The Commodore Grill is fast becoming my place of choice to check out writers nights. The renovations have made it a songwriter-friendly room and a great atmosphere to check out people you've heard before and meet new ones. Indeed, I have heard many, many rounds with singer/songwriters I have loved dearly. But the two rounds I attended last night were two of the best and most memorable I have heard in this room...both of them so for different reasons.
I first came across Rory Partin a couple of years ago when he brought his big band to the "don't tell the preacher" dance at Mark Lowry's first Senior Trip. He did a great job with bandleading and singing standards. I was delighted and interested to hear that he also has the singer/songwriter side so it was a nice touch to hear him in this setting. He described some of his songs as not "Nashville" but more R&B. Combined with his wife, Jeni Varnadeau, an equally charming songwriter (both backed by guitarist Jordan Jamison) and Treva Blomquist (filling in for two artists who needed to cancel due to illness), who was also enjoyable, it was pure magic to hear these folks interact and to experience some truly great powerful singing. Fortunately, it was a Friday night so the round went on for about an hour. It wasn't long enough...I hated to hear it end. Rory, Jeni and Treva are now on my radar for the future.
The next round, with Denny Martin (who I last saw supporting Alan O'Day at the Bluebird Cafe), Kira Small, and Justin Spears, may have received some of the "fairie dust" left behind from the previous group. There were many good musical moments here, too--Kira and Justin did a fine job on their songs and Denny's. But this one was mostly about heart. Denny is the embodiment of the joy and the spirit of making music. It's the feeding of the soul, the giving and receiving of energy between audience and performer...and in fact, Denny acknowledged feeling just that after one of his songs.
Excellence is great. We heard that this evening. But sometimes it's about spirit, and if your heart is open to receive, it can fill you the same way as that voice that knocked it out of the park. In my world, they can, and will, co-exist.
I shall not lose my sense of wonder. I love this town and all its artists going for the joy.