Archives for category: Band of Joy

2010, Corb Lund, Hayes Carll, Lucinda Willianms, Hayes’ parents.

September used to be back to school month, now that school starts early, September is not only when the CMA’s hit Nashville, but, when the world comes for Americana, Bluegrass and where Next Big Nashville morphed into Soundland and moved to October.

While Nashville may be known for the CMA’s , Eric Church and Taylor Swift, it is also known for what Rolling Stone called the “coolest music festival in the world”, The Americana Music Festival hits the city for the ultimate pub crawl from September 12th-15th.

Dan Baird with Brad, 2010, Cannery Ballroom, Stones Tribute

Past years have seen everybody from Don Was to Robert Plant to Nashville’s Own, Justin Townes Earle put on some great showcases.  Last years’ awards show mashed up Gregg Allman, Robert Plant with The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons (sorry, the name reminds me of Sanford and Son). In fact, it seemed like a hybrid MTV awards show where music mattered and all sugar pop was left at the end caps in Wal Mart.

This year proves to be no exception, some notable sets will be Memphis night at The Rutledge featuring sets by Jim Lauderdale and the Mississippi All-Stars, okay, yes, I’ll say it again, Jim Lauderdale and The Mississippi All-Stars also a late set featuring an all-star jam playing the music of Big Star.

For those with a traditional view of what is “Americana”, Corb Lund will be at Mercy Lounge this Wednesday followed by a tribute to the late Levon Helm. In fact the line-up seems to be all inclusive with The Wallflowers, Mindy Smith, Chris Scruggs, Rodney Crowell among others playing all over the place for several nights.

As far as Americana goes, the easiest party route is to hang between Mercy Lounge and The Cannery Ballroom with an occasional run to The Basement for some harder to find sets.

Don Was, photo – Brad Hardisty

The problem is, this year, there are some great line-ups at The Rutledge and the Station Inn that will make that shuttle route a little difficult and may necessitate borrowing somebody’s 20-speed bike to get around each night.

Peelander-Z at Exit/In, NBN 2010 – photo – Brad Hardisty

The awards show at the end of the event, always proves to be a magical evening at The Ryman. This year should be no different. I am rooting for Alabama Shakes in the Emerging Artist category as well as Jason Isbell (Alabama represent!) & The 400 Unit with Album of the Year, Here We Rest.

The Dillards, IBMA 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

Not to be outdone, IBMA’s World of Bluegrass Week runs from 24th-30th at, for convenience, The Nashville Convention Center and Renaissance Hotel. The IBMA Convention is not just about showcases, but, people are encouraged to carry around their guitars, fiddles, mandolins  and join in the jam sessions that run almost till the sun comes up every night.

You could say Ricky Skaggs is our local Bluegrass patron Saint, with yearly residencies at The Ryman and a new album, Music to My Ears coming out this month, but, there are many new young artists playing traditional bluegrass as well as pulling in some modern ideas and pre-war non-bluegrass styles.

This is the real rebellion. While the music industry is finding a million ways to make computers sing and dance and auto-tune any Disney character into stardom, both the Americana Music Festival and the IBMA World of Bluegrass celebrate real musicianship, communal collaboration and a reason for a Luthier to keep honing his skills in search of the perfect tone wood.

This recipe continues to build both communities with younger generations every year.

After all, how many times can the music business reinvent the 70’s and the 80’s?

Mike Farris hanging at Mercy Lounge, Americana 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

So, while commercial Country is now going to be shown every week in the night time soap, Nashville, basically re-spinning the movie Country Strong, “Americana,” which can claim anything from pre-war anthems to Red Dirt scene country and Bluegrass, New Grass and all its modern heirs are really the new cool. These two celebrations are really the underground cool.

As far as Soundland? What happened? Well, it’s now on October 6th and after a peak year three years ago that featured major music business players talking about the next generation of music delivery and several days of new music, it is now one day down by the river with bands that already play Lollapalooza and other big festivals.

Wanda Jackson signing autographs at Mercy Lounge after Jack White produced album showcase, Americana 2010.

There are only a few locals, when Nashville could really do a Next Big Nashville with such a burgeoning Indie Rock and other type Music Scene, we get Soundland with just a couple of token Nashvillians, PUJOL and Nikki Lane.  I guess we are going for national respect and now start-ups like Secret Stages in Birmingham are filling in the gap. Can I just say…huh?

– Brad Hardisty, Nashviille, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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Wanda Jackson at Mercy Lounge 2010

Easter is all about a renewal, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it means to us. Nashville itself is a town of resurrection, a place where Jack White has produced two great albums by Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson and where the underbelly that was East Nashville is the place to be.

Speaking of East Nashville, Bob Dylan came here in the Sixties to make a 180 in his career and where Robert Plant came just a couple of years ago to do just the same.  Speaking of which, I have heard that he has set up shop with Patty Griffin in Austin since the Band of Joy tour.

What is Nashville to me? A Californian-slash-Alabama bluesman? I started making the drive up to Nashville quite often starting in 2006 from Birmingham. I liked the fact that you could wander from one honky tonk to another and check out all the Telecaster blasters playing through mostly Fender tube amps almost any hour of the day.

I finally made the move after getting positive feedback about my songwriting abilities from a local publishing head at the end of 2007.

It was a very surreal world, where one Saturday morning, wandering around a guitar show, I ended up talking to Scotty Moore about how many Bill Black Combos, Bill really had.  The next minute, I am jamming on my 1936 Gibson Electric Hawaiian down on Lower Broad when Little Jimmy Dickens comes wandering out of nowhere and watches me jam for about 10 minutes, throws a $20 dollar bill into the vintage case and says. “Keep it up!” Mind you, I’m not making this up. In fact, if you are from Nashville, you know what I mean and are probably saying, “So what.”

I realized that everybody had a story, whether it was the Baskin Robbins on Lebanon that said Porter Wagoner used to come in all the time, or a snapshot in the window of Robert Plant stopping in to check out the guitars.

So what do I like about Nashville, now that I have been here a few years?

Strange Karma down on Lower Broad celebrating the bassist birthday!

Let’s see, there is more diversity than what outsiders would think, for starters, I have met a ton of Aussies and I, seriously, have never met one I didn’t want to hang with whether it was Anthony Snape or Strange Karma. I wonder if it was like this when Keith Urban first came here and was playing at the Guitar Bar? Did the Aussies start coming after Keith’s success or is Nashville a big magnet?

As far as diversity goes, you can get world class Indian Cuisine, of which I am all about Tamarind on Demonbreun. I’ve ate Indian food all over the place and that is about as good as it gets.  There are several ethnic communities here, whether it be Egyptian Coptic Christians or Somalis, the list goes on and makes for Eateries that go way beyond the meat and three.

Something is in the water in East Nashville, with several upstart, one of a kind places like Far East Nashville, not only your typical Vietnamese Pho and Vermicelli bowls, but, the actual family recipes fixed by the owners brother, in a totally unique way.

Porter Road Butcher Shop makes some amazing sausages featuring probably the best Andouille Sausage this far north of Bayou Country.  In fact, that is what I had for Easter. I could have whatever I wanted, so, I faxed three eggs with some sharp Vermont Cheddar and some of that Andouille Sausage on the side.

Nashville is a vinyl fanatic’s pipe dream, wandering between Grimeys, The Groove, Phonoluxe and the two Great Escape locations there is no reason to ever come up empty handed. In fact, there is a plethora of radio station promo copies which are usually on heavier, better quality vinyl.  Record Store Day is almost like a city holiday where a huge migration descends mainly on Grimeys by the thousands. My only gripe would be, is there no bootlegs? Back when, I used to travel over to Berkeley to Moe’s Bookstore and get vinyl Beatles bootlegs as well as concerts and demos engraved onto vinyl by everything from Queen to Aerosmith to The Clash it was something nobody else had.

Music is everywhere, as I laid down to bed the first few months in Nashville, I could hear music in my head like never before, like ghost radio stations, it seemed like there were thousands of songwriters who had passed on and never left Nashville, they were just trying to get that next big hit. It seemed as if there was singing in the netherworld and all you had to be was a little bit spiritually aware.

Tommy Tutone and Mario at Nashville Amp Expo

I think there are more Telecasters in a 30 mile radius than the whole state of California, where they were invented.  If you can’t find the perfect Telecaster, there are boutique builders from Mario Guitars in Murfreesboro to Chad Underwood in Lexington, Kentucky.

As far as electric guitar parts go, Rock Blocks Guitars has a wall of supplies juts minutes away.

Looking at the Musical Instrument section in Craigslist can be eye opening. You never know what you will find, anything from a 1964 Fender Precision sold by the bass player in Cinderella after a career’s worth of touring to a Gold Top Les Paul owned by Duane Allman. If there is a vintage Sho-Bud Steel around, no doubt, eventually, you’ll see it on Craigslist.

Southside Gentlemans Club at Burt's Tiki Lounge, newly acquired Dr. Z Stang Ray in the backline. 2009

My favorite personal story is about my Dr. Z Amplifier. I had been writing and playing my own brand of Ragtime Blues when I moved to Nashville. I had been using a 45 Watt Samamp from Birmingham when I got here and it was just too much. I was ready for a little 30 Watt or less combo. There are so many and I just decided to try them all. I brought my arch top with me and made the rounds from Corner Music to Gruehn Guitars to Rock Blocks. Finally, when I plugged into this Dr. Z Stang Ray at Rock Blocks, I had met my match, a simple tone stack, where you could really fill out the bass and a simple good looking black with white trim amp.  The speaker had been changed out to a Cannabis Rex and it had a sound all its own.

The price tag was $2100. I didn’t have $2100. In fact, even with selling some gear, donating blood and street gigging down on Lower Broad, I still probably would be $1000 a way. I needed that amp. I put it in God’s hands. It’s okay to say that in Nashville isn’t it? Well, that’s what I did, true story. I prayed and said, I’ve tried all the amps out that I can think of and that is the one that sounds right then tucked it away.

Well, things looked bleak when I lost my job in 2008, in fact, really bleak, I left Nashville, worked five months in Memphis, then that company went bankrupt and I ended up taking a job with a national company in Utah and moved out of Tennessee.

I never gave up on the music, I got my five piece ragtime blues band together in Utah, playing at Burt’s Tiki Lounge, finding some great musicians from an add I put out in Craigslist. On a whim in early 2009, I looked up the Nashville Craigslist and found that exact Dr. Z Stang Ray for sale. Guitarist, Gary Ishee, had put an add up that read something like this;“I bought this Dr. Z Stang Ray earlier this year at Rock Blocks and I need to sell it.”

It looked identical. I called him up and explained that I was stuck out in Utah, but, that I knew the amp and through our talk, he knew I was the real deal. I wired the money to his bank account including the cost to ship it. I bought it for $1250. I was able to come up with that only because I went out west to a company on a bad stretch, because of the economy, they let me have all the overtime I could handle. I got the amp in a big Roland amplifier box from UPS in Farr West, Utah and it was the exact amp. I sat there and cried. It was the exact same amp, in fact, the only amp I ever prayed about and I will include the picture of my group, The Southside Gentlemens Club playing at Burt’s Tiki Lounge a couple of months later with the amp in the backline.

Thank you Brad Paisley for input on the AC30 hybrid design, what a great amp. I still own it and fire it up almost every day in hopes to lay down some tracks here soon.   

Okay tracks, let’s talk about that. I was in Utah almost a year, when I came out here on vacation in September 2009. I had hoped to move back to Nashville someday, maybe when the economy got better, but, on a whim, I had kept in touch with a realtor, who didn’t give up on me, even though, I was out in the Rocky Mountain West. I will drop his name, because Kenneth Bargers is an amazing Realtor. He emailed me faithfully every month some houses I would be interested in.  When I was here for a week in September 2009, Kenneth Bargers took me around on two afternoons to look at houses.  I felt like I was back home, I wanted to be back in Nashville, I did not want to get back on the plane.

Daniel Turner

We found a house I really liked. The last night I was in town, I was hanging around and moping by the pool at the airport Courtyard over on Elm Hill Pike, not wanting to leave Nashville. I decided I needed to go do something, pull myself up by my bootstraps. So I got dressed and headed over to Commodore Grille to check out some songwriters. Cowboy Jack Clement was in the round and it gave me goose bumps. I thought, if I had stayed at the hotel, I would have missed this.  I decided I need to get back and I was heading out the door when I heard somebody call my name. “Brad!” I looked up and it was Daniel Turner, one of my music friends from Birmingham, Alabama walking in. I said to him, “What are you doing here?”  He explained that he was going to be playing the next round. It was a great reunion of old friends. I have so much respect for Daniel as an all around musician. He can play, write and sing. If anybody could make a great classic country album, he could. He has such a great voice, but, he had really been influenced by a lot of the Alabama Blues that is around Birmingham.

I went back to my hotel room on cloud nine. I could hardly sleep. I was going to find a way to get back and I did. I interviewed by phone and got a transfer. I found a house on Zillow.com and Kenneth Bargers looked at it for me and on his word, I bought it. In fact, Kenneth represented me at closing in November 2009 and I never walked into the house until the first week of December as an owner. It’s a true story, call Kenneth, if you need a Realtor and you can ask about it. He is the best Realtor in Nashville as far as I am concerned.

Kenny Malone at a clinic at Country Music HOF

Okay, so, I am back. I work hard. I have got to hang with some great musicians and do some great interviews. It’s been a great ride, but, I need to resurrect my own career. Sometimes, I think it would be easier to move down to Pensacola and put together a group from Craigslist and center on a little club or bar to be “our place,” but, there is the dream recording session, the possibility that I can put together, with a little cash or luck, Kenny Malone on drums, “Slick” Joe Fick from The Dempseys on Bass, the violinist I saw at Mike Farris’ in store at Grimeys and get a trumpet player that can play like Al Hirt and get this manic New Orleans meets Memphis circa 1940 music to record. I work hard at the music and I have some great friends. If that part of my career is supposed to “Resurrect,” it will.

For now, I will just enjoy the ride.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Hayes Carll Americana Fest 2011 Mercy Lounge

After the Americana Music Association Carnival pulled out of Nashville, the big question is, what does Americana sound like? A friend of mine said that it would have at least one acoustic instrument in the mix, to give it that authentic roots thing. Jim Lauderdale as he hosted the Americana Awards did a spoof show tune, “That’s Americana!” It was hilarious and it was great because Americana is not a particular sound.

Americana is one of the strangest music references ever, at least when the word “grunge” came along, it meant one of the bands that came out of Seattle at a certain time. Americana is like a radio format for everything that doesn’t fit the current formats, yet, it is getting some of their artists like Mumford and Sons into the mainstream. Not to mention Will Hoge.

A mention was made by one of the show reviewers in Nashville Scene that they were glad that the “old farts in flannel shirts singing post Grateful Dead stuff” were gone and they could have the Exit/In back.

I get the feeling that a lot of people are stumbling onto Americana artists and not even knowing it, in Rolling Stone or when their friend says “listen to this” and pulls up something on their IPod by The Civil Wars or The Avett Brothers.

If you haven’t heard about these artists in the last year, then you live in a bubble. Americana is not only an award at the Grammys now, but, a launch pad, much like Indie format radio, where artists can get their “legs” as they mingle with legends like Gregg Allman and Robert Plant who are flying the banner.

One thing that Americana is not is electronic. Americana may have some roots in any American genre such as Blues, Soul, Gospel, Country, Folk and on and on, but it is definitely not about Kraftwerk or the modern Pop that is all made up on an Apple computer.

Blind Boys of Alabama Americana Fest 2011 Cannery Ballroom

Americana is as much about Red Dirt singer/songwriters like Hayes Carll as it is the roots gospel of The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Blind Boys of Alabama, Alabama Music Tribute at Cannery opening night

I guess if you are looking for a root to Americana you would probably have to go back twenty years in Nashville when about sixty California transplants started gathering to Nashville. Some of them became mainstream songwriters like Jeffrey Steele or Darrell Scott (most recently, Robert Plant & The Band of Joy). The one thing that did happen is they shook up the system.

Kenny Vaughan Americana Fest 2011 Mercy Lounge

Back in those days, Rosie Flores and Lucinda Williams would hang out all night, shutting down two or three bars only to meet up with Billy Block for breakfast.  A good chunk of these people bucked the Country music machine at the time or made some changes to it. They stayed true to themselves and this whole Americana thing has kind of caught up with them and now they are riding a jetstream of new found respect and popularity.

People like Jim Lauderdale who can go from playing straight up bluegrass to roots country to writing Robbie Robertson style music with a Grateful Dead lyricist represent the diversity of what is currently happening. It’s like the alternate universe of “the music business as usual” with a handmade vibe.

Most of what Bob Dylan does nowadays such as Modern Times could be classified Americana.  Many of the Americana Artists really jump from box to box, especially Mumford & Sons and Justin Townes Earle, who have as much Indie respect as they do Americana clout.

Kenny Vaughan packed it in then packed it back up at Mercy

The most interesting thing is that the genre has strong roots outside of the U.S. in places like Australia and Europe. Many of the artists make more money over there when they tour. This is nothing new, we as Americans many times pass on what is really cool about our culture and opt in for the corporate sell, “the spin.”

Americana is mainly artist and fan driven; it is really Indie at its core. If you like the Muscle Shoals era Dan Penn written songs alongside The Avett Brothers, more power to you. It really is the old saying, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

Robert Plant, Entertainer of the Year, The Ryman acceptance speach

You don’t have to buy into acoustic singer/songwriters or flannel shirts and old farts to find something there for yourself. Chances are you are listening to some Americana format music without realizing it. If you’re not sure where to start then it might as well be Buddy Miller, Robert Plant said he heard Buddy the first time when he toured with Emmylou Harris a few years ago and he seemed to embody everything American music, blues, gospel, rock, you name it. Robert said that Buddy will always be a part of whatever he does in the future. Emmylou Harris, at this year’s awards at The Ryman, said, they should call the Americana Award “The Buddy” because he has won so many of them.

By the way, a note to the Nashville Scene writer, when you refer to a group of music fans as old farts, just realize that you are probably being referred to as an old fart by somebody, it could be an 11 year old on a skateboard listening to some punk band out of California and thinking the same about you.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Andy May and Kenny Malone - photo courtesy, Kevin Schlatt Photography

There were all sorts of events both musical and public ceremonies going on around Nashville last Sunday. It was a slow time getting up and I wasn’t really up for the pomp and circumstance, but, I was up for some good music.

The Country Music Hall of Fame has a schedule of free demonstrations, concerts and films. September 11th sounded interesting with Andy May and Kenny Malone doing a “Guitar and Drum Demonstration” set in the Gibson Room at 1Pm.

This was an opportunity not only to listen to an interesting set but to ask questions and get some interesting answers and advice by a couple of masters.

Andy May is a guitar and mandolin player as well as a singer, songwriter, and music educator. Andy has won the guitar grand championship at the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention (Union Grove, North Carolina) and he has appeared with Brownie McGee & Sonny Terry, Merle Haggard, Nickel Creek, Mike Seeger, Pete Seeger, and others. He is a regular at Merlefest .

Kenny Malone is a percussionist who has performed or recorded with Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and others. 

Kenny Malone, not just a drummer, but, a master percussionist, brought world beat to Country Music years ago. One of the first records that he used Djembe drums and other percussion was with Don Williams. Kenny talked about how he likes to read the lyrics before he reads the music so that what he performs on the song doesn’t distract from the lyrics.

Kenny showed his newest set-up, five Djembe drums set up in a full pentatonic scale.  Kenny stated, “Several cultures independently found the pentatonic scale on their own. The pentatonic scale would be the black keys on the piano. When drums are tuned to a pentatonic scale, there is no discordance with the music being played and you can hit any drums together and they blend.”

Andy showcased his versatility not only by playing his own songs such as “Love is The Greatest Gift of All” off Blackberry Jam, on a Martin Acoustic through a Roland Cube which sounded 10 times bigger than it was, but, took requests from the audience to maximize what Andy and Kenny could do between Guitar and Percussionist, going everywhere from “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Star of the County Down” sung by Andy’s daughter.

Kenny showcased a new percussion piece for the first time which he decided to call “9/11,” in honor of the date.  Andy and Kenny both talked about deciding on doing the gig together on 9/11.   Rather than being about what happened on 9/11, it was a time to memorialize the 10th anniversary and remember that American Music is a blend of different cultures. Drums coming from big brass band European military music.

“The snare came from the battlefield. They needed something that would crack through everything. The snare was used to give directions on where to shoot or fight. It was code tapped out on the snare. The percussionist brought nothing into battle but a snare drum. It was dangerous work. Of course there is the Scottish drum and fife corp.”- Kenny Malone

Kenny- “When I was in the military, playing music was part of the job. When we passed a Russian ship in international waters we had the responsibility to play the national anthem.”

Andy commented about music being a mixture of roots in traditional folk melodies mainly known through older gospel music and religious traditions of different cultures.

Kenny made the remark that we are constantly blending musical forms noting that he was playing traditional African instruments as well as a snare from military tradition while Andy was playing an instrument that came out of Europe in various forms hundreds of years ago.

Kenny has been doing the acoustic guitar/drum duet thing for a while with Darrell Scott (songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) at Hippy Jack’s, the Americana Music Festival and the Folk Alliance in Memphis.

Kenny will be playing with Darrell Scott to celebrate Darrell’s new Country music release at the Station Inn on October 5th and 6th. This is a show not to be missed.

Before leaving The Country Music Hall of Fame, I stopped into the Ford Theater to see Bill Monroe’s appearance on Austin City Limits back in 1981 and 1986 and this was a tribute special aired in 1997. It was cool to see him and Ralph Stanley on the big screen. I guess 9/11 can be a day when we celebrate American culture and what we have given to the world. Music is the great communicator and no ideology or extremism can take away what we have been able to accomplish by blending this stew we call America.

Night Ranger, before lift off

My friend, Steve in Wichita, who may the biggest Night Ranger  fan in the world, insisted I go to their unplugged set at the Hard Rock Nashville at 7Pm. I was glad I went.  Not so much for the rare acoustic interpretations of their own songs but whatever came to mind.

Night Ranger w/Mark Volman - The Turtles

Kelly Keagy, drummer, is a Nashville resident and I have caught one of his unplugged sets he did with Mark Slaughter and Kip Winger (both Nashville residents) before but this featured six tequila shots each as well as a guest walk up of The Turtles – Mark Volman and a Night Ranger run through sing along with 200 of their closest Nashville friends of “Happy Together.”

It became a challenge to see what could be played on the guitar.  One of the biggest surprises was when Jack Blades asked Brad Gillis to tell the story about what happened when he took over the Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Oz tour after Randy died. Randy was killed in a small plane crash mid-tour and Brad came in and filled the guitarist shoes after a short audition to finish out the “Diary of a Madman” tour.

A little Deep Purple "Highway Star"

There were banners like “Randy Forever” flying in the crowds and he was met with the challenge of matching one of the greatest guitarists of the day when Brad was a virtual unknown outside of the California Bay Area.

Sharon Osbourne, who managed Ozzy at the time decided to give Brad a bad time. She said, “Oakland is cancelled.” Brad- “Why??” “Lack of ticket sales.” Sharon said with a frown, then after a moment, she smiled and said, ”just kidding, it sold out in three hours.” Brad was asked to stay on but was anxious to get back to record Night Ranger’s first album. This lead to an outrageously good acoustic rendition of “Crazy Train” with Brad Gillis ripping the Randy lead part on a Taylor. He got a roomful of cheers for that one.

Kelly singing The Doors "Roadhouse Blues"

After a few Tequila shots, Kelly celebrating his Birthday, began to reveal his age when he talked about seeing The Doors in 1968. After guitars started churning “Roadhouse Blues”, the band went full swing, on a great tribute to The Doors with Kelly doing his best Jim Morrison.

It was over the top moments like these one of which featured a full on Ritchie Blackmore ripping – Deep Purple “Highway Star” mid-song bust out as well as the fact that this was a benefit for families dealing with children with drug problems, You’re Not Alone  Organization, that made the cozy room above the Hard Rock Café feel like a private party for Kelly Keagy and 200 of his best Nashville friends.

Music is one of the things that pulls us together as a country, it helps to identify those special moments in our lives, for Night Ranger it was like Déjà vu. “Ten years ago on 9/11 we were playing with Journey in Detroit. Now we are still on tour with them. A tour that started in 1982…ha-ha…”- Jack Blades

Night Ranger will be opening for Journey and Foreigner tonight at Bridgestone Arena.

Kelly Keagy's copy official set list

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

 

Jimi Hendrix in Nashville

Word hit the street over the last two weeks like a brush fire in New Mexico: Rolling Stone wrote in print and on the net, Nashville has the best music scene in the country. I haven’t even read it yet because it is in the subscriber content on the web, but, I believe it to be true.

What was the turning point? The Kings of Leon? I don’t really think so.  The Kings of Leon had to go over to England to become big  in the U.S., kind of like Jimi Hendrix, in fact Jimi was gigging up on Jefferson Street with Billy Cox  and The King Kasuals for just a little scratch and room and board just a couple of years before he went to the U.K.

Paramore? Well, giving a little credit to a younger scene was a good thing when they were signed to Fueled by Ramen (sort of) yet there is no scene of bands trying to sound like Paramore around Nashville so it is its own thing.

Just a couple of years ago, Nashville was licking its wounds when Be Your Own Pet and The Pink Spiders, especially The Pink Spiders who went in with guns loaded and a Ric Okasek Produced album and an Artist Relations war chest were unable to break big.

Was it when Jack White moved Third Man Records down to Nashville, that is definitely a key piece to being Rolling Stone cool, with new 45’s by regionals being released almost on a Sam Phillip’s Sun Records schedule along with concert events that are showstoppers like the Record Store Day plus one Jerry Lee Lewis concert featuring Steve Cropper and Jim Keltner.

Okay, Jack White has given it the one two punch by introducing past icons to new generations  like Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose Grammy award winning album with Loretta standing in front of the East Nashville house where it was recorded.  How about when Porter Wagoner opened for The White Stripes at Madison Square Garden?  Who would have known that Porter’s final call would be an outstanding album, The Wagonmaster and a gig opening for The White Stripes?

Maybe, that was key in making sure that real icons are represented like Wanda Jackson’s great new album on Third Man Records. Jack is definitely not just looking behind but is really tuned into the ether. I was excited to see Dan Sartain, a part of the same Birmingham scene I was in for a number of years cut some vinyl on Third Man Records. Dan opened up for The White Stripes on several dates a few years ago and my friend Emanuel Elinas who made some guitar pedals for me down at Highland Music in Birmingham talked about playing Bass with Dan Sartain and going bowling with Jack and his Mom. How cool is that?

In fact, when I saw the band on the flip side of the Dan Sartain 45 and Matt Patton was there, I was really happy about what was happening. Matt and a few others had put out some of the best Indie music in Birmingham that I have ever heard. Matt had this band called Model Citizen and their CD, The Inner Fool, produced by Tim Boykin (The Lolas, The Shame Idols, Carnival Season) on Bent Rail Foundation is one of my all time favorites. Matt is getting recognition with Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s The Dexateens now.

I tell you what; let’s get down to ground zero. When we talk about Todd Snider and the East Nashville scene we are getting close, but, let’s get down to one album and one artist.  Okay, I am going to say the transition came when Nashville got behind one of its own in 2008. When Justin Townes Earle got signed to Bloodshot Records and released The Good Life both weekly music papers got behind with big in depth articles about how Justin got to that point. The Good Life is a classic album out of left field but it really represented what Nashville was known for, good songwriting, a little rock and roll, a little country with a nod to the past and to the future of Americana.

At that time, you could hang with Justin over at The Basement, but with extensive touring and a prolific three years, Justin is well established and still with indie cred enough where I can still turn people onto his music as something new.

Justin was recognized at The Americana Music Awards in Nashville in 2009 the year before Rolling Stone called the Americana Music Festival the coolest festival in the U.S. In fact 2010 would be the no holds barred year when Warner Brothers would finally release American Bang’s CD. Robert Plant would record Band of Joy in East Nashville with an Americana  A-List including Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott and be the surprise guest at The Americana Music Awards.

The 2010 Americana Music Festival was a real eye opener when you had The Long Players, Bobby Keyes, Dan Baird and a laundry list doing Exile on Main Street at The Cannery Ballroom, Hayes Carll at The Basement, with people coming from Australia just to see him play and a festival closer with Todd Snider and an all-star band featuring Don Was on Bass, with a grin and looking somewhat like Slash’s older brother.

Don Was got in the game this year when he produced Lucinda Williams (a Nashville alumnus) new Cd, Blessed. Did it start at The Americana Music Festival with an exchange of phone numbers backstage at The Rhyman? Only they know for sure, but Nashville is becoming a ground zero magnet for much more than Popular Country Music Radio songs and Christian Music.

There had to be a change. The music business had changed and Nashville has changed along with that. Instead of twenty major labels in town, there are now five. The rest are Indie Country, Rock, whatever.

Coming to Nashville to be a hit songwriter may be a goal for a lot of people, but, getting a staff writing gig is becoming really difficult and less lucrative. Back in 2007-2008, we talked about how a songwriter with good songs getting signed to a publisher with maybe a 25-35k draw now going for 18-24k and the need for a day job for many.  Also, one of the larger publishers had in the past as many as 135 staff writers and was then down to Thirty five.

I know for a fact things are much worse for that dream with less staff writers, less money and less records being sold. The dream is still there, but, now you need to get lucky and find a new face with a great voice and the potential to get signed and start co-writing before some money starts flowing.

In early 2008, I could go to The Commodore Grill and see an endless supply of new songwriting talent for the Country Music Industry, but, with less staff gigs and the economy in the tank, less people are rolling into Nashville with an acoustic guitar and lyrics in the guitar case. In fact, it really is a trickle compared to just three years ago. Also, many of the writers that are coming into town have Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson chops and are not really what the Country Music Industry is looking for.

On the other hand, the Indie Rock and Americana scenes are ripe for development.  Vinyl is making a comeback with this crowd and United Record Pressing is right here where it always was. Colored vinyl, short runs, whatever you need with local labels like Third Man Records and Nashville’s Dead Records, United Pressing is back to increasing production and essentially back in the game.

The song publishing and royalty distribution infrastructure is realigning in Nashville with changes in staff announced publicly last year at ASCAP and I am sure accommodations are coming with a paradigm shift to handle multiple styles now in the pipeline.

Grimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music is probably the most famous record store in the country now, maybe second to Amoeba’s out on the West Coast. It’s not enough that Indie bands make in-store appearances. Metallica made a little short announced gig for fans at The Basement below Grimey’s in 2008 before their Bonnaroo appearance and released the whole experience as Live at Grimey’s worldwide in 2010. Now all the gloves are off.

If you are a music lover, archivist, etc. in a world with disappearing Record stores, Nashville not only has Grimey’s, but  also, Phonoluxe Records, The Great Escape, The Groove and plenty of other outlets for local as well as rare Cd’s and vinyl.

Look what is going on at Thirty Tigers Indie Distribution and their great success over the last couple of years.

Belmont University is turning out Music and Music Business degrees every year and a lot of students want to stay here and not necessarily go into the Country Music Machine. They have their own ideas from the scenes they came from whether it was in California or New York.

Bands like The Black Keys and The Deadstring Brothers are migrating here.  Even though Music Row still has a big chunk of the day to day business great records are being made in East Nashville, Blackbird Studio and Buddy Miller’s living room.

With the advent of a studio in a gig bag, Indie artists can make records anywhere and with cheap housing and a plethora of like minded musicians gathering in what really is now becoming truly Music City it only makes sense to live and work here, especially when gas is going for near $5 a gallon. Why not be close to all the blessings that come with a great music talent smorgasbord.

Speaking of food, you don’t want to leave Austin because of Texas Barbecue? Okay at least try Jack’s and Rooster’s Texas Style BBQ and Steak House on 12th. I promise you won’t be disappointed. You want California style Mexican Food? Go to Oscar’s Taco Shop on Nolensville and in Franklin. Thai? Thai Star. Vietnamese? Far East Nashville. Indian? Tamarind. New York Style Italian? Are you kidding? Maffiozas or the place at the Arcade. Okay, so you can’t get Hawaiian Plate BBQ here yet, but, there is plenty to explore. We could still use an In and Out Burger.

Okay, back to music.  Country is going through a lot of changes. The ripple of the Taylor Swift explosion that Big Machine Records put into motion are still being felt, being one of the only Platinum Recording Artists in the new digital era, as well as outside pressures from Texas Charts, the Red Dirt scene and T-Bone Burnett Produced masterpieces that can’t be denied.

Country even has its own street cred in Nashville with bands like Kort who are local but signed over in England as well as Indie Singer / Songwriter Caitlin Rose and Country spun  Those Darlins. Even Charlie Louvin, who as part of The Louvin Brothers can take some credit for inspiring The Everly Brothers and therefore The Beatles harmonies, got his Indie cred with The Battle Rages On that was released on Austin’s Chicken Ranch Records. I can say I got to see two Midnight Jamboree tapings and get his autograph on an early Louvin Brothers recording before he passed into immortality.

So what about Nashville’s own Indie scene? Heypenny, Jeff The Brotherhood, Cheer Up Charlie Daniels,  Uncle Skeleton, Pujol, Heavy Cream (kind of Karen-O fronting a better looking MC5), Todd Snider, John Carter Cash, The Coolin System, The Deep Fried 5 and a laundry list playing at places like The Basement, The End, Danzig’s House, Exit/In, The Rutledge, Mercy Lounge and a house party near you.

How could Rolling Stone not call Nashville the best Music Scene in the country? It is a multi pronged Country, Alt-Country, Americana, Bluegrass, Newgrass, Folk, roots, rock, funkified attack on your senses.

It’s one of those places you could actually plan a week of your life to check out bands as well as pick up a new Nudie or Katy K suit. A place where you might find Joe Maphis’ old Mosrite double neck or the Bass player from Cinderella’s vintage Precision Bass on sale on Craigslist.

You may never win over Nashville, but, it’s a good place to write, do your business and go to the Third Sunday at Third pot luck at Doak Turner’s house in Nashville. Maybe it doesn’t have a burgeoning Death Metal scene but it does have The Billy Block Show. When the sun is out you can’t deny how beautiful Nashville is. Where else can “Bless Your Little Heart” actually mean, I don’t give a ****.

Nashville is a great place to throw your guitar case in the corner and call home.

There are several trackbacks links for your viewing pleasure.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN    thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Okay, after reading about the 180 degree turn taken by Robert Plant from the anticipated follow up of “Raising Sand”, I was a little anxious to listen and look at what was wrought in East Nashville these last few months by Mr. Plant at the venerable Woodland Studios.  The studio where Bob Dylan recorded “Nashville Skyline” is now privately owned by musical artists David Rawlings (The Dave Rawlings Machine) and Gillian Welch.

As I opened up the CD, it reminded me of Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Written in Chalk” that turned a CD booklet into a little hard back book with a good 30 minutes worth of reading and photos to help guide you into the world created in Miller’s living room.

The design in this case was by Robert Plant with a look of crinkled muted blue pages and an illustrated clown that looked like something out of Ringling Brother’s Circus circa 1900.  The booklet features easy to read lyrics of songs by Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, and Townes Van Zandt with a little Uncle Dave Macon to go.

Robert Plant & Buddy Miller

Buddy Miller brought the house band together from some of the finest in Nashville featuring vocalist Patty Griffin and multi instrumentalist Darrell Scott who played the role of David Lindley on this sublime outing. If anyone were looking for a mirror reflection to the past, it would be found in guest vocalist, Bekka Bramlett who is featured on tracks one and two. If pinged back almost 30 years, you would find her mother

Backstage with Bonnie, Alabama Theater, 2007

 Bonnie Bramlett recording as Delaney and Bonnie in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with guitarist Eric Clapton in the early Seventies. Eric Clapton, as you probably know, shared the same slot Jimmy Page eventually did in The Yardbirds.

So if you look at it this way, “Band of Joy” which was named in honor of the band Robert and future Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham played in before the storm is in a way a Hebraic chiasm. The CD encompasses in the end what was in the beginning.  A Hebraic Chiasm reinforces the truth of a doctrine by repeating the doctrine at the end of the verse in reverse much like a mirror reflection. It can be found all over the Old Testament and it can be found in the song choices of this CD.

Darrell Scott

Robert starts the CD with the song “Angel Dance” written by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Louis Perez which lovingly refers to children as angels among the daily chaos, “Tomorrow will bring us a brand new day, We can run and play”, while at the end of the CD comes “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” a traditional black hymn where Robert sings with banjo to the front and Patty Griffin on Backing vocals “I’m gonna shout ‘til they tear your kingdom down, Shout ‘til they tear your kingdom down, I heard the voice of Jesus Christ say, Satan your kingdom must come down”, finally ending the album with a plaintive start of Robert’s voice and a John Bonham type groove snare drum on Theodore Tilton’s “Even This Shall Pass Away” with the final lines comes a hint of the eternal truth, “Life is done so what is death?, Then in answer to the king, Fell a sunbeam on his ring, Blinding light through fading grey: Even this shall pass away.”

Patty Griffin

As a setup to Act 3, Robert obviously brings out a little Tom Petty with a beautiful duet featuring Patty Griffin on Townes Van Zandt’s “Harm’s Swift Way” in the reflecting lines “Time will go it never stays, Memory locked in her passing, Try, oh try to cling to her, Until she becomes everlasting.”

In the middle of all this Robert spoke about wanting to not only bring about the jam sound of the original Band of Joy but also the mood of Led Zeppelin III that featured “Tangerine”.  You don’t have to go any further than tracks two and three. The Zeppelin groove is there on “House of Cards” and the Robert Plant and Buddy Miller penned obvious ode to Led Zep III, “Central Two-O-Nine”.

Don’t get too comfortable, the next song may be a compass that leads Bono and U2 to Nashville for the next release after the disconnect of their previous outing. “Silver Rider” while reminding me of Englishman Terry Reid starts out sonically something akin to The Edge playing through one of T Bone Burnett’s old amps with worn out tubes and capacitors and rust smoothing out the long delay follow. Robert’s hushed duet style with Patty Griffin is the closest track vocally to “Raising Sand” on the disc but sung over a “U2-American scenic highway” stretch. Robert has found more sweet spots in his vocal range and style the last couple of years.

Okay, next up is definitely a tribute to The Beatles with a fairly unknown song by Billy and Bobby Babineaux titled “You Can’t Buy My Love” written as a response to “Can’t Buy Me Love”. That type of response song was common in Blues and Country up till about the mid 60’s.

Rather than move forward time wise, Robert stays in the mid 60’s and brings it back to Tennessee with the absolutely crossed Memphis Soul and Nashville Pedal Steel with a Gospel Quartet on “Falling in Love Again” that would make Elvis and The Stamps proud. I don’t really know if there ever was a song quite done this way with such a perfect half way point on I-40 between Nashville and Memphis. I know that if Elvis could hear it, he would be proud. I would say this is the most unique blend since Otis Redding and Duane Allman’s all-nighter at Muscle Shoals Sound that ended up with a complete retake on “Hey Jude” that beget Southern Rock.

If Randy Travis sang “The Only Sound That Matters” it would be on Country radio coast to coast but Plant makes it his own realizing that “Americana Music” means be yourself and it doesn’t hurt to be different in a genre that is what San Francisco was in the Sixties with its mix of Folk, Blues and just throw in some Graham Parsons for Cosmic Cowboy sake.

Robert pulls back towards the trance rock he was doing before Allison Krauss with the”  Tomorrow Never Knows” bloom of “Monkey”. It can be said that Robert was doing an album in Nashville without trying to be controlled by Americana’s boundaries or worrying if every track would fit in a corporately controlled radio structure. This is a low decibel duet with Patty Griffin over the non machine groove of real musicians sharing a communal vibe.

Uncle Dave Macon

Before ending the song cycle, Robert digs way back to the origins of Americana and dusts off Uncle Dave Macon’s “Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday”. There is an added twist with the line “Come all the way from England, to steal your pretty hand”, somehow Robert is now in the traditional Appalachian tune with its roots in Scottish pub music, an Englishman would definitely be an outsider. This is a sparser offering instead of the drive and clogging codas from those early 78’s.

There is enough Led Zeppelin, Trance, Cosmic Cowboy and Americana for anybody to dig in and find something tasty. Just like the restaurants in Nashville that range from good Southern Fried Chicken and corn bread, to regional “Hot Chicken” and the Indian and Egyptian Buffets that form the melting pot of not only Nashville in 2010 but also this fine album that will be a shot heard around the world. You can do anything in Nashville. If you have lost your Mojo, try the capital of not only Country Music but songwriting and publishing, Music City.  Nashville is a vast mine of gems and Robert Plant has brought forth a well worn diamond with his co-pilot Buddy Miller and the rest of the crew in East Nashville.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN      thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Robert Plant and Buddy Miller pre "Band of Joy"

The Led Zeppelin world might find it strange as Robert Plant’s world revolves more and more around life in Tennessee whether it be Memphis or Nashville.

It has been going on for quite a while. You will find Robert’s picture at The Loveless Cafe, maybe some local Guitar shop in Mississippi or a Blues Cd store on Beale Street.

As for us residents, we are enjoying the music. The work he did with T Bone Burnette and the subsequent tour with Allison Krauss that featured Buddy Miller on guitar was a great success.

Robert has already cut one song with Buddy Miller on”Written in Chalk” which was number two as one of the best CD’s of 2009 as voted by local critics at Nashville Scene. Buddy Miller recorded the touring band with he and Robert trading vocal duties on “What You  Gonna Do Leroy” somewhere backstage during that tour. It could be a preview of what the “Band of Joy” project may be about.

Track 4, Robert and Buddy, pre Band of Joy

Led Zeppelin did so much to preserve the work of so many blues greats such as Memphis Minnie. It is great that Robert is still exploring the music of the south.

Although a Led Zeppelin reunion would be on my bucket list. It’s fine with me that he is hanging out at Buddy’s house coming up with some new harmonies and new takes on regional music.

Besides, who can beat the biscuits at Loveless Cafe?  Robert, if you haven’t bought a house here yet, I think it is about time.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN