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.