Sharon Vaughn to be honored at Country Hall of Fame

Americana Music News – Sharon Vaughn, a fine songwriter we interviewed last January on the Sandy Beaches Cruise, is being honored at the Country Music Hall of Fame at 2 p.m. August 8th. Here’s the Hall’s announcement, along with our conversation with Sharon:
Sharon Vaughn’s first songwriting hit was a career maker: “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.” It appeared in 1976 on country music’s first certified platinum album, Wanted! The Outlaws, sung by Waylon Jennings. Four years later, Willie Nelson’s version went to #1 when it was included in the soundtrack to the film The Electric Horseman. Vaughn hails from Orlando, Florida. She was discovered by fellow Floridian Mel Tillis and she moved to Nashville in 1969 to pursue a singing career. During the 1970s Vaughn released her own singles on several labels, including ABC/Dot, while juggling studio work as a vocalist. Vaughn’s songwriting credits include the Oak Ridge Boys’ breakthrough country hit, “Y’All Come Back Saloon,” Reba McEntire’s “I’m Not That Lonely Yet,” the Lorrie Morgan-Keith Whitley duet “’Til a Tear Becomes a Rose,” Patty Loveless’s “Lonely Too Long,” and Randy Travis’s “Out of My Bones.” Today, Vaughn splits time between Orlando and Stockholm, and she has had success writing for international pop stars. In 2009 her song “Release Me,” recorded by Swedish singer Agnes, reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart. This interview and performance will be illustrated with vintage photos, film footage, and recordings.

This program takes place in the Museum’s Ford Theater.

After the program Vaughn will sign commemorative Hatch Show Print posters. Ford Theater. Included with museum admission.

Taking cover on Cayamo 2017

 

By Paul T. Mueller

Singer-songwriters usually, and understandably, focus on their own songs when performing. But many also perform songs they didn’t write, especially in a festival setting, where the audience tends to appreciate the different perspectives artists can bring to others’ work. The recently concluded Cayamo 2017 cruise, a singer-songwriter-focused festival at sea, featured many excellent cover performances.

Leaving aside shows that by definition were pretty much all covers (a tribute to the late Guy Clark, for instance), here’s a sampling (in no special order and by no means comprehensive) of artists’ takes on songs written by or usually associated with other artists.

  • Parker Millsap, “You Gotta Move” (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
  • Brandi Carlile, “Going to California” (Led Zeppelin)
  • Patty Griffin and Aaron Lee Tasjan, “Insider” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)
  • Richard Thompson and Rufus Wainwright, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” (Sandy Denny)
  • Christian Lopez Band, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (The Beatles)
  • Bonnie Bishop, “Whipping Post” (The Allman Brothers Band)
  • American Aquarium “Spanish Pipedream” (John Prine)
  • Aoife O’Donovan, “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith)
  • Steve Earle, “Rex’s Blues” (Townes Van Zandt)
  • Ruby Amanfu, “I Put a Spell on You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
  • Gretchen Peters, “Guadalupe” (Tom Russell)
  • Sarah Jarosz, “Come On Up to the House” (Tom Waits)
  • Gurf Morlix, “The Parting Glass” (Traditional)
  • Sarah Potenza, “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)
  • Patty Griffin, “Where or When” (Rodgers and Hart)

For lack of a better title, the “Repeat Offender Award” (no offense) goes to the Christian Lopez Band, which, in addition to covering the Beatles, performed Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons,” Bill Withers’ “Use Me,” Steve Fromholz’s “I’d Have to Be Crazy,” Stephen Bishop’s “On and On” and Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis.” Let it be noted that A) they did a fine job on all of these, and B) their original material was also excellent.

The “Reverse Cover Award” goes to Steve Earle, who introduced his own “Galway Girl” by predicting that 100 years from now, people in Ireland will still be singing the song, but will be insisting that it was written by an Irishman.

Quotable Cayamo 2017

By Paul T. Mueller

Things musicians say between songs are sometimes funny, sometimes profound, sometimes both. Here are some notable quotes from the stages of Cayamo 2017.

“I don’t have any songs about boats. I do have a lot of songs about death, so we’ll just do those.” – Gretchen Peters

“I’m here to do country music!” – Lee Ann Womack

“Are you often told you’re too young to be writing that well?” – Glen Phillips to 21-year-old Christian Lopez after the latter presented a new song in their songwriters-in-the-round show with Will Hoge

“Glen and I were 21 when Pearl Harbor happened.” – Will Hoge (who’s actually 44) to Lopez after Lopez described singing on an aircraft carrier

“Damn, I’m having a good time! Resistance is fun!” – Gretchen Peters, in the “Songs of Protest” show she hosted

“The dues-paying in Nashville is never-ending.” – Angaleena Presley

“There’s a responsibility to protect the repertoire.” – Luther Dickinson, on the North Mississippi Allstars’ approach to playing the blues.

Cayamo, I just found out, is an old Spanish word for ‘We printed the lineups too small.’ “ – Will Hoge, on the tiny type used on the show schedules provided to passengers

“Y’all just sit there and judge us? If we make you cry, do we get a prize?” – Aoife O’Donovan, a guest performer in the Secret Sisters’ “All the Girls Who Cry” show, to the Sisters, Lydia and Laura Rogers (who were in fact sitting, judge-like, at the side of the stage)

“How cliché are we, crying at our own show?” – Lydia Rogers, after a particularly sad song

“Oh, my god! Holy sh*t! I was worried! Thanks for voting for me! I never win anything!” – Sarah Potenza, who earned her spot in the lineup partly through passengers’ votes in the “Soundcheck” competition

“We’re songwriters. You can’t hurt our feelings.” – Lori McKenna, in a Love Junkies show

BJ Barham

“Thank you so much for cultivating this kind of community… It’s just as much fun as everyone told us. It’s a family reunion!” – BJ Barham of American Aquarium.

“We went from a latte president to an Orange Julius president.” – “stowaway” Chuck Cannon, on his new song “Tangerine Jesus,” sung to the tune of “Paperback Writer”

“It’s ‘Skunk’ time all over again!” – Loudon Wainwright III of “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” fame, on the expected success of “Meet the Wainwrights,” a musical introduction to his extended family

“If Elton John had had a baby with Tom Petty…” – Patty Griffin, introducing guest Aaron Lee Tasjan, before a lovely duet on Petty’s “Insider”

“You will always have my heart.” – Rodney Crowell to Emmylou Harris in their duet show

“Same back atcha!” – Harris to Crowell

“I’m going to keep singing this song until I die or it comes true, whichever happens first.” – Steve Earle on his optimistic “Jerusalem”

 

 

 

 

 

Cayamo music cruise review: An astounding line-up

By Paul Mueller

The 10th edition of the Cayamo music cruise enjoyed sunny skies, smooth seas and a fairly astounding musical lineup. The festival at sea, aboard the Norwegian Jade, left Tampa on Feb. 19, and returned a week later, after stops at the islands of Cozumel, Mexico, and Roatan, Honduras. As always, it was billed as “A Journey Through Song,” and as always it lived up to that promise. The number of shows and their scheduling made it difficult to see every performer, but that’s a good problem to have.

Most of the more than 50 performers played individual shows, and many appeared in themed and collaboration shows as well. Themed shows included a tribute to the late Guy Clark; a “Songs of Protest” show hosted by Gretchen Peters; a “variety show” hosted by Shawn Mullins; “All the Girls Who Cry,” a sad-song fest hosted by Alabama country-folk crooners The Secret Sisters, and a guitar-focused show dubbed “Buddy Miller’s Guitar 101.” There were several “and friends” shows, mostly featuring several singer-songwriters in an in-the-round format, and singer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Bulla hosted “Last Man Standing” jams that capped off three evenings’ music. Many made guest appearances at other artists’ shows throughout the week, and passenger jams, sometimes including professionals, were easily found all over the boat.

A weeklong festival inevitably produces too many high points to list them all, but here are a few. Be assured that at the same time as pretty much any of these shows, there was at least one other equally memorable show going on somewhere else on the Jade.

Sunday, Feb. 19: The opening set on the pool deck can be a tough slot, with many passengers still boarding and those already aboard busy looking around or reuniting with old friends. But singer-songwriter Christian Lopez, a West Virginia native who’s all of 21 years old, made the most of his rookie appearance, demonstrating a veteran’s savvy in capturing the attention of the crowd. Alternating between well-written originals and covers, and between full-band and solo formats, Lopez rocked hard and showed that he’d earned his spot

North Mississippi All-Stars

on the roster. Well-done renditions of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” Blaze Foley’s “Clay Pigeons” and Bill Withers’ “Use Me” played to the sensibilities of the crowd, much of which was three times Lopez’s age, but in a respectful way.

Also: Brandi Carlile,  a veteran of the first Cayamo music cruise in 2008 and most since, had herself a great time at the sail away show later in the afternoon, proclaiming the cruise “the greatest Cayamo ever.” Assisted as always by the Hanseroth twins (Phil on bass and Tim on guitar), she tore through favorites such as “Wherever Is Your Heart” and “The Eye” and closed with a nice rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.”

Monday, Feb. 20: East Nashville-based singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan made his much-anticipated Cayamo music cruise debut at an evening pool-deck show, and fully met his fans’ high expectations. Accompanied by fellow singer-songwriter Brian Wright, Tasjan played most of his most recent album, Silver Tears, as well as a few older tunes. His outgoing personality contrasted with Wright’s more stoic approach, but they were two of a kind when they started trading guitar licks. Late in the show, Wright took the spotlight to offer a fine rendition of his murder ballad “Maria Sugarcane.” Tasjan closed with a vigorous workout on his anthemic “Success” that had much of the crowd singing along.

Love Junkies on Cayamo music cruise

Also: The Love Junkies (singer-songwriters Lori McKenna, Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey) played an engaging show, performing songs made famous by bigger names in Nashville. These included McKenna’s “Humble and Kind” (Tim McGraw), Lindsey’s co-write “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (Keith Urban) and “Girl Crush” (written by all three and recorded by Little Big Town). The trio got support from Cary Barlowe and Ruston Kelly. It’s always fun to hear songs performed by the people who wrote them, without the usual studio trappings. Extra points to Rose for pushing through despite a case of laryngitis.

Tuesday, Feb. 21: The Songs of Protest show, hosted by Nashville singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters and featuring several Cayamo newcomers, was one of the emotional high points of the cruise. Performances included a powerful rendition of Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” by soul powerhouse Sarah Potenza; Allen Toussaint’s joyful “Yes We Can Can,” by Amy Helm; Randy Newman’s “Political Science,” sung by Peters’ husband, keyboardist Barry Walsh, from the viewpoint of the new U.S. president; and Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now,” sung with intensity by Gurf Morlix and Potenza. Peters’ selections included a beautiful rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee.”

Also: A pool-deck tribute to Guy Clark tribute featured contributions from longtime Clark associates (Rodney Crowell, “Stuff That Works”; Emmylou Harris, “Immigrant Eyes”) as well as more recent acolytes (Sarah Jarosz, “Boats to Build”; Brian Wright, “Coyote”). Oddly missing from the set was the iconic “L.A. Freeway,” but Crowell and Steve Earle teamed up to close with “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train.”

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Fans might have expected the basics in a show called Buddy Miller’s Guitar 101; what they got was far more advanced. Singer-songwriter and producer Miller alternated between describing his own journey to guitar mastery and using his laptop to play snippets of six-string artistry by predecessors such as James Burton, Link Wray and Jimi Hendrix. Things got even better when Miller brought out his guests. Tasjan ripped through a terrific acoustic rendition of “Streets of Galilee,” which incorporates his own musical autobiography. Nashville session player Tom Bukovac played a funky/jazzy bit of electric improvisation that had Miller and Tasjan grinning and shaking their heads. North Mississippi Allstars frontman Luther Dickinson talked about his band’s mission in the blues world (“There’s a responsibility to respect the repertoire”) and demonstrated his mastery of both the acoustic six-string and a two-string instrument made from a coffee can. Finally, the legendary Richard Thompson talked a little about having played with Hendrix and executed a beautiful acoustic take on “Turning of the Tide,” along with an instrumental piece he described as “an Irish tune with Scottish variations.”

Also: Nashville singer-songwriter Will Hoge’s show in a well-packed Spinnaker Lounge, in which he talked about burning out and leaving music a few years ago before rediscovering his craft and returning to the road. The set featured the kind of confessional songs you’d expect, plus some favorites such as the funny but pointed “Jesus Came to Tennessee.” Hoge is a very funny guy, but also an intense performer, and his powerful songs and playing often had the sometimes-rowdy Spinnaker crowd listening in dead silence.

Sarah Jarosz on Cayamo music cruise

Thursday, Feb. 23: Against the backdrop of a nice Caribbean sunset, Kacey Musgraves and her band serenaded the sail-away from Roatan on the pool deck. The set list included a well-chosen mix of originals (“This Town,” “Merry Go ’Round,” “It Is What It Is”) and interesting covers (Weezer’s “Island in the Sun,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk”). There was also a fun and witty reworking of the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo,” with lyrics tailored to the Cayamo experience and a laid-back vibe that suited the occasion perfectly. Musgraves closed with her anthemic “Arrow.”

Also: Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz, another Cayamo music cruise rookie, still looks about 17, but she sings and plays like she’s been onstage forever. Accompanied by bassist Jeff Picker and Australian-turned-Austinite guitar ace Jedd Hughes, Jarosz played a lovely set highlighted by the powerful (and Grammy-winning) “House of Mercy,” co-written with Hughes. Jarosz seems able to play anything with strings; her instruments in this show included acoustic and electric guitars, banjo and her unusual octave mandolin, an eight-stringed instrument the size of a small guitar.

Friday, Feb. 24: If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to play rock ‘n’ roll at 10 a.m. on a cruise ship, the answer is, “It is if you’re the North Mississippi Allstars.” Playing to a nearly capacity crowd in the Jade’s largest indoor venue, the Stardust Theater, the Allstars (Luther and Cody Dickinson, plus bassist Dominic Davis, who played with several artists) featured a mix of acoustic blues and all-out boogie. Cody, usually the Allstars’ drummer, yielded the

skins to Brady Blade, also from Miller’s band, to step out front on guitar and vocals for the traditional “Deep Ellum Blues.” The set closed with a fine rendition of the classic “Sitting on Top of the World,” featuring Luther and his coffee-can guitar.

Also: Singer-songwriter and Cayamo music cruise first-timer Aoife O’Donovan played a mostly original set, by turns quiet and loud, in the Spinnaker. She was assisted by guitarist Anthony da Costa and drummer Steve Nistor, along with guests Stuart Duncan on fiddle and Sarah Jarosz (who has played in the folkie trio I’m With Her with O’Donovan and former Nickel Creeker Sara Watkins). O’Donovan closed with a lovely rendition of Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” that might have drawn a few tears from those old enough to remember Blind Faith’s version.

Saturday, Feb. 24: The gospel show has become a well-loved Cayamo tradition. This year it took the form of a songwriter round rather than a succession of artists as in the past. Featured were country singer turned soul belter Bonnie Bishop, Nashville songwriters and performers (and spouses) Lari White and Chuck Cannon, and Sarah Potenza. Lending support were guitarists Ian Crossman, who’s married to Potenza, and Ford Thurston, who plays with Bishop, and bassist Patrick Blanchard). The show featured some traditional gospel, or at least gospel-ish, songs such as “I Shall Be Released” and “Power in the Blood,” as well as spiritual offerings such as Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody” and (perhaps inevitably in the wake of Leonard Cohen’s passing) a slow, intense rendition of “Hallelujah” by Potenza.

Bonnie Bishop

Also: The Wainwright Family, featuring patriarch Loudon Wainwright III and various descendants, exes and others, performed an excellent and eclectic set in the Stardust, kicking off with a team-effort “Meet the Wainwrights” to introduce the players. The cast included Wainwright’s son, Rufus Wainwright; his daughters, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche; Lucy’s mother, Suzzy Roche, and Wainwright’s sister, Sloan Wainwright. Guests included Emmylou Harris, who performed a song in honor of Wainwright’s former wife, the late folksinger Kate McGarrigle; Brandi Carlile, with the Hanseroth twins; fiddler-mandolinist David Mansfield, and guitarist Stephen Murphy. The show closed with an all-hands-on-deck sing-along on Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and a nice solo piano rendition of “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright.

Honorable mentions on the Cayamo Music Cruise: Oklahoma folk-blues prodigy Parker Millsap, Mississippi rocker Paul Thorn, Nashville neo-diva Angaleena Presley, Colorado bluegrass outfit Trout Steak Revival, Nashville country-pop band Skyline Motel, North Carolina rockers American Aquarium, soulful Nashville singer-songwriter Sam Lewis, singer-songwriters Beth Wood and Patty Griffin, Nashville country traditionalist Lee Ann Womack, former Civil Wars member John Paul White, rising country artist Ryan Hurd, Nashville songstress Ruby Amanfu, former Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips, young singer-songwriter Brian Dunne, new country star Maren Morris, Cayamo t’ai-chi master and clotheshorse Jim Lauderdale, Alabama folkie-rockers The Mulligan Brothers, and former Sea Level keyboardist and saxophonist Randall Bramblett.

Cayamo 2017: A music cruise preview

By Paul T. Mueller

The 2017 edition of the Cayamo music cruise sails southward today, with a few changes to mark the 10th edition of the singer-songwriter-focused festival at sea. For the first time, Cayamo will be leaving from Tampa, instead of Miami as in previous years. And the sold-out cruise will be aboard the Norwegian Jade instead of the Norwegian Pearl, its home for the past seven years.

But the biggest change, for better or worse, may be the schedule. Cayamo has never been exactly a relaxing experience, but Sixthman, the Atlanta-based Norwegian Cruise Lines subsidiary that produces the seven-night voyage, seems to have been determined to stuff this year’s schedule with an almost unbelievable number of performers and shows. To accommodate this wealth of talent, shows on non-port days will start at 10 a.m., instead of noon as in years past. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out, given that musicians – and many Cayamoans – tend to be the nocturnal type, and in many cases will have been up late the night before. The large roster of performers will also dictate a lot of overlap between shows, making for some tough choices when deciding what to see and what to (regretfully) let go.

Much of the lineup on Cayamo 2017 reads like a Who’s Who of previous Cayamos – Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Richard Thompson, Rodney Crowell, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, Paul Thorn, Glen Phillips and Jim Lauderdale, among others. The Wainwright family is almost a lineup unto itself, comprising Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Sloan Wainwright, Lucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche. And of course it wouldn’t be Cayamo without Shawn Mullins, the only musician who’s been along for every sailing.

Returning veterans in the not-quite-household-names category include rocker Will Hoge, The Secret Sisters, Angaleena Presley, Sam Lewis, Ruby Amanfu and Beth Wood, among others.

This year also marks the debut of some much-anticipated newcomers on Cayamo 2017, among them Oklahoma phenom Parker Millsap, genre-spanning singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz, folk-rocker Amy Helm, veteran Americana performer and producer Gurf Morlix, country singer turned blues singer Bonnie Bishop and vocal powerhouse Sarah Potenza. Several bands will also make the voyage, including the bluegrass-oriented The Mulligan Brothers and Trout Steak Revival and the harder-rocking North Mississippi Allstars and American Aquarium.

For a little added intrigue, there will be at least one “stowaway,” an artist whose identity hasn’t yet been revealed. Who this might be has been the subject of considerable pre-cruise debate, fueled on social media by cryptic hints from Sixthman.

In addition to the usual straightforward sets, several special themed shows are scheduled, including a Songs of Protest set featuring singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters; Buddy Miller’s Guitar 101, with six-string aces Miller, Thompson and Tasjan, along with Luther Dickinson and Tom Bukovac; a tribute to the late Guy Clark, and a Shawn Mullins Variety Show, whatever that might entail. Several “and Friends” shows promise the interesting collaborations that Cayamo is known for. For those able to stay awake, three late-night “Last Man Standing” jams, hosted by fiddle wizard Luke Bulla, are slated for the Jade’s Atrium stage.

As if the music weren’t enough, there will also be a couple of port calls. The Jade will spend a day at Cozumel, off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and a day at Roatan, a Caribbean island that’s part of Honduras. Also available will be such shipboard activities as a songwriting class (Camp Copperhead at Sea) hosted by Steve Earle; three guitar workshops; a beer tasting hosted by Paul Thorn, and the popular Sand Art event with Kacey Musgraves. Passenger jams can be expected to continue far into the night, while early risers will have the option of joining Jim Lauderdale on the pool deck for morning T‘ai Chi.

Lari White’s “Old Friends, New Loves”

Americana Music News- Lari White, literally a star of stage, screen and recordings, has a new double-EP out called Old Friends, New Loves. We had the chance to talk with her about her new release on board Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2017.

Band of Heathens tops Americana chart with “Duende”

Americana Music News – The Band of Heathens have just topped the Americana Music Chart with Duende, their fifth album. The album bumped Jamestown Revival out of the top spot.
We had the opportunity to visit with the band’s Ed Jurdi on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise two weeks ago:

Review: Sandy Beaches Cruise 2017

By Ken Paulson

The Sandy Beaches Cruise, the much-loved music festival at sea hosted by Delbert McClinton, rocked – in more ways than one – throughout its 23rd annual edition.

While the U.S. was shivering from a wide-ranging cold front, the temperatures on the Holland America Oosterdam were far more pleasant, but accompanied by high winds and waves. That left a number of artists struggling to keep their footing on stage and dancing audience members discovering moves they didn’t know they had.

But this is one cruise where the weather is almost irrelevant. People return to the Sandy Beaches Cruise every year because the musical talent is deep and the vibe is relaxed. When cruisers meet each other, the first question is almost always “How many of these have you been on?” There’s status in numbers.

week kicked off with Marcia Ball and Teresa James, strategic scheduling that got the audience up out of its seats on the very first night. That pattern held throughout the week with highly danceable music from McClinton, Marc Broussard, Jimmy Hall, Clay McClinton, Gary Nicholson, Lee Roy Parnell, Wayne Toups and Mike Zito.

The Mavericks performed three exuberant shows, though one was in the face of powerful winds and a cascade of sea spray. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more challenging performance environment, but the band – and the faithful – stayed the course.

The World Famous Headliners, a band comprised of NRBQ veteran Al Anderson, Shawn Camp, Pat McLaughlin, Michael Rhodes and Greg Morrow, were cruise favorites. There are a few songs on which their three lead vocals mesh and sound strikingly like the Band, but with a sense of humor. The Headliners have recorded two fine albums, but almost never perform, so those on board for the cruise the past two years have probably seen a majority of their shows.

The McCrary Sisters are the spiritual heart of the cruise, offering up a powerful mix of soul and gospel. Their medley of “I Can See Clearly Now/Let the Sun Shine In” was a musical weather forecast, with a bit of wishful thinking thrown in.

The surprise of the week was a salute to Eric Burdon and the Animals, led by Red Young, who played with Burdon for decades. It turns out that Teresa James and members of the Rhythm Tramps also served as latter-day Animals, and they joined Young on this impressive revue of Burdon’s best. James herself took the lead on “Don’t Bring Me Down.”

“Pianorama” is always a highlight of the Sandy Beaches Cruise. This impromptu annual jam session led by Marcia Ball brings together nearly a dozen great keyboard players. Adrenaline flows and the performances are inspired.

Lari White, Etta Britt and Kree Harrison offered up impressive solo showcases, while the Band of Heathens, the Howlin’ Brothers and Mingo Fishtrap delivered well-received sets, tapping into country, rock and traditional music. No one had a more traditional sound than the Quebe Sisters who channel brilliant harmonies (they say the Mills Brothers are their model) and a love of Bob Wills into a vibrant and contemporary take on Western Swing

The Sandy Beaches Cruise songwriters sessions are always entertaining and probably merit a larger venue. One show was dedicated to Lubbock, Texas (in a back-handed sort of way.) It featured a very funny monologue by Jaston Williams of “Greater Tuna” fame, who explored the city’s quirks. “Our homosexuals were not all that gay,” he noted. Gary Nicholson had a great story of his own, recalling a truly crazed friend who rescued him from a biker gang. Delbert shared his own account of seeing UFOs high over Lubbock. Kimmie Rhodes organized the session, which also included stories and music from Sharon Vaughn.

Other songwriting shows featured Bruce “Hey Baby” Channel, Bob DiPiero, Donnie Fritts, Danny Flowers, HalleyAnna, Terry McBride, Tom Hambridge, Spooner Oldham, Kevin Welch, Dustin Welch and Lari White, among others.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real was this year’s revelation. Fresh off backing Neil Young, Willie Nelson’s sixth child delivered a high energy show reminiscent of the power trios of the late ‘60s. His own material – highlights included “Four Letter Word” and “Can You Hear Me Love You” – was complemented by nods to the past, from Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” to Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”

And then there are Doyle and Debbie, aka Bruce Arnston and Jenny Littleton. The duo, along with Matt Carlton, offer up the story of a washed-up country star who latches onto a talented and desperate young woman and launches a comeback tour. The show, which features songs like “When You’re Screwing Other Women (think of me)” and “Fat Women in Trailers,” has been touring – and on the cruise – for a decade, and for good reason. It’s one of the funniest and most irreverent shows you’ll ever see.

The final show of the Sandy Beaches Cruise  always features Delbert McClinton and a wide range of guest artists. Gary Nicholson assembled about a dozen friends from Nashville, who joined him in singing “More Days Like This,” a fitting sentiment after 7 days of soulful and satisfying performances.

Delbert McClinton’s “Prick of the Litter”

Americana Music NewsDelbert McClinton is about to release “Prick of the Litter,” his 19th album. We spoke with him on board his annual Sandy Beaches music cruise, a weeklong music festival at sea that features the Mavericks, Marcia Ball, Teresa James, World Famous Headliners and many more country, blues and Americana artists.

Delbert McClinton’s 2017 Sandy Beaches Cruise

By Ken Paulson

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringleader of the Sandy Beaches cruise, opening and closing the week, and playing all over the ship throughout the week.

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringleader of the Sandy Beaches cruise.

We’re looking forward to Delbert McClinton’s 2017 Sandy Beaches Cruise, which begins Jan. 6 in Tampa. There’s a relaxed vibe throughout the week, in contrast to other music cruises that include assigned seats and lines to get into shows.

It’s a great line-up, with Marcia Ball, the Mavericks, Marc Broussard, Fred Eaglesmith, Clay McClinton, the Quebe Sisters, Wayne Toups, Red Young, World Famous Headliners, Teresa James, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Etta Britt, the McCrary Sisters, Big Joe Maher, Lari White, Bob DiPiero, Anson Funderburgh, Bluz House Rockers, Bruce Channel, Danny Flowers, Doyle and Debbie, Gary Nicholson, Jimmy Hall, Kimmie Rhodes, Kree Harrison, Lee Roy Parnell, Mike Zito, Mingo Fishtrap, Sharon Vaughn, Shelley King, the Band of Heathens, Spooner Oldham, the Howlin’ Brothers and Tom  Hambridge .

We’ll have full coverage of the 2017 Sandy Beaches cruise, but here’s our report from 2016.

As Marcia Ball wrapped up her first song to polite applause, she seemed a little nonplussed.

“I thought there was a dance floor here,” she said, as she kicked off Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016. The crowd took the hint, and the rest of the evening – and the week – was one non-stop dance floor.

That sets this music cruise apart from others, where headliners and reserved seats are the norm. The Sandy Beaches crowd listens respectfully, but they move to the music.

That’s probably the influence of McClinton himself, who is a low-key and welcoming presence thoughout the cruise. It’s as though you were invited to Delbert’s house – one with a very large pool – with his musical friends on a Saturday night.

And if this is your first visit to Delbert’s, you won’t feel like a newcomer for long.

“This is your cherry and we’re here to bust it, “ Ball declared, launching into a high-velocity set of rhythm and blues, including the week’s first performance of “Sea Cruise.’ “A lot of nerve, “ she laughed.

“All Night Long” with the Mavericks

Raul Malo of the Mavericks

Raul Malo of the Mavericks

The Mavericks headlined the pool deck stage three times and the energy never flagged. Since reuniting in 2012, the band has been on a roll, culminating in their Grammy nominations for the song “All Night Long” and their Mono album, and being named group of the year in the Americana Music Association awards. When a band with more than two decades of experience hits a new career high, it shows on stage. In their final set of the week, they even played a danceable “Okie from Muskogee.”

 

 The McCrary Sisters Let It Go

The McCrary Sisters delivered their first set on Sunday, appropriately so for this hard-rocking gospel quartet. Regina McCrary spoke of God’s capacity for healing and offered to pray for anyone in need. If you have a burden, you should “Let It Go,” they sang. No, not the song from “Frozen.”

Later in the day, Roger Blevins Jr. and Mingo Fishtrap announced they were going to echo the McCrarys’ advice to “let it go, “though their version would be “more profane.”

It wasn’t all church for the McCrarys . The sisters did the Family Stone proud with an inspired version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.)”

Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016 songwriters

The songwriter sessions were uniformly impressive, giving artists the chance to showcase their writing in an acoustic performance. Sharon Vaughn told the story of how she pitched her classic My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” to Waylon Jennings, who refused to believe she wrote it. Spooner Oldham played songs he co-wrote with Dan Penn, including James and Bobby Purify’s hit “I’m Your Puppet.”

Delbert McClinton joined the songwriters mid-week to showcase songs from a new album due this spring.

The World Famous Headliners

Former NRBQ member Al Anderson has been on the last 18 cruises, but this time he brought his bandmates from the World Famous Headliners . It’s a tongue-in-cheek name, but Anderson, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin make up a potent front three, with stellar guitar work and tight harmonies. The band – deep in writing talent – showcased songs from their new album, including “Hitchike Home,” “The Whoa Whoa Song” and “Fried Chicken,” a song that mashes up Memphis music and the Bee Gees.

The Headliners know no barriers. “We’d like to apologize for these songs,’ McLaughlin told the audience, shortly before Anderson sang “Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Ever Shine.”

The band brings Little Village to mind. That was the storied band featuring Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner, an amazing line-up of players and songwriters that never seemed to gel as a group.

The Headliners gel. They even have their own theme song, which they played at both the beginning and close of their set. “We’re the World Famous Headliners…”

Keb’ Mo’ and the return of Lee Roy Parnell

Among other highlights of  Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016:

Keb’ Mo’ drew big and appreciative crowds poolside with impeccable sets of blues and soul, including his fresh take on the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”

Mingo Fishtrap rallied the audience on the final day, with Blevins Jr. saying that although everyone would have to disembark the next morning, now was the time to “self-lobotomize.” The band then launched into a blistering medley of classic James Brown songs.

Lee Roy Parnell, on the Sandy Beaches Cruise since its inception 22 years ago, was back after a year away. He saluted the late Allen Toussaint with a spirited take on his “Holy Cow.” Lari White joined him for a duet of a song she and Parnell had written, and Etta Britt delivered a powerful “People Get Ready.”

The annual “Pianorama,” with Marcia Ball as ringleader, convened virtually every keyboardist on the cruise for a piano jam. Five players at a time took the stage, trading off parts on songs like “Iko Iko,” “Nothing from Nothing” and Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee.”

The Quobe Sisters Band

The Quobe Sisters Band

The Quebe Sisters were a revelation. Their harmonies were gorgeous – in 1940 they would have been the Andrews Sisters –and all three play fiddle beautifully. They draw on a big songbook, but Western Swing is a specialty.

Doyle and Debbie, the lampooning country music revue, doesn’t change and doesn’t need to. It remains fresh and funny.

Alyssa Bonagura was joined onstage by her parents Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura, aka “Baillie and the Boys ,” who revisited their musical past, including an impressive “Blue Bayou.” It’s that rare family where the daughter can plug her parents’ CDs at the merch table.

Bruce Channel joined Delbert to perform his big 1962 hit “Hey Baby,” a record on which McClinton played harmonica. I’m sure they’ve performed it together dozens of times, but it’s still a joyous performance.

The Howlin’ Brothers – Ian Craft, JT Huskey and Jared Green impressed audiences with both a reverence for folk, blues and bluegrass classics and their ability to craft new songs that continue the tradition.

Flower Power Cruise: Mickey Dolenz, Eric Burdon

Americana Music News – There’s a particularly strong musical line-up set for the 2017 Flower Power Cruise, scheduled for February 27-March 4.

The cruise, which embarks in Ft. Lauderdale and includes stops in Falmouth, Jamaica and  Nassau, Bahamas, will be hosted by the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz. Artists on the cruise include Eric Burdon and The Animals, Chad and Jeremy, The 5th Dimension, Lovin’ Spoonful, Rare Earth, Spencer Davis, Three Dog Night and The Yardbirds.

We’ve seen impressive shows in recent years from Burdon, Chad and Jeremy and the Yardbirds. While every band has personnel changes over four decades, the best still deliver the hits with energy and passion.

The cruise is now booking passengers from its 2016 crusie, but will open to new bookings on March 10. You’ll find more information on their site.

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Review: Cayamo 2016 a magical musical tour

By Paul T. Mueller

Cayamo 2016 is in the books. The latest edition of the singer-songwriter-focused cruise, aboard the Norwegian Pearl, arrived back in Miami early on Sunday, Feb. 7, after a week’s voyage through the Caribbean and stops at the islands of Tortola and Sint Maarten. More than 2,000 passengers disembarked on a brisk, sunny South Florida morning, most of them tired, happy and prepared to relive the experience on social media and at meet-ups around the country until the 10th Cayamo sets sail in 2017.

Cayamo 2016  provided plenty of highs and a few lows. Let’s dispense quickly with the lows – too-chilly air conditioning in some of the indoor venues; considerably higher prices for adult beverages than in years past; problems (real and/or perceived) with things like food quality and sound mixes at some shows; restrictions on photography during sets by at least one high-profile performer; the occasional plumbing problem in a stateroom. But these matters weren’t enough to harsh the mellow of a weeklong musical festival at sea.

The highs on Cayamo 2016 were much more numerous. As always, there were more great performances than anyone subject to the laws of time and space could hope to see, so missing some magical moments was a given. But here, in more or less chronological order, is a subjective look at some outstanding performances from each day, from among many that could have been included.

Sunday, Jan. 31 – embarkation day

Americana superstar Jason Isbell and his band, the 400 Unit, took the pool-deck stage for the sailaway show as the Pearl left Miami. It’s hard to imagine a better choice, as the group ripped through a high-energy, 14-song set. Included were several tracks from Isbell’s most recent album, Something More than Free, along with older material such as “Decoration Day” and “Alabama Pines.” The set was capped by a rocking rendition of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” with Isbell and lead guitarist Sadler Vaden trading licks in a more-than-passable echo of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor.

Steve Earle took the stage of the Pearl’s large auditorium, the Stardust Theater, Sunday evening for his only solo show (he also played two sets with Shawn Colvin later in the week). After opening with “Devil’s Right Hand,” Earle noted that it’s been 30 years since the release of his stellar debut album, Guitar Town, and then launched into the title track, still fresh despite the decades. What followed was pretty much a string of greatest hits, as many as could be fitted into a one-hour set. He closed with a quiet, powerful rendition of his death-penalty ballad “Billy Austin” and an excellent reading of the classic “Copperhead Road.”

Also: British guitarist Martin Harley’s high-powered slide guitar on the pool deck during boarding; Jimmy Galloway’s masterful picking in the Atrium; Jim Lauderdale’s endearing mix of goofiness and country chops in the Spinnaker Lounge.

Monday, Feb. 1 – at sea

Angaleena Presley

Angaleena Presley on Cayamo 2016

Monday afternoon featured an excellent “Unlikely Trio” show with three Cayamo rookies – Angaleena Presley, Foy Vance and Paul Thorn – taking turns performing their own songs, sometimes with backup from the others. Irish singer Vance delivered his selections with a powerful, expressive voice and vigorous guitar playing. His words weren’t always easy to follow, but the emotions behind them were. Several of Presley’s songs were taken from her most recent album, the fine American Middle Class. A newer song, “Bless Your Heart,” was a hilarious but biting jab at hypocrisy, and its title was soon to become a buzzword around the boat. Thorn, a veteran of other music cruises but a newcomer to many Cayamoans, wasted no time endearing himself to the crowd by dedicating “I’m Still Here” to a cancer patient he had met. One of the more charming aspects of shows of this kind is watching artists’ reactions to the work of others with whom they might not be all that familiar. It’s often a combination of amusement and admiration, and Monday’s show did not disappoint.

Foy Vance

Foy Vance

Also: Promising pop from young singer Rainey Qualley in the Great Outdoors; harmony-driven country folk from The Novel Ideas; singer-songwriter excellence from John Prine and John Hiatt in the Stardust; Nashville brilliance from the past and the present from Buddy Miller in the Stardust.

Tuesday, Feb. 2 – at sea

Lucinda Williams’ band, Buick 6, has accompanied her on Cayamo previously, but this year was the first time the band got its own sets. The first came Tuesday night, before a Lucinda set, and consisted of about a half-hour of high-energy power trio rock, with a little funk and jazz thrown in. Most of it was instrumental, with occasional nonverbal vocals and whistling. For fans of the power-trio format, or of instrumental rock in general, it was an invigorating warmup for Williams’ show. The band’s members – guitarist Stuart Mathis, bassist David Sutton and drummer Butch Norton – are excellent musicians, and the title of their debut album, Plays Well With Others, was well chosen.

Williams also put on a terrific show, mixing older material (“Drunken Angel,” “Lake Charles,” “Can’t Let Go,” “Joy”) with newer songs, including several from her just-released The Ghosts of Highway 20 (the title track and “Dust,” based on a work by her late father, poet Miller Williams). Appearing relaxed and confident, Williams produced some nice work on acoustic and electric guitar to accompany her gritty lyrics of love and loss, spirituality and sensuality. She drew laughs with her description of the time and effort she put into getting her hair ready for the show, only to see her labors literally blown away on the windy pool deck.

Jim Lauderdale on Cayamo 2016

Jim Lauderdale on Cayamo 2016

Also: The history of American roots music, plus stellar guest performances, from David Bromberg in the Stardust; fine bluesy guitar from Martin Harley in the Great Outdoors; high-volume country rock from Chris Stapleton on the pool deck; the midnight Grateful Dead tribute show on the pool deck, backed by American Babies and featuring contributions from Miller, Lauderdale, Bromberg and many others.

Wednesday, Feb. 3 – Sint Maarten/St. Martin Passengers returning Wednesday from excursions on Sint Maarten/St. Martin were treated to a sailaway show by Hurray for the Riff Raff, led by singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra. The Cayamo newcomers showed plenty of rock ‘n’ roll attitude to back up Segarra’s thoughtful and sometimes disturbing lyrics, as in “The Body Electric,” a reimagining of the classic Southern murder ballad from a different angle. “Like an old sad song, you heard it all before,” she sang. “Well, Delia’s gone, but I’m settling the score.”

Newly anointed American superstar Chris Stapleton’s first indoor show packed the Stardust Wednesday night. Stapleton and his band were a little more subdued than in their rocking pool deck show the previous night, but the set was still almost as much rock ‘n’ roll spectacle as Americana, fueled by Stapleton’s guitar heroics and plenty of high-powered backup from his very capable band. Stapleton did seem a bit nonplussed by the quiet and attentive Cayamo crowd – at one point he noted that he could hear a pin drop on stage between songs, and then (apparently) dropped something to prove just that. But the show, consisting mostly of material from the hugely successful Traveller album, was not without its rowdy charms, and the audience certainly seemed to eat it up, even calling the band out for an encore of “Sometimes I Cry.”

Also: Full-band rock and blues with a funny twist from Paul Thorn on the pool deck; purebred Americana from Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams in the Spinnaker; high-energy, late-night jamming with American Babies in the Atrium.

Thursday, Feb. 4 – Tortola

John Fullbright seemed to be embracing a bigger sound than on previous Cayamos, and this was much in evidence at his Thursday sailaway show on the pool deck. Fullbright and his band, with the help of guests including guitarist Davis Causey and keyboardist Daniel Walker, rocked out on signature tunes including “All the Time in the World” and “Fat Man.” But the emotional high point of the show might have been a powerful and dramatic rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee” – with a subtle lyrical twist that sounded a lot like a dig at anti-immigrant comments by a certain front-running Republican presidential candidate. Fullbright closed with a joyous, full-out take on the Box Tops classic “The Letter.”

Robert Ellis on Cayamo 2016

Robert Ellis on Cayamo 2016

Singer-songwriter Robert Ellis, who’d already played a solo set on the Pearl’s Great Outdoors stage and a couple of straight-up country tunes at Shawn Mullins’ Family Jam in Bar City, had a few surprises in store for his midnight Thursday show in the Stardust. A few songs in, backed by his nattily attired band, the Perfect Strangers, Ellis launched into a vigorous rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris,” on which he demonstrated his monster guitar skills. He followed with other selections from his most recent album, The Lights from the Chemical Plant, along with new material. Things took a left turn late in the show with an extended instrumental jam that owed more to free jazz than to Ellis’ more usual genres, country and folk. The chaos finally resolved into “Sing Along,” Ellis’ blistering indictment of organized religion. Despite his veteran status – he also sailed on Cayamo in 2013 – Ellis seemed to be many Cayamoans’ “find” this year.

Also: Guitar-fueled singer-songwriter brilliance from Jason Isbell and band, including wife Amanda Shires, in the Stardust; bouncy pop from Kate York and Joe Pisapia in the Spinnaker; “heavy mellow” from Sugar & the Hi-Lows in the Atrium; well-written singer-songwriter fare from Sam Lewis in the Spinnaker.

Friday, Feb. 5 – at sea

After several years on the cruise as lead guitarist and vocalist in John Prine’s band, Jason Wilber finally got a set of his own on Cayamo 2016 on Friday, and he made the most of it, to the delight of an attentive Atrium crowd. Wilber led off with a lovely, slow rendition of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” following with the unfortunately timely “Oh You Pretty Things” by David Bowie. He brought out drummer Kenneth Blevins, of John Hiatt’s band, The Combo, and elicited laughs with “Quakertown Optimist Club,” inspired by a newspaper story about down times for an upbeat organization. Much of the rest of the show consisted of tracks from his new album, Echoes, on which he covers a range of material by other writers (including an excellent take on Prine’s mournful “Paradise”). Also included was the original “Ghost Light,” a tribute to the old theaters in which he often plays when touring with Prine.

Knoxville-based roots-rock outfit The Black Lillies delighted a large pool deck crowd Friday afternoon with an energetic set drawn largely from its recent album Hard to Please. The band, fronted by Cruz Contreras on guitars, keyboards and vocals and singer-guitarist Trisha Gene Brady, was clearly buoyed by the outpouring of support it received in the aftermath of having its van and a trailer full of instruments and other belongings stolen after a gig just days before Cayamo. Playing with borrowed instruments, the Lillies turned in strong performances on such familiar tunes as “Two Hearts Down” and “Ruby,” and newer material including the quiet ballad “Born to Roam,” the rocking touring tale “40 Days,” and the soulful “Mercy.” The band got a boost on a few songs from the trumpet and saxophone players from Austin-based funk-rock outfit Mingo Fishtrap.

Also: Harmony-driven adult pop from Johnnyswim on the pool deck; slightly quirky, personal tunes from Amanda Shires, accompanied by Jason Isbell, in the Spinnaker; acoustic pop with a New Orleans vibe from the Andrew Duhon Trio in the Great Outdoors; excellent folk and country in a mostly requests show by Slaid Cleaves in the Great Outdoors; pop country with a hip-hop twist from Maren Morris in the Atrium.

Saturday, Feb 6 – at sea

The final 2016 show by Shawn Mullins, the only musician to have performed on all nine Cayamos, was mostly a parade of familiar hits – “Beautiful Wreck,” “Light You Up,” “Twin Rocks, Oregon,” and so on – not new, but delivered as always with passion and style. Mullins also threw in some newer material, including a couple of songs from his recent album My Stupid Heart – the title track and “Ferguson,” a co-write with Chuck Cannon that addresses racial matters. Guitarist Davis Causey earned a cake and a standing ovation in honor of his 67th birthday, and the show resumed with “House of the Rising Sun” and “Lullabye.” A final sweet moment ensued when the hundred or so Cayamoans who had sailed on all nine voyages came down the aisles, attired in white bathrobes, to sing along with Shawn on “Sunshine.”

The performances of Cayamo 2016 drew to a close late Saturday with the Moonlight Revival, a guitar pull featuring three rounds of three or four singer-songwriters each. The event started out on the pool deck, but wind and rain necessitated its being moved to the Atrium after only a few songs. Early-round highlights of the acoustic show included Steve Earle’s heartfelt “Jerusalem,” Angaleena Presley’s snarky “Bless Your Heart” and Foy Vance’s literary epic “Noam Chomsky Is a Soft Revolution.”

Also: A morning gospel show featuring chicken and waffles and contemplative tunes from Birds of Chicago, Sam Lewis, Langhorne Slim, Martin Harley and The Bros. Landreth on the pool deck; more funny songs with serious messages, brilliantly played, from Paul Thorn and his band in the Stardust.

Finally, despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to catch enough of Shawn Colvin, The Alternate Routes or Watkins Family Hour to offer an informed opinion. I can say that all had many fans on Cayamo and all were reported to have turned in fine performances.

 

A quotable cruise: Cayamo 2016

By Paul Mueller

Best quotes from the stages of Cayamo 2016:

“It’s like playing in a Lava Lamp, but it’s a great feeling.” – Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, during a sunny midday set on the pool deck

Lucinda Williams and her "boys"

Lucinda Williams and her “boys”

“This is my band! These are my boys! Three guys with the power of six! “– Lucinda Williams, on her band, Buick 6

“Twenty-three percent of my day – a little more – is spent waiting for Teresa.” – Larry Campbell, while waiting for his wife and musical partner, Teresa Williams, to join him onstage

“I’m sweating up here like Ted Cruz at a Steve Earle concert.” – Jim Lauderdale

“We ain’t on this cruise to do the right thing, are we? We gonna straighten up on Monday”. – Paul Thorn, on questionable dietary choices at the buffet

“When you think of great songs, you think 1980s and you think Echo and the Bunnymen. At least I do.” – Jason Wilber, before performing that band’s “The Game”

“It’s OK to love the Grateful Dead. It’s also OK to hate the Grateful Dead. “– Buddy Miller, before singing “Black Muddy River”

“You guys are unnervingly quiet.” – Chris Stapleton, to the audience at one of his large-theater shows

“Please sing along with congregational gusto.” – J.T. Nero of Birds of Chicago, during the Saturday morning gospel show

“We’re gonna sing some really sad songs, and somehow it’s gonna make us all happy. “– Slaid Cleaves

“That’s the saddest S.O.B. I have to offer.” – Jason Isbell, on his cancer ballad “Elephant”

“Play it again!” – David Bromberg, to several band members and guest artists after each had played a solo.

Award-worthy moments from Cayamo 2016

By Paul T. Mueller

Award-worthy moments from Cayamo 2016:

The Cover Me AwardJason Wilber, who played songs by David Bowie, John Prine, Echo and the Bunnymen and others (plus some originals) in a very entertaining Atrium show.

The Press On Regardless Award – The Black Lillies, who played a series of great sets on Cayamo 2016 with borrowed instruments after having most of their gear stolen less than a week before the cruise.

The “They Must Be Clones” Award – (Tie) Daniel Walker (keyboards and accordion, John Fullbright) and Chojo Jacques (fiddle and mandolin, Slaid Cleaves), one or both of who seemed to be a guest performer at practically every set all week.

The “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” Award – Cruz Contreras (The Black Lillies), who was still playing as the Pearl pulled into the Port of Miami.

 

The Boogie Shoes AwardMingo Fishtrap, whose late-night funk-rock shows kept the Atrium hopping.

The Dead Will Live Again Award – American Babies, “house band” for the Grateful Dead tribute show.

The Deadpan Delivery Award – J.T. Lindsay (Birds of Chicago), for his confession that he had been inadvertently drinking Jim Lauderdale’s wine and his promise to “make it right.”

The “Where’s the Beef?” AwardPaul Thorn and Shawn Mullins, for their “feud” pitting Mississippi morality against rock ‘n’ roll hedonism.

The Let’s Duet AwardSlaid Cleaves, who sang the Dewey Cox classic to passengers late one night in the Great Outdoors dining area.

Chris Stapleton on Cayamo 2016

Chris Stapleton on Cayamo 2016

The Fish Out of Water Award – Chris Stapleton, who seemed somewhat perplexed at the idea of playing for quiet audiences.

The “How Can You Be Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All” Award – every Cayamo passenger who found him- or herself desperately wanting to attend two shows at the same time.

The Bandleader Generosity Award – David Bromberg, who in at least one show insisted that almost every band member and guest take a solo – and then kept saying, “Play it again!.”

The Throwback AwardJason Isbell and the 400 Unit, for their excellent rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” at the sailaway show.

The Bless Your Heart AwardAngaleena Presley, for her very funny song by the same name, which became an oft-repeated catch phrase around the boat.

The Keepin’ It Clean Award – The Washy Washy Duo (Norwegian Cruise Lines employees Redelick on guitar and Komang on vocals and hand sanitizer spray bottle), who daily serenaded passengers entering the buffet with such classics as “Washy Washy, Happy Happy,” “I Wanna Wash Your Hands” and “Spray You, Spray Me.”

The Best Dressed Male AwardRobert Ellis, who apparently brought along steamer trunks filled with fashionable suits and accessories.

The Best Dressed Female Award – Rainey Qualley, for the beguiling black dress she wore at her Atrium show.

Parents of the Year – Paul “Hammy” Hamilton (Foy Vance’s drummer) and his wife, for cruising with a couple of very young kids.

Honorary Uncle of the Year Award – Foy Vance, who was often to be seen playing with his drummer’s young sons on the pool deck.

The Most Valuable Player Award – the crew of Sixthman, the Atlanta-based company that produces Cayamo.

New releases: Buddy Miller on Cayamo, Mark Huff

New and recent releases:

Cayamo Sessions at SeaBuddy Miller and Friends – We’ve been on the Cayamo music cruise a number of times and this new collection conveys what makes that such a rich musical experience. Take a couple of dozen Americana music artists, put them all on a cruise ship, and compelling collaborations result. Highlights include Miller and Nikki Lane on “Just Someone I Used to Know,” Lee Ann Womack’s take on “After the Fire is Gone” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Love’s Gonna Live Here.” Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson, Elizabeth Cook, Shawn Colvin, Jill Andrews, Doug Seegers, Brandi Carlile and the Lone Bellow round out this thoroughly enjoyable collection.

Mark HuffDown RiverMark Huff – This vibrant new EP from Mark Huff moves seamlessly through rock, folk and country, fueled by some of Nashville’s best players. Down River was produced by Huff and Mark Robinson, joined in the studio by Audley Freed, Jen Gunderman, Paul Griffith, Mike Vargo and Lisa Oliver-Gray. Huff writes smart and personal songs with compelling hooks, a next-generation Elliott Murphy.  “Almost True” would be the ideal single if there still was such a thing.

Brown-Eyed Georgia Darlin’Sammy Walker – The legendary Phil Ochs championed Sammy Walker in the ‘70s, but commercial success eluded the Georgia folksinger. Give credit to Ramseur Records for unearthing the set of demos that launched Walker’s career. They’re very much of the era – “Talkin’ Women’s Lib”– but clear evidence that Walker’s songwriting and Arlo Guthrie-like vocals should have taken him further.

ExperiencedLarry Keel – Flatpicking guitarist Larry Keel’s new album features guest spots from Sam Bush, Del McCoury, Peter Rowan and Keller Williams.

Six on the OutThe Westies – Chicago-based duo follows up debut West Side Stories with a new collection of folk-rock narratives.

MultitudesJames Houlahan – Third solo album from former member of The Jody Grind and Dogs on Television.

Broken ManBen Hemming – London-based singer-songwriter’s first album features blues-fueled Americana. A U.S. tour is in the works.

 

Interview: Shawn Camp, World Famous Headliners

One of the most buzzed-about bands on the recent Sandy Beaches cruise was the World Famous Headliners. We talked onboard with Shawn Camp about the group’s new album and his colorful bandmates Al Anderson, Pat McLaughlin, Michael Rhodes and Greg Morrow.

Preview: Cayamo music cruise 2016

By Paul T. Mueller

The ninth annual Cayamo music cruise sails from Miami on Jan. 31, en route to a week of music and fun under the Caribbean sun. Produced by Atlanta-based Sixthman aboard the chartered Norwegian Pearl, Cayamo is a weeklong music festival at sea, featuring dozens of scheduled performances in indoor venues ranging from small lounges to a thousand-seat auditorium, as well as a couple of open-air stages on the pool deck.

Cayamo is also known for passenger participation; a fair number of the 2,000-plus cruisers bring along their instruments and can be found jamming at pretty much any hour of the day or night. These sessions often draw the attention, and participation, of some of the professional musicians as well.

Americana’s best

While it’s not specifically an Americana cruise, this year’s Cayamo features a couple of the biggest names in Americana music at the moment – Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton, both still touring on the strength of excellent 2015 albums (Something More Than Free and Traveller, respectively). Other scheduled performers include two-time Cayamo veteran Lucinda Williams; three-timer John Prine; John Hiatt, back for a sixth tour; Nashville (and Nashville) superstar Buddy Miller, a fixture on every Cayamo except 2009; Shawn Colvin, who’s sailed five times before; John Fullbright, a two-time Cayamoan, and Steve Earle, back after two previous sailings. Atlanta-based singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins, the only performer who’s been on every Cayamo, also returns to keep his streak unbroken.

New to the cruise

Buzzworthy newcomers this year include Alabama-based singer-songwriter Paul Thorn; former Maine resident turned Austin folkie Slaid Cleaves; Hurray for the Riff Raff, featuring neo-New Orleanian Alynda Segarrra; Irish singer Foy Vance; and Angaleena Presley, also known as a member of Nashville’s Pistol Annies.

Returning to the Cayamo music cruise after successful debuts on previous cruises are country songbird Kacey Musgraves, whose duet show with Prine was a big hit last year; Amanda Shires, a fiddler and singer-songwriter who’s married to Isbell and is a member of his band, the 400 Unit; the talented duo Birds of Chicago (2015); Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ellis (2013), and Knoxville, Tenn.-based The Black Lillies (2015).

Stepping out from sideman roles with scheduled sets of their own are Buick 6 (Lucinda Williams’ band, consisting of guitarist Stuart Mathis, bassist David Sutton and drummer Butch Norton) and Jason Wilber, Prine’s longtime guitarist.

A wide range of artists

The rest of the announced lineup for the Cayamo music cruise includes Jim Lauderdale, David Bromberg, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, Watkins Family Hour (featuring former Nickel Creekers Sean and Sara Watkins and others), Johnnyswim, Angaleena Presley, Langhorne Slim, The Bros. Landreth, Sam Lewis, American Babies, Mingo Fishtrap, The Alternate Routes, Rainey Qualley, Kate York and Joe Pisapia, Sugar & the Hi-Lows, Maren Morris, Martin Harley and Jimmy Galloway. The winners of this year’s Soundcheck

competition for spots on the roster include the Andrew Duhon Trio, from New Orleans; The Novel Ideas, a Massachusetts-based folk quintet, and the aforementioned Slaid Cleaves. And the possibility of a “stowaway” surprise artist can never be ruled out; last year Todd Snider filled that role, coming aboard mid-cruise and performing a couple of excellent sets.

A good many Cayamo passengers don’t much care where the cruise goes and would just as soon sail around in circles for a week. But for those who like a little sightseeing with their music, this year’s ports of call are Tortola, one of the British Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten/St. Martin, which consists of both Dutch and French territory. There will also be four full days at sea, providing time for traditional cruise-ship activities – and for even more music than on port days.

(Cayamo music cruise photos by Paul T. Mueller.)

Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016 in photos

By Ken Paulson

shipDelbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise always offers a rich array of blues, R&B, rock and folk performers  and the 2016 event continued the tradition. On board the Holland America Westerdam were  Keb’ Mo’, the Mavericks, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Hall, Mingo Fishtrap, Alyssa Bonagura, Seth Walker, The Quebe Sisters, Band of Heathens, Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps,  Lee Roy Parnell, Fred Eaglesmith, Shelley King, Mike Zito, Big Joe Maher, Anson Funderburgh, Kevin Welch, Doyle and Debbie, Danny Flowers, Kree Harrison, Brian Dunne, the McCrary Sisters, Bruce Channel, Etta Britt, Clay McClinton, Lari White, Chuck Cannon, Red Young, Gary Nicholson, the Howlin’ Brothers, Spooner Oldham, Bob Dipiero, Tom Hambridge, World Famous Headliners, the Damn Quails, Halley Anna Finlay, Baillie and the Boys and the Bluz House Rockers.

That meant music most days from noon until 2 in the morning. You’ll find our review on our site. Here’s a sampling of photos from one very entertaining week:

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringleader of the Sandy Beaches cruise, opening and closing the week, and playing all over the ship throughout the week.

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringmaster of the Sandy Beaches Cruise, opening and closing the week, and playing all over the ship throughout the trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The McCrary Sisters bring high-energy gospel to the pool deck.

The McCrary Sisters bring high-energy gospel to the pool deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lari White had a busy week with two shows of her own, a songwriters session and...

Lari White had a busy week with two shows of her own, a songwriters session and…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a duet with Lee Roy Parnell.

.. a duet with Lee Roy Parnell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Hall, the former lead singer of Wet Willie, was back for the 18th year in a row.

Jimmy Hall, the former lead singer of Wet Willie, was back for the 18th year in a row.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were newcomers as well. New York singer-songwriter Brian Donne confessed that given the talent on the ship, he half-expected to be turned away when he showed up to board the cruise.

There were newcomers as well. New York singer-songwriter Brian Donne confessed that given the talent on the ship, he half-expected to be turned away when he showed up to board the cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcia Ball may have been the most collaborative artists on board. When she wasn't playing her own sets or hosting Pianorama, she was sitting in with others. And when the ship docked in St. John...

Marcia Ball may have been the most collaborative artists on board. When she wasn’t playing her own sets or hosting Pianorama, she was sitting in with others. And when the ship docked in St. John…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

... she showed up on stage here.

… she showed up on stage here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aylssa Bonagura's first set on the pool deck included guest performances by her parents...

Alyssa Bonagura’s fine first set on the pool deck included guest performances by her parents Michael Bonagura and …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathy Baillie of Baillie and the Boys.

… Kathy Baillie of Baillie and the Boys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps piton great shows all week, including a Friday afternoon set moved indoors because of the only inclement weather of the week. The move inspired a very funny recollection of a very dark dive bar frequented by housewives in the middle of the afternoon.

Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps put on great shows all week, including a Friday afternoon set moved indoors because of the only inclement weather of the week. The move inspired a very funny recollection of a very dark dive bar frequented by housewives in the middle of the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spooner Oldham., Danny Flowers and Bruce Channel span decades of great songwriting.

Spooner Oldham., Danny Flowers and Bruce Channel span decades of great songwriting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Young's 5 p.m. dance parties in the ship's lounge were always packed, fueled by Young's deep setlist of Ray Charles songs.

Red Young’s 5 p.m. dance parties in the ship’s lounge were always packed, fueled by Young’s deep setlist of Ray Charles songs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etta Britt on the pool deck, delivering her own show and then doubling back to sing with Lee Roy Parnell.

Etta Britt on the pool deck, delivering her own show and then doubling back to sing with Lee Roy Parnell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma band the Damn Quails made their Sandy Beaches Cruise debut this year.

Oklahoma band the Damn Quails made their Sandy Beaches Cruise debut this year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a ship where dancing was a near-constant, no one inspired as much movement as Raul Malo and the Mavericks.

On a ship where dancing was a near-constant, no one packed the dance floor like Raul Malo and the Mavericks.

 

 

 

 

Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

By Ken Paulson

As Marcia Ball wrapped up her first song to polite applause, she seemed a little nonplussed.

“I thought there was a dance floor here,” she said, as she kicked off Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016. The crowd took the hint, and the rest of the evening – and the week – was one non-stop dance floor.

That sets this music cruise apart from others, where headliners and reserved seats are the norm. The Sandy Beaches crowd listens respectfully, but they move to the music.

That’s probably the influence of McClinton himself, who is a low-key and welcoming presence thoughout the cruise. It’s as though you were invited to Delbert’s house – one with a very large pool – with his musical friends on a Saturday night.

And if this is your first visit to Delbert’s, you won’t feel like a newcomer for long.

“This is your cherry and we’re here to bust it, “ Ball declared, launching into a high-velocity set of rhythm and blues, including the week’s first performance of “Sea Cruise.’ “A lot of nerve, “ she laughed.

“All Night Long” with the Mavericks

Raul Malo of the Mavericks

Raul Malo and Jerry Dale McFadden of the Mavericks

The Mavericks headlined the pool deck stage three times and the energy never flagged. Since reuniting in 2012, the band has been on a roll, culminating in their Grammy nominations for the song “All Night Long” and their Mono album, and being named group of the year in the Americana Music Association awards. When a band with more than two decades of experience hits a new career high, it shows on stage. In their final set of the week, they even played a danceable “Okie from Muskogee.”

 

 The McCrary Sisters Let It Go

The McCrary Sisters delivered their first set on Sunday, appropriately so for this hard-rocking gospel quartet. Regina McCrary spoke of God’s capacity for healing and offered to pray for anyone in need. If you have a burden, you should “Let It Go,” they sang. No, not the song from “Frozen.”

Regina McCrary of the McCrary Sisters

Regina McCrary of the McCrary Sisters on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

Later in the day, Roger Blevins Jr. and Mingo Fishtrap announced they were going to echo the McCrarys’ advice to “let it go, “though their version would be “more profane.”

It wasn’t all church for the McCrarys . The sisters did the Family Stone proud with an inspired version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.)”

Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016 songwriters

The songwriter sessions were uniformly impressive, giving artists the chance to showcase their writing in an acoustic performance. Sharon Vaughn told the story of how she pitched her classic My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” to Waylon Jennings, who refused to believe she wrote it. Spooner Oldham played songs he co-wrote with Dan Penn, including James and Bobby Purify’s hit “I’m Your Puppet.”

Delbert McClinton joined the songwriters mid-week to showcase songs from a new album due this spring.

The World Famous Headliners

Former NRBQ member Al Anderson has been on the last 18 cruises, but this time he brought his bandmates from the World Famous Headliners . It’s a tongue-in-cheek name, but Anderson, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin make up a potent front three, with stellar guitar work and tight harmonies. The band – deep in writing talent – showcased songs from their new album, including “Hitchike Home,” “The Whoa Whoa Song” and “Fried Chicken,” a song that mashes up Memphis music and the Bee Gees.

The Headliners know no barriers. “We’d like to apologize for these songs,’ McLaughlin told the audience, shortly before Anderson sang “Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Ever Shine.”

The band brings Little Village to mind. That was the storied band featuring Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner, an amazing line-up of players and songwriters that never seemed to gel as a group.

The Headliners gel. They even have their own theme song, which they played at both the beginning and close of their set. “We’re the World Famous Headliners…”

Keb’ Mo’ and the return of Lee Roy Parnell

Among other highlights of  Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016:

Keb’ Mo’ drew big and appreciative crowds poolside with impeccable sets of blues and soul, including his fresh take on the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”

LeeRoy Parnell

Lee Roy Parnell on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

Mingo Fishtrap rallied the audience on the final day, with Blevins Jr. saying that although everyone would have to disembark the next morning, now was the time to “self-lobotomize.” The band then launched into a blistering medley of classic James Brown songs.

Lee Roy Parnell, on the Sandy Beaches Cruise since its inception 22 years ago, was back after a year away. He saluted the late Allen Toussaint with a spirited take on his “Holy Cow.” Lari White joined him for a duet of a song she and Parnell had written, and Etta Britt delivered a powerful “People Get Ready.”

 

The annual “Pianorama,” with Marcia Ball as ringleader, convened virtually every keyboardist on the cruise for a piano jam. Five players at a time took the stage, trading off parts on songs like “Iko Iko,” “Nothing from Nothing” and Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee.”

The Quobe Sisters Band

The Quebe Sisters Band

The Quebe Sisters were a revelation. Their harmonies were gorgeous – in 1940 they would have been the Andrews Sisters –and all three play fiddle beautifully. They draw on a big songbook, but Western Swing is a specialty.

Doyle and Debbie, the lampooning country music revue, doesn’t change and doesn’t need to. It remains fresh and funny.

Alyssa Bonagura was joined onstage by her parents Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura, aka “Baillie and the Boys ,” who revisited their musical past, including an impressive “Blue Bayou.” It’s that rare family where the daughter can plug her parents’ CDs at the merch table.

Bruce Channel and Delbert McClinton perform "Hey Baby"

Bruce Channel and Delbert McClinton perform “Hey Baby” on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016.

Bruce Channel joined Delbert to perform his big 1962 hit “Hey Baby,” a record on which McClinton played harmonica. I’m sure they’ve performed it together dozens of times, but it’s still a joyous performance.

The Howlin’ Brothers – Ian Craft, JT Huskey and Jared Green impressed audiences with both a reverence for folk, blues and bluegrass classics and their ability to craft new songs that continue the tradition.

 

(More Sandy Beaches coverage can be found here.)

Delbert McClinton hosts Sandy Beaches benefit

Delbert McClinton’s annual Sandy Beaches cruise launches this Sunday at 7 p.m. in non-nautical Nashville with a benefit concert for Mark Allison, McClinton’s longtime monitor engineer.

The concert at 3rd and Lindsley will feature artists scheduled to join McClinton on the Jan. 8 cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, including LeeRoy Parnell, Etta Britt, the McCrary Sisters, Gary Nicholson, Alyssa Bonagura, the Howlin’ Brothers, Danny Flowers, Lari White,  and Rocky Block.

 

 

 

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