Saturday, March 29, 2008

CIA Summit Singer/Songwriter Showcase 3/28/07

IndieHeaven brought its 5th CIA (Christian Independent Alliance)Summit to the Factory in Franklin this weekend. This year, they added a new acoustic based singer/songwriter showcase which was open to the public. I love these events because they always end up being very special and you hear a lot of great new talent. Honestly, the drawing card that got me in the door was that Sean Smith would be doing two songs, and I later heard that Brad Reynolds would be there as well. If you recall on this post, I first discovered these two fellows at the Bluebird Cafe last May and gave them rave reviews.

I did not get to hear all of the artists who were scheduled to perform, but I was impressed with every one of those I did hear in two or three song sets. Evie Haskell, Chris Lucas, Chris Ames, Bill Petty, Amy Gustafson, and Mindy Boyd were all excellent singers, songwriters and players. Young Kelsey Muse in particular has very strong potential. She did a good cover of Sara Bareilles' "Love Song" and two of her own compositions.

One of the most entertaining sets came from Bill Mallia (with Drew Davidson on guitar and Les Worsham on percussion). I've been getting his emails for quite a while but never heard him--all I knew was he was sort of a Christian Jimmy Buffet type, so I was curious to hear his set. Well, he is a joyful character and performer and had the audience laughing as he sang about "sporting a tan on the body of Christ." Since I arrived early as usual, I got to hear him warm up before the showcase started--that also was fun.

Sean Smith and Brad Reynolds accompanied each other on parts of their sets. Brad showed his great guitar skills, fine singing and songwriting ability, with vocal backup by Sean, on "The Edge" and "Real World". (By the way, Brad will be back at the Bluebird Cafe on May 16.)

Sean began tracking for his next album this week and previewed two songs, "Choices" co-written by Brad and Sean (though Sean says the title was his main contribution!), and "What Keeps Me From the Cross". Let's just say I am seriously pumped and awaiting the release of this album. I later asked Sean about his recent appearance on "The Hour of Power" and he told me it was one of the coolest experiences he's ever had. I think there will be much more to come--he's on track for major success.

I noticed that a few of the artists had songs that centered on various forms of encouragement and most stayed to encourage each other's sets. Every one that I had a chance to speak with or say a quick "great job" to were humble and gracious.

I do hope CIA Summit will continue this acoustic showcase next year--I'm sure I'll be back. I am so grateful over and over again for these kind of events where you can hear new people and encourage them, and make new friends and contacts. And, I am so grateful for this town.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Songwriters' Weekend

It's now been a year since I arrived in Nashville. The time has sure flown. This past weekend I attended two events which further proved to me why I love it here so much.

First was the writer's night at Christ Lutheran Church in Nashville. Like the one I attended back in October, it was a warm, casual atmosphere with some great singer/songwriters, each who had something special and unique to bring to the table that evening. Randi Perkins, who's been one of my past featured songwriters, hosted this one again and did a song at the beginning and in the middle of the evening's sets (accompanied by Box Tops founding member Gary Talley on guitar, Randi's son Clark on bass and Rolli Mains on keyboards). Randi is working on a new recording which he hopes to have available in the next few months. I was excited about the first song he did, "Army of Angels", about seeing ourselves from other people's point of view...he assured me he's recording that one. I'm also excited about Randi as a performer. He did an accompanying slide show to his song "North Dakota Farm Boy" which was so warm and personal--it had pictures of him playing over the years and lovely slides containing some of the song lyrics. Randi's passion for his music shows when he plays...and he's a great guy. I think people are going to relate to him.

Other featured songwriters were Ellen Olhsson aka "Tuff Ditties" who I knew from Doak's 3rd Sundays. She also has a thriving career in the Second Life virtual environment as "Trulie Telling". Ellen effectively mixed her serious songs ("Tara Sleeps") and fun songs (the very entertaining "Boy Crazy" and one of my favorites, "He Cleans Up Good"), quickly becoming an audience favorite.

Red-headed Annie Mosher, wearing a very cool pair of green rain boots, has a sweet light voice and personality. I liked her song about things that make rhythm, at the end tying in a baby's heartbeat--she's expecting her second child.

Kathy Hussey writes very strong songs from a character perspective and has powerfully exquisite voice. My favorite of hers was "Cherry Jingles", which was a perfect illustration of how a voice and song perfectly enhance each was hauntingly beautiful. Kathy hosts a unique sort of writers round on Sunday at Willhagens. I may stop by in the future to check that out.

This past Sunday was the 5th anniversary of Doak Turner's 3rd Sunday songwriter gatherings. Doak is solicting comments and memories of the past 5 years of get-togethers to include on his Nashville Muse website. Well Doak, you can quote me here. I have absolutely no doubt that 3rd Sunday was largely responsible for me to have been able to fit in to this community as a support person for singer/songwriters as quickly as I did. I am very grateful to folks like Doak and Kat Speer for making me feel so welcome, and to all the singer/songwriters who understand where I come from and "get it". The friendships I've made and the atmosphere created is a welcome oasis and a cherished blessing.

These fine folks showed the very same hospitality for two musical friends of mine from Austin, IN, Teresa Banda and Karen Meiers, who were in town for some studio work and networking. I of course strongly suggested they come to 3rd Sunday while in town. They loved it as much as I thought they would and got some good contacts and feedback. Thanks, Brandon Maddox, Steve Craig, and Dave Saunders, for sharing so much of your time and your great songs with them. Among other strong artists/writers I heard for the first time this weekend were Keith Whitley-influenced C. J. Garton, Julian Riviere (sort of a Keith Whitley meets Randy Travis in style), Josh Pennington and Robert Steele.

Happy 5th anniversary, Doak. And happy 1st anniversary to me. I love this town.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Beyond the Ashes, Edgehill Studio Cafe, 3/3/08

MySpace can be a really great place to meet people. Among my top MySpace friends is one I met through the site, a fellow named Dusty, a gospel music industry person and one of the most powerful and amazing encouragers I've ever known of. He has been mentoring a dear friend of his, a terrific tenor singer, Anthony Facello (who I also found on MySpace), supporting the formation of a new Southern Gospel trio he is part of called Beyond the Ashes.

Beyond the Ashes had its first public Nashville showcase at Edgehill Studio Cafe. There was the now-weekly severe storm threatening outside, but it would just have to wait. None of us were going anywhere. The guys (Anthony, Justin Howard and Brian Alvey) and the people there to support them created a place of heart, soul and enthusiasm over the hour long set. Anthony noted that the guys had met each other earlier on, but God brought them together for this musical ministry at the right time a little over a year ago. The group is vocally solid, doing as good a job as any on well known favorites such as "Can't Stop Talking About Him", "How Great Is Our God" and "Daystar". They were also very strong on songs I wasn't as familiar with, such as "Gather At the River" and "That's How Much I Need A Savior", with Anthony turning in some very fine solo work.

The time went much too quickly and I wish it had gone longer. But it was long enough for me to know that Beyond the Ashes has a bright future beyond the walls of that small cafe.

There were several gospel music industry people and organizations represented whose names I recognized that night. I am still a new kid on the block. Anthony, Dusty and others made me feel so welcome and valued. I'm so grateful and fortunate to have these kind of experiences with all these wonderfully talented people.

God bless MySpace. And of course, God bless this town.