A little Poco at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville

By Ken Paulson

It was a good week for Poco fans in the Nashville area.

Richie Furay

Richie Furay

On Tuesday, Richie Furay joined Vince Gill and an emerging duo called Striking Matches as part of the new SoundExchange Influencer series at the club.  The premise is that musicians build on the influences of others, so Gill talked about how Furay influenced him and Striking Matches cited both men as musical heroes.  Furay did a lot of newer material,  but did perform a spirited “Pick Up the Pieces” and closed with “Kind Woman,” the song that essentially led to the birth of Poco.

Rusty Young was on that Buffalo Springfield session and ended up being the longest-standing member of Poco. On Saturday night. Young appeared at the Bluebird Cafe along with Bill Lloyd, Craig Fuller of Pure Prairie League and Little Feat and Robert Ellis Orrall.



Rusty Young

Rusty Young

Young opened the show with “Call It Love” and closed with “Crazy Love,” but may have received the biggest reaction for “Neil Young” off the recent All Fired Up Poco album, in which he entertainingly explains that Neil is not his brother.

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.


Best bets: 2014 Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival

tin pan 2014By Ken Paulson

Tin Pan South, the world-class songwriters festival based in Nashville,  begins this Tuesday in Nashville,  and as usual, the line-up of talent is rich and diverse. It’s a particularly well-curated festival, so there are no lame rounds. That said, these shows caught our eye:

Tuesday,  March 25

Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne at the at the Listening Room Café,  6 p.m.

Brandy Clark’s 12 Stories is one of the best albums of the past year, fueled by striking and down-to-earth songwriting. Her songs have been recorded by Band Perry, Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert.  Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne teamed with Musgraves for her hit “Merry Go ‘Round” and won a 2014 Grammy.

Critter Fuqua, Chance McCoy, Chuck Mead and Holly Williams at the Station Inn,  9 p.m.

BR5-49 veteran Chuck Mead has a terrific new album called Free State Serenade, Critter Fuqua and Chance McCoy are members of the Old Crow Medicine Show and Holly Williams is the very talented granddaughter of Hank Williams, who released the fine album The Highway  last year.

Wednesday, March 26

Jessi Alexander, Josh Kear and Striking Matches at the Hard Rock Café, 6 p.m.

We admred Jessi Alexander as an artist, but she’s really hit her stride as a country songwriter, including the much-honored “I Drive Your Truck.’ Josh Kear has had similar success, including writing the monster Lady Antebellum hit “Need You Now,  and Striking Matches is an engaging duo whose songs have shown up on the Nashville TV show.

Thursday, March 27

Jim Lauderdale and friends at the Station Inn, 6 p.m.

This minimalist listing is all you need to know. Lauderdale, an icon of Americana, works and plays with some of the best in the business.

Friday, March 28

Buzz Cason, Austin Cunningham, Alex Harvey and Dickey Lee at Douglas Corner, 6:30pm
There’s some pop and country  history here, with Dickey Lee, who recorded “Patches,” Buzz Cason, who wrote “Soldier of Love,” Alex Harvey, who wrote “ Delta Dawn”  and Austin Cunningham. And it’s not all oldies from the veterans. Cason has a brand-new new album called Troubadour Heart.

Later at the same club at 9:30 you’ll find 3-time Grammy winner Ashley Cleveland, Dave Coleman, Suzi Ragsdale and Bill Lloyd, power pop and country artist and songwriter, and occasional contributor to Sun209. We’ve had the privilege to work with all four, and they’ll deliver a great show.

Saturday, March 29

 Sony Curtis, Mac Davis and Hugh Prestwood at the Bluebird Café at 6:30 p.m.

One of our favorite past Tin Pan South shows featured former Cricket Sonny Curtis, Mac Davis. Jim Weatherly and Bobby Braddock.   This year’s round looks just as promising, with Hugh Prestwood joining David and Curtis.

Curtis is one of our favorites, a rock pioneer who grew up with Buddy Holly, and went on to write songs ranging from “I Fought the Law” to “Love is All Around,” the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore show. I don’t think anyone else can claim they’ve been covered by the Everly Brothers, the Clash and Joan Jett.

Of course, this is all just a start. This is a festival that also features Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Marcus Hummon, Leigh Nash, Kevin Welch, Kim Richey, Bob DiPiero, Shannon Wright, Gary Talley, Dave Barnes, John Oates, Craig Carothers, Larry Weiss, Phillip Coleman, Tony Arata, T. Graham Brown, Brett James, Rivers Rutherford, Jeffrey Steele, Tom Douglas, Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, Tim Easton, Bill Anderson, Steve Bogard, the Stellas, Amy Speace, Jason White, Leslie Satcher, Larry Gatlin, Tommy Lee James, Erin Enderlin, Jack Sundrud, Karen Staley, Luke Laird, Lee Roy Parnell, Sarah Buxton, Kate York, Sherrie Austin, James Otto, the Kinleys and many more.

Full details can be found at Tin Pan South’s website.

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

The Waymores release their debut album at the Bluebird

 By Ken Paulson

Tonight the Waymores, a trio of talented songwriters, will showcase their new album at a CD release party at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. We had the chance to preview the album a while back and loved it. Here’s our review:

If you’re 16, starting a band means finding rehearsal space in someone’s garage, convincing someone to play the bass and struggling to write your own material.
But what if that band comes along three decades later, after you and your friends have written songs for people like Johnny Cash, Trisha Yearwood, Kathy Mattea and Joe Cocker, and after you’re proven to be an adept solo performer?
That’s how you form the Waymores, a highly entertaining trio with an overflowing song catalog and a new self-titled album.
The Waymores include Don Henry, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and very funny performer, Sally Barris, a fine songwriter and soprano, and Tom Kimmel, an accomplished singer-songwriter and poet. That firepower pays off on The Waymores.
The album is being readied for official release, but it’s available at shows and is already one of our favorites of 2012. The material is first-rate, the harmonies are solid and the fun quotient is off the chart.
Some highlights:
-“Way More” is sort of the “Monkees Theme” for the band, a plea to a woman to abandon the bum she’s seeing, while also explaining the group’s name.
-“Singing Like A Byrd” joyously salutes Roger McGuinn and a bygone era when the world was “ringing like a Rickenbacker.” Just beautiful.
-Al Kinds of Kinds, written by Henry with Phillip Coleman, is also the leadoff track on Miranda Lambert’s new album. It’s a heartening celebration of diversity, told through a cross-dressing congressman, a self-dosing pharmacist and similarly colorful characters.
-“Can You See Me Now,” a song by Kimmel and Amelia White, is a touching song about realigning with others after an absence.
-Barris’ “Bright New World” closes the album on a sweet and optimistic note, segueing to a gentle cover of the Beatles’ “P.S. I Love You.”

Record stores – to the extent they’re still out there – should be advised to file this in two locations: “Americana Music” and “Unlike Anything Else in This Store.” Highly recommended.

Follow Sun209: Americana Music News on Twitter at @sun209.com.


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Freedom Sings concert set for Bluebird Cafe in Nashville

By Ken Paulson

Americana artists loom large at this year’s Freedom Sings concert at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.

Gretchen Peters, Kim Richey, Bill Lloyd, Ashley Cleveland, Danny Flowers, Don Henry, Jonell Mosser and  Jason White are among Americana-linked performers scheduled for the Oct. 3 event.

(Disclosure: I help plan and host this fund-raiser each year.)

Here’s some background from the First Amendment Center’s site:

” Fourteen years ago the First Amendment Center took a distinctly musical turn.

Our Nashville-based center decided to take advantage of its presence in Music City and organized a charitable event focusing on free speech and music. The concept was simple: Music is free speech with a melody; this new “Freedom Sings” project would feature songs that had once been censored or challenged.

This year’s Freedom Sings concert … will focus on the years 1972-1974, which we’ve collectively tagged “The Watergate Years.”

As we researched music from those three years, we were surprised at how apolitical popular music had become. The strident anti-war anthems of the late 1960s were gone, and only a handful of songs seemed to focus on the turmoil of the times. This was a period in which the nation was still trying to extricate itself from Vietnam, we had our first taste of the oil crisis and the presidency was embroiled in scandal. And yet pop songs largely avoided all of those issues.

This year’s Freedom Sings focuses less on censored music and more on the songs and artists that broke new ground, addressing new topics in new ways. These include “Superfly,” Curtis Mayfield’s take on inner city life, Merle Haggard’s, “If I Can Make It to December,” Paul Simon’s poignant “American Tune” and Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.”

Reservations for the Oct. 3 concert are available at http://www.bluebirdcafe.com/how-to-make-reservations/.


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Review: Maia Sharp at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville

By Ken PaulsonMaia Sharp teamed with guitarist Linda Taylor in a surprisingly rocking set at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville.
Maia told the audience they wanted to prove you could rock without drums, a bass guitar – or guys. They backed it up.
Much of the evening’s set was drawn from Maia’s upcoming album Change the Ending. It sounds very promising, particularly the single “Me After You.”
“Red Dress” was a highlight, although Maia felt compelled to disclose that she had worn a dress just twice in her life. She said when she was a little girl her grandmother bribed her with $5 and she used the money to buy a baseball glove. The second occasion was for the cover of the Really Fine Citizen album in 1995. “I kind of look like I’m in drag,” she said. “Is that possible?”
Sharp talks throughout her set about the depressing nature of her songs and she has a point. “She describes ‘You Can’t Lose them all” as her sole upbeat song, and it’s barely that. Yet she had a lot of fun on stage, including a Lou Reed impression, a bit of “”Walk on the Wild Side” and terrific rapport with the very talented Taylor throughout the night.

Folow Sun209: American Music News on Twitter at @sun209com.

At the Bluebird: Peter Cooper, Karen Leipziger, Phil Lee, Dave Duncan

By Mary Sack

Tonight I witnessed yet another, one-of-a-kind Nashville Moment. It wasn’t a Grammy moment. Could’ve been, in an alternate universe. Three days after The Grammy Awards were broadcast live from Los Angeles, I saw a bona fide 2012 Grammy Nominee (for “Best Children’s Album”) Peter Cooper, bona fide rapscallion Phil Lee, new-to-me Dave Duncan and the surprisingly soulful Karen Leipziger, accompanied by Andy Ellis, perform in an intimate, early-evening round where they laid songs out one-by-one in a packed-to-the-walls house of rapt listeners and several friends.

There’s lots to say about each of these songwriters, but collectively they shared one of the coolest, bluesiest and fun evenings I’ve ever heard at The Bluebird Café in Nashville’

I really went out in the rain to this show to lend an ear to Karen Leipziger. I’ve known her as a crack publicist and almost forgot that she is also a songwriter with many, very cool cuts with some very well-known blues artists. I was shocked to realize I knew most of her songs but never realized over all of these years that she’d written them. Karen has always been humble, but THESE songs were monsters. Chief Eddy Clearwater recently recorded her cautionary “Do Unto Others”, which I swear could have a run in the Christian Blues market, if one exists.

Peter Cooper played many of my personal favorites, including “715” — a song about Hank Aaron and growing up in the shadow of racism and inequality. He shared his recent Grammy experience with the crowd, as well as his good natured humor about being a “runner-up” but I left the show thinking what a great picker he’s become in addition to his growth as an artist.

Fresh back in Nashville from his latest UK tour, Phil Lee never disappoints, toying with the audience as he does, playing songs like the tragically catchy “Just Some Girl” as well as the brand new “Cry,” while accompanied by the McCrary Sisters from various seats around the room. Simply arresting, those voices.

Layin’ it down with finesse, Dave Duncan definitely has the blues. He, too, could lay down a lick and sang of learning more about the blues in two weeks from his lady than “20 Years of BB King” – a song that also earned its own nomination from the Blues Music Association in 2008.

It was one of those nights when a one great song is followed by another surprisingly, captivating great song, all backed with solid performances. And it was free, no cover. Only in Nashville.

Bluebird Cafe: Amy Grant,Vince Gill,Don Schlitz,Richard Marx

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By Ken Paulson

Like Carole King’s appearance at the Bluebird Cafe earlier this month, tonight’s in-the-round featuring Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Richard Marx and Don Schlitz at the same Nashville venue was truly something special.

Among the highlights at this benefit for Alive Hospice:

– A guest turn by Jenny Gill, singing the touching “I Couldn’t Have Been More Wrong,” a new song about how badly a then-teen Jenny treated her stepmom Amy Grant.

Vince Gill’s extraordinary performance of “Threaten Me With Heaven” and his remembrance of the late Will Owsley, a co-writer of the song.

Don Schlitz’s very funny “I’m Allergic to Crazy”

– A new song by Amy Grant about a tragic loss in her son’s life

Richard Marx’s performance of “Long Hot Summer,” the song he co-wrote with Keith Urban, and a #1 single for Urban.





Amy Grant, Vince Gill headline Bluebird Cafe benefit

Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Don Schlitz and friends will perform in the round at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe on Jan. 26 at 9 p.m.  Proceeds benefit Alive Hospice.
Tickets are $75, and sold out, but sometimes no-shows leave a few open seats. Here’s a fan video from the same event last year:


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Carole King at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe

By Ken PaulsonCarole King performed some of her biggest hits in the relatively small confines of the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville Monday night, a memorable evening even in a city known for them.

King’s “Troubador” tour with James Taylor was an enormous success, but the remininiscing was largely scripted, with the same photos and anecdotes appearing night after night. The show at the Bluebird was as real as it gets, full of spontaneity and charm.

King shared the in-the-round with Gary Burr, Jim Photoglo and Georgia Middleman, three Nashville songwriters who offered harmonies and instrumental support, along with some impressive songs of their own.
King sang every fourth song, and others in the circle joked about the audience having to endure their material.

King opened her performance with “Chains,” a hit for the Cookies, later covered by the Beatles. It was joyous, with all four voices joining in.
Her “Up on the Roof” was stirring and may have been the evening’s highlight.

Before playing her “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” she took a few minutes to defend the Monkees’ recorded legacy. As Burr chimed in, “They had good material.”

Over the course of the evening, King performed three hit songs from her solo career – “So Far Away,” “I Feel the Earth Move” and “You’ve Got A Friend,” plus “New Year’s Day” a track from her new holiday album, written by daughter Louise Goffin and Guy Chambers.

For Burr (who toured with King), Middleman and Photoglo, it must have been like being in the line-up with Babe Ruth. All played at the top of their game.

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Pam Tillis, Lari White, Danielle Peck and Gretchen Peters in the round

Pam Tillis

Pam Tillis, Lari White, Gretchen Peters and Danielle Peck played in the round at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville tonight, a fundraiser for the Downtown YMCA.
The highlight was a Tillis and Peters duet on “Let That Pony Run.” Gretchen wrote the song, which Pam made a top five country hit in 1993.
Peters revealed that the cut led to a songwriting appointment with Tillis at her home. Tillis was at the peak of her career at the time, and apparently a little consumed by her busy schedule.
Tillis excused herself at one point and Peters waited. And waited.
“She never came back,” Peters laughed.

The Ultimate Songwriters’ Round, plus Lynn Anderson

Mac Davis and Bobby Braddock

By Ken Paulson

Songwriters in the round can have the feel of a poker game, particularly when someone plays a big hit. Sudenly, everyone is raising, playing their own hits.
That can make for a very entertaining evening, particularly when every songwriter has a hot hand.
On the final night of Tin Pan South, the round at the Bluebird Cafe was pretty astonishing. Bobby Braddock sang “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Let’s Talk About Me,” and then his daughter Lauren stepped in for “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”
Mac Davis did “Memories,” I Believe in Music” and “Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” apologizing for the misogynistic lyrics of the latter.
Sonny Curtis, a rock pioneer and member of the Crickets, did “Walk Right Back,” “The Straight Life” and “I Fought the Law,”
among other hits.
So how did Jim Weatherly keep pace with all of that? It helps when you’ve written big hits for Gladys Knight and can close with “Midnight Train to Georgia,” a song he originally recorded as “Midnight Plane to Houston.”
Before performing his biggest hit, Weatherly saluted Lynn Anderson, who once recorded “Midnight Train” and was sitting in the audience. She ended up singing along from her seat.
Only in Nashville.

Tom T. Hall at Tin Pan South

Tom T. Hall at the Bluebird Cafe

Tin Pan South’s highlight to date had to be Tom T. Hall’s performance at the Bluebird Cafe tonight. Hall said he plays just one night a year and this was it. Lucky audience.
Tom T. played some of this best-known songs, supplemented with entertaining anecdotes and playfulness. He followed up his “How I Got to Memphis” (surprisingly, the most lucrative cut in his catalog) with his take on how Elvis Presley pronounced Memphis.
Particularly compelling was the story behind “The Year Clayton Delaney Died.” I’ve known the song for years, but didn’t learn until tonight that Clayton’s was a true story, and that he died at age 19.
Joining Hall were two fine songwriters – and two of Tom T.’s biggest fans – Eric Brace and Peter Cooper. Hall clearly thinks highly of the two younger songwriters and his ease with them fueled the evening. It was an extraordinary night.

Wilder, Jones and Rotenberry celebrate Americana

Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones

The 2011 American Music Association series at the Bluebird kicked off Thursday with sets by the duo of Brad Jones and Hans Rotenberry and Webb Wilder. Jones and Rotenberry’s “Mountain Jack” CD is an eminently entertaining blend of melodic pop and Americana. They played much of the album, plus one song from Rotenberry’s band “The Shazam.” The acoustic renditions were terrific, echoing early McGuinness Flint.
Webb Wilder followed with a typically spirited set (“Human Cannonball” and “She’s Not Romantic” were among the highlights) and then invited the openers back up to share in covers of the Move, Everly Brothers and John Fogerty.

Americana at the Bluebird 2011

One of the best musical events in February and March in Nashville in recent years has been the “Live at the Bluebird” series organized by the Americana Music Association. These have been four-show series featuring a tremendous range of talents, including Sam Bush, Rodney Crowell, Will Kimbrough and Foster and Lloyd.
This year’s series is being sold as individual shows and there are just three scheduled. They include Webb Wilder and duo Brad Jones and Hans Rotenberry on March 17, sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer on March 22nd and dobro legend Jerry Douglas on March 24. Tickets will be available one week in advance for each of these shows at www.bluebirdcafe.com.

John Oates at the Bluebird Cafe

Nashville has long been the home or hangout of the stars who graced our ’60s and ’70s record collections. John Kay, John Fogerty, Peter Frampton and Felix Cavaliere have all called Nashville home. Now John Oates has established partial residency in Nashville. He showed up at the Bluebird this week to perform in the round with Sam Bush and Jeff Black.
It was an entertaining evening, highlighted by guest Jimmy Wayne’s rendition of “Sara Smile,” with Oates singing harmony. Oates didn’t do any Hall and Oates hits himself , but played lesser-known songs from the duo’s albums and some from his solo albums.

John Oates at the Bluebird Cafe

Don Henry’s birthday bash at the Bluebird

Don Henry celebrates his birthday on New Year's Eve eve.

One of the very best ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve eve is to attend Don Henry’s birthday bash at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. Last night was no exception. Henry, a Grammy award-winning songwriter, throws his own birthday party each year, inviting talented friends and co-writers. A highlight: Bobby Braddock dropped in to perform his George Jones classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today.
Tom Kimmel. Henry’s bandmate in the Waymores, sat in for a couple songs from that group’s upcoming CD. One of the songs was a direct nod to the Byrds, but both songs had that upbeat ’60s folk-rock feel to them — and that’s a good thing.
Craig Carothers and Danny Flowers joined Henry in the round. Carothers played a new song called “There is No U in We.” Like other Carothers songs, it’s dark and cynical, but also very melodic and funny. Flowers opened the show with his “Tulsa Time” and closed with his “East Batcave Shell Station Blues.” That’s some range.
The Bluebird was packed on a Thursday night; it’s my guess that this is that this show has become a tradition for a lot of folks. It’s really the best part of Nashville: incredibly talented people playing and singing as if they were in their living room and the audience consists of friends that just happened to have to pay a cover.

A Righteous Tin Pan South

Tin Pan South is a celebration of songwriting put together by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. The annual festival is remarkable for its scope and depth of talent, and occasionally you can even have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member drop by. Righteous Brother Bill Medley performed in the round at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville with Steve Dorff, Bill LaBounty and Bobby Tomberlin. I had no idea he had written “Little Latin Lupe Lu” (the live Springsteen version is better known to many) and he had a good time mocking his own lyrics. Bobby Hatfield, the other Brother, died in 2003. Medley did his own stirring version of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” to close the night.

Tin Pan South is a celebration of songwriting put together by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. The annual festival is remarkable for its scope and depth of talent, and occasionally you can even have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member drop by. Righteous Brother Bill Medley performed in the round at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville with Steve Dorff, Bill LaBounty and Bobby Tomberlin. I had no idea he had written “Little Latin Lupe Lu” (the live Springsteen version is better known to many) and he had a good time mocking his own lyrics. Bobby Hatfield, the other Brother, died in 2003. Medley did his own stirring version of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” to close the night.