Archives for category: Grimey’s

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

Kenny Vaughan at Mercy 2011

This would be the year that Indie makes more news in Nashville than Country; what Music City is known for. There seems to be much more going on with the ever developing spider web of Funk, Rock and strange magic underbelly from the Gulch to East Nashville.

Before, we get into this weird year, 2012 with its three Friday the 13ths exactly 13 weeks apart, the intrigue of political discord, 12/21/12, which lines up with Rush’s “Temples of Syrinx” released in 1976, prophecy being realized, “Our great computers, fill the hallowed halls, We are the priests of the temples of syrinx, All the gifts of life, Are held within our walls,” ha! Computers, what a blessing and a curse as all the creative occupations occupied by humans are eliminated by this gift we call knowledge at our fingertips. Remember, when Rush wrote “Temples of Syrinx,” a computer took up a whole room. Well, Steve Jobs, one of the great Priests of the digital age has passed onto the spiritual realm.

The Mayan calendar ends shortly after the election, maybe the world won’t come to an end, but, probably a lot of music will be written about end times and there will be an uptick of heavy dirge and Metal music. This may be the year to contemplate life listening to Dark Side of The Moon again or about sinister underlying forces in Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime.

Before we move through this “L” shaped recovery, one of the most mentally difficult times I can remember in my life, let’s rewind.

 As far as music, 2011 was a “run for cover” year as the “360 deal” pop artists keep spinning their “larger-than-life-80’s-on-ecstacy” fluff with the bands that happen to still be signed to major labels sounding not too far off the Katy Perryesque mark. I think the bands were put on warning, “Rock radio is dying so you better have “Moves Like Jagger.”

Okay, before I get to something positive, there were some disappointments. Janes Addiction, while preparing to release their newest album, The Great Escape Artist, put down their last effort, Strays  as not being that good, when in fact Strays did have a couple of great guitar hooks, while this dark piece, weak on guitar, ended up being more reminiscent of Porno for Pyros.  There was not one solid hook on the entire album.

Red Hot Chili Peppers were able to put together a solid if not remarkable effort with new guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, who may be capable of taking on some Frusciante and Slovak, but not as innovative. Frusciante was a trailblazer; this is like replacing Eddie Van Halen.

So, with FYE the last major chain in Nashville closing its doors at the old Tower Records site, you got your choice, you have major league fluff, really not much different than the cotton candy days before The Beatles and The Rolling Stones crashed the party or you can go outside the box, think for yourself, show up at a Grimey’s in-store or a showcase at The End.

Hello Kelly at The Rutledge, photo courtesy- Jeni George

As far as bands go, Jeff The Brotherhood, joins the two member band fray that goes nationwide, well deserved with great shows locally and at Bonnaroo and beyond. As far as other local rock acts, Hello Kelly always put on a solid show when I saw them this year as well as The Onethroughtens that played solid sets at both the Third Man Vault show and some fashion meets art consortium at Mercy Lounge.

Kenny Vaughan at Ernest Tubb Record Shop

As far as favorite shows, Kenny Vaughan’s record release at Ernest Tubb’s downtown location was the place to be this year with Marty Stuart, the Fabulous Superlatives as well as Chris Scruggs playing to a packed room with about half being friends and relatives.

Jeff Beck at Ryman 2011

Jeff Beck at The Ryman was another phenomenal show as well as the Americana Awards that saw not only The Avett Brothers and The Civil Wars, but, also Robert Plant and Greg Allman bookending appearances with Buddy Miller providing the musical proceedings.

Okay, now for my top ten of the year. Many recordings are sounding more analog in the Indie world, if not recorded analog, the attempt to match the style with the sound that would come out of the influential era a must.

10.  Jeff The Brotherhood  – We Are The Champions

Starting out with some punk rock Buck Rogers guitar laser blasts subsiding into gnarly Maestro phase shifter on “Hey Friend” clocking in with a long intro, the writing is strong, simple and effective. Jeff gets a major label deal off this one. It will be interesting to see how that goes. Their own label, Infinity Cat, being one of the major local indie labels to develop a short roster that has been hitting every club and festival that they can, Jeff the Brotherhood came up with a solid piece of work.

9. The August – Dear Chicago Love Nashville

Jacky Dustin has one strong Country voice, this Chicago band has been down here chasing their Country music dreams for a little while, not waiting to get signed, they put this great piece of Country rockin’ song cycle out themselves.  Big labels, in their search for solos and doubles, have so far overlooked this great band. What’s wrong with a great band that writes their own songs about cranking The Rolling Stones and talking about where they came from? This is not a one trick pony going from the double-time “We Write Our Songs” to the getting more than you bargained for sultry “Love Me Like A Stranger,” this is probably the best “unsigned” country band in Nashville.

8. Graveyard – Hisingen Blues

This was a find while traveling out to Utah to do interviews, stopping it at local indie record shop, Gray Whale and picking up a recommendation. The Swedish rockers are somewhere between first album Black Sabbath and Vincebus Eruptum, Blue Cheer. The recording sounds like it was done on an old well worn 4 track reel to reel with non-Marshalls, more like full blown, old Sound City amps or something. There doesn’t seem to be anything above 8k on this album. It plays like a record found at a garage sale from an old Vietnam era stoner. They are playing this month at Exit/In on January 20th.  The early Black Sabbath slow un-blues of “No Good, Mr. Holden” and stoner boogie, “Buying Truth (Tack & Forlat)” are stand outs.

7. Mastodon – The Hunter

It’s weird to think that a Metal band that was conceived at The Nick in Birmingham and worked its way out of Atlanta, would earn its wings being lauded not only by Metallica but attendees at such indie festivals as Coachella with 2008’s, Crack The Skye, busting out everywhere. It was hard to follow up Crack the Skye which would be their Dark Side of The Moon, but Mastodon do a great job on such cuts as the “Sweet Leaf” groove of “Curl of The Burl” and the Dream Theater flavored, “Octopus Has No Friends.”  

Dedicated6. Steve Cropper – Dedicated, A Salute to The 5 Royales

Steve has the opportunity to pay tribute to guitarist, Lowman Pauling, who was one of the biggest influences on Stax soul as the great era of the Sixties would kick in full effect. The King records office, run by “Duck” Dunn’s brother in Memphis, brought in some of the strongest soul artists of the day from around the country. Booker T. and The MG’s, Otis Redding and many other artists were influenced as the music changed from rhythm and blues to soul. This has an all—star vocal cast from Delbert McClinton on “Right Around the Corner” to Steve Winwood, B.B. (Beale Street Blues Boy) King, Steve Winwood, Lucinda Williams and an A-list that contribute to this project.

5. Gary Clark Jr.  – The Bright Lights E.P.

With some gritty Black Keys meets The Burnside Exploration bluesy soul of “Bright Lights,” kicking off this four song cycle, there is a little Paul “Wine” Jones thrown in here, this Texan, all things, including a little hill country blues, is more of a promise than a full album. It was good enough to make Rolling Stone’s list for the year and earns a place on my list as well. The fact that it is on Warner Brothers makes it really twisted.

4. Tony Bennett – Duets II

With many of the classic icons now “Dust in The Wind,” it really is amazing that Tony Bennett still sings like a prizefighter. Mr. Bennett could hold up everything by himself, but, the interesting match-ups with Mariah Carey, John Mayer (yes, John Mayer), Willie Nelson, as well as Lady Gaga’s best performance to date on “The Lady is a Tramp” makes for an instant standard. The most prized track is Amy Winehouse’ last recorded performance of “Body and Soul.” The Nelson Riddle style strings make this record sit on the top shelf with the best early Sixties era Frank.

3. Kenny Vaughan – V

Kenny shows up on a lot of Nashville records, known as Marty Stuart’s guitar slinger, Kenny takes center stage with The Fabulous Superlatives providing back up, the album rocks as much as it steeps in mystified netherworld Country, blasting off with “Country Music Got a Hold on Me,” stopping mid-point with the instrumental, “Wagon Ride” before ending up in a rockin’ Country church, “Don’t Leave Home Without Jesus.”  Sonically, this has the frequencies in the right place with no high-end ADD busy bee stuff going on. Well done!

2. Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

If I could be in a band right now, this would be it, with only a strong sense of songwriting being the guide this is all over the map with heavy 70’s influenced, “Might Find It Cheap” being probably the best structured song I have heard this year, to influences from accoustified Dylan to southern fried Tom Petty, I think there is a concept going on here, but, more than anything this is worth at least a dozen listens.

1. Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures

We may never know how far Amy could have gone. She absorbed Dinah Washington, Donny Hathaway as well as The Ronnettes with equal grace. Amy not only did some great covers, but, was a songwriter on par with the best. This disc has some raw original versions showing Amy supporting herself on guitar. Amy had all three talents, great voice, great musician and great songwriter. She was a triple threat in a class of one. Amy is the best voice of the last twenty years. This collection takes us all the way from the very beginning on the demo, “The Girl From Ipanema” to mid career, Stevie Wonder influenced, Amy Winehouse penned, “Half Time” to the current torn heart on a sleeve, Leon Russell cover, “A Song For You.” This is a chronicle of a flame that burned hot and way too fast. She should be here now.

Okay, that’s it.  Watch out for Imelda May. She actually played at 3rd and Lindsley this year. Imelda would have been on the list with Mayhem except it is a 2010 release, but, watch out, there is More Mayhem coming out at a Grimey’s near you.

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ stripped down take on the Forties as well as some Ska and Hawaiian music on Smoking in Heaven continues where the last one left. They’re heading for the Big Day Out Festivals in Australia and while not making much of a dent in the States, the recording is a vintage gear monger’s dream. They accurately feel like recordings made in Chicago or Memphis way before Sun.  

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

If you have seen all the new films at The Belcourt this month and want more Indie in your life or maybe you just can’t wait for Harmony Korine’s sequel to TRASH HUMPERS then head south 180 miles to beautiful Birmingham where The 13th Annual Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival will be happening between Aug. 26th-28th.

Birmingham you say. Yes I do.  The cool thing about this is that it’s not all happening in a multiplex. The crowning jewel of theatre’s in the south, the 2,200 seat newly restored Alabama Theatre built by Paramount Studios in 1927 to play Paramount films is one of the venues.  The theatre has retained that original flavor and it is where bands like The Black Crows want to play when in town.  It is the equivalent of The Ryman for Birmingham.

The Alabama Theatre

All nine venues are within walking distance in historic downtown. The downtown area is a scene of new restaurants, clubs and loft apartments similar to what is being done in the gulch area of Downtown Nashville.

For those who appreciate a Southern bent, Director Jon Bowermaster’s SoLa: South Louisiana Water Stories was being filmed in Southern Louisiana, documenting the environmental concerns and as they were beginning to wrap up, the gulf oil spill happened.

“The day we arrived – in 2008 – there was a sizable oil spill on the Mississippi River.  Of course we could not have predicted that as we were in post-production, the worst oil spill in U.S. history would erupt in the same waters. So we stopped finishing the film and went back down with cameras.”- Jon Bowermaster 

Jon Bowermaster

John Henry Summerour decided to cast locals when shooting SAHKANAGA. Shot on location in Northwest Georgia, it was done with homegrown talent.

 John Henry: “I was tired of seeing southern films that indulge in the clichés of big-haired white women teetering in designer heels while sipping mint juleps and dispensing dime store wisdom with sass to spare, and the other extreme of trailer parks where kids eat mud and wrestle pigs.  That’s not the South where I grew up.”

John Henry Summerour

With a decidedly Southern flavor, there are over forty films in three categories, Documentary, Narrative Features as well as Shorts.  The shorts can sometimes end up being a feature at Sundance a year or two down the road.  There are panel discussions as well as awards.

While in town, check out some local bands. The indie scene has been alive and well since the 80’s with The Nick being one of the first Alternative Music Venues, called by Rolling Stone, “The CBGB’s of the South.” Other clubs such as The Bottletree have started up in recent years with much success.

The Grenadines / Photo- Ben Webb

Two of the bands that are getting national buzz recently are The Grenadines and The Great Book of John, who just released their first full length record on Birmingham’s own Communicating Vessels label, can be found at Grimey’s.

What about food? Right in Southside is Surin West with great Thai dishes and Sushi. Birmingham also has a conglomeration of Mediterranean eateries, some open all night, near the UAB campus.  Most notably, Makario’s Kabob and Grill, which opened a couple of years ago in what used to be a tacky sixties style Chinese takeout location. A fresh coat of paint, plenty of tile, modern Middle Eastern art and you have some of the best Hummus in the world. There isn’t anything bad on the menu, but, my favorite is Hummus with Grilled Chicken tips. Load it up on fresh Pita and you’re in business.

Celebrate The Year of Alabama Music with a visit to Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival.

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

Sometimes you gotta wait till the right moment, let things simmer a bit, unwind at an Indie film about Lee “Scratch” Perry at the Belcourt Theater, listen to some bands you never heard at the Grimey’s listening station before turning to the obvious. Such was the case since I have known about Jeff the Brotherhood’s Infinity Cat Records release We Are The Champions for a while.

It really is a trip when you think that The White Stripes ended up down here with Third Man Records before a final break up, and then The Black Keys announced they were making their new home in Music City and all this time, at least for the last few years, we got Jeff the Brotherhood; our own homegrown Two Man band.

Jeff the Brotherhood were the show to see during Next Big Nashville last fall at Third Man with the live set being released on Third Man vinyl within a few days. In fact, the twelve inch can still be found in the Third Man Records shop any day of the business week.

Then came Bonnaroo. Jeff the Brotherhood started their own mania when they were supported by the first 30 people making up most of their audience being other local bands. How cool is that? Other local bands stirring up so much dust that another 200 people stop to see what all the fuss is about?

Nashville could not be in a better place right now. We have our own labels, our own scene, make that multiple scenes with a ton of bands that don’t sound the same. For me, that is exciting. It has been an interesting path between the gulch and the backside of the mission to where things are right now.

Jeff the Brotherhood and PUJOL are on lists in Rolling Stone Magazine and other national publications. They are on lists that really matter. Maybe they don’t have albums blazing up the charts, but, it is a grass roots thing, you gotta search them out or maybe your friend tells you about their live show. The difference is Jeff the Brotherhood are bad, they’re nationwide.

We Are The Champions is stacked and capped mixing up tones that fit the song, like stripped down, complicated garage rock, this was not thrown together, it’s like a stack of seven inch records to do some downhill skateboarding by or shut down Seattle and Portland. Okay, maybe not shut down but turn a few heads, sell a few records and rock the house.

photo - Pooneh Ghana

In a way, the title can be a laugh, using a standard rock term, like you thought you made it up yourself while everybody around you is thinking; don’t they know Queen Live at Wembley with 100,000 Brits singing along? But, in fact, this is Nashville’s time. It may be a metaphor for what it means to be accepted among your peers, the other bands in Nashville.

Back in CBGB’s time, Television played for The Ramones, The Ramones played for Blondie and The Dictators saved Rock and Roll. It is now Nashville’s time to leave their mark. It says a lot when bands show up to support one another and buy each others’ records. It says a lot more when Infinity Cat Records ran by the band and their father, Robert Ellis Orrall, goes nationwide.

Jeff the Brotherhood have a solid set here. Listen up.

– 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

Daniel Frazier and Frank Fairfield at Grimey’s

 

A quick check of my email yesterday on my EVO phone found a note from Grimey’s that Frank Fairfield was doing an in-store appearance a couple of days after his Music City Roots set at The Loveless Barn at 6 pm. There is a lot of “roots” music lately but only a chance now and then to catch a true purist player.

Doyle and Mike and the rest of the Grimey’s crew were on hand offering Fat Tire brew to those over twenty one and a weird flavored water that tasted like Hot Buttered Popcorn, a free sample remnant from Record Store Day for those with a brave palate.

Frank was in no hurry prepping his violin, conjuring squeaks with a stroke of the cleaning cloth. Frank said he finds himself “talking to birds”. It was loud enough to conjure a dry track version of Paul’s “seagulls” from “Tomorrow Never Knows” in my brain.

Frank Fairfield’s one and only recording was released in 2009 on Tompkins Square Records out of New York City, a collection of songs older than my Grandparents with enough references to “John Hardy” and “John Henry” to find him bookended by Uncle Dave Macon and The Carter Family.

My new friendship with Blind Boy Paxton at the Folk Alliance prepared me for Frank’s mindset. You can’t really just call him an archivist, Frank dresses the part, talks the part and walks the walk as he resurrects long buried treasures performed on Banjo, Violin (Fiddle, whatever), and Guitar, a little gut box similar to Willie Nelson’s trigger. The instruments themselves were artifacts. In fact, Frank and the aforementioned Blind Boy Paxton are both a player’s player where everything needs to come from that era and bring it out live, unplugged.

The guys from Peelander-Z  were busy rummaging through Used CD’s just prior to sound check for their show at Exit/In as Frank started a duet with music partner Daniel Frazier of Memphis, Tennessee’s Daniel Frazier & The Outlaws. Frank started out on Fiddle but moved to solo Banjo, Guitar and back to Fiddle. At one point, he put on a thumb pick and hit a couple of notes and said “no” to himself and put it back in his pocket. This was all done with hands showing deft tenacity, dynamics and finesse.

His voice would fit what you would expect on an old Carter Family record and more or less is an accompaniment to his playing much in the same way as Jimi Hendrix was, it does not detract but adds to the mood.   

Frank often explained where the piece came from referring more than once to East Texas “where his people are from” especially an odd triplet rarity called a “Mazurka” that had come from the Spaniards that settled there probably in the 1800’s or before.

Frank called them popular pieces or dance pieces as he launched into “Poor Benny” and “Sally Goodin” punctuated by jokes from a pre-film era like “Why is kissing a girl like a dog sitting on a cake of ice?…Because kissing a girl is so dog-gone nice.”

Although many of the sets at Grimey’s are usually abbreviated to five songs or so, Frank came ready to do an hour or so.  I picked up his CD and through it in the car stereo and heard what I expected to hear. A  modern day field recording, not much different than what Robert Johnson sounded like recording in a Houston, Texas Hotel Room almost a hundred years ago.  Although Frank is from Texas, he fits well with East Nashville’s Americana Scene or the Brooklyn, New York roots scene that has developed over the last few years.

Like Blind Boy Paxton, Frank knows his stuff both visually and sonically as he stomped his feet and moved to the beat in his chair, but the question still arises with me. Can you branch the tree out from a pre-rock period of time and deliver something new?  A fresh take on a tribute to the past, before the term bluegrass or Chicago Blues, offers a lot for me, but, I would like to see a new song come out of this. Bob Dylan took an early Thirties and Forties feel on Modern Times and spun in it an up to date verbal onslaught. It can be done.

Frank Fairfield as well as Blind Boy Paxton, who runs with Hubby Jenkins and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, are a must see if you are a guitar or string player whether you are a Dimebag Darrell or Leo Kottke Disciple.  Frank and Blind Boy both prefer guitars that you practically have to pull the strings into tune. There must be something about having a guitar that is hard to play like Jack White says.

Pick up the CD and take a listen to “Call Me a Dog When I’m Gone” and “Cumberland Gap”. In fact crank it up while you are driving down Lower Broad and really mess with people.

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

A year in Exile

If there was any kind of recurrent theme this year, The Rolling Stones kept popping up on the radar. It started when I bought the Deadstring Brothers album Sao Paulo an obvious well done Stones influenced work of art. It would be in my Top Ten if it had come out in 2010 but it actually was released in 2009. It is a great album and when I saw them live at The Basement it came across really well.

It didn’t stop there; Exile on Main Street had been remastered with bonus tracks where The Stones actually brought in Mick Taylor to play his parts on some unfinished tracks. The Rolling Stones released a new single “Plundered My Soul” from the found tracks and released several versions of the album.

Grimey’s did a midnight screening of the Documentary Stones in Exile that took photographs, film, new interviews with the band as well as Bobby Keyes and others about recording Exile on Main Street in the south of France way back when at The Belcourt Theatre. “Exile” is now considered a pivotal record but at the time “Tumbling Dice” was considered a difficult single on a rather un-commercial record.

During the Americana Conference the Long Players augmented with Stones Sax Player Bobby Keyes, Dan Baird and several singers like Mike Farris, Grace Potter and others did the entire album live at The Cannery Ballroom. 

The Theatre release Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones which was filmed during the Exile promotional tour in the States was remastered and released on DVD in the fall. The set featured many of the songs from Exile that are not played much by latter day Stones such as “Sweet Virginia”. The sound and film looked phenomenal and it was good to see Mick Taylor at his best, an integral part of The Stones during that period and in truth is really missed nowadays.

Finally, to finish off the year of The Stones, Keith Richard’s Autobiography Life was released in November along with a compilation of his X-Pensive Winos recordings from the late Eighties.  The Rolling Stones managed to keep in the music news almost as much as Taylor Swift.

Original cover for Straight Up

It also seemed to be the year for catalog re-releases as Apple Records remastered most of the Apple back catalog of non-Beatles recordings by Badfinger, Mary Hopkins, James Taylor and released all of them at the same time.

FnA Records continued to not only re-release 80’s metal catalog but also unearthed several recordings that were set to release but never were by labels such as A&M and Geffen when the Seattle scene took over.  There were several recordings by different artists from The Thirteenth Floor Elevators 45’s to Carnival Season vinyl that saw their material released on CD for the first time.

Janie Hendrix continues exquisite releases of all things Jimi Hendrix with the release of West Coast Seattle Boy that not only has yet another Bob Dylan song done by Hendrix but goes back to the background of what he was doing before going to England with expanded packages that include a disc full of Isley Brothers and other nuggets, pre-Experience as well as a DVD Voodoo Child that even talks about his Nashville days.

Country continues to sell big, but real, traditional or Texas Country has been swallowed up by the Americana scene. At least it has found a home. As far as innovation in current pop country the last leap forward was Miranda Lambert’s Revolution and that was released last year.

Here are few honorable no less worthy than the list:

Ratt – Infestation

Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am

Kort – Invariable Heartache

Charlie Louvin – The Battles Rage On

Marty Stuart – Ghost Train

Jim Lauderdale – Patchwork River

Crazy Heart – (Soundtrack) Various Artists

Okay, now for my Top Ten. In making my choices, I not only looked at material, but innovation and game changers, records that made things interesting.

10- Carnival Season / Misguided Promises / ARRCO

This represents not only a re-issue on CD for the first time of regional Birmingham band Carnival Season that features local legend Tim Boykin, but, painstakingly includes every recording the band made during their short time together as well as extensive liner notes that tell the whole story of the late 80’s rockers. It sits well on the shelf with bands like Redd Kross as well as The Replacements. The band has been doing occasional reunion gigs playing not only this set but some new stuff as well over the last couple of years. This was one of the first alternative rock bands out of Birmingham, Alabama.

Featured tracks: “Misguided Promises”, “Please Don’t Send me to Heaven”

9- Robert Plant / Band of Joy / Rounder –Esparanza

Robert was in the middle of recording the follow up to Raising Sand with Allison Krauss when he pulled the plug when he felt the magic wasn’t there. He retreated to Nashville and entrusted Buddy Miller to put together a band that features Darrell Scott, Byron House, Marco Giovino and Patty Griffin and secluded into Woodland Studio to see what they would come up with. The result is obscure covers as well as a Plant-Page piece from Walking into Clarksdale that shows some Zeppelin flavor with uncharted Americana territory which sonically could have only happened with Nashville session players in such a short time. The band gelled in the studio and continues to roll across Europe and Stateside. This is probably Buddy Miller’s best Production effort yet.

Featured tracks:  “Angel Dance”, “You Can’t Buy My Love”, “House of Cards”

8 – Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses / Junky Star / Lost Highway

Ryan tends to write like a modern day Dylan but his voice is more like John Kay from Steppenwolf. Ryan who comes from the red dirt scene of West Texas and now lives in so-L.A. got national notice with the Grammy winning “The Weary Kind” from the Crazy Heart soundtrack defiantly writes about a drifter leaving behind a dead end life to go to California only to end up sleeping on the Santa Monica pier.

Featured tracks: “The Wandering”, “Junky Star”

7- Sweet Apple / Love & Desperation / Tee Pee

Put together by members of Dinosaur Jr. and Witch, this little known defiantly Hard Rock and other worldly idea collection of songs with its Roxy Music rip off style album cover is actually closer to something between an early Alice Cooper (when they were a band) and Ziggy Stardust era Bowie. The album kicks off like a Raspberries send off with Guidedbyvoices production and then the desperation begins with some morbid love lost desperation with a chugging Alice Cooper band style with lyrics like ”Looking out the window, watching people fall, how I wish I could fall to death”. It’s a rock and roll gem this year.

Featured tracks: “Do You Remember”, “I’ve Got a Feeling (That Won’t Change)”

6 – Preservation Hall Jazz Band / Preservation / Preservation Hall Recordings

What a fantastic album. A collection of well-known New Orleans Ragtime with this important Horn based band where the tuba still carries much of the bass part, mashes PHJB with an all-star cast of vocalists such as Andrew Bird, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Ritchie Havens, Steve Earle as well as the sultry vocals of Memphis’ Amy LaVere.  The band ended up on tour with Maroon 5 this year.

Featured tracks: “Blue Skies”, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home”

5- John Mellencamp / No Better Than This / Rounder

Recorded for the most part at Sun Studios with one RCA 44 ribbon mic into vintage Ampex Analog gear, John not only sounds like the old Sun recordings, this sounds like old tape that had to be baked in a microwave to finally put it on digital media. It was not only a great idea with equal parts Cash country, Rockabilly and blues but probably his best album since Scarecrow. The T Bone Burnett produced masterpiece even got airtime on WSM.

Featured tracks: “No Better Than This”, “Coming Down the Road”

4- Justin Townes Earle / Harlem River Blues / Bloodshot

If you missed it, Justin just rolled a third strike in three years. Every album has been decidedly Justin with marked differences and excellent songwriting. This would be his “Ode to New York City” where he now calls his second home.  Jason Isbell (Drive by Truckers, The 400 Unit) puts in guitar duties and gives this more of an edgy guitar feel as well as some straight up Rockabilly. It really would be cool to see a pure Rockabilly album in the future.

Featured tracks: “Move Over Mama”, “Workin’ for the MTA”, “Christchurch Woman”

3- Black Mountain / Wilderness Heart / Jagjaguwar

This album sometimes feels like Led Zep III and Deep Purple Fireball at the same time. The duality vocals of Stephen and Amber still remind me of a haunting Jefferson Airplane with the production sounding very early 70’s analog, sometimes acoustic but when they rock it’s got Jon Lord style Hammond B3 all over the place. Although the first album by this Vancouver band may have been a defining moment this is the one that makes me wants to crank the stereo full blast on road trips.

Featured tracks:  “The Hair Song”, “Old Fangs”, “Let Spirits Ride”

2- Mike Farris and The Cumberland Saints / The Night The Cumberland Came Alive / Entertainment One

Recorded in just six hours just two weeks after the Nashville Flood in a downtown Nashville church just blocks from the flooding, Mike shows that his bluesy/gospel voice can sound fantastic over anywhere he wants to go. Mike has been everywhere from Indie Rock, Blues, Gospel, working with Double Trouble to now this pre-war Gospel Blues style gem working with The McCrary Sisters, Sam Bush, Byron House and members of The Old Crow Medicine Show, his originals mesh well with the rare covers. He showcased the album at Cannery Ballroom during the Americana Music Festival and it was electrifying.

Featured tracks: “Wrapped Up, Tangled Up”, “Down on Me”

1-She & Him /Volume Two / Merge

Zooey Deschannel & M. Ward are some kind of modern Indie Captain and Tennille and somehow it works. Zooey has a sunny California breeze running through her muse that translates into a digital era take on The Beach Boys versus Phil Spector. Even though the material is fresh it makes me daydream of being back on the beach in Santa Cruz when I was six with my Mom and little sister.

Featured tracks: “In The Sun”, “Don’t Look Back”,”Lingering Still”

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