Timothy B. Schmit opens tour in Nashville

 

Timothy B. Schmit in concert at the City Winery in Nashville

Timothy B. Schmit in concert at the City Winery in Nashville

By Ken Paulson

Timothy B. Schmit, veteran of both the Eagles and Poco, opened his new tour at the City Winery in Nashville tonight, following a number of guest appearances during the 2016 Americana Music Festival.

The tour is to promote his new album Leap of Faith, and most of his set was drawn from that album, including the engaging “My Hat” and the radio friendly “Red Dirt Road.”

If the set was short on familiarity, it was long on musicality and harmonies.

Schmit was in fine voice, and he’s put together a good band, with multiple vocalists.

Schmit did dip into the catalog for his big Eagles hit  “I Can’t Tell You Why,” plus “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” “I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore” and the Poco classic “Keep On Tryin’.”

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshots: Americana Music Festival

The official programming at the annual Americana Music Festival is just part of the entertainment. All over town, artists perform on stages at record stores and restaurants. A sampling:

Yola Carter at the UK showcase at the Groove in East Nashville.

Yola Carter at the UK showcase at the Groove in East Nashville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jared Tyler, whose new album "Dirt on Your Hands" is set for release this fall.

Jared Tyler, whose new album “Dirt on Your Hands” is set for release this fall.

Ray Hoover at Fond Objects

Ray Hoover at Fond Objects

William the Conqueror at the Groove

William the Conqueror at the Groove

 

 

Jason Isbell tops Americana Music Awards

By Ken Paulson

The annual Americana Music Awards and Honors event is always a special evening and one of the most memorable musical events in a city legendary for them.
This year I had the honor of joining Joe Henry in awarding the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award to Billy Bragg. That’s always an honor, and offers the chance to see witness the backstage energy at the Ryman Auditorium. The artists are always pumped for  this special show.
That translates onstage to truly striking performances.
Most surprising was George Strait’s performance with Jim Lauderdale of the latter’s “King of Broken Hearts.” I’d never seen Strait on stage before and it quickly became clear why he’s such a giant in country music. Show host Lauderdale, who received the rarely-awarded Wagonmaster Award,  seemed deeply touched by Strait’s appearance.
Jason Isbell had a another great year, winning the awards for top album and song of the year.
The evening’s winners at the 2-16 Americana Music Awards;
Album of the Year: Something More Than Free, Jason Isbell, Produced by Dave Cobb
Artist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Group/Duo of the Year: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Song of the Year: “24 Frames” Jason Isbell; Written by Jason Isbell
Emerging Artist of the Year: Margo Price
Instrumentalist of the Year: Sara Watkins
Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music
Association and the First Amendment Center: Billy Bragg
Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Shawn Colvin
Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: William Bell
Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Bob Weir
Lifetime Achievement Award, WagonMaster: Jim Lauderdale
President’s Award: Woody Guthrie

Surf’s Up: Brian Wilson at the Ryman

By Ken Paulson

Brian Wilson wrapped us his two-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last night with a generous set that included the full Pet Sounds album. Playing with a remarkable band that included Beach Boys veterans Al Jardine and Blondie Champlin, Wilson offered up most of the big hits, along with lesser known treats like “Wild Honey,” “Salt Lake City” and the international hit “Cottonfields.”

Oddly, Wilson described the latter – composed by Leadbelly – as a song that he and Jardine wrote. He said the same thing about Sloop John B, traditional folk song that he arranged. Wilson is a better songwriter than historian.

It’s no secret that Brian Wilson has not been comfortable on a stage for a half-century, and obviously he doesn’t have the voice he once had. Still the songs remain rich and powerful and it’s a privilege to hear the composer sing his own “God Only Knows,” bathed in extraordinary harmonies from his first-rate band.


 

WMOT launch: Jim Lauderdale, Suzy Bogguss, Will Hoge

Jim Lauderdale hosted the launch party for new Americana radio station WMOT at the Country Music Hall of Fame, drawing on the talents of Will Hoge, Suzy Bogguss, Mike Farris and an All-Star Americana band. The new station, based at Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment, can be accessed on mobile devices with the Roots Radio app for Apple and Android devices.

New Releases: The Coalmen, Chip Taylor

By Ken Paulson

New and recent releases:

CoalmenThe CoalmenPushed to the Side – Coming August 19 is Pushed to the Side, the fifth album from the Nashville-based Coalmen. Band leader Dave Coleman is a next-generation Tony Joe White, writing soulful and thoughtful songs and he’s joined here by Dave Ray and Paul Slivka. The songs are sometimes sobering and always well-crafted. Highlights include “Depreciation,”  an insightful song about the aging process and the driving “The Payoff.”

Various artists On Top of Old Smoky – New Old Time Smoky Mountain Music – In the excellent liner notes to this new collection,Ted Olson explains that a scholar named Joseph Sargeant Hall was hired in 1937 to research the local culture and record the music of the Smoky Mountains just before those living there had to move to make way for the new national park. This collection features contemporary artists, including Dolly Parton, and Norman and Nanci Blake, revisiting the songs captured by Hall.

chip taylorChip TaylorLittle Brothers – Trainwreck Records – It’s hard to say which is more remarkable – Chip Taylor’s prolific output or the consistent thoughtfulness behind his work. His new collection include “Refugee Children,” a song about kids he met during his travels in Europe and “Enlighten Yourself,” a self-help song he punctures with his own irreverent commentary. Taylor also has a bonus release– I’ll Carry For You – a song about the bond between sisters.

Sarah WatkinsYoung in All the Wrong WaysNew West – This striking new collection from Sarah Watkins shows her growing confidence and skills as a songwriter. It’s a long way from Nickel Creek.

Ruby Dee and the Snake HandlersLittle Black Heart – Caddy Town Records -Today is the release date for a new album from Ruby Dee, who overcame  significant medical challenges to release this rockabilly-fueled collection.

 

Amy Black, Spooner Oldham salute Muscle Shoals

Americana Music News – Tonight Amy Black brought a bit of Muscle Shoals to the City Winery in Nashville,

Spooner Oldham and Amy Black

Spooner Oldham and Amy Black

showcasing classic songs from her Muscle Shoals Sessions album with a horn section and a guest appearance by the legendary songwriter and keyboardist Spooner Oldham.

The evening’s highlight was Black’s duet with Oldham on “I’m Your Puppet, the James and Bobby Purify hit written by Oldham and Dan Penn.

Other great renditions included the “Lou Rawls version” of “Bring it On Home to Me,” Mel and Tim’s “Starting All Over Again,  and Arthur Alexander’s classic “You Better Move On.”

 

Review: Megan Palmer’s “What She’s Got to Give”

by Paul T. Mueller

Megan PalmerWhat She’s Got to Give marks a real step forward for East Nashville-based singer-songwriter Megan Palmer. Palmer’s earlier recordings, including 2012’s Waycross, showed promise, but this one delivers on that promise, offering thoughtful lyrics, interesting arrangements and excellent playing and vocals.

Romantic difficulty lies at the heart of several of these songs. The oddly titled “The Only Trumpet” is an angry blast at a disappointing lover, while the bouncy tone of “Knifetwister” contrasts with its dark narrative about a bad girl behaving badly. Similarly, the sweet melody and gentle playing on the title track are at odds with its bittersweet theme – loneliness and the high price of trying to avoid it. “No one’s listening to what she says she wants,” Palmer sings plaintively, accompanied by intertwined guitar and piano lines. “They’re just taking all they can, and she knows that’s what she’s got to give… She knows that it’s never-ending.”

The album’s only cover is a nice rendition of John Hartford’s “In Tall Buildings,” which deals with growing up and accepting the drudgery of the 9-to-5 life. Again, the subject matter isn’t all that pleasant, but the song is enlivened by some sweet harmony from vocalists including Emma Berkey, Ariel Bui, Nellie Clay and Dylan Lee Johnston (Amy Speace contributed vocals on other tracks). The album closes with an uncredited final track, the bluegrassy “Tomorrow’s Gonna Make Up for Yesterday,” which showcases Palmer’s fine fiddle.

That fiddle is what Megan Palmer is probably best known for, but she’s also credited here with guitar, piano, organ and harmonium, as well as vocals. Other players include Tim Easton on guitar, mandolin and harmonica, Larry Cook and Tony Scherr on bass, and Jon Radford on drums. Patrick Damphier gets credit for clean production and interesting arrangements, as well as guitar and vocals.

Palmer, who’s dealing with a serious medical issue, was the beneficiary of a July 13 happy hour at Nashville’s 5 Spot. Hosted by Rod Picott, the event featured performances by Wild Ponies (Doug and Telisha Williams), Tim Easton, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Amy Speace, Allen Thompson and “surprise guest” Steve Poltz. A GoFundMe campaign to help Palmer with her medical bills has been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/meganpalmer

New releases: Tommy Womack, Michael Fracasso

By Ken Paulson

namasteTommy Womack NamasteTommy Womack is back and we’re grateful. One of the smartest, and simultaneously sweet and subversive songwriters in Nashville, Womack has recovered from a life-threatening 2015 car crash and released Namaste, an album with a front cover that conveys his gratitude for recovery.

Womack has been a member of Government Cheese, the Bis-Quits and Daddy (the latter two with Will Kimbrough), but his solo albums are always the most personal and reflective.

“Angel” opens the album with a melodic and gentle expression of hope, and then Womack throws open the doors to tackle everything from his balding (“Comb-Over Blues”) to the essence of Christian faith “God Part III.” That’s quite a range.

Nashvillians will recognize their changing city in the blistering and funny spoken-word “Nashville.”

“Darling Let Your Freebird Fly” revisits the headlines of pop music and throws an elbow in the direction of Geraldo Rivera and Chevy Chase. On “I Almost Died,” Womack’s account of his first near-death experience in 2007 will give you chills,

Namaste, produced by Brad Jones, is powerful, irreverent and distinctly different.

FrancassoMichael FracassoHere Come the Savages – Blue Door Records – This new album from Austin-based artist Michael Fracasso combines solid originals with intepretations of classic pop songs, including Brian Wilson’s “Caroline No” and the Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure,” both delivered with the sad, slow delivery that the lyrics call for.  Fracasso’s buoyant take on the Kinks’ “Better Things” is a highlight.

Steve Dawson – Solid States and Loose Ends – Black Hen Music – Steve Dawson’s bluesy new album draws on some of Nashville’s most talented musicians, including Jim Hoke, Fats Kaplin and Regina and Ann McCrary.

Urban PioneersFeast or Famine – This hillbilly music/string band is set to tour Texas, beginning with a June 17 date at Badlands in Austin.

Thomas HineSome Notion or Novelty – Folk singer-songwriter from Colorado issues his follow-up to 2013’s “Forgive My Future.”

 

Bill Lloyd: “Lloydering” through pop history

By Ken Paulson

lloyderingBill Lloyd’s new album Lloydering is an entertaining walk through pop music history, featuring covers of lesser known songs by great bands and artists.

This compilation of songs that Lloyd recorded for tribute albums over the past 26 years reflects both his musical passions and his record collection.

There’s “Coconut Grove” from the Lovin’ Spoonful, “The Lottery Song” from Nilsson, “Lonely You” from Badfinger, “The World Turns All Around Her” from the Byrds , the

Bill Lloyd and Pat Buchanan at Lloydering release party

Bill Lloyd and Pat Buchanan at Lloydering release party

Hollies’ “Step Inside,” the Raspberries’ “Goin’ Nowhere Tonight” and  Todd Rundgren’s “I Don’t  Want to Tie You Down,” plus covers of Wreckless Eric, the Bobby Fuller Four, the dBs and Let’s Active. The one song familiar  to everyone: the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.”

Lloyd performed a number of tracks from the album, along with more than a dozen of his own songs, in a spirited two-set show at the Family Wash in Nashville last night.

Lloydering, which includes Lloyd’s liner notes on each track and band,  is available at the SpyderPop Records site.

 

 

New releases: Darrell Scott, Cyndi Lauper, Honeycutters

New and recent releases from Darrell Scott, Cyndi Lauper, Jeremy Nail, David Newbould, the Honeycutters, Mike Eldred Trio and Robert Rex Weller, Jr.:

CouchvilleDarrell Scott The Couchville Sessions – It’s a measure of Darrell Scott’s depth as an artist and songwriter that he could record an album’s worth of material 15 years ago and then put it on the shelf. The Couchville Sessions was worth the wait, highlighted by the haunting “Waiting for the Clothes to Get Clean” and covers of Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and James Taylor’s “Another Grey Morning.”

 Cyndi LauperDetour – Sire Records – We suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by Cyndi Lauper’s collection of country covers recorded in Nashville. After all, her Memphis Blues was recorded just down the interstate not long ago. We assume a celebration of Knoxville is next. It’s a fun release with guests galore, including Emmylou Harris on “Detour,” Vince Gill on “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” and Allison Krauss on “Hard Candy Christmas.”

 Mike Eldred TrioBaptist Town – Great Western Recording Co. – The new Mike Eldred Trio album was recorded in Sun Studio in Memphis and features guest turns from Robert Cray, John Mayer and David Hidalgo.

 Jeremy NailMy Mountain – Open Nine Music – Jeremy Nail’s new album was produced by Alejandro Escovedo with a band that included Chris Masterson, Eleanor Whitmore, Bobby Daniel and Chris Searles. Our favorite track: ”Dreams.”

honeycutters The HoneycuttersOn the Ropes – Organic Records – Rich new album from the Honeycutters is their fourth. The title track sets the tone with equal measures of defiance and resignation:
“ I paid a lot to feel this bad.”

 David NewbouldThe Devil is his Name – Coming May 20, the new David Newbould EP follows up his strong Tennessee release. Helping out are stalwarts Michael Webb and Jefferson Crow.

Robert Rex Weller, Jr. – Western Seeds Record Company – Robert Rex Weller tackles a wide array of covers, ranging from Willie Nelson to the Hollies and the Doors.

New releases: Charlie Faye, Hartford and Forrester

New and upcoming releases:

FAYETTESCharlie Faye and the Fayettes –  Charlie Faye teams up with Betty Soo and Akina Adderley to form a girl group on her new album “Charlie Faye and the Fayettes.” It melds a ’60 sound with 2016 attitude, exemplifed by the sexual invitations on “Green Light.” The Chiffons would have been appalled. Classic influences abound, from the Ronettes intro to “Coming Around the Bend” to “Breakaway”-era Jackie DeShannon on “Delayed Reaction.” It’s all fresh and fun.

Cornflower BluesInvincible – Reflective third  album from Ontario band, due June 1.

homemadesugarJohn Hartford  and Howdy ForresterHome Made Sugar and a Puncheon Floor – Spring Fed Records( The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tenessee State University) – Historic home recordings from John Hartford and fiddler Howdy Forrester. The album offers an informal performance and conversation focusing on  songs Forrester learned as a boy from his Great Uncle Bob Cates.

Town MountainSouthern Crescent – Spirited  new bluegrass album, due April 1.

Bobcat-cover-for-webstore-280x251[1]Kyle TuttleBobcat – Debut album of Nashville-based banjo player Kyle Tuttle features his own compositions.

Steve DawsonSolid States and Loose Ends – Canadian artist Steve Dawson, now based in Nashville, releases his seventh solo album.

Mary Ann CasaleRestless Heart – Blues, folk and jazz from Northern New York artist.

speed of the plowMatt Brown and Greg ReishSpeed of the Plow –Fiddler Matt Brown and guitarist Greg Reish play old-time American instrumentals.

Lizanne Knott Excellent Day – Bluesy, intimate new album due April 8.

Tin Toy Cars – Debut album from Las Vegas-based Tin Toy Cars.

Celebration of songwriting at Tin Pan South

By Ken Paulson

Wayland Holyfield and Dickey Lee

Wayland Holyfield and Dickey Lee

The Tin Pan South songwriters festival in Nashville this week offered up five nights of remarkable performances by some of the country’s best songwriters, but an early show on Thursday at the Station Inn featuring three veteran performers and writers was among the most memorable.

I’ve just finished reading The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, a book by John Seabrook that documents how today’s songs are engineered rather than created. There’s a new hook every few seconds because the formula demands it. Every generation complains that “all these new songs sound the same.” This time they’re right.

That’s why the performance at the Station Inn was so special. Buzz Cason, Dickey Lee and Wayland Holyfield have had hits spanning five decades, fueled by inspiration, happenstance and creativity.

Buzz Cason

Buzz Cason

Cason’s “Soldier of love” was covered by the Beatles during the BBC sessions and his “Everlasting Love” has become a pop standard. But he explained that his professional breakthrough came just by mimicking the goofy doo-wop vocals of Jan and Dean, and then submitting the songs to the duo. The result: “Tennessee” and the Top 25 single “Popsicle.”

 Dickey Lee had a successful career as a recording artist and performed “I Saw Linda Yesterday,” his hit from 1963.  But the emotional stakes of that song were trumped by his biggest hit, “She Thinks I Still Care,” a classic in the hands of George Jones. Lee said the song was inspired by a girl who broke his heart.

Holyfield played “Rednecks, White Socks and Blue Ribbon Beer,” his first hit as a songwriter and a big record for Johnny Russell. But the highlight of  his performance was “You’re My Best Friend,” a Don Williams hit that Holyfield dedicated to his wife.

And so it goes. The hits of the past were inspired by lost love. Found love. And an impulse to get Jan and Dean to record your songs.

No algorithms. No product. Just art, creativity and fun.

Tin Pan South 2016 preview

By Ken Paulson

Mac Davis and Bobby Braddock at Tin Pain South 2011

Mac Davis and Bobby Braddock at Tin Pan South 2011

Tin Pan South, one of Nashville’s best -and most economical – music festivals begins Tuesday, April 9, the first of  five nights of songwriter showcases.

This annual event brings together songwriting legends (Bobby Bare, Mac Davis, Bill Anderson) and songwriters dominating the charts today (Luke Laird, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna, Jessi Alexander.) It features legacy artists (Dickie Lee, Buzz Cason) and current stars (Will Hoge, Kacey Musgraves.)

The songwriters rounds encompass a wide range of themes – “A Little Chick on Pick Action” anyone? – but the overall quality is always high. Some shows that we found particularly intriguing:

Tuesday, April 5, 6pm | $20 Bluebird Cafe
Bill Anderson, Bobby Bare, Buddy Cannon, special guests

Tuesday, April 5, 6pm | $20 The Country

Jessi Alexander, Cary Barlowe, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Thompson

Tuesday, April 5, 9pm | $15 Whiskey Rhythm Saloon
Keith Burns, Jim Peterik, Collin Raye, Joie Scott, special guest

Wednesday, April 6, 9pm | $15 Station Inn
Chuck CannonLari WhiteLee Roy Parnell

Wednesday, April 6, 9pm | $20 Bluebird Cafe
Mac Davis, Scotty Emerick, Leslie Satcher, Special Guest

Thursday, April 7, 6pm | $20 Listening Room
Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, Special Guest

Thursday, April 7, 6pm | $10 Station Inn
Buzz Cason, Wayland Holyfield, Dickey Lee

Thursday, April 7, 9pm | $15 Douglas Corner
Bekka Bramlett, Billy Burnette, Bruce Gaitsch, Dennis Morgan

Thursday, April 7, 6pm | $15 Bluebird Cafe

Pat Alger, Don Henry, Livingston Taylor, Jon Vezner

Friday, April 8, 6:30pm | $20 3rd and Lindsley
Granville Automatic (Elizabeth Elkins & Vanessa Olivarez),
Travis Meadows, Angaleena Presley

Friday, April 8, 6:30pm | $15 Listening Room
Jeff Cohen, James T. Slater, Kim Richey

Saturday, April 9, 6:30pm | $15 Station Inn
Marti Dodson, Will Hoge, Tony Lane, Jason Mizelle, Special Guest

Saturday, April 9, 6:30pm | $20 3rd and Lindsley
A Benefit for Bonaparte’s Retreat
Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Colin Linden, Brandon Young, special guest, hosted by Emmylou Harris

Saturday, April 9, 9:30pm | $25 3rd and Lindsley
Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves, Josh Osborne

The full schedule can be found on the Nashville Songwriters Association website.

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.

 

Don Henry: Good cause, great artist in Murfreesboro

Don HenryAmericana Music News — There’s a scene in an episode of Nashville in which Deacon decides he’s going to perform his new material in Murfreesboro, TN  so he can be sure that no one will see him.
On Feb. 18, Grammy-winning songwriter Don Henry will defy that stereotype with a benefit show at 6:30 p.m. at MTSU’s Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, raising money for scholarships.
Henry, whose “All Kinds of Kinds” was a recent hit for Miranda Lambert, has written for Ray Charles, Blake Shelton, Kathy Mattea, Lonestar, Patti Page, Conway Twitty and many others.
And in a town full of fine singer-songwriters, Henry is one of the best performers, regularly engaging audiences with energetic, warm and funny performances at the Bluebird Cafe. Tickets are available here.

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.)

New releases: BR5-49, Paul Kelly, Neil Finn

By Ken Paulson

New and recent releases:

BR5-49BR5-49 One Long Saturday Night – Bear Family Productions – Long before Nashville became the “It City,” BR5-49 was Nashville’s “It Band.” The young country band brought an energy to Music City’s Lower Broad that had been missing for a couple of decades. Suddenly, locals packed Robert’s Western Wear, foreshadowing today’s dynamic music scene. One Long Saturday Night is a recording of BR5-49 on German television in 1996, and the band’s Chuck Mead attests that it’s a classic setlist from the group’s earliest years. It’s Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Harlan Howard, Carl Perkins and a sampling of cool originals played with spirit. History to dance to.

Neil Finn and Paul Kelly Goin’ Your Way – Omnivore Recordings – Great songs and tight harmonies distinguish this double-CD collection capturing Neil Finn and Paul Kelly in concert in 2013 at the Sydney Opera House. Finn is the better known to American audiences, largely as a member of Split Enz. His “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is included here, but the album is deep in well-crafted compositions. They’re both talented solo artists, but work really well as a duo.

And three more from Nashville:

brandy zdanBrandy ZdanBrandy Zdan – Who would have guessed we’d find one of the freshest rock albums of the year in our own backyard? Brandy Zdan is a Canadian artist, now relocated to Nashville, and her self-titled album is bold and smart. “Back on You” and “Running for a Song” sound like classic singles you’ve never heard.

Dave ZoblSimplify – Warm and carefully crafted album produced by Will Kimbrough and recorded in Muscle Shoals. “Colorado Girl” and “John Prine Sunday Morning” are among the best tracks.

Kyle Frederick Eventide – Vandermont Music – This new album from Kyle Frederick is ambitious and engaging, with wide-ranging music that draws on pop/rock, folk and country. Highlights include “Be Kind to Yourself,” an affirming co-write with Kim Richey, and the hook-packed “The Wishing Tree” and “Karma Lola.” Emmylou Harris joins Frederick on the title track.

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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