Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Debi Champion's Anniversary, Commodore Grill, 3/30/09

Moments, moments, moments.

That pretty much sums up the time I was able to spend at Debi Champion's celebration of the 5th anniversary of the start of her writers nights at the Commodore Grill. Debi, of course, is known for being a solid supporter of writers and giving them places to be heard long before this five year period, notably at spots like the Broken Spoke (which I heard about often back when I was still living in Minnesota). The place was absolutely packed with writers and friends who came out to play and show up in support of Debi and join in the celebration. My stamina gave out so I couldn't spend the entire evening there, but I will share a few highlights of what I heard.

- Dakota Grove. Oh my gosh. I have told you about these folks before (Daisy Dern, Camille Wallin, Scott Sanford and CJ Watson). They just get up there and make magic with their voices, their songs, their playing and their onstage rapport and charisma. Something's gonna happen with this group.
- Boomer Castleman, Pam Belford and Jim Sales in an amazing round: Boomer adding tasty guitar to the haunting rhythm of Jim's first song, his own guitar artistry during his turn, and Pam Belford charming us and making us laugh. My favorite thing was watching Pam during Boomer's and Jim's songs; she looked as if she was in absolute nirvana taking in the music. We were feeling much the same way out here in the audience.
- Lisa Aschmann totally surprised and impressed me with her two acapella songs. I don't think I'd ever heard her sing before, and to draw in the audience like she did without accompaniment was no easy task.
- A great series of rounds featuring many hit writers: Jimmy Payne, Glen Todd, Bill Carlile Jr., Tony Lane, Chris Wallin, David Lee, Stan Webb, Craig Monday and Jerry Foster. From these folks we got to enjoy and sing along with such hits as "Woman Woman", "Skip A Rope", "I'm Tryin'", "Love Me If You Can", "Don't Blink", "Lucky Man", "We're From The Country", "Got A Little Crazy".

...And much, much more, I'm sure I missed.

You can catch Debi's writers nights during the week at the Commodore Tuesday-Thursday nights. Happy anniversary Debi. Love ya. Love this town.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spirit At the 6th: Doak Turner's 3rd Sunday 6th Anniversary 3/15/09

Each month I have a few standing commitments on my wild and crazy schedule. One of those happens on the third Sunday of the month, when I go to Doak Turner's Nashville Muse songwriter potluck. If you haven't read my previous writing on this event, it's a gathering at Doak's house where songwriters, those who love them and other music types gather to eat, meet, network for opportunities and fill a few rooms in the house and the yard as weather permits for spontaneous song sharing rounds. This month marked the 6th anniversary of the 3rd Sunday potluck.

This event has hosted people from all over the country and beyond its borders, from newbies to hit writers. Some who started coming without ever writing a song went on to become co-writers with people they've met at Doak's. For some of us, it was our introduction to the songwriting community in Nashville. I fully credit 3rd Sunday as the most important factor that helped me get to know many of the songwriters in town and enabled me to support them. I went from a new in town fly on the wall to a member of the "family". I am truly blessed to have been accepted so warmly by these dear people despite never having played a note of music in a round.

Every month at Doak's get together is a good time. But on this 6th anniversary day, everyone knew there was a certain spirit present that seemed to make the gathering extra special. "Moments" were breaking out all over the place. We were visited by a group of young singers from the University of Texas at Austin called "Ransom Notes", who wowed us all with their up tempo a cappella arrangements; our favorite funny man, songwriting teacher and ambassador, Marc Alan Barnette, who jumped in with the group and later held court in one of the rooms with his big power voice and engaging songs; Tom Shinness, musician extraordinaire who brought three different instruments and as always, impressed everyone and was in demand to add his musicianship to rounds; jam packed rooms with great new singers and writers and old friends with new material to share.

Musicians note that there is a unique sensation that takes place whenever the right players get together and find the right groove, one which perhaps those who don't play can't experience. I submit that we non-musician listeners have our own equivalent of that experience. It's that "pinch me" sensation you feel when you're in the midst of hearing something like this. Nashville, of course, is full of those moments for me. Lord knows I've written about many of them here. On this afternoon, from time to time, players and non-players alike, we were all fans.

Experience the magic for yourself through this video clip by Doug Farrar.

Happy anniversary, Doak. And many, many more.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Beth Browne, Fillin' Station, Kingston Springs, TN 3/14/09

As most who know me can tell you, I tend to favor the acoustic singer/songwriter type of event such as writers nights or coffeehouse gatherings when I venture out. I don't always get to hear bands all that much. But on the spur of the moment, sick and tired of enduring dreary weather by staying indoors, I decided to head to another place in Kingston Springs I've also heard good things about musically, The Fillin' Station, to hear and support an artist who impressed me several months ago during a Commodore Grill round, Beth Browne.

Beth is just back from Los Angeles, where she attended the premiere of a new film, Junkyard Dog, which features two of her songs "Paradise" and "Little Boy Blue". Take note that this all came about for Beth when the writer/director of the movie happened to hear her songs at one of her gigs and was impressed enough to choose some for the film. Proof positive that being out there, ready and on your game and in the right place at the right time, things can happen.

Beth played a solid set at the Fillin Station with bassist and husband Terry Browne, guitarist Max McGuire, and drummer Allen Marshall. Whether she was doing covers ("Break Down Here", "Ain't No Sunshine") or material from her fine new country/bluesy CD "In Your Arms", her powerful, emotive voice brought a rousing reception from the crowd. A small bar/lounge which actually once was a gas station, the Fillin' Station was comfortable, appeared to be family friendly as well, and yeah, the patty melt was pretty good. Everyone was having a grand time enjoying the music and thanks to Beth, the whole place said goodnight to me when I had to split. Sweet.

Catch Beth on the 26th of March as part of James Breedwell's writers night at the Nashville Palace from 6-9 p.m.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bluebird Cafe and Commodore Grill, 3/12/09

Earlier this week I was sitting on my deck enjoying 70 degree weather. The next day or so I was looking at ice. The abrupt contrast was much too depressing. Rather than stay at home out of the weather, I knew I had to get out of the house and forge ahead with my plans.

Happily for Louise Mosrie, Greg Foresman, Julie Grower and Bruce-Jon Brigham, a lot of other people felt the same way and gave them a good turnout for their Bluebird Café round. These folks write together often in various configurations (and Julie and Bruce will celebrate their second wedding anniversary in May), so the four were well acquainted with each other's material to add parts as needed.

I was most familiar with Louise, having met and heard her for the first time at Red Tree Coffee last month. Louise writes a lot of songs about the road (and writes while on the road...she noted she starts many of these songs in her car!). Her upcoming CD, Backroads, will feature some of the songs she did and I am really looking forward to it. I'm particularly waiting on my favorite song of hers which she played, "Maybe I'm Your Angel". It will remind you a little of "Trying To Love You", the Beth Nielsen Chapman song done by Trisha Yearwood.

I first met Greg Foresman last September at Radio Free Nashville...he was being interviewed as I was waiting to go on the air for the first time. I learned then that he was Martina McBride's guitarist and had some pretty solid music of his own. Greg played some very fine slide guitar throughout the evening on his own songs (the bluesy" Something I Can Use" was a standout) as well as the others. He also has a new CD due out soon.

I also enjoyed Julie Grower and Bruce-Jon Brigham, both fine singers and songwriters. I particularly liked Bruce's songs "Prayer of a Simple Man" and "Montana", and Julie's humorous "Save the Drama For Your Mama" and "I Found You", which says that the person of your dreams may not be what you pictured, but turned out fulfilling nonetheless.

Afterward it was off to the Commodore Grill to wish a happy birthday to CJ Watson and to hear him with his friends (Camille Wallin and Scott Sanford, later joined by Jeff Gilkinson). I also heard this combination a few nights earlier. If you're looking at the lineups at the Commodore and you see these folks on it, you need to hear them as well. This is how top-flight songwriting, vocals and on-stage chemistry's done.

It was getting late and some of us were fading and really should have been heading home. But we couldn't because next up was Chris Wallin (writer of "Don't Blink", "Something To Be Proud Of", "Love Me If You Can" and "I'm Tryin", just to name a few...all of which he did). He wasn't sure how much stage time he had, but it seemed nobody wanted to let him go.

That is the magic of these nights. I love this town.