Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekend Roundup 7/24-25/09

Chely Tackett/Annie Mosher, Alex Harvey and band, Douglas Corner Café, 7/24/09

This was my first trip to Douglas Corner Café, which has legendary status as a top songwriters venue. I planned primarily to see Alex Harvey and the band. But it being that the parking situation could be a challenge, I decided to make a night of it and take in the early show featuring Chely Tackett and Annie Mosher. That turned out to be a great call. I’d heard Chely Tackett a time or two and remembered Annie Mosher from a CLC writers night (particularly her green rain boots!). They traded off songs throughout their set--both were musically excellent and personally engaging. Also, it was very nice to be so warmly welcomed and appreciated by both those ladies.

Speaking of appreciation, I’ve said this before: anytime you’re seeing Alex Harvey, whether solo or with his awesome band, he gives you everything he’s got in passion and just plain stellar songwriting. The folks who came out were royally entertained--for my money, Alex Harvey is one of the best live performers in this town. It’s all about honesty and emotion.

Ronnie Fruge, Mark Stephen Jones, Gary Payne, Nick Sturms, Bluebird Café, 7/25/09

Most of the rounds I’ve heard at the Bluebird contained a lot of humor. This round had some of that as well from time to time, but the key element to this one was heart.

I heard Ronnie Fruge play some killer guitar licks all night in Alex Harvey’s band the night before at Douglas Corner. On this evening it was nice to hear him in a setting where he got to play some of his own songs. He explained he was “half Fruge, half Benoit” in his introduction to a tribute song for his grandpa Pierre who helped raise him. His warm personality , sweet spirit and Cajun heritage shined through in all of his songs, again with some fine (acoustic) guitar playing and vocals.

One of the names I keep hearing regularly in the songwriter circles among those most admired is Mark Stephen Jones. He’s written with several writers in town. The songs he played demonstrated why he’s highly regarded, most especially one I’ve been impressed with, “Addicted”. I also enjoyed one hilarious song about being drunker than you ought to be (starting with a mouse declaring “bring on the cat”) and he got a strong reception to his song “Red White and Pink Slip Blues”.

Mark Steven Jones has been working with Nick Sturms, a talented young writer who was part of the round. His songs had a strong spiritual element to them and he brought emotion and passionate vocals to the evening.

A fine storytelling songwriter, Gary Payne provided one of the most moving moments of the evening, introducing and dedicating his song “Hope and Freedom” to a war hero who was in the audience. You can hear that song on Gary’s MySpace page at

By the way, that was the first time I sat at the table next to the soundboard. I think it's my new favorite place to sit.

I had to slip out early on this one because I was due at…

Lorna Flowers 5th Anniversary in Nashville Party, Commodore Grill 7/25/09

I arrived to a packed house at the Commodore Grill in celebration of Lorna Flowers' 5th anniversary in Nashville (and hers and Rick and Tammy Stewart’s 1st anniversary of hosting the weekend writers nights). I wasn’t a bit surprised at the turnout…Lorna’s made quite an impact in this town not only as a singer/songwriter but also because of the genuine friendship and support she extends to everyone (including yours truly). I knew about half the people in the room, which always makes it fun for me!

There was cake, champagne, appetizers (which I missed along with the raffle...oh well!) and of course lots of great music! The one or two rounds I had a chance to hear included Graham Rodgers, Craig Winquist, Jerry Foster, Julie Forester, Brigitte Tatum (“She’s Country”), Kirsti Manna (“Austin”), and Lorna herself. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I of course had a radio show to do the next morning. Love ya Lorna, Rick and Tammy!

Let me close with one thought: if you support any artists, get out to the shows as much as you can, when you can. Don’t assume someone else will fill the seats. If everyone figures someone else will go and it won't matter, the artists may end up with a sparse house. That disappoints the, you’ll miss out on seeing a great show. You being there can make all the difference in the world.

Lorna says it best: “Isn't Nashville the coolest place to live, with the coolest people?” I say amen to that.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Weekend Roundup 7/10-12

I'm just a little bit behind here with reporting in. I had a couple of events to prepare for. I gave a talk at Indie Connect on Monday and filled in for a couple of friends of mine on Radio Free Nashville on Tuesday. With all of that going on, not much time to sit down and write. So here goes:

I stopped up at Red Tree Coffee in Kingston Springs and heard a couple of terrific artists: Mike Siler from Texas, who did a great job with covers and his own material in a fine authentic country fashion (and gentle humor throughout). Also impressive was Dean Berner, of the trio Eden's Edge, in a solo outing. Also very nice songwriting and one or two good covers in his set. I will certainly watch for Eden's Edge the next time they play.

Saturday night was another in the series of Friends of Pegram Park Writers Nights (the 41st, actually!)at Fiddle and Pick. This one included a couple of friends of mine, both who will be part of my Commodore Grill birthday round on September 9: Louise Mosrie and Brandon Maddox. Louise was magnificent as always. There were a few people there who were hearing her for the first time and were, of course, blown away by her voice and songwriting skill. It was nice to not only hear Brandon, but also "Moose" back on harp...he'd been away from Nashville and music for a bit so it was a nice surprise to hear him sit in with Brandon. Brandon contines to grow stronger as a writer and singer.

Robby Hicks did a very nice job opening the evening. Jeff Miller, who I saw at the writers night here last November, also did a fine set. I must admit I spent most of the night watching his feet after he explained how he uses his Phase Sampler (looper). Using pedals to record guitar and vocal bits in layers, that essentially makes him a one-man band and he did it masterfully.

An evening standout is one to watch: young singer/songwriter Tyler Flowers. Tyler is recording a CD being produced by Pat Flynn. This fellow just absolutely stunned everyone--he is a triple threat singer, songwriter, guitar player. Tyler told me that he performs mostly as part of a band, but I and others assured him that he more than holds his own as a solo act.

This all is yet another example of the considerably strong scene also going on in the smaller Pegram/Kingston Springs area. It's worth venturing west of Nashville if you have the chance to do so.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Where Have I Been??

Yow. I didn't realize it's been a month that I've written anything in here. I haven't been lazy, really. In fact, I've been quite busy running around. I've been once again bemoaning the fact that last month, and sure to carry into this one, it seems that there are 2-3 events every night at the same time that I want to be at. I have to make some tough choices. I really wish I can split myself in 2...or 3. (Clone me? Nah. One of me is enough.)

Unfortunately on some of the evenings I've been out, my notebook decided it had enough of my galavanting and decided to sneak out of my purse and stay home. So I didn't capture as many notes on events as I wanted to. But I'll try to make brief notes as best I can of some of the shows I have been to.

- Some people really should play out more often. One of those is a group called The Pitchmen, a group of stellar players with a ton of great credentials led by singer/songwriter Vic White. These guys rocked the house last month at Red Tree Coffee with solid original songwriting, a few inventive cover versions, some awesome playing and first class vocals (an impressive standout being singer/guitarist Brock Goodwin). Vic told me that these guys play gigs only about every couple of months and have very little rehearsal before they play. You'd never know it the way they got down that night. They'll see me again at a gig for sure (keep me posted, guys!).

- Ever been to Kimbro's Pickin' Parlor? It's a cute little place in the downtown Franklin area with a homey, intimate atmosphere that reminds me a bit of Fiddle and Pick in Pegram. It even has its own little jingle which you can hear on the MySpace page. It has a lot of neat memorabilia on the walls and the food's pretty good. It was a perfect space to hear a solo acoustic performance by Alex Harvey. As I've noted in the past, Alex has a way of creating community with his audience. He quickly established that "living room atmosphere" here with his passionate songs and vocals and warm rapport. Alex will be back at Kimbro's at the end of the month.

- There have of course been a lot of good rounds happening at the Commodore Grill as always. Two of my buddies in this town, Sam Cooper and Mary Hartman, did a great one last week, bringing up hit songwriter Chris Gantry (who teamed with Sam for a fun and powerful version of their song "Orange Man") and a fine talent catching notice in town: Michael Rodgers, son of legendary singer Jimmie Rodgers.

- I also was melting from the heat at the Fillin' Station for a couple of nights with the FolklahomaAppalachi Groove Train (Kim McLean, Devon O'Day, Mark Elliott, Chris Herin) and Mark with Cary Stone. But the music as always was awesome and well received.

- Last but not least, I spent a hot (on many levels, you could say!), long, but great day at the Nashville Songwriters Festival on Music Row. After dropping in some superb workshops by Dave Isaacs (guitar technique and education) and Debi Champion (starting writer's nights), I headed to my post at the Sure Fire Web Cast stage where I served as emcee and act roundup person for a four-hour shift. Folks came and went in the crowd but we had some fine players come through on stage. It was fun for me to be able to introduce some people I knew, like Boomer Castleman and Lois Hess, Kris Miller and Ellen Ohlsson. Only problem was there were some performances happening on other stages at the same time I was on duty. Luckily for me, the main stage was nearby so I was able to sneak away and hear a little of one set I really wanted to catch by John Heinrich. It was the only all-instrumental set there and he rocked the festival with his compositions and sax playing. Singer/songwriter Popcorn did an amazing job pulling this all together with volunteer help. Shows ya what can be done with limited resources and determination.

More to come this month for sure--I'll try to do better staying on top of it.

Things to plug:

- I will be doing a talk for Indie Connect on Monday, July 13 at 11:30 a.m. at Corky's in Brentwood. The topic will be on making radio interviews work effectively for artists. Hope to see you there!

- I will now be a monthly contributing writer to the Commodore Grill MySpace blog. The first piece, "Home Away From Home" is posted now. My thanks to Rick Stewart for making this happen!

- Mark your calendar NOW for my "birthday round" at the Commodore Grill on Wednesday, September 9! I will NOT be playing, but some great writers and singers will to help me celebrate. Scheduled to appear are: Beth Browne, Brandon Maddox, Dr. Jay and Miss Diana, Louise Mosrie, Randi Perkins and John Velora. That round starts at 7 p.m. but please come early at 6:30 for the Wild Oats Records monthly round featuring my dear friends (and fellow WRFN radio hosts) Steve Haggard and Kimberly King. Don't miss it!