Archives for category: Nashville Scene

Tommy Dalton could very well be the next Nashville Graduating class’ Jeffrey Steele.  Following “Damn Jeans” endorsement deal with True Religion Jeans, Tommy continues to grow both directions as a Songwriter co-writing new material with Anne Marie Boskovitch and other up and comers as well as the ability to front a band and rock the house.

Tommy had a full band last night for The Billy Block Show at The Rutledge sharing the bill with 80’s teen sensation, Tiffany, who has been spending some time in Nashville recording new material at Yackland Studios. Just like Keith Urban and Elvis, there were girls up front who knew the words to all of his songs even though they may have just heard “Something To Die For” at local showcases for the most part.

Tommy Dalton had a tight band featuring Eric Seals’ Tommy Lee flare, stick twirling and skin pounding under The Billy Block Show banner. I was surprised when Tommy announced that the band had only practiced that morning.

Only in Nashville, like Bob Dylan found out when he recorded Blonde on Blonde, can you find such passionate playing with musicians who get it almost as fast as you can think it.

Okay so why can I say he could be the next Jeffrey Steele? I haven’t met anybody who wouldn’t like to co-write with him whether an upbeat piece or a ballad. Tommy’s songwriting chops have been doubling every year. I met Tommy when he came down from the North Country in 2008 when he played an open mic night at French Quarter Café. He had the charisma and, okay, magnetism, it really didn’t matter that a lot of the structure at that time spoke “Goo Goo Dolls”; it was the potential at that point.

Jeffrey Steele with Tommy

He is one of those guys that you want to see succeed and his willingness to develop both on stage and with a guitar and a piece of paper that has got long-timers like Brent Mason behind him.

There will be those that prefer to see Tommy do his own songs while musicians like Travis Wilbourn (T. Swift, Hello Kelly) say they know him mainly as a songwriter. I don’t know anybody else in town, give or take another year or two, who has the potential to follow in Jeffrey Steele’s footsteps as a great performer fronting a full band as well as being a great Songwriter.

Tommy has been here since 2008 and every year he increases his ability times ten. I met Jeffrey Steele back in 2008 after a sold out gig at 3rd and Lindsley. He said “Brad, it took me eight years before I got my first cut but after that it just kept going. Let me know how you’re doing”.

Tommy Dalton has been here for three. I think by the time year five comes around he will be part of Country Music’s new class of Writers and Performers.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

I am not going to let dust settle on this one; The August with Jacky Dustin is a force to be reckoned with. I know some of you Industry types on Music Row check this site. Peel open The August’ new CD, Dear Chicago Love Nashville! Jacky is where country should be at with her Tammy Wynette meets Tina Turner twang soul vocals, she is original and should be the voice of Country today.

The August not only went through their eclectic mix of country meets the windy city with tracks “We Write our Songs’ to “Big Wheels” but went places that maybe only Elizabeth Cook might go on “Love Me Like A Stranger”. Strange brew indeed.

The audience was a demographic statistician’s nightmare, because their audience cannot be pegged. Everybody was there to hear a different angle of the Nashville Machine’s voice of tomorrow. I like to be right. Jacky should be light years from Douglas Corner Café.

She is not an auto-tuned twangster; she is the real deal with incredible strength, presence and drive.

Not to be outdone, Wojtek Krupka, on Bass at the gig, played an even more important role on the CD, handling background vocals like Michael Anthony on Van Halen’s best, a real key to the group sound.

The August brings a little Funk, Blues and Rock and Roll to the tight small band ala Martina McBride and The Ride.  When you throw two covers into the mix like “Never Been to Spain” and the Kris Kristofferson penned “Me and Bobby McGhee” and you own it on your own terms and not Pearl’s pedigree, there is something in the way she moves.

I didn’t note who was playing guitar, as there were three guitarists outside the band on the album and none were in the group picture on the CD. Let’s just say he was Telecasterin’ through a Dr. Z but was definitely more Mike Campbell then Brent Mason.

This is a band to watch. A new Outlaw Country. This is not Texas Charts or Nashville West, this is The Nashville Windy City Sound. I’m a believer. It is easy to be jaded in Music City with so many girls moving here all the time that are really good.

It would be easy to dismiss the fact that this was a club gig, but truth be told, if Jacky and The August were out opening for Gretchen Wilson, Jamey Johnson or The Rolling Stones a lot more people would know their Chicago meets American roots sound.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN


Carol and Jason Babbs, Last week at The Pie Wagon

The Pie Wagon located at 1302 Division Street in Nashville has one of the longest histories of any restaurant in  Nashville dating back to 1922, is once again changing ownership as Carol Babbs and her son Jason move on to new ventures.

Carol – “We live down by the Cumberland River, in the Cleese’s Ferry area. We were lucky; we didn’t get any damage in last years’ flood. We are just going to take some time and decide what to do next.”

The Babb’s, longtime residence of Nashville and part of the Music Row landscape left their mark with some of the best Catfish and Hot Chicken in town as well as other great home-style food such as Tomatoes and Onions marinated in White Vinegar and some salt just like my Grandmother used to make.

Located just across from the Best Western Music Row sits at the end of Nashville’s famous Music Row with nearby studios, BMI headquarters and several Music Publishing Companies is a great Meat and Three within walking distance where Musicians taking a lunch break from studio work mixed with some of the most well known Music Publishers and Songwriters.

Many times, it could have been a green room at a music festival or always Tin Pan South as delectable Cornbread and Homemade Mac and Cheese kept the talk flowing. The Pie Wagon was not only a close-by eatery, they also never disappointed with great food and a warm staff that remembered your name and what you liked.

Jason Babbs, who ran the day to day operations, always recommended bands to check out in my day to day work.  Jason and Carol will be sorely missed as Friday is their last day with The Pie Wagon being closed to prepare to be reopened name intact with a new owner also familiar to Music Row Foodies.

“David Biggs, who owned Macs Café where Ken’s Sushi now stands as well as Diamond in The Rough is the new owner. The Pie Wagon has been owned by five different owners that go way back to 1922 when it was known as The Majestic Café. The food has always been great. We are excited that tradition will continue.”

Carol was cooking hot Corncakes fresh off the griddle and passing them out with whipped butter at lunchtime on Wednesday when I stopped by and said a goodbye.  It was hard to decide but I went with the Fried Chicken, Homemade Mashed Potatoes with the some of the Mushroom Gravy from the Salisbury Steak and Mac and Cheese, homemade food that I love but rarely take time to make for myself. Carol and Jason Babbs will be missed. Many, many thank yous are in order as well as “Here’s to the future”.

September 11, 2010

Jimmy Webb live at Country Music Hall of Fame

What an amazing opportunity to listen to Jimmy Webb play the songs he wrote such as “ Galveston” and listen to tall but true tales of a landmark songwriter, one that cannot be duplicated.

Such was the case last Saturday at the Theater inside The Country Music Hall of Fame , packed with Jimmy Webb at the piano playing not only his hits but songs from his just released CD “Just Across The River”.

Jimmy grew up in West Texas, the son of a Baptist Preacher, near an Air Force base famous for the B36 Bomber. They would fly so close to his family home that “the utensils played “Chinese Fire Drill” and were “rearranged” and had to be put back in their place.” While he was still young he quietly prayed to God (so as his parents couldn’t hear his crazy plans) to be a great songwriter and work with somebody as great as Glen Campbell after he heard, um.. Jimmy Webb forgot and Fred Mullins, who happened to be sitting next to me, blurted out “Turn Around “.

Well, Jimmy said you don’t need Stephen Hawking to believe in God. The fact that he was working for Glen Campbell at age 17 was all the proof you need. Glen was able to interpret his songs in such a way that he probably could be considered the first Country crossover artist charting high in the pop charts. It was for the most part, unheard of at that time.

Waylon Jennings was a great friend; Jimmy shared how he was talking to Waylon the day after the Grammys when he won for his song “Highwayman”. He said Waylon would sit laid back on his couch and with his hat tilted forward covering half his face, appeared half asleep most of the time. Jimmy said “I had a good one with that song”. “What song?” I won a Grammy for “Highwayman””.  “What for?”  “Country”. Waylon then said “What Country?” Waylon was relentless on teasing him that day.

Jimmy said Waylon was one of the most interesting people he had ever met. Waylon had recorded “Macarthur Park” three times.  Jimmy wondered why, but then again, if he had asked Waylon he probably would have not given him a straight answer.

Interestingly enough, Jimmy spends fifty percent of his time listening to classical music. To him, it is all the same, what  makes a great Classical piece, like repeating a motif later on by another instrument or inverting the motif as you would hear in a good country song to get you to remember the melody are used the same way in great classical music.

He talked about a workshop he attended where Billy Joel dissected “Wichita Lineman” had him red with embarrassment as Billy would talk through a line while playing it and stop and say something like “Why does he need her more than want her?” Finally, at the end, Billy Joel said the song was about” an ordinary man thinking extraordinary thoughts”. Jimmy at that point felt he got it. He knew what he was after. Billy actually performs the song with Jimmy on his new CD, which also features Jerry Douglas on Dobro.

Jimmy was amazed at how different Lucinda Williams interpreted “Galveston”. He didn’t think it was possible, after all the different recordings, to have a new spin on the song. He complimented Lucinda on her ability to bring something new to the song.

He performed “Macarthur Park” I guess as a tribute to Waylon and their friendship.

He finished the hour, leaving the room with a standing ovation without performing “Wichita Lineman”. How could that be? Well, a few calls for “Wichita Lineman” and enough clapping and cheers and he sat back down at the piano and played the best rendition of “Wichita Lineman” I had ever heard. At the end the motif climbed up the piano and repeated in different keys until he hit softly over and over the highest key on the piano almost like Morse code. You could feel that distance as the Wichita Lineman was working his way down the line far away from home. I hate to say this but I was choked up. Music can get me emotional when everything puts me in that space. Jason, who was sitting next to me, visiting the Americana Music Conference from the U.K. said after he finished, “I don’t even know what to say”. I couldn’t say anything, I just nodded and looked away because I was a little misty and felt like I didn’t want to share that.

Jimmy Webb CD signing

It was impossible not to buy the CD and have him sign it in the music store at the Hall of Fame. They say people will buy CD’s to memorialize a show. I bought the CD because there was no way I could not after hearing his music on such a personal level.  It felt like a house show with a few guests except there were a couple hundred more behind my second row seat. “Wichita Lineman” has and will continue to be one of my all time favorite songs.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

American Bang at The Nick, Birmingham

It’s no wonder that the major labels are in a quandery and end up making bad calls like an investor who rode his stocks all the way to the beginning of 2009 instead of selling in mid 2007. First off, if a label like Maverick or Reprise feels the need to change a bands name they should have pushed the release date way to the front of the line.

American Bang, who cut their teeth in the Nashville scene as Bang Bang Bang back in 2006-2007, were a part of a thread of bands from American Minor (who got “Jive”d) to my band Furthermore doing our Humble Pie-est in Birmingham.  A major could have exploited a scene quickly the way they used to during the L.A. and Seattle things while it was fresh and make it roll out across the airwaves.

American Minor/photo-Josh Victor Rothstein

But no, let’s wait till all things change as they do in a three year period and quietly release product while College Radio is playing Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend.  American Bang is a great band with a great album.  A great write up in the local Metromix was a prelude to their CD Release party at Mercy Lounge last Thursday.  Rolling Stone or whatever  is nowhere to be seen.

A quick glance around town at the generics,  Borders and FYE find no copies of a great local band finally getting their day. No doubt, Grimeys will do their best. If you can’t find the CD locally what does that mean nationally? It appears that now that the product is available it’s back to the road.

Major labels need to move a little faster and get back to making rock and roll records. If I had to take a guess, American Bang will get a big welcome in England. England seems to get what we aren’t spoon fed here. The Ramones went there in 1976 and started a revolution. The Stray Cats left New York and did what Robert Gordon couldn’t do by staying here.  The Drive-By Truckers are The Rolling Stones in England. England has been building a caudre of I guess one could call Hard Rock Roots bands for several years that get featured along the original genre heroes such as Thin Lizzy and Uriah Heep in Classic Rock magazines. England has the scene.

The best examples of getting it out while its hot right now are labels like Bloodshot Records that have released a great album the last three years by Justin Townes Earle, along with some real gems in their catalog.

Real Rock and Roll is not Rocket Science. A Neve Console, An Ampex 2 inch 16 Track Reel to Reel and a pile of Neumann and Shure Microphones. Write songs on the road and get it recorded well and quickly with few over dubs, then put it out every 8-12 months. I guess I didn’t mention Pro Tools and for good reason. That is how you build a Rock Bands history. The releases keep the momentum building while a band is on the road.

Van Halen, Texas Jam, 1979

Van Halen, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and just about every band did that when Rock was fresh. Gee, a 3 year development deal with an album every 2-3 years doesn’t seem to work. No kidding. Is anybody listening at Warner Brothers or Sony? I didn’t think so. Go buy American Bang.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Carolina Chocolate Drops

Americana Music Festival update. There will be an awards show on Thursday September 9th which will feature Buddy Miller and an all-star band, along with other diverse guests such as Carolina Chocolate Drops, Emmylou HarrisThe Avett Brothers, Wanda Jackson and on and on. That will be at The Mother Church – The Ryman Auditorium starting at 6:30. The party will be all over town from September 8th through September 11th.

Elizabeth Cook at Grand Ole Opry

Elizabeth Cook will be at Station Inn on Wed. night at 9PM. Her song, “It Takes Balls To Be a Woman” should have been number one on country radio. No doubt her husband Tim Carroll, a phenomenal writer in his own right will be playing with her band.

There will even be an Exile on Main Street tribute going on at The Cannery Ballroom at 10:30 on the first day of the festival. It looks like I am going to have to tank up because I am going to be skipping from place to place.  It  is really cool how Americana is really taking on a wider view as time goes on.

Wanda and The King

Speaking of the Punk Scene, Exene Cervanka will be live at The Basement at 11PM which I want to really see, but this slot seems to be the big one all over town, competing with Australian guitarist  Tommy Emmanuel, not just any guitarist; being given the title C.G.P. by none other than Chet Atkins playing at The Rutledge and Wanda Jackson at Mercy Lounge all at the same time. This is like Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors. How can I decide?  If I had to judge by line up on Thursday it would be the one-two-three punch of Dale Watson, Wanda Jackson and The Dex Romweber Duo at Mercy Lounge

Talk about a line up. If I had to bet where Nashvillian Jack White will be if he is home, it will be at that show. He did do a single this past year on his Third Man Records of Dex Romweber Duo. There Cd on Bloodshot Records is fantastic.

Peter Case

I have not even got to Friday. I’ll just mention a couple, go to the schedule for the rest. Peter Case at 11pm at The Basement, Charlie Louvin of The Louvin Brothers (you can’t get more old school than that. You are almost going to back to The Carter Family) at The Rutledge at 10PM, Jim Lauderdale, the True King of Country Music today. In 2008 he did an album featuring Ronnie Tutt and James Burton from Elvis’ Band much like Graham Parsons did back in the 70’s. Everything he does is quality stuff at The Mercy Lounge at 10PM followed by the new trend in country music, new country indie artist, Shelby Lynne.

Saturday will cap off the weeks festivities with a few major stand outs, John Carter Cash, who has chosen to go the traditional route in the vein of his ancestors The Carter Family, playing at The Rutledge at 10PM. One of the greatest writers, Tony Joe White at Mercy Lounge at 11Pm.

Todd Snider

I only touched on a few of the artists performing during the four-day period, but, if you haven’t booked a flight yet, you should. It is going to be one heck of a party next week. I hope to get a few interviews, reviews and pics for The Nashville Bridge. Hope to see  you there.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

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