Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tokens Episode #2- Lipscomb University 5/27/08

You may recall my rave review here a couple of months ago about the first Tokens show taping. I was thrilled to hear there was another episode to be done. I don't think it took me a minute to get on the phone and reserve a ticket after getting the e-mail.

This second episode's theme was "Jubilee: Land, Greed and Grace". As with the last episode, the music, the readings, the brief interviews and the sketches all tied in with the theme, this one being of land ownership, wanting more and experiencing reconciliation.

As also last time, the music was spectacular. House band the Sinai Mountain Boys, led by Jeff Taylor with Buddy Greene, Aubrey Haynie, Byron House, Pete Huttlinger and Chris Brown, provided several of the show's high points. There were many outstanding musical moments, like:
- Well, anything Buddy Greene does. Pair him up with the amazing Jeff Taylor, who managed to get in spoons, accordion and tin whistle all on one song he did with Buddy ("Little Beggar Man") and you've got a blockbuster combination, no matter what musical genre they're diving into.
- The "Class and Grass" segment, featuring the string portion of the Annie Moses Band along with the Sinai Boys on an Appalachian medley consisting of Aaron Copeland's "Hoedown", "Simple Gifts" and a few other influences. It brought the house down.
- Aubrey Haynie's "broke bow" style fiddle solo
- A beautiful acapella song which was a prayer for children, sung by Uncle Dave's 4 (Paul McClung, Daniel Rushing, Paul Smith and host Lee Camp). It was a perfect reflection on an interview before this with author Melissa Fay Greene on her book "There Is No Me Without You", about an Ethopian woman's efforts to rescue her country's children. The group later backed Hope Miller on a Jean Ritchie song.
- Solos by singer/songwriter Julie Lee and Native American performer Bill Miller, who was particularly compelling using his music as a tool for healing and reconciliation.

The Tokens Radio Players (Merri Collins, Barry McAllister, David Fleer and Lee Camp) were back again with a reprise of last show's popular "Dear Preacher Man", and skits supporting the show's theme, "Gimme More" and "How Much Land Does A Man Need?" by Leo Tolstoy (complete with dialects).

Also tying in to the show's themes were short interviews with folk musicologist Mike Seeger (also brother of Pete) and Rod Dreher, author of "Crunchy Cons", a crtique of consumerism.

Everyone got in on the closing number, "Mary Don't You Weep". One of those magical moments where the audience and performers became as one.

Lee Camp was even more comfortable in his hosting role this time out. I've heard he is a challenging and excellent professor of theology at Lipscomb, but I'd say he's a multi-talented guy. He handled several roles well--he can sing and he was quite good in the humor skits...certainly as good as another radio host that comes to mind.

For only a second show, "Tokens" has got it going on like a program that has been around for a while. Its website is now up and running and will have segments from the shows posted. Right now there is no long term plan nailed down yet, but take note that there are two more shows planned this year:
9/30/08 - The Politics of Jesus
12/9/08 - The Christmas Revolution
You can sign up for the show's mailing list on the website to get ticket information.

Lee was grateful to have us all at the show...but I am the one who is most grateful to experience this wonderful happening. I am also grateful to be in this town.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In The Studio With Randi Perkins

This week I got a chance to do something I hadn't yet done here in Nashville: sit in on a recording session at Music Row. I've been in small and home studio settings when I recorded my audiobooks, but this is the first time I actually got to see first hand what part of a CD project recording session is like. I love knowing how things work and get created behind the scenes, so I was looking forward to this.

The session was for an upcoming release by singer/songwriter Randi Perkins (you've met him on my posts I've had here about the writer's nights he runs at Christ Lutheran Church in Nashville). On this evening he was getting instrumental tracks done for six songs. He had a great group of people supporting him: Rollie Mains (piano/keyboards), who is also an arranger, composer, orchestrator, producer; Gary Talley (guitar), a founding member of legendary 60's band the Box Tops; Dave Webb(bass), who has a long list of musical credits and most recently played with Sugarland; Justin Levenson (percussion), an in-demand studio musician, educator, performer and composer; engineers were Chris Rainwater and Jon Bufkin. Also documenting the session on video was Wayne Hall, known for video work with Big Machine Records artists.

I was really impressed with this group of folks professionally and personally. The musicians are all incredible players. They and the engineers really cared about the work they were doing and weren't satisfied until they got it right for Randi. Plus, they were just plain nice people who made me feel welcome (along with Randi's wife, Sandy, and son, Clark--also a musician!).

As a non-musician, I now have a much greater appreciation for the recording process that an artist walks through and will remember it every time I hold a CD in my hand by someone. I can tell you that Randi's project is going to be a nice one. You can hear live performances of some of the songs Randi cut studio versions of at his MySpace page. Take a listen to "North Dakota Farm Boy" and "The Last Harvest".

I enjoyed sitting in on the session. Thanks, Randi. And, I enjoy this town.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Brad Reynolds, Jill Parr, David Teems, Nathan Clark George, Bluebird Cafe 5/16/08

Almost one year ago, I went to hear Brad Reynolds at the Bluebird Cafe when he was in a round with Michael O'Brien, Morgan Cryar, and Sean Smith. As I noted in my post then, everyone was fabulous, but Brad and Sean, who I hadn't known of prior to that evening, took the night for me and their music had the most personally lasting effect.

Thus, I'd been so looking forward to this evening for quite some time. This time, it was Brad along with Jill Parr, David Teems and Nathan Clark George at the Bluebird with an evening of mostly contemporary Christian themed music. It was a great, supportive crowd which included many family and friends and fellow artists from the Indieheaven was fun recognizing and meeting a couple of them.

Brad, who accompanied Jill Parr and played along with his friend David Teems, was as always excellent instrumentally and vocally, and humble and passionate in his faith. He did "The Locksmith" and "The Edge", which I remembered from last year, along with the title track of his fine "In the Real World" album. All night I thought to myself, "oh please, please, please, sing "Anyway" and "Choices". He didn't disappoint me...both those songs have found their way into my soul. "Anyway" most deservedly won Indieheaven's Momentum award for "Song of The Year" (and if you haven't heard it yet, go here and take a listen). "Choices" was co-written by Brad with Sean Smith--Sean will have it on his upcoming release.

Jill Parr, like many of us in Nashville, is a transplant, hailing from Michigan. How I loved this gal...a riveting redhead with passionate vocals and a very expressive, transparent performer and songwriter. I related to her on a few levels, particularly on "County Line" which dealt with her feeling as if she didn't fit in and struggling for acceptance. I would most definitely go and hear her again.

David Teems, a fine singer, songwriter, guitarist and author (of a devotional, "To Love Is Christ") provided much of the gentle humor of the evening. He joked about being ordained to marry couples but most of the marriages ended in divorce, and the challenge of being asked to write songs for weddings and coming up with them at the last minute (in the bathroom!). But when he got serious, he touched a lot of hearts with songs like "Love That Brought Us Here" and "There's Another Woman In My Life".

Nathan Clark George is a self-described folkie at heart with an enviable lifestyle: based in Illinois, he and his family (with 5 children) travel all around the country. I particularly liked a thought-provoking song he did called "What If" which dealt with mistakes and observing Jesus, and a sweet love song called "You Make Me Smile".

Some of the Indieheaven members who attended this show noted how powerfully these artists of faith impacted the audience just by being who they were and by willing to be transparent and honest about themselves. Amen to that.

I've had some things to be thankful about this week...what was lost found again and this special evening of music. I love this town.