There’s a rap on California cuisine you might be familiar with if you’re a foodie. The locally grown ingredients out there are so good and so fresh that all a chef has to do is arrange them nicely on a plate, without having to commit to much actual cooking. I think we all felt a little like that last night, as we presented locally-grown, super-fresh songwriters at peak ripeness with almost no sauce or garnish. True songs, written with immense craft and heart, sung straight can be as satisfying as anything in music.
If music washes off the dust of everyday life, as the great jazz drummer Art Blakey was fond of saying, then bluegrass music is a power washer for the soul. Something about a great bluegrass show, with its earthy roots and sacred overtones, leaves one feeling purified and refreshed. And buddy, a great bluegrass show happened at the Loveless Cafe Barn last night. The four bands that played Roots, all freshly nominated for 2011 IBMA Award nominations, could have been a headlining roster for a night at any festival in the nation.
We’re about to start music lessons for our 12-year old adopted daughter, so a few days ago we got to fooling around with her new digital piano. We were trying to just sound out a few simple melodies, and she remarked on the fact that I didn’t play every note the same volume, even on a ditty like Mary Had A Little Lamb. In fact I was kind of exaggerating, to see if she’d notice and to see if I could make that tune swing. Success on only one count. Anyway, I told her that’s DYNAMICS: loud, soft, loud, soft...
I once got to interview the late great Jerry Reed and he explained to me that at an early age he developed “an unreeeeeasonable love for the guitar.” I think that’s the case with the many amazing players who graced our stage last night. I knew I was going to love the show; I didn’t dream it would be such a hit. We sold out, without the benefit of a Vince Gill or a Keith Urban to pack the house. And one really nice guy said to me after the show it was the best one he’d seen out of like 25 he’d been to. If you’re a guitar freak, it was not an unreasonable statement.
Angela Easterling says that to beguile means to charm or enchant, sometimes in a deceptive way. Hmm. I didn’t see anybody trying to mislead anyone else last night, but a lot of folks were certainly beguiled by the five enchanting women who took the stage and offered five utterly different ways to invest songs with beauty. My wife and daughter and mom-in-law were in the crowd at the Loveless last night, so you know where my heart lies, but just between us, the presence and talent of all those starlets left me a little dizzy. Frontier Ruckus, I love ya, but it wasn’t the same.
They say Tennessee is really three states that don’t mix well: East, Middle and West. But we know better. When Bobby “Rocky Top” Osborne can pick along with Memphis soul veterans, a jazz banjo fiend and a Telecaster-wielding country twanger on a stage in Nashville, it gives us hope for reconciliation in these divisive times. They can’t raise the debt ceiling in Washington, but our own “gang of six” acts sure did raise the roof at the Loveless.
Well Nashville topped out at just 94 degrees yesterday, so that was quite a relief from, you know, the HEAT of the previous few days. The barn was chillin’ though, as always. And even with a whole lot of people there. Man, it was exciting to see such a great turnout for our quarterly Nature Conservancy benefit and a promising young lineup. It was a perfect scenario for a season opening show. And thus did Music City Roots, Eighth Edition get underway.
It appeared planned by somebody obsessed with symmetry, but it just happened to work out this way. Last night’s Music City Roots was bookended by Nashville duos – a pair of deuces as it were. It was like getting four artists in the space of two, yet even more because of mysterious multiplier effect that happens when great talents collaborate. It’s the power of two; it’s exponential.
You may have heard we had a little competition last night in the variety show with so-called-country-music category. While we did our thing at the Loveless Barn, a few miles away there was this slightly bigger show in a spaceship with very expensive lights and a TV broadcast with fancy pickup truck ads and so forth. But while they had Rascal Flatts, we had Randall Bramblett and Greensky Bluegrass. Where they had Kid Rock, we had Jim Lauderdale. And simultaneous to their duo mash-up of Jason Aldean and Ludacris, we had a duet of our own: Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson.