Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Summing Up The Year...

Someone who had read my "year end wrap" over at my "Ponderings" blog suggested I ought to do something similar here as well. OK, I will give it a shot.

Looking back over my postings, I've had a pretty amazing year. I took in a lot of awesome shows, both in the singer/songwriter and Christian/gospel circuits. I got to witness some special things I never did before, such as a television show taping and a recording session. I found a venue I made a "second home" (the Commodore Grill...the Bluebird's probably the third). I discovered many great new talented people, including some whose music profoundly impacted my soul and strongly reinforced the reason for doing what it is I do.

Speaking of what I do with this blog...well, let me do just that for a moment. I've been reading "Make Me A Star" by Anastasia Brown. It's an interesting, uncomplicated book. One of the things she mentions is people who always tell an artist he/she is great, when it may not be an honest opinion. I've been very blessed that 99% of those who follow this blog understand what I'm trying to do. But, I've also heard of the 1% who think "yeah, she tells everyone they're great whether they are or not."

In fact, I am quite judicious about what I write in the Blend. I have been to many, many more gigs than what I've written about here. I write about something if I am moved in a special way to. I've heard people who are ready for that major artist cut. I've also heard those I feel may be best going for carving a niche on their own. But I tell you this: when I go to a writers night or a show and you are playing, you will get a smile from me and you will get my attention. I love music, I love musicians and I believe everyone deserves a certain amount of respect for going for their dream and expressing their heart in their music. Above all, I believe that everyone needs encouragement. I'm not in the dream busting business just because I write a blog. There are plenty of critics out there and I don't aspire to that job. First and foremost, I'm a person and a fan. That's the level I relate on and whenever a writer comes up to me and says they've noticed my energy and support and it's made a difference to them, it never gets commonplace and I will never, ever take it for granted.

And you know something else? I'm looking forward to even more in 2009 as I begin my second year of living in Nashville. I love this town...and I love y'all. Happy New Year, everyone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

December 2008 - Oh What A Night: Commodore Grille 12/19/08

I got to the Commodore early to hook up with my singer/songwriter friend Brandon Maddox before he left town for the holidays and to hear the first round which was to include a newer such friend, Adam Foster. Unfortunately, Adam was ill and couldn't be in the round with Mareesa Frank, Adam Lewis and Beth Browne. However, I had absolutely no complaints about his replacement.

George Adams, he of the 21 star review I wrote back in October in this blog, happened to be there and was invited to substitute in the round. Though he may have felt he was rusty, that's not what I, my friend and others thought. Even if I did agree, I'd say "so what?" To hear acoustic guitar versions of "Turn The Knife", "Change of Heart" and "Stronger Than Words" (which, yet in that form, did to me what it does to women I know who've heard the song--made me cry) was a special treat for me. I still say in whatever shape, George has one of the greatest voices in this town. As guitarists in rounds often fill in parts for one another, he also did some nice backup vocal work for his fellow participants (as did Beth Browne for George's songs).

All of the others in the round, Mareesa, Adam and Beth, shined brightly as well in their vocals and songwriting. Mareesa is a strong young talent to watch as a singer/songwriter/pianist, Adam is a very solid vocalist and writer, and Beth is a powerhouse vocalist (and congrats to her for having songs recently chosen for a movie).

If that was not enough, another round of magic followed which was full of family. Brother and sister duo the Roys, Elaine and Lee, played with Michael Bonagura and Kathie Baillie (Baillie and the Boys) and their daughter, Alyssa Bonagura, who was home from college in England. (Thus, with her wit matched with our British host, Lorna Flowers, there was lots of English humor during the round.) The camaradie between the Roys and the Bonaguras was warmly evident and the music, well, it just was wonderful. I'd heard the Roys before on the radio and was impressed--and I certainly was hearing them live as well.

It must be a very special experience for any set of musical parents to watch their children's talent flourish with the apple not falling far from the tree. It must also be a thrill for those parents to play music together with their talented children. The pride that mom Kathie, dad Michael and daughter Alyssa had in each other when performing together or separately was obvious and lovely to watch and hear.

I also caught a small portion of what I'm sure was another fine round with Graham Rogers, Susan Suruda, Mark Carson and Kathy Hudson. This entire evening was right up there with the one I raved about at the Commodore in November.

Forgive me if I'm self-indulgent, but the most personal highlight for me that evening didn't come from the music on stage. That was when Mareesa Frank of the first round told me "you're a great listener" and how much it meant to have people paying attention. It's what I pray I give to the singer/songwriters in this town, and it's what keeps me preaching this message of encouragement.

I couldn't have asked for a better unexpected early Christmas gift than this evening. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brief Roundup...

Well, for a gal who never liked to drive when I was back in St. Paul, my little car and I have sure been hitting the road around here lately! I'll just briefly mention a few items on spots I've been recently:

- The Commodore Grill hosted a very successful benefit on December 3 for Character Counts, a fine organization which aims to educate children about good character and ethics, and helping youth understand choices and consequences. The evening was full of great songwriters, such as Pam Belford, Thom Shepherd, Ben West, Steve Goodie, Lorna Flowers and many others. The place was packed all evening so I thought it would do well donation wise, and well it did: the evening raised $5,000 through a silent auction, door prize raffle sales and other donations.

- I also had another opportunity to check out Alex Harvey and his band this past weekend, this time at Puckett's in downtown Franklin (which was a challenge to navigate due to construction and other events). Alex, harmony singer Gineille and the band are very effective in creating community with their audience. They give an open, passionate, honest performance. I personally also admire how Alex doesn't end the evening without strongly proclaiming his faith. You'll get into the groove with the hard rocking tunes and cry in the same places that touch your heart no matter how often the story's been told. That's what brings people back over and over again.

- On Sunday I was very kindly invited to a party/house concert by Terri Lynn, a well loved blues singer in this area who is celebrating the release of her CD, Blue Storm. Terri Lynn and her band literally rocked the house with "cool blues". Yet another navigation challenge there: I thought I wouldn't get there at all as I got tangled up in the Donelson Christmas parade twice, and no one was going anywhere across the parade route for an hour!

- After the party, I had plenty of time to make it down to the Bluebird Cafe. I planned to check out writer's night featured writer Steve Leslie, who I met last week while he was being interviewed on Radio Free Nashville and heard a week or so before at Fiddle and Pick. I got into the line and just about everyone I stood near buzzed about the early feature act, Tin Cup Gypsy. I gathered they had quite a following. Once I got inside and heard them, I found out why. This family trio made up of husband and wife Jonathan (also guitarist for Sara Evans) and Cassandra Lawson and brother Jordan Lawson (fiddle player for Josh Turner--I knew he looked familiar!) fuse acoustic Folk, Rock, Jazz, and Bluegrass with strong harmony vocals, fine original songs and inventive covers (like Fastball's "The Way", for example) and great musicianship. Tin Cup Gypsy have obviously bonded with their fans and they've got a new one in me...they are also three of the sweetest people I've ever met.

Writer's night at the Bluebird consisted mainly of the annual tradition of featuring many of the Bluebird employees who are singer/songwriters with their turn in the spotlight. I was impressed with all of them. I will certainly take special notice of them next time I'm there with a bit of encouragement as well as in tips. Steve Leslie, as mentioned earlier, closed the show. He was quite warm and entertaining, choosing to do newer material over the better known songs he's written for folks like Darryl Worley and George Strait.

This weekend was all about hospitality..that which was shown to me at the shows or kind invitations that got me there. That's why I love this town.

PS: Prayers continuing to go up for popular singer/songwriter CJ Watson, recovering at home from quadruple bypass surgery. There will be a benefit happening for him at the Listening Room on February 2 with performers to be announced, so stay tuned to various websites for more details.