scene at the table. So I chose my one line to say to him: "boy, am I glad I changed my flight plans for this." I remember he said he was glad I did, too.

On this occasion too, I had to think about narrowing down what to say. I heard that the meet and greet where I'd be meeting Michael moves along quickly. I was hoping I'd remember my name (and not almost forget like the previous time when those blue eyes looked at me and I swear my heart stopped). My plan was to say this was by far the highlight of my move to Nashville and tell him I flew out for my 50th birthday a couple of years ago for his TPAC show.

Getting there, however, was a bit of an ordeal. Thunderstorms were predicted and, right on cue, the minute I got in my car, they started right up. People think that I am always just paranoid about this, but I kid you not. When I got around the Belmont University area, it looked like it had let up, so I figured maybe now I can move into the left lane. The moment I did that...whoosh. The next wave kicked in. I could hardly see where I was going but at least I wasn't far from downtown. I got to the First Baptist Church parking lot and decided I'd wait it out for a few minutes. But it continued and it was getting time for me to get there. Rain and all, I headed to the place where you pay for parking and the machine didn't want my credit card or my money. Great. So I decided to try the Landport lot and decided to pay whatever it wanted if I could get it to take my credit card. Fortunately it did and it was only $5. I was damp, but I made it there.

Every single person I have talked to who met Michael McDonald described him as one of the nicest guys in the business. After meeting him, I'd certainly agree. He was warm, down to earth, made you feel very comfortable. I did remember to say all the above, I didn't overtalk, and I didn't forget my name. He said he hoped I think it was still a highlight after hearing the show. (As if I would ever change my mind.)

The concert was terrific. Michael's voice was incredible as always and the musicianship of the band was outstanding. This was one of the shorter shows I've been to, clocking in at under two hours, but I appreciated that, especially on a Sunday night when you have to get up for work the next morning. Michael and the band didn't waste any time on filler, just got right down to it and gave the people what they wanted—Christmas songs and the hits. Though this was a Nashville show, there were no guest superstar appearances as in other concerts around town...but the man doesn't need any.

Drea and Sophie, I can't thank you enough for making the meeting happen.

60 degrees and thunderstorms on December 2 instead of 6 inches of snow. What the hey. I love it here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This Says It All...

In the "every picture tells a story, don't it?" department, this pretty much sums up a lot of what I've said in this blog about hearing all these songwriters here and enjoying what they do. This pic is from a recent 3rd Sunday gathering...I'm digging Brandon Maddox and Patrick "Moose" Hovious taking their turn in a round with a lot of other talented folks listening in.

Thanks to the amazing photographer Kat Speer for capturing this.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Songwriting To Be Thankful For

On this Thanksgiving week, what am I most thankful for this year? Well, that's obvious. Being here in Nashville and getting to be part of the music community as a non-performer writer/publicist/columnist/blogger/podcaster. It is truly a joy to go to places like Doak's 3rd Sunday, the Bluebird Cafe and other writer's night events and get to hear and support so many wonderful songwriters of various levels. Some of them have had success, others are just time away from having their big breakthrough song, and others are developing their unique artist presence.

A week or so ago at the Bluebird I heard ACM songwriters of the year Jamey Johnson and Buddy Cannon (for "Give It Away"), along with Dallas Frazier and John Scott Sherrill (with Mickey Raphael of Willie Nelson's band on harmonica). At Doak's this week I was sitting in a room listening to a few talented songwriters -- one later arrival happened to be Alan O'Day, writer and singer of the 70s hit "Undercover Angel" as well as writer of "Rock and Roll Heaven" and "Angie Baby", all of which he kindly did for us. I heard him along with Denny Martin, Paul Scott and Craig Monday days later at the Bluebird. As with so many of the shows I've seen there, it was a great evening of solid and clever songwriting (with songs about kids, zoos and women "sexy by accident")and entertaining humor.

Can't beat this, I tell ya. I love living here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bluebird Cafe Double Header 11/2/07

I took in a couple of shows at the Bluebird Cafe Friday for a long, late, wonderful evening. When I plan on going to the second show, I usually like to go to the first as well, since I work a few minutes away from the Bluebird (though on this evening, good old traffic took me half an hour to get there!). No sense going all the way home when I'm that close.

The first show consisted of some fine singer-songwriters: organizer Sonia Lee, who had a lot of friends and family from Rochester and Baltimore on hand to support her; Kim McLean (backed by Devon O'Day on vocals and "potato" percussion), who I last saw there at the JPF showcase; Mary Sue Englund, a Minnesota native who I used to hear from time to time at the Music City Cafe in St. Paul, now doing very well out here as a strong singer-songwriter presence and member of Pam Tillis' band; and Todd Sharp, who has worked as a guitarist with Rod Stewart, Hall and Oates and co-writer of the Christine McVie hit "I've Got Somebody" (which Sonia did the vocals on this evening). The three female songwriters knew each other and worked together (Kim also produced Sonia's CD and Sonia does all of their hairstyles!). Todd blended right in, bringing a warm camraderie and lots of laughs as well as great music. So many of their songs were based on personal experience (theirs or people they knew), creating a sense of intimacy between them and the audience. One common thread running through the set by these writers was letting go and letting God bring the inspiration through for their songwriting.

The second show was billed as "An Evening of Gospel Music, Old Hymns and Spirituals", featuring Buddy Greene (who needs no introduction to readers of this blog), singer-songwriter Ashley Cleveland, who has recorded often with Buddy and countless other artists, and the amazing family group Odessa Settles and the Connection (also featuring Todd Suttles, who appears on Buddy's "Happy Man" CD, and guitarist Bobby Hamrick). The styles ranged from African spirituals, powerful uptempo treatments of traditional hymns from Ashley and acoustic/harmonica renditions from Buddy. The artists backed each other on their songs, making for some wonderful collaborations. The audience loved it all and as I often do, I imagine what it's like to have these kinds of musical gifts.

Like I said, late but great evening of music. I love this town.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

3rd Sunday Notes

I missed the monthly get-together at Doak Turner's last month because I was in Louisville KY, so I was glad to be back this month. What's getting really cool for me now is that the more often I go, the more faces I recognize (and the more hugs I get). I've only been in town seven months and I must say, at this and other songwriter events I've gone to, I've not felt out of place and have always been made to feel welcome.

I got up to speed with some of those songwriters I've come to know from here and came away with a few tidbits:

- Steve Craig is excited to be working lately with three very talented artists: Elizabeth Runde, Nikki Cole and Stephanie Layne. They are doing some songs written by Steve. All three of these ladies have MySpace pages which you can check out.

- The awesomely talented Brian James has been playing gigs in other states but hopes to do some more in the Nashville area. We were especially impressed with a song he wrote about being a dad (even though Brian himself doesn’t have any kids!).

I met a couple of new faces and voices in person that I first met through MySpace and by word of mouth by my prolific singer/songwriter buddy Brandon Maddox. The Redheads, Britta and Brooke, now residing in Georgia, are reminding folks of a young version of the Judds.

Some of the others whose names I grabbed while dropping in on some rounds: Kenny Hayes, Scott Sanford, Andy Collins, Warren Evans (with an interesting song about being an organ donor), John DiBattista from Canada, Lois Akin and Jo Rankin. Some others I reconnected with from other occasions were Deb Ziems, Rob Wolf and storyteller songwriter Dave Saunders, who had a request from the Redheads for him to perform his song "Preacher Bill".

Just a reminder about why I love doing this particular blog. We have a lot of great talent in this town that needs to be heard. My job is to be a beacon of light to them and hope that you will be curious enough to note some of the names here and look for their websites, MySpace pages or find them in the weekly listings of songwriter events so you will check out their music. These singer/songwriters frequently perform for one another. I'm neither a singer nor a songwriter...I'm sort of the "end result", the listener. I think it’s important to give these artists encouragement at that level as well and let them know I'd be digging their songs if I heard them on the radio. For me to do all this here in Nashville is a great privilege.

And remember—if you're playing at Doak's or a writer's night and you see me there with pen and paper, be sure to tell me who you are!
Update: Lyrix will be closing its doors on October 31 due to the venue having lost its lease. I only got to Lyrix a couple of times, both of which I've written about here (see the JPF showcase and Rick Stewart writers night posts). It was a very nice venue with a welcoming atmosphere and great food. Same as I've often experienced with many Twin Cities coffeehouses and venues, it tends to be the good ones that go. My best to Tanya and the staff of Lyrix.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Writers Night, Christ Lutheran Church, 10/13/07

Back in my post about the monthly Music Row Mixer, I mentioned meeting a couple of people with some Minnesota ties. One of them was Randi Perkins, originally from North Dakota. We got to talking and I learned he was related to the talented Kat Perkins, now of the band Scarlet Haze.

I stopped by a writer's night which Randi hosted out at Christ Lutheran Church in Nashville. This event, a periodic fundraiser for the church's choir, started in 2005 and has featured new as well as established singer/songwriters. It was one of those intimate gatherings I enjoy so much, because there's a certain warmth which lends itself to a strong connection between artist and audience. Randi started things off with one of his songs (accompanying himself on piano for the first time publicly, he said—great job! ) "In Your Eyes". He's a poetic writer with a gentle Midwest manner and nice tenor range.

Mark Armstrong, originally from Philadelphia, is a relative newcomer to Nashville who brought a Delta blues feel and a reggae tune into the mix. I'm a slide guitar and dobro fan, so I appreciated his great string work he brought to his set, and he's a strong vocalist.

Randi first met Mitch Malloy, a Christian music artist, years ago when he judged a talent contest that Mitch won in the male vocalist category. He remembered Mitch for years afterward and it was easy for me to see why. He's a powerful singer whose songs convey a sincere message. Mitch has enjoyed success on the music charts and currently has a track, "Fly", featured on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 66. You can hear this and some of the other songs he did on his MySpace page.

Donna Ulisse, accompanied by her husband Mark Stanley on guitar and vocal, is a bluegrass artist (saying she married into the genre—Mark is Ralph Stanley's cousin) with a beautiful, clear voice. Donna's CD "When I Look Back" is getting a great reception internationally and on radio.

I was originally supposed to be somewhere else this evening, but things changed and I'd say they did for the better. I'm glad I had a chance to hear this group of artists…and thanks, Randi, for all of your hospitality. The next CLC writer's night may happen around the first of the year. It's a sweet event worth supporting.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sparkle and Twang and Bluegrass

One of the great things about living in Nashville is a lot of good stuff happens downtown that you can take advantage of and participate in. Today I finally got a chance to get over to see Marty Stuart's "Sparkle and Twang: Marty Stuart's American Musical Odyssey" exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum. It's an amazing collection of country music memorabilia that Marty has been compiling for many years. There are a lot of items tracing the development of Marty's career. The most fascinating of those is an essay he wrote in the 6th grade talking about how he wanted to be a famous musician and laid out exactly how he wanted to do it. Don't you know just about everything in there came to pass for him. Another interesting one is the display of the dress Connie Smith wore the day Marty went to see her perform when he was a youngster and declared he was going to marry her.

But Marty, you've got to make that video feature in the exhibit available for folks to buy on DVD. It's a compelling look at Marty's career which features lots of great archival footage, interviews, a feature on Johnny Cash including video from one of his last recording sessions, and a couple of songs. I about spent half my time watching that as well as looking over the displays.

Later, I headed down to the IBMA Bluegrass Fan Fest (thanks, Buddy, for the ticket!). I heard some great music, got a free lunch and checked out the exhibits. Most of the booths were instrument vendors or otherwise geared toward musicians. I walked around and heard so many amazing young kids trying out the instruments.

When I was in grade school, I was in a music program for a short time. I tried violin and flute, but didn't stay long with either. Now I've kicked myself for that from time to time. If I had known of the existence of bluegrass back then, I'd have stayed with the violin and of course, called it a fiddle. I talked to a fellow who was representing a great program called Bluegrass Apprentice Program, which is a curriculum for learning bluegrass in a school music class, including banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass. He also showed me a G chord on the mandolin. I am a mandolin fan and still entertain thoughts of taking lessons one day. Getting involved in a program like that would give me a good reason for wanting to be a kid again.

Did I mention that I love this town?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Music Row Mixer

This month I attended another monthly music industry get-together. The Music Row Mixer takes place on the last Thursday of the month from 4-6 p.m. at The Longshot Sports Bar, located in the same Music Row strip as Tin Roof and other places. Like Doak Turner's 3rd Sunday gathering, you'll see many singer-songwriters and perhaps a few music business people...except at this event, no one's playing. It's a networking social often leading to co-writes among those attending. Very tasty wraps, wings, pizza, and free drinks are courtesy of SunTrust Bank. If you're on the shy side, no worries--people are very friendly, just have a seat and you'll find someone to chat and network with in no time. For me, it was another "small world" event--I met someone related to a musician I know in Minnesota and I also met the NSAI coordinator in Minneapolis.

The first mixer was in February. Some of the people attending the event included Gary Hannan (Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off – Joe Nichols), Tony Stampley (writer of several Hank Jr. cuts and son of music legend Joe Stampley), and Rich Furtner of DISCMAKERS. Some came from Charlotte, NC, Green Bay, WI and Australia, along with many other locals of the Nashville music community. Host Jeff Jones from SunTrust Bank and Derek Sanders of SunTrust also attended the event.

(Thanks, Doak, for the additional background information!)

Monday, September 17, 2007


Technically not a Nashville event, but one that does bring together many artists based here: I had the opportunity to attend the National Quartet Convention in Louisville KY for three days. For those unfamiliar, it's the big annual event that brings together a multitude of Southern Gospel music artists, music industry folks, and fans. As it has changed with the times, it's not just for quartets. You'll find soloists, trios and mixed groups among the artists.

I was there to work a booth so I didn't get the chance to hear as much music as I normally would have. However, these three days afforded me a great learning opportunity as to how things happen in the music world. As I noted in my most recent "Ponderings" post about my "birthday concert" featuring Buddy Greene and Gordon Mote, most fans who enjoy a music event on the surface level probably have not much idea of just what goes into the making of an event. Indeed, the same applies to the product tables which are an integral part of NQC. I learned that it's not as simple as unpacking CDs and putting them out on a table. Behind the scenes there are decisions about what to bring and how much, how to best display items, loading up and tearing down efficiently and how to hang in there when you're on your feet on a concrete floor for 8 or so hours.

For a play by play of NQC, I refer you to search the many Southern Gospel blogs and websites out there. But here are a few personal highlights of mine:
- Finally meeting some of the artists and industry people in person that I got acquainted with on MySpace or other cyberspace means.
- Mark Lowry and LordSong wowing the crowd on Friday evening and getting some glowing reviews.
- "Pianorama" on Saturday afternoon (the only music event I was able to attend in full). My favorites: Roy Webb, formerly of Signature Sound, off to a great start in launching a solo career and earning a standing ovation. I finally got to hear Kim Collingsworth, and fully got why there's such a big buzz for her piano playing. She was incredible.

Yeah, I'm thinking about going back next year.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Buddy Greene - Station Inn 8/22/07

After a long day of work, I was pumped to be heading downtown for a gig I long looked forward to: Buddy Greene's CD release show at the Station Inn for his new bluegrass/acoustic album "Happy Man".

First, I'll disclose that I have the honor of doing radio promotion for Buddy Greene's "Happy Man" CD. But even as a regular fan, I would not have missed this show for any reason. It's been way too long since I heard Buddy play live--I think it had been at the last Gaither "Praise Gathering" event I attended a couple of years ago.

The place was sold out to capacity and people were being turned away. All of us lucky people who made it in were treated to an incredible evening of true virtuoso musicianship by Buddy and his two bands (yes, two sets with different bands!). All of Buddy's bandmates for the evening appeared on the "Happy Man" CD: Pat Flynn (guitar), Kenny Malone (percussion), Byron House (upright bass), Jeff Taylor (keyboards, accordion), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle, mandolin), Dennis Crouch (upright bass).

Some guest musicians stopped by was great hearing Sonya and Ben Isaacs back Buddy on vocals on "Wrasslin' Jacob" and "Walkin' In Jerusalem" (joined also on this tune by Todd Suttles). "Hambone practitioner" Keith Compton sat in on "Little Rabbit". At one point in the evening, Buddy stepped aside and let his players shine on a little "Hillbilly Jazz", led by guitarist Richard Smith.

Along with the stellar musicianship, there was a lot of fun. The guys joked throughout the set and everyone had fun with the good-natured "Denomination Blues", a song described as an "equal opportunity offender."

My personal highlights: a beautiful rendition of "Hard Times", featuring Buddy and Jeff Taylor; Cajun boogie with "Happy Man"; and "Bonaparte's Retreat" which featured Buddy's harmonica wizardry and solid picking by the band.

I told myself I really should leave a little early because I did have to get up for work the next day. But there just was no way I could. I'm glad I stuck it out and opted for getting by on little sleep. Just like at "Praise Gathering", when we'd go out to eat after the evening concert and make it a late one, but got up early the next day because Buddy was doing the music for the early worship service. Sleep deprivation's a small price to pay to hear artistry like Buddy's.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rick Stewart Writers Night - Lyrix 8/15/07

So far, I've been to a few singer/songwriter events here in Nashville, but this was the first regularly held "writer's night" aside from the Bluebird Cafe that I've gone to in Nashville. This one, hosted by Rick Stewart, took place at Lyrix Cafe. This is a great little place to hear music and the food is excellent--do plan on having dinner if you go there for an event.

I didn't get to hear everyone on board to play as I was only there for the early part of the evening. The "small world department" was my reason for choosing this one to come to. Among the many talented people I heard when dropping by at Doak Turner's get togethers was a fellow named Brandon Maddox. I started a temp job across town recently and someone I was introduced to looked quite familiar. It was indeed the same Brandon I heard at Doak's. Thus I wanted to drop by and give him some support. Backed by a rockin' harmonica player, Patrick Hovious, Brandon was musically solid lyrically, vocally and on guitar. I think he's got the whole package to be a success, and he's a terrific young guy as well.

Also part of the same three song round set were Deb Ziems (celebrating her birthday!) and Mary Hartman, who had a good crowd following, both very strong, diverse songwriters and vocalists.

The evening kicked off with a round featuring Jesse McRae, Diana Kelley and Rob Wolf. Diana was another of those I first heard at Doak's, sitting in a den room with a few of us, playing a couple of her songs. I remember being very impressed with her voice and her songs (as did the others in the room), and she showed again this evening that she is a very strong talent to keep an ear on. Jesse and Rob also had some fine material, and Rob's ode to the Titans was a hoot.

Even as a non-songwriter, I easily pick up on the support and encouragement that singer/songwriters in this town give each other...not just by showing up, but also by those on stage with one another stepping up to add a musical part or backup vocal to kick someone's set up a notch. It's great to see them help each other out to achieve the same goal.

By the way, all those I've mentioned have MySpace pages, so do look them up if you have the chance. And as with these and all the singer/songwriters I've mentioned in the Blend, look for their names next time you are scanning the writer's night listings and go give them a listen.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

JPF Showcases 8/2, 8/4/07

I will always remember the Just Plain Folks (JPF) roadtrip showcase I attended in St. Paul a couple of years ago. Many of the musicians taking part were those I knew of or were friends with from the clubs and coffeehouses in the Twin Cities. I was so proud of everyone who played. They were all on their game that night and I met many new musicians, some I stayed in touch with for awhile. So now that I am here in Nashville, I knew I had to take in both of the showcases planned for Nashville this year, at the Bluebird Café and Lyrix, respectively.

The Bluebird Café showcase featured some of the multi award winners from the JPF music awards in a set of two rounds. The first one featured Melody Guy, Cheley Tackett, Chris Young and Kim McLean, who were all very compelling songwriters. I know many people were there to see Chris Young. At 15 years old, Chris would post questions to the JPF message boards about songwriting and getting started in the business. Looks like a lot of that good advice has paid off, since his career is growing steadily since winning "Nashville Star". The second round featured Bob Malone (a hot piano player/singer/songwriter), vocal powerhouse Erika Luckett and the legendary Janis Ian. It was a thrill to hear her perform "At Seventeen" live.

The Lyrix showcase featured over 30 artists who signed up for a one song spot. I didn't realize how many artists come from other parts of the country to play at a JPF showcase in a particular city. Quite a few came from the Massachusetts area. I wish I could say something about every single one of them, but with that many playing, it was just too hard and this entry would go on for days. I will just say they were all uniquely wonderful to watch. But, I did attempt to capture the names of all featured artists who played. JPF founder Brian Austin Whitney (pictured above) kindly let me grab his clipboard once or twice, but if you were there and you see anyone whose name I butchered or left out, let me know and I'll fix it. Anyhow, here goes:

Joe Wickersham, Alan Ross, Tori Sparks, Julie Grower, Judy Klass, Donnie Witt, Jacob Israel, Lisa Lawrence, Mike Dunbar, Lisa Martin, Hal Benoit, Guy-Michael Grande, Harriet Ames, Jack Swain, Susan's Room, John Stoecker, Herbie Gaines, Cowboy Slim, Shelia Quattlebaum, Carolyn Rose Wilson, Joe Wraybek, Melody Guy, Cheyenne Medders, JoAnne Lurgio, Brian Keith, James Norris, Rob U, Ka'hryn, Greg Austin, Lance Allen, Vondelle Hebert, Lee Quick, Barbara Cloyd

This evening was also a great networking opportunity and chance to meet new people. In the end, we capped off the long evening with the traditional JPF group photo. These showcases were just another testament to the great talent to be found out there. Perhaps you will be hearing more of these names again in the future, so take note of them...also try looking them up on the web or MySpace and check them out.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 Fan Festival

As promised, here are a few notes on the Fan Festival concert series of the past week. I went to two of the five nights of the concerts (Thursday and Friday), held at River of Life Church in Smyrna. Both had very strong lineups.

Thursday had Mercy's Mark, TK and McRae, Everyday Driven, the Prophets, Johnny Minick and friends and Ann Downing. I'd been particularly looking forward to seeing Ann Downing. I first saw her on the Gaither video "What A Time" doing "Jacob's Ladder". I thought, who is this vivacious woman? (I must note that I've only been a Southern Gospel fan about six years, so I learned about the Downings, Speer Family, etc. long after the fact). Thus I became one of her "FANNtastics". "Ann D" closed the show in her very personal style...and yes, she did "Jacob's Ladder". Johnny Minick, who pastors the church hosting the Fan Festival, brought with him Alison Durham Speer, Mike Allen (who also sang with the Prophets) and his son, Aaron Minick, who's been gathering quite a buzz with his big band style.

Friday's lineup was equally impressive: the Freemans, Blackwood Gospel Quartet, Joyce Martin-Sanders, Sharron Kay King, Sunday Edition, the Quicks and the Pathfinders. Joyce Martin-Sanders looked and sounded vibrant. The Freemans were great crowd pleasers. I was new to the Quicks, but enjoyed their Manhattan Transfer-like arrangements on a couple of songs. I had not heard Sunday Edition (Deon, Chris and Amy Marie Unthank) before, either...I was very impressed with their performance, enough to buy a couple of CDs and make note to see them again in the future.

I wish I'd been able to attend the last day's concert with the talent contest. I would recommend saving up gas money and gearing up for the rush hour traffic to do this again next year. It's a great series of gospel music concerts that's worth supporting.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Christ Church Choir concert 7/19

July is a wild month for gospel music fans in Nashville...even more so if you're an artist seeking to learn more about your musical craft. There are three music schools that take place over the month: Christ Church music conference, Steve Hurst school and Stamps-Baxter school. All three of those include concerts. I heard so many great things about these shows from people in past years, so I hoped to be able to take in some of those now that I'm here. Unfortunately, this year it was hard to get timely information...many of those concert lineups seem to be secret or are not widely publicized, so I was a bit disappointed to learn after the fact I missed some folks I really wanted to hear.

I did catch one well publicized concert by one of Nashville's greatest musical treasures: the Christ Church Choir. The choir gave us a preview of its upcoming release, "He Still Leads", due in January. As always, it's a treat to hear the choir tear it up and watch choir director Landy Gardner boogie down and get totally absorbed in the music. I also found his testimony on seeking God's direction and the steps that brought him where he is today quite inspiring. The Christ Church choir is known for having superb soloists and there were many, standouts among them Gaither video favorite Joy Gardner, daughter Dionne Gardner Dismuke, Maurice Carter and Christ Church Pastor Dan Scott. Dan Scott in particular impressed me at Mark Lowry's Senior Trip in Asheville last year and I promptly bought his CD. I would go hear him in a solo concert anytime.

Before the Christ Church portion of the concert, there were sets featuring vocal group Higher Ground, the Voices of Lee and Gordon Mote. I knew Gordon has a new CD out, so part of my reason for going to this show was to hear him and get the CD. Gordon told the audience he was working through some laryngitis, but you'd hardly been able to tell. Gordon did the title track of the new release "Don't Let Me Miss The Glory"(which earned a standing ovation), "Adoration", backed as on the CD by the wonderful Voices of Lee, and always crowd-pleasing favorite "Old Gospel Ship", where he cuts loose on piano. But country radio, listen up: Gordon has a potential smash hit on his hands with the song "Wake Up Dancin". I heard this song about a year and a half ago as a demo on one of Mark Lowry's website shows, and I told Gordon then I thought this song could do big things. I'm glad he recorded this one...we'll see what happens.

The fun continues for Southern Gospel fans with the Fan Festival. I'll report on one of those concerts in the coming week.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday at Doak's: Boomer and a Room Full of Daves

Some items from one of my favorite monthly events, Doak Turner's 3rd Sunday gathering of songwriters (and those of us who love them):

First, an item for the "who knew?" department. Growing up in the mid 60s and being a loyal 16 magazine and Tiger Beat reader, amidst a lot of coverage on the Monkees, I often read about some fellows closely associated with them, the Lewis and Clarke Expedition. The act was fronted by Michael Martin Murphy (later of "Wildfire" fame) and Boomer Castleman. I also do remember their hit "I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)". Boomer Castleman is now in Nashville and I got to meet him at Doak's gathering. He was really surprised that I remembered the Lewis and Clarke Expedition connection (and thanks, Boomer, for saying I wasn't old enough to remember, but really, I am). I mean, how cool is being able to meet someone you read about back in the 60s? Boomer is quite active these days, and this article will bring you up to speed on where he's been and what he's doing now.

Making the rounds, including a refuge into the air conditioning, I listened to some excellent songs by a roomful of Daves (Dave Saunders, Dave DeMay, Dave Stone) and Bill Luigi. I ran into or heard some folks I remembered from past gatherings: Joe Hrasna, Brandon Maddox, Jesse Goldberg. I also heard many talented people in the rounds outside, such as Gary Lynn Williams from TX, Don Gaylord...those were a few names I caught; unfortunately, sometimes it's hard to get all the names straight in that large a gathering.

I also had the pleasure of meeting renowned songwriter Marc-Alan Barnette, a regular organizer of the event along with Doak, who like so many of the songwriters here each month, went out of his way to make me feel welcome and take an interest in what I'm doing and why I'm there. He also premiered a new song, "Chicks and Salsa", co written by Marc-Alan, Desiree and Adriann Corso of Canada and Clifford from California.

A few other notes on some songwriters at the gathering:
"Simpli Lauri" Merrow has a new CD, "Leave the Porch Light On", with CD release shows at Music City Bar and Grille on July 20th and the Broken Spoke on July 21.

And, congrats to Doak Turner--a song he co-wrote, "Talkin' Part", recorded by Ryan Weaver, is starting to get some country radio buzz. Well deserved!

As I noted before, this is one of the nicest events in town and I sure look forward to doing this every month, even when I can only put in a few hours. Great music, great people, great food. Can't ask for much more than that.

Uncle Dave Macon Days

This weekend I headed out to Murfreesboro and checked out the Uncle Dave Macon Days festival. Set in an old fashioned village, the event features bluegrass and old time music competitions and impromptu jams, plus lots of craft and food vendors.

But, I blew my chance to learn to become a banjo picker. I happened to meet up with the person teaching the workshop and arranged to stop by. However, because I somehow had it in my head it was happening at noon, I got engrossed in the mandolin competition (my favorite instrument) and went for chow after it was over. Then I happened to look at the sheet and saw the banjo workshop was at 11. I hurried over to where I thought it was, but found a locked door. Oh well. If it had been a mandolin workshop, I'd have been there a half hour early. Maybe it's just not in the cards for me to actually be a musician...guess I'll continue applauding.

I circled the grounds over and over looking for the WSM booth, but no one could tell me where it was. I was hoping to get my "Stubbs" shirt, but no luck. Then it started getting too hot and too crowded to hang out for long, so I headed out. But if you love bluegrass and old time, it's a nice place to check out some good music and encourage some up and coming players.

Friday, July 6, 2007

July 4th week: Eddie, Marty, Connie and Vince

After attending two events in Nashville this week, one fact seems to be abundantly clear. Eddie Stubbs is the king of this town. And rightfully so.

Eddie is the consummate professional, a torchbearer for the pioneers of classic country music, and as you'd find when you meet him, a perfect gentleman. For all of this and more, he's very highly respected by artists and fans alike. He is showered with accolades regularly by many artists, especially the folks he appeared with this week, and takes them all with class and humility.

I went to my second of his monthly "Intimate Evening With Eddie Stubbs" live broadcast on WSM, this one celebrating the 10th wedding anniversary of Marty Stuart and Connie Smith. It was another evening of fun and laughter and tracing two distinguished careers. Marty is a musician of integrity and, like Eddie, a champion for the cause of remembering the legends of country music (evidenced by his new book of photos and his memorabilia exhibit "Sparkle and Twang"). I had the chance to hear and meet Connie last month at CMA Fan Festival. Marty described her best: "My baby is an American essential!" One fact I did not know until that evening was that Marty and Connie co-wrote my favorite track of his, the duet "Farmers Blues" with Merle Haggard.

One very entertaining moment was when Marty did his best to distract Eddie as he was doing one of his off the top of his head sponsor spots. Yet, despite all of Marty's efforts (including showering Connie with kisses), the unflappable Stubbs didn't miss a beat.

During the autograph breaks, I got my picture taken with Marty and Connie. I declared Marty the hottest guy in country music and Connie wholeheartedly agreed with me. I also got to meet other folks in the audience that evening: Joanne Cash and Dr. Ray Yates of the Nashville Cowboy Church, and country music historian Robert K. Oermann.

Now that I've been to a couple of these "Intimate Evenings" I've begun to spot some regular faces in the line before the show. One person even shared her cookie with me. These are really fun events to go to if you win tickets and a great deal all around.

Eddie was also featured at another event, a Bluegrass concert featuring Vince Gill and Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys. Mandolin bluegrass legend Jesse and his band did a fine opening set which featured a guest appearance by Vince. Jesse also threw in a few amusing rooster and chicken stories (making sure to note these were not the sponsored Springer Mountain Farms chickens he was talking about!).

With the exception of "Go Rest High" (done as an encore by audience request), there weren't any of Vince's greatest hits in his set. Vince's roots are in bluegrass and he played many songs he loved when he was a young picker (covering much of his "top 9") and songs from the bluegrass disc of his well-received "These Days" collection. Regarded by many as an ace guitar player as well as a great singer, Vince played mandolin all evening and showed some fine skill.

Of course, an evening with Vince Gill wouldn't be quite complete without some of his trademark humor, and there was much of that throughout the evening. The highlight for me was the story of how he and his young bluegrass band opened for KISS in the 70s for $100. It was a disaster, with the band being booed off the stage after two songs. But the group did not escape notice from a reviewer. The review noted the opening act's mismatch with the rock band, and mentioned that group member Vince, upon leaving the stage, told the crowd which part of his anatomy they could kiss.

Vince brought in a special guest musician for one number: none other than Eddie Stubbs. Eddie played fiddle in Maryland as a member of the Johnson Mountain Boys, and fans here got a taste of that. Eddie received a rousing ovation.

Next time I go to an "intimate evening" broadcast, I'm getting me one of those "STUBBS" shirts.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Margaret Becker, Cafe Forte, 6/18/07

Margaret Becker has had a long and distinguished career in Christian music. When I first started discovering contemporary Christian music in the 80's, one of the first albums I bought was one of hers. Her appearance at Cafe Forte (held at Edgehill Studios Cafe) was one of the most personally inspiring evenings I've ever spent. Margaret's songs and her testimony about her career journey lit a fire of encouragement under all of us artists and non-artists. Her voice is a beautifully strong and expressive instrument.

Margaret's beginnings were rather humble...she worked as many as seven jobs in her native Long Island before going for her dream in Nashville. She paid some serious dues once here, living in precarious conditions and playing multiple roles from backup singer to merch person to driver in her early tours. Yet, early on in her journey when things were tough, she declared, "I came here to do what I'm supposed to do and until I'm told otherwise, I will proceed." Eventually, a chance encounter with someone she met while in college led to her getting a record deal.

Margaret told the crowd to be true to whatever their calling is and it was something that they MUST do if their passion is strong. The Dove award winner emphasized that it was not about how many numbers of people you play to and how many accolades you get...touching even one person is worth it all. Addressing the pitfalls that come with being an artist, she also powerfully reminded us that "broken bread feeds many."

I found Margaret to be one of the most approachable, down to earth of the established artists I've met in my time here, very generous with her time and her encouragement talking to people in between sets and afterward.

After this evening, I too felt more empowered to continue doing what I came to Nashville to do.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Corner Music Showcase 6/6/07

Amidst the throes of CMA week with a lot of events happening at the same time was a very charming evening of acoustic music at Caffeine in Music Row. Six unique singer/songwriter acts shared their music and their hearts at the first of a monthly series of faith-based songwriter events sponsored by Corner Music. Corner Music's Scott Oliver served as a supportive and entertaining host (pulling out quite a few musician jokes over the evening).

In the "small town" department, I either knew or met four of the six acts a short time before I realized they were all playing at this same gig.

I first met Jonathan Aaron Porter, of Lebanon TN, in the line at the door of the Bluebird Cafe about two weeks earlier. Newly graduated from ministry school, Jonathan charmed us with thought provoking songs about believers' roles as God's disciples. One of the most striking songs was "I See The Nails".

I met Irene Kelly a couple of nights earlier at Cafe Forte, where she led worship music for the organization's dedication service. This evening we got to see another musical side of her. Accompanied on bass by her husband Tim Gaines (a member of the Christian band Stryper), she showed vocally soft and strong edges. One set standout were "Bough That's Breaking", a song for the troops.

You might recall me mentioning how impressed I was with Brian James when I heard him briefly at Doak Turner's songwriter picnic. I was anticipating hearing Brian in a more structured set. He did not disappoint--he's got a sweet, clear voice and solid songwriting, particularly on "Fallen Angels" and a song he wrote based on the "footprints" poem.

One new person to me this evening was Kimberlee Dunbar, a gospel/jazz vocalist and founder of a new support organization called Christian Women of Entertainment. Despite still dealing with the effects of a vocal cord cyst which left her unable to sing for a year, Kimberlee sounded strong and showed great style and versatility. I particularly liked "In His Time" a song about awaiting God's timing rather than ours, and her fine take on the classic song "Smile".

Houston, TX native and music industry professional Stin Fox was the "fun guy" of the group. His amusing song "Gospel Hair" had the crowd laughing, but he also showed a serious side with "Symphony of Silence" where he asked to audience to remain silent for a moment at the end of the song.

Tara and Scott Oliver closed the show with some fine guitar playing by Scott and Tara's passionate vocal power. The duo spent many years performing at coffeehouses in Los Angeles, and one song this evening, "Georgia Brown" was dedicated to an older woman who had a rough go in life but was always in the audience to encourage Tara and Scott when they played.

On a personal and professional note, I was honored to be given an opportunity during the evening to tell the audience what it is I am hoping to do here in Nashville. To have that chance to speak to a group in the Nashville musical community after only being in town two months was beyond my expectations. I'm very grateful to Tara and Scott for their encouragement!

Corner Music's monthly faith-based showcases will be held at different venues around Nashville. Contact the Olivers for further information.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Cafe Forte

Since one of the main purposes of what I hope to do in Nashville focuses on encouragement, I went to check out a group of kindred spirits who came highly recommended to me. Cafe Forte is an organization with the purpose of encouraging and edifying songwriters who are Christian and believers working in the music industry. The leaders of Cafe Forte, Jeremy and Kenya Whaley, Julie Branham and Irene Kelly, are dedicated to the goal of supporting each other in artistry with an emphasis on building relationships. More than just a musician showcase, its weekly programs feature such things as industry professionals sharing their experience or songwriters sharing the craft behind the song.

Cafe Forte celebrated its first anniversary this month with a lovely dedication ceremony and some great worship music. You can certainly sense something exciting and fresh taking place, and the deep love and caring that the artists and other attendees have for one another. I was very warmly welcomed and perhaps I'll be able to offer them some of what I do in the way of encouragement in the near future.

Cafe Forte meets every Monday from 7-9 p.m. at Edgehill Studios Cafe, 1201 Villa Place, in Nashville near Music Row.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Bluebird Cafe: Steve Craig, Ron LaSalle, Paul Neilsen, Kathy Ashworth 6/2/07

Songwriter Steve Craig was one of those I met a couple of weeks ago at the aforementioned Doak Turner's 3rd Sunday songwriting gathering. So, when he e-mailed me about a gig he was doing at the Bluebird with three other songwriters, I decided I'd drop by. It was yet another enjoyable evening discovering new singers and writers.

What I've liked about many of the singer/songwriter "round" events I've been to thus far is that there is a lot of camraderie and humor among the artists. No one really takes him or herself too seriously, and that aspect makes for a more entertaining show for the audience.

A lot of the audience came in support of Steve Craig -- it looks like he's got a pretty good following. He shared a lot of new songs he hadn't played before crowds, though I did recognize a couple from the round I listened in on at Doak's gathering. Now, as a listener who is not a practicing songwriter, I listen with the perspective of "could I imagine hearing these songs on the radio?" Steve has the knack for placing memorable hooks in his songs, so I think he's got a good chance of meeting this goal in the future. Strong bets would be his songs "Closer Than You Think", "Way Too Many Tears" and a touching song written to encourage a friend, "If You Could See What I See".

Kathy Ashworth provided a lot of the humorous songs to the round. She zeroed in on a couple of topics that the women in the audience strongly related to --the love (and buying of) lots of shoes, and the bigger your life gets, also the bigger your purse gets ("Little Purse Girl"). She did a song she had Kenny Chesney or Jimmy Buffett in mind for, "Local Wherever I Go" which had the audience spontaneously joining in on the chorus (hmm...sounds like a hit in the making?). I also liked one song about life's blessings, "Upside Down", and a song she brought up a friend, Michael Scott, to sing, "Little In Love".

Originally slated for the round as Kathy's accompanying guitarist, Paul Neilsen proved to be a fine fill-in participant(replacing Amanda Hunt-Taylor, who had to cancel). Paul did some fine songs which he co-wrote. Perhaps the biggest hit with the crowd was a suggestive song which turned out to be about a guy wanting to come back as his wife's cat, because of all the attention it gets. Paul also did some excellent guitar work throughout the evening. One thing I admire about these players is their ability to just drop in these great licks, whether they've heard these songs or not.

Ron LaSalle is a rock/blues style singer and songwriter, with a big strong voice that reminds you of Bob Seger. He's an engaging storyteller, having the crowd laughing over one song's account of "giving away a house" (a/k/a divorce) and the unsuccessful attempt to get the house back. His crowd favorite was an ode to midlife crisis, complete with audience participation on the chorus, called "Let's Not Act Our Age."

One friendly reminder to artists: be sure you tell us before the evening ends if you've got a website, MySpace page, etc. so we can continue to keep track of you and hear you again if you're playing in town. I'm one of those who is proactive about hunting down this info, but others may forget to do so afterward--so make sure you don't miss out on the support.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

WSM: An Intimate Evening With Eddie Stubbs and Joe Nichols

I have yet to be lucky and have a winning lottery ticket or something big like that (I play rarely, folks), but sometimes I win these smaller things, like tickets to last night's event at the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. It was one of Eddie Stubbs' monthy "Intimate Evening" live radio broadcasts, this one with Joe Nichols.

Having lived in St. Paul, I've attended many a live Minnesota Public Radio broadcast, including "A Prairie Home Companion" episodes. But I must say the audience had probably as many laughs here as they would at that show...Joe is quite a character, with many quick quips, humorous anecdotes and mugging for the audience during commercial breaks and when his songs were played from the studio. He talked a lot about the early days in his career, mentioning that he played regularly at my favorite downtown Nashville restaurant, Rippy's (where I had dinner before the show). Joe and his guitar player, Brian Spradlin, treated us to a couple of acoustic performances of Merle Haggard tunes, "That's the Way Love Goes" and one other which I forgot the title of, earning them a standing ovation.

Joe very graciously did quick meet and greets during the breaks. Eddie Stubbs is also a true gentleman and a real pro, doing sausage commercials off the top of his head (the tall thin announcer got a laugh from the audience when he mentioned the sausage came in low fat "if you're watching your figure, like me") and making the whole thing look relaxed and easy.

If you're in the Nashville area, these shows are fun events to be able to attend if you can. can give you info on how to win tickets. Some advice: wear comfortable shoes--there is a lot of standing and waiting in line before the show. And, check out parking options, as the lots around the Hall of Fame can be a bit pricey.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

ITR at the Bluebird Cafe: Michael O'Brien, Morgan Cryar, Sean Smith, Brad Reynolds

A few days ago, I heard Morgan Cryar's beautiful song and one of my favorites, "What Sin" on my cable TV music channel. Later on, I went online and checked out the Bluebird Cafe calendar and found that he was appearing in an early show in the round along with Michael O'Brien. Well, I thought, maybe I ought to check that out. I added this show to my calendar on short notice.

Longtime Christian music fans need no introduction to Michael O'Brien or Morgan Cryar. Both are accomplished songwriters and singers (Michael also is known for his tenure in NewSong). I was not familiar with Brad Reynolds and Sean Smith...but read on for more on those guys.

You could say I was "up close and personal" with these four fellows, as my table was practically right in the round itself. So close, really, that I could have been taken for a participant, but fortunately for the guys and the crowd, I wasn't. :)

A large majority of the songs centered around marriage and family. But it wasn't all bliss. Sometimes marriages hit rocky roads, or divorce happens, or parenting becomes a challenge. Michael, Brad, Sean and Morgan showed the joys and the tough parts about being spouses and parents in their songs.

Michael, on keyboard, did many of the songs from his latest release, "Something About Us", a jazz-flavored collection focusing on his 18 year marriage which almost came to an end years ago. One of the most powerful performances of the evening came when he played "If Ever I Forget", noting that God delivered him from addictions years back.

Morgan played some of his newer material (we didn't hear "What Sin?", though, because he didn't have the guitar part worked out.) One of the standouts was "Broken Lilacs" co-written with Michigan songwriter Chuck White (who I met in the line to the door earlier in the evening). Morgan also brought up his 17 year old daughter Tilly to do one of her songs. Chuck had given me the buzz on her when we spoke, and he was correct...Tilly is a talented writer and singer already with a Norah Jones type vocal feel. Apples don't fall very far from the tree.

Brad Reynolds, who organized the round, is a fine guitarist who backed the other writers often in the set and a creative and clever songwriter, with "Jesus Is My Locksmith" and "Backwards World". He brought up a friend, Suzanne Carr, to sing a song originally pitched to JoDee Messina, "Starting Over". This one sounded like a hit for somebody to me.

If you've not heard of Sean Smith yet, I guarantee you that you will soon. This Cumming, GA artist is the whole package...great singer, excellent songwriter, humble heart. He was a heart-grabber, with songs like "A Lifetime's Worth", written for his wife, and "If Sierra Can Smile" about a child with leukemia. His album, "Real", is excellent--one of those you just know when you listen to it that you're hearing something special. Sean has already won a few independent artist awards for this album. I predict we'll see him on the stage of the Dove awards before long.

It was quite evident that all four of these artists had great respect for one another, and humility about the gifts that God has given them.

Following my instinct was a good thing. It turned out to be one of those "I'm so glad I moved here" evenings which further defined why I wanted to come to Nashville.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

3rd Sunday at Doak's

A couple of people directed me to an event well known to the songwriting community in Nashville: Doak Turner's 3rd Sunday get-together. I made plans to come by there to try to meet some songwriters, find out how to best support them and hear some great music. There is also lots of great food there, too.

Being that I was not a songwriter, I sort of started out being a fly on the wall. This may shock some people, but I'm kinda shy in groups where I am new. (Of course, I am always pretty comfortable near a food table.) It's hard for me sometimes to just go and say "hey, I'm Wendy". I didn't know if people would get why I was there. Then, the song rounds started and I went in and eavesdropped on a couple of groups. Oh my goodness. This songwriting talent here is just as incredible as I'd imagined. And there are also a lot of very good singers among these writers. When somebody very kindly passed me a guitar, then I got to tell people that I was an interloper who was there to show support and encouragement.

I tell you what, I would go and hear many of these folks at a gig if I could. There were so many that I didn't catch a whole lot of names (so if I gave you a card and you see this, get in touch and remind me who you are!). One young singer/songwriter who impressed us was Brian James, originally from Seattle who's been in Nashville for a couple of years. Go to his MySpace page (linked above) and you'll hear a song I liked a lot "Room To Breathe". In the small world department, I also hooked up with and got to hear Tara Oliver and her husband Scott. Tara found me online and wrote to me about her music as I was just firming up my final move details, and I left off telling her I'd send her my contact information after I moved...but I forgot to. So I was glad to meet her here and be reminded of that. Tara will be playing at a Nashville singer/songwriter event at Caffeine on June 6 which I plan to be part of and report back on. I also met Kat the photographer/songwriter who I met on MySpace and who invited me to come to Doak's place, and of course Doak himself who was ever sweet and welcoming. OK, I'll quote his response when I told him my reason for being there: "It's better to be a musician supporter than an athletic supporter."

In the course of the afternoon, my question of "do these songwriters here need encouragement?" was answered "yes". I think I have a stronger heart for them now than ever before. Go and hear as many of these artists as you can. They will grab your heart in an instant.

Getting caught up: Michael English, The Herricks

There are a couple of gigs I have been to over the past couple of weeks or so that I haven't covered in other blogs, so I will get started with those to catch up. (I'll explain off the top here that I'm going from memory of a couple of weeks back and don't have any notes to refresh me, so this won't be as detailed as it could have been had I started this blog earlier. My apologies.)

One of the prime attractions to me for coming out here is to see some of my favorite Christian/Southern Gospel artists in their own concerts (outside of Gaither Homecomings, for example). A couple of weeks ago I heard that Michael English was appearing at a church in Nashville, so off I went. For those who have seen Michael in larger concerts, this was an opportunity to hear him in a more intimate concert setting. His well-celebrated vocal power was in full force, and I particularly enjoyed his blues/soulful arrangements of "Blessed Assurance" and "Old Gospel Ship". He also sang "Mary Did You Know" (I must confess: back in the day, before I even heard of Mark Lowry or Buddy Greene, I thought Michael had written the song, as he was the first I'd ever heard sing it). But I'm sure both writers would be very pleased with the kind words Michael had for the song. Michael walked us through some of the phases of his career and shared a bit of his testimony from his compelling biography "The Prodigal Comes Home." He also turned the stage over for one song to a friend of his, Christopher Lee, also a solid singer. They later paired up for a powerful rendition of "I Bowed On My Knees". Acknowledging being in a different stage in his career than years ago, Michael told the crowd he feels better equipped for ministering in music now. Certainly worth the support and encouragement---Michael will be touring with Avalon this fall.

MySpace has also been a good source for finding new artists. I do try to check in with my growing "friends" list to see if they are playing locally. A couple of weeks back, The Herricks were playing the Sunday featured spot at the Bluebird Cafe so I went to check them out. Twin brothers Kevin and Kerry Herrick and their sister, lead vocalist Donna (also backed this evening by Michael Bongura of "Baille and the Boys" fame) turned in an excellent set of country and bluegrass originals. The early Sunday spot at the Bluebird is a short one leading into Writers' Night, but the crowd demanded an encore. The group went back to its Southern Gospel roots and offered up a finely sung acapella number. This is definitely a group to keep an ear open for in the future.

Yet Another Blog!

Yes, I have begun another blog! Continuing the tradition of "Wendy V's Local Blend" during my Minnesota years, I'm starting up "Wendy V's Nashville Blend". Here I will talk about artists I've seen in Nashville at venues or events. Not just a coffeehouse blog this time, but this will cover a wide range, such as singer/songwriter shows at places like the Bluebird Cafe, gospel concerts at churches, etc. I will talk about gigs I've been to with better known musicians, but I plan a large focus on those people may not know yet or don't hear more about.

This won't be a gig listings blog because there are a lot of people in this town doing a great job of that. I just want to continue being a beacon of light and encouragement to musicians who need it. Hopefully, even though the playing field is much bigger here, I'll be able to serve the same purpose in some way as I did in the Twin Cities.

So, please stop by and check out who I've seen!