Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Typical Weekend In Nashville...

Well, it's not always my typical weekend in Nashville. Sometimes I have to work, do laundry or other things. But every now and then I get a chunk of time to take in a few of the great activities that are available to those who live in the area.

On Friday, I went to the Bluebird Cafe for a round featuring Barbara Cloyd (running a songwriter workshop that week), Don Poythress, Marcel, Trevor Rosen and someone I've been a fan of for awhile, Jessica Andrews. Barbara is legendary in this town for her mentoring of songwriters, and Marcel was no exception. He told the story of driving all the way from California for an open mike spot at the Bluebird...he managed to grab the last one and in the process blew Barbara away enough for her to get him connected in Nashville. The rest was history, with Marcel getting a record deal (you may remember his song "Tennessee" which he did Friday evening) and pairing up professionally and personally with Jessica Andrews. He was a writer of Jessica's hit "There's More to Me Than You" (he sang it Friday night with Jessica on backup vocals) and I didn't know he also wrote "Nothing To Lose" for Josh Gracin. It was a treat to hear Jessica sing the touching and inspiring "Who I Am".

Don Poythress showed us some of his great songs, including one that Kellie Pickler recorded "Things That Never Cross A Man's Mind". Trevor Rosen was there primarily as guitarist for Jessica and Marcel, but did get a song of his own in the round.

On Saturday, another treat for me: I went to the grand reopening of the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum shop. The main reason for me to go was to meet one of my radio heroes, WSM's Bill Cody. I'm not a fan of chatty morning radio shows unless you've got something interesting and entertaining to say. Bill Cody and Charlie Mattos and traffic reporter Richard Thomas make my commute much easier to bear each morning. What you hear and what you see (on GAC) is what you get with Bill--just as nice and as charming as he is on the air. Afterward, he found me in the corner of the gift shop with my head stuck in Loretta Lynn's latest book to make sure I got my museum gift pack--that was sweet (thanks, Bill!). Later I also got to see Eddie Stubbs, who I've met on a few occasions. He was, as always, the perfect Southern gentleman. I also took in a brief bit of a songwriter session with Rich Fagan, notable for writing songs on the George Strait "Pure Country" soundtrack and John Michael Montgomery's girl at the auction hit "Sold" (I actually heard that one at least twice on the radio this past week.), and a performance by bluegrass/country group Nash Street, winners of the Colgate Country Showdown.

I've lived in Nashville one year next month and I'll be talking about that milestone in later posts. But even though I'm pretty settled in a normal routine of life, still there's something about being in downtown Nashville. As a visitor, the sense of history and musical richness was very special and now that I live here I haven't become jaded about it. Like I said...I love this town.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Tokens" Radio Show Taping, Lipscomb University, 2/19/08

I am one excited gal.

My friend Annie from Buddy Greene's office asked me if I wanted a ticket to a taping at Lipscomb University for a new radio show pilot where Buddy was playing in the house band. Did I? Is water wet? If it's a radio show, I am so there.

"Tokens" is described by its host and creator, Lee Camp, an Associate Professor of Bible at Lipscomb University, as a "crazy idea" he had to mix theology, cultural analysis, good conversation, and good music. And yes, it will remind you of "A Prairie Home Companion", which is another reason for me to be excited about this show. (For those of you who are unaware of how "A Prairie Home Companion" impacted my life, you can read here.) The theme of this first program was "The Appalachian Longing For Home." The music and the commentary tied in well with the exploration of the idea of the Appalachian longing for a sense of community and the kingdom of God.

"Tokens" blends part of a tested formula with some unique elements. There was the music: the house band, The Sinai Mountain Boys, led by virtuoso musician Jeff Taylor, along with Buddy Greene, Pete Huttlinger, Aubrey Haynie, Dennis Crouch, and Vince Barranco (plus a guest appearance by bluegrass great Stuart Duncan--Jeff spotted him in the audience and brought him up to sit in on mandolin on a couple of numbers). Also featured was the amazing Odessa Settles, who I first heard with Buddy at the Bluebird Cafe a couple of months back. With this lineup, the band was, as you'd expect, superb and both Buddy and Odessa gave powerful musical expression to the longing for home theme. Other guest artists were Andrew Peterson, a fine singer/songwriter I would definitely like to hear more of, and acapella group Aunt Mag's Four.

There was also humor courtesy of the Tokens Radio Players (Merri Collins, David Fleer and Nate Fleer) with very entertaining bits like "Dear Preacher Man" and "Virtual Home".

Along with the music and humor was this program's twist: short audio excerpts of interviews with three authors. A.J. Jacobs, editor of Esquire magazine and author of the best selling Year of Living Biblically, took one year to live as literally as in the Bible, which included donning Biblical garb and stoning an adulterer. "Red Letter Christians" founding member and author Brian McLaren speaking on his most recent book, Everything Must Change posed some thoughts on how Jesus's message fits into today's global crises; and Professor Marcus Rediker shared tragic and compelling details from his book, Slave Ship, describing the inhuman conditions that slaves experienced on ships. Full versions of the interviews will be available on the Tokens show website(,which I'm told hopes to be up and running in a couple of weeks.

As host, Lee Camp is more Noah Adams than Garrison Keillor overall, with an amiable and intelligent style and presence. He also did very well in the humor skits and as part of Aunt Mag's Four (yes, it does help that the host can sing!).

"Tokens" will be pitched to potential sponsors and outlets. Judging from the wildly enthusiastic audience reaction, I predict this "crazy idea" is gonna fly, folks. I'd even predict further if it finds an outlet, once it gets going it may even need a little more room than the intimate Shamblin Theater to hold all the people who will want to be part of it.

I am so blessed, so thankful to be here and be part of these events. I love radio. I love this town!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Night At Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant 2/9/08

Strange as it seems, I don't think I've yet to see much of the town of Franklin in the daylight hours, outside of the Cool Springs area and my church's office. I'd only ventured south of Nashville in the evening for one show before going to Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant for the first time. I'd never been to downtown Franklin, either. From what I could see in the dark, it's a very cute area. It reminds me perhaps of downtown Milford, CT and a town I know I've been to in Minnesota that I can't for the life of me think of now. What impressed me the most was the big parking garage I pulled into across from Puckett's --I tried to figure out where to pay for parking and how much...and then realized parking was free. Too cool.

Puckett's is probably about the size of the Bluebird Cafe, maybe a little larger. I was there this evening to have dinner and hear my friend Buddy Greene along with multi-instrumental genius Jeff Taylor and fiddler Aubrey Haynie (both of who are also members of the Grammy-nominated Time Jumpers. They skipped the awards ceremony to play this gig).It was a packed house so at first they sat me at the bar. I'm really not a fan of sitting at bars...the only advantage for me is being short I can sometimes get a better view. Plus, sometimes people think you're only there to drink or you get forgotten when it comes to food. Not at Puckett's. The wait staff was less than three waiters checked in with me to see if I put my dinner order in. The food was quite good, although I would have liked to have seen a vegetarian option among the three menu choices.

Just before the show, Buddy saw to it that I was moved to a table, so I joined Buddy's assistant, Ann, and a friend of his from Indiana, Tobin Wingard. Later on, Buddy called Tobin up on stage and he played some killer harmonica. As always, Buddy, Jeff, and Aubrey put on a musically excellent show overall with characteristic great playing and good humor.

Puckett's has two locations, in downtown Franklin and Leiper's Fork, that feature live music on the weekends. Check out Puckett's website for all the info on the great music and food (and did I mention the service?). It's won several "best of" awards in many categories.

I love Nashville and Franklin's pretty cool, too.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Gaither Homecoming, Sommet Center, 2/8/08

After several years of attending Gaither Homecoming concerts in the round with a large lineup of artists, I was interested how the new setup of end stage and decreased artist roster would fare (I also wondered how I, being "vertically challenged", would see from the middle of the 5th row with the new setup. But there were empty seats here and there, and by the time the second half came along, those who don't have the duration of some of us die-hards left). Indeed at first, I was struck by the smaller number of artists on stage in the opening, and did miss a few of the regulars I'd been used to seeing (Russ Taff, Jessy Dixon, the Isaacs). But in the end, the Gaithers showed they still had the ability to engage the audience like friends or family musicially and with good natured humor and bind us all in heart and spirit.

Some of my favorite highlights:
- Rory Rigdon and Kevin Williams remain two of the funniest guys out there when they gang up on Mr. Gaither (Rory's expressions are priceless), with a few blurbs from Gordon Mote. (This year's routine, rather timely, is "Bill For President"). It also helps that Bill is graciously willing to go along with it all.
- Ernie Haase and Signature Sound are charmingly haphazard in choreography at times (they could use a little Motown step instruction), but I enjoy it. Boogie down, guys.
- I thought having the onstage artists singing songs with some clips of some of those who have passed cut in (the Goodmans, George Younce, Jake Hess) was interesting and effective.
- Nice to see Eva Mae LeFevre (looking lovely at age 90), the Christ Church Choir, and Michael English who joined the convention singing portion in the second half.

By the way, the show was as long as ever--started at 7, was over at 11:30. But that's all good.