Friday, January 16, 2009

"Second Home" Nights - Commodore Grill 1/14 & 1/18

I know that there are a lot of great writers nights going on regularly in Nashville. Eventually, I will get around to them...I promise. These days I call the Commodore Grill my "second home" because for one thing, I'm there a lot. It's convenient, there's music most nights of the week if you need a fix, and it's a place where I know I'm going to be welcomed and accepted, especially on those times when I've needed it. Even the wait staff knows me now and what I drink (water with lemon or tea). So tip 'em well when you come!

I caught great rounds and acts this week. The featured artist on Wednesday evening was one talented and charming guy, Boomer Castleman. He works with a lot of people in this town as artist and producer. Boomer's musical impact goes back to the 60s, where he worked in a duo with Michael Martin Murphy as the Lewis and Clark Expedition and wrote for artists like the Monkees and others. He's an awesome guitar player and writer, with a wide vocal range (witness on "Never Say Never Again", which he's been kind enough to send out to me on a couple of occasions because he knows I like that song). You also need to take note of his drummer and percussionist, Lois Hess--she is terrific.

Wild Oats Records gets a featured round regularly at the Commodore. This week I got to hear Walter Egan, who did his hit "Magnet and Steel" along with other strong originals, and David R. Smith. Steve Haggard also sat in on harmonica and harmony vocals.

There was also a "surprise" round, at least for me. I always try to bring the list of names off the Commodore MySpace page with me so I know who's who, but as you'd expect, things tend to change. I was happy to hear and see two guys who I hear often and am always glad to, Scott Jarman and Craig Winquist, along with Jarrod Doucet. Another regular who I always enjoy hearing is Ric Sandler--I love his high energy and enthusiasm, strong keyboard and vocals. I also heard and liked Todd Abke, Glen Doolittle, Russ Woolen, Nat Durant, John Velora (particularly good vocals from this guy), Joe First (who I recognized as the guy who often brings his accordion to Doak Turner's gatherings) and Alexandria Kelly.

I went back Saturday night, which was one of those "where I'm supposed to be" nights I have now and then. The night began with a great set from "The Macs", being Don and Karen McNatt and Barbara and Max McGuire. Don and Karen (sporting a cute new short haircut!) are personal favorites of mine. The crowd loved Don's "I Want To Speak Spanish" song and Karen did one of hers I like a lot, "Red Umbrella". Barbara and Max did a wonderful song Barbara wrote with well-known writers Pete and Pat Luboff, "When I Breathe", to benefit Cystic Fibrosis.

I was particularly interested in checking out a young talent I'd heard so much about. Will Champlin has been getting a lot of notice around town, having won best R&B/Soul song Hollywood Music Award for "Now That We're Fallin'". His father is longtime Chicago guitarist/vocalist Bill Champlin (who I've been a fan of since the Sons of Champlin days in the 60s), and Will is indeed one to keep an ear on -- great vocals, keyboards, guitar work and stage presence with a humble spirit. His self-titled CD is also very strong. Will and his band have a resident gig at the fairly new venue Music City Bar and Grill in the Vanderbilt University area on Thursday nights at 8 p.m.

I can't keep too late a schedule on Saturday nights these days because I have a radio show to do on Sunday morning. But I did catch part of a very nice round which the players called a "sandwich": Diana Kelley and Erinn Sherlock on the ends as the "bread" and Scott Honaker as what he called "the sausage".

By the way, when you see me at the Commodore, my table is always open for folks to drop by and visit...I had a few visitors with me both evenings. Sometimes it's people I know, or other times it's folks who have seen me there often but never met me. It's nice to feel wanted and welcome. I love the Commodore Grill and I love this town.