Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Kingston Springs/Kim McLean, Red Tree Coffee, 4/17/09

It's a funny thing about Red Tree Coffee. It seems lately whenever I go there, before long I'm pulling out my notebook and writing. Most times it's about the music, or sometimes it's ideas for some of my encouragement pieces or would-be song lyrics that pop into my head (which I haven't yet shared with a potential co-writer). You writers of all types know that you have to grab it as you get it or you lose it. One night there God and the muse wouldn't let up. I wrote through a whole music set with an ear on the music and an eye on the paper. But be that as it may...this evening I wrote about the music I heard.

On this night the place was packed with young people and proud parents along with us upper demographic regulars. The drawing crowd was a teenage band that I'd actually already heard a good buzz on, The Kingston Springs (named after the home of the group and which is also Red Tree's location). I heard their tracks on MySpace and was impressed. These fellows (Bass: Alexander Geddes, Drums: Matthew DeMaio, Vocals/Guitar: Ian Ferguson, Vocals/Guitar: James Guidry) are around 16-17 years old and have only been together for almost a year. But already they've got a loyal and sizable following, strong musicianship and melodic songwriting that shows promise. If they've got this much going on already, then they've got a lot to look forward to. (And thanks to the kind gentleman whose name I didn't get that bought me a cup of coffee!)

After that, the Folkahoma Applachia Groove Train pulled in, a little late but better than never with Kim McLean, Mark Elliott, Devon O'Day, bassist Chris Herin and Will McJ on drums. They'd been up since 4 a.m. having come in from Arkansas. Kim and Devon have been on the "Ain't No Glory" radio tour in support of the first single from Kim's new CD "Rapunzel's Escape" and said they'd driven 47 hours in three days. But no matter...Kim and company rocked the place with the same spirit and joy as they normally do. Mark Elliot, just back from a European tour in which he was plagued with a lung infection, soldiered through its lingering effects and pulled it off in his solo spots. One notable moment: Kim performed a new song devoted to the White Church on the Hill in Kingston Springs and a train whistle came in at an opportune moment in perfect key. A "God-incidence", as Kim put it.

By the way, Red Tree Coffee celebrates its first birthday on May 8.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tin Cup Gypsy, Edgehill Studios Cafe, 4/10/09

Last December, I went to a writers night at the Bluebird Cafe and heard a wonderful young group called Tin Cup Gypsy. They made a fan out of me that night musically and personally. I assured them I'd be back at a gig and made good on it. Despite the challenges of weather and having the wrong start time for the show, I ventured out to the intimate setting of the Edgehill Studios Cafe.

The three musicians of Tin Cup Gypsy also have notable gigs on their own. Brothers Jonathan and Jordan Lawson are backing musicians for Sara Evans and Josh Turner respectively and Cassandra, wife of Jonathan, has been seen in the Trisha Yearwood video "This Is Me You're Talking To". They come together (joined by Tyler Oban on percussion) with a style that mixes swing, acoustic, roots and country influences with smooth lead vocals by Jonathan and tight group harmonies. They shine equally on many original compositions ("To The Sea" and the encouraging "Bury Me" were standouts) and covers such as "Roly Poly" and the Fleetwood Mac song "Break The Chain". As last time I saw them, they did a great cover of Fastball's "The Way".

As I also noted previously, Tin Cup Gypsy bonded with its audience, and mentioned what was going on with several people at the show. To go up on stage and share your songs for an audience and do that well is one thing. But to reach out to fans with your heart and allowing them to connect in return is the thing that's going to get you to the next level and keep a loyal following. Sure, there's risk with that in some cases (I wrote a book on fan/audience relationships), but Tin Cup Gypsy obviously knows taking a chance is worth it. Willingness to be genuine has its rewards.

I recommend catching Tin Cup Gypsy for yourself and you'll be a fan, too.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tin Pan South late show, Michael McDonald, etc., Mercy Lounge, 4/4/09

The question of the day: would I or would I not be successful in getting in the door of Mercy Lounge to get to see Michael McDonald in a round with artists Meghan Kabir, Luke Laird, Leigh Nash, Emerson Hart, Kyle Cook and Michael's son Dylan McDonald? I didn't have a Tin Pan South pass so I went early, took my place around 6th in the cash line and waited and hoped. At least I had the possibility of my dear songwriter friend Debbie Pascarella saving me a seat inside. But happily, pass holders and cash payers got in. There were no seats but my consolation was a well-positioned spot at the front of the stage along with a swarm of photographers weaving in and out(note: great spot to see the show but not conducive to note-taking, hence lack of some detail here and there). If I hadn't, though, at least I could have said I saw Michael McDonald. In yet another display of the man's unaffected nature and humility he's known for, he and someone carried his keyboard in from the parking lot and made a joke about doing an honest day's work!

Main performers Meghan Kabir (who appeared to be the round organizer), Luke Laird, Leigh Nash and Michael had four songs each. Leigh, known from Sixpence None the Richer and Meghan gave the audience some powerful personal songs (why were we so quiet, Meghan? We were listening!). Luke Laird is co-writer of two Carrie Underwood hits "So Small" and "Last Name" (which as he noted was comical as he performed it as written in the female point of view!). Michael McDonald, of course, is "the man" in my book. He did a song in tribute of Martin Luther King (on a guitar close to the size of a ukelele...still surprising to those of us who associate him primarily with the keyboard), his song written originally for Christmas called "Peace", and Doobie Brothers hits "It Keeps You Running" and "What A Fool Believes". The audience demanded an encore from him and got "I Keep Forgetting", joined on stage by his sister Maureen who had done the backing vocal on the recording.

Guest artists were Emerson Hart from Tonic (who did a Tonic hit and a lullabye for his daughter), Kyle Cook from Matchbox 20 and Dylan McDonald, who had two songs each.

Along with Michael, the two I was most waiting to hear were Kyle and Dylan. Kyle's Matchbox 20 bandmate Rob Thomas always said Kyle had an excellent voice and I agree. He did one of his own songs and an evening highlight for me, a recent Matchbox single "In These Hard Times". He noted it was not a huge hit for the group and that many people may not have heard the song. Well, I did, and it's one of those many tuning fork of the heart songs that Rob, Kyle and the group have been so successful at hitting me with. So, I was a puddle.

I'd really been looking forward to hearing Dylan, since I've been digging his songs on his MySpace page. He is vastly different from his dad musically, but the apple sure doesn't fall far from the tree. He and guitarist Daniel DelMonaco did two quite excellent acoustic songs. I'd sure like to hear more from him. And you can, when he and his band the Avians play at the Basement on April 17. I got to meet Dylan afterward...a nice and gracious fellow.

Another late but awesome evening. Sleep? What's that? Who cares, anyway? I love this town.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hippie Chick Twang, Tin Pan South, Edgehill Studios Cafe, 4/3/09

This past week I've been reflecting on the fact that this weekend marks two years ago that my little car and a Dodge Caravan rolled into town from St. Paul, MN and brought me and what little left I had here to Nashville. I get asked all the time, "how's life in Nashville?" Well, I use words like "awesome" and such, but honestly, I don't think they come close to describing how truly lucky I am to be living here among such incredible musicians and people.

Nothing came close to capturing that feeling for me than to have been part of the Hippie Chick Twang Tin Pan South showcase. It featured my dear friends Kim McLean and Devon O'Day, my "new buddy" Eve Selis, and new (to me) amazing ladies Shana Morrison and Robin English.

Now, I must share that before this I was privileged to be part of a gathering with most of these folks and many others a couple of days before. All of that capped off with a jam which filled my soul over the top. To be sitting sandwiched in between two musicians I admire most in this town and hear them play together for the first time, hearing these amazing women pour out their heart, soul and passion into their music...well, someone was smart to have put a tissue box where I was sitting because there were times when I needed it. Then, imagine having the daughter of Melanie ("Brand New Key", etc.) sing a little of her mom's song "Beautiful People" just for you. Could anything have been as wonderful? As it turns out, there was more to come.

Many of those who were with me that same day also showed up at Edgehill Studios for the showcase, so we were already "like family". So, the spirit in the room pouring forth from these fabulous women throughout the evening bonded us all, and I would say God showed up as well. Many of the songs in the show were co-written by the amazingly prolific Kim McLean. Having gotten to know her and Devon better over these past few months (and taking in quite a bit of their shows and being dubbed the "support angel" by them), a lot of these songs were already close to heart, like "Angels and Eagles" and several songs from Kim's latest release "Rapunzel's Escape".

Even earlier this week, having met her in the Tuesday night prayer group I attend that Kim and Devon coordinate, no one had quite the impact on me like Eve Selis. You know how you just bond instantly? This lady loves, lives and gives from her center, as a singer and as a person. A mom with a teenager and two year old in her 40s, that life experience only served to enhance the power and passion which she expressed from the deep part of her soul. If we could all follow even a fraction of that in our own lives and how we relate to one another, this world would be much the better for it.

As well, we all were impressed and moved by Robin English and Shana Morrison (daughter of Van), by the sheer power of their voices and the words and passion of their songs. All of whom were backed by the mighty Hippie Chick Twang band of the amazing Tom Shinness on multi-string instruments, Chris Herrin on bass, "Will McJ" on drums, Mark Twang on guitar (and I apologize for not having the name of Shana's guitarist--I'll add it later once I find out).

One thing that made me feel good was that two or three of the performers told me they loved my energy and enthusiasm and it helped them feel supported. That's what I do and what I'm here for...and these dear people sure made it easy to be enthusiastic.

Wow. What a blessing. And what two amazing years so far. I love my life here. I love this town.