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?