“In the end, it’s about what you feel more than what you hear.”
As we talk, writer-picker-singer Verlon Thompson is at home just west of Nashville, Tenn. and I’m parked in my car outside a waterfront joint on the Intracoastal in Little River, S. C. where two of my favorite blues guitarists are tearing it up inside. Only the chance to speak with a songwriter of this quality can pull me away.
The Oklahoma-born musician is bringing his intimate one-man show to Myrtle Beach for a much awaited South By Southeast performance at the city’s landmark Train Depot.
“I’m looking forward to the SxSE show,” Thompson says in his gently twangy, disarming voice. Laughing, he continues, “This is my first time with these folks, and I think it’ll be what they call a ‘cultivated crowd.’”
This is in response to our discussion of “listening rooms,” where the music is front and center while booze and a pub atmosphere play a distant secondary role.
“I have played Myrtle Beach … Surfside really … once before,” he tells me,” It was a house concert. I love the idea that a group of people get together and pool their resources for a private event.
“In fact, my latest CD, Live At the Iveys , was recorded during a house concert in Fort Mill, S.C. It was in this big old home and I was performing without a sound system. At the last minute, Randy Ivey ran out and bought a laptop and mic and recorded it. He gave me a copy and about a year later I popped it into the player and it just made me smile. You can hear the crowd breathing, sighing, laughing. With this CD, you hear exactly what the people there heard.”
Thompson is the quintessential troubadour, although he’s known as much for his association with country legend Guy Clark as for his own stellar songwriting talents.
“I’ve been playing with Guy Clark since 1988 or ‘89. I worked with him on his Old Friends album (1993/Sugar Hill Records), and when we were finished he said,
“Now you need to come out on the road and recreate it with me. So I did. And now I pretty much do every date with him.”
Thompson has been with Guy Clark on every recording since Old Friends. He’s also racked up producer credits on Cold Dog Soup (1992/Sugar Hill Records), The Dark (2002/Sugar Hill Records), Workbench Songs (2006/Dualtone Music Group) and the upcoming Some Days the Song Writes You (Sept. 22, 2009/Dualtone Music Group).
In addition to Live At the Iveys, Thompson has also cut a few albums on his own label, VNS Music – Out At the Barn and Everywhere … Yet; and Verlon Thompson (1990/Capitol). His compositions have been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, Alan Jackson, Sam Bush, Trisha Yearwood, Anne Murray, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the list goes on.
In fact, when we spoke, the main subject was songwriting. “There are many ways to write a song,” he tells me. “There are many formulas. But it seems like I get the best result when I relax and say what I truly feel, whether it’s a commentary on something or a story … not that I don’t resort to clever wordplay, but I hope not at the expense of the story.
“Sometimes a lick will inspire a word. then that word will inspire a thought … I’ll have a piece of a song that I don’t think is any good and six months later I’ll have the perfect resolution Sometimes you have to wait to be open to it.
“I teach occasionally at songwriting workshop and my advice is ‘Try to reach out; forget the formulas.’
“If you’re writing, here’s what you need to do:
1. Your song needs to bring a lump to the throat;
2. Your song needs to bring a smile to a face (that can’t be stopped);
3. You need to be tapping your foot and just can’t stop.”
Verlon Thompson isn’t a household name. He’s not played on Top 40 radio stations. But he’s building a massive street team of music lovers. This sampling from his website should give you an idea:
Verlon Thompson is best known as Guy Clark’s second guitarist, but he’s cut three albums on his own VNS Records. Out At the Barn is Thompson’s latest celebration of simple, down home music recorded, as the title suggests, at this refurbished barn in the countryside near Nashville … If you dig Thompson’s work with Clark, this disc should grace your collection as well.
– Thirsty Ear, a NonTuxedo Music and Culture Joint
It’s high time everyone heard more of that humble troubadour Verlon Thompson. He is a fantastic guitar picker and songwriter whose only career shortcoming is that he performs in Guy Clark’s enormous shadow.
– Lonely Goat Magazine
This little album [Everywhere ... Yet], only 37 minutes long, is an example of real home-made music. All instruments and vocals by Verlon Thompson. I can hear bass, mandolin, and guitars. It’s marvelous in it’s simplicity. Recorded “out at the barn” in a studio he built for his last album, the sound is as cozy as an Indian blanket in front of a log fire….It’s almost as if Thompson was singing for you in your living room. And he is one fine guitar player!
– David Kidney, “Green Man Review” greenmanreview.com
Verlon Thompson’s musical career spans two decades of many facets of the industry as a songwriter, solo artist, sideman and collaborator (many of these roles with country hero Guy Clark). His latest solo project is a chronicle of his vast career, pooling his experiences and paying tribute to influences.
Calling this a solo album is an understatement. Thompson played every instrument, sang every harmony and recorded the album “out at the barn” in the studio that he built. All this creates the organic, engaging and tangible character of the album.
Verlon Thompson comes to the Myrtle Beach Train Depot at 851 Broadway on August 8. Opener George Marshall takes the stage at 7 p.m. and Thompson goes on at eight o’clock. For tickets, call jeff Roberts at Sounds Better Records (
Here’s some things to remember. South By Southeast is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving, protection and promotion of the independent music we love that so often is overlooked or ignored by mainstream radio and retailers. The group also awards scholarships and donates instruments to local youths and schools. These are the good guys, folks.
For an incredible $25 a year, you can support their noble efforts and – while you’re at it – gain admittance to most of their shows at the special member’s price ($20).
Your ticket, by the way, includes not just the music, but a range of free pot luck dinners, free brews, wine, soft drinks and bottled water. And since sponsors always get listed at the bottom of press releases (and then deleted from the news stories), here are the music lovers who support SxSE: Pepsi, New South Brewery, Sea Note Recording, Sounds Better Records, Star Music, Ready Rock Recording, the Anderson Property Group and QROCK Radio. I hope you’ll support them in return.
To order tickets for any event, send an email to email@example.com. For more information about memberships or tickets for any SxSE event,log visit the website or contact Jeff Roberts at 843-497-3643 or Seth Funderburk at 843-455-6499or send an email.
© 2009. Dariel Bendin. All rights reserved.
Woooo-ey! Lock up your silver and hide all the women and children and good-lookin’ dogs. Lord of the swamp, King Tyrone and his randy Graveyard Ramblers are blowing into town on July 22 for a romp through Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things.
Dickie and Dianne Spencer, owners of the otherwise reputable restaurant on the road to Calabash, are already gearing up for the assault. They’ve moved the dining booths out of the back room and added more chairs and standing room for the rowdy group that’s expected to show up for the spectacle.
For the uninitiated, this bawdy blues driven group is rooted in rockabilly and laced with Southern soul, but other than that they defy description except to say that their outrageousness is only exceeded by their dead-on lyrical lampoons and musical muscle.
Leaving the alliteration behind, head swampmeister, King Tyrone aka Jim Quick, is one of the best songwriters around these parts and he’s put together a strong group of players made up of Quick on lead vocals and keys, Casey Meyer playing guitar, Albert Rogers on bass guitar and vocals and Sam Bryant on the drumkit.
Quick says he named the Wilmington, N.C.-based group, which he formed in 2006, after King Floyd, one of his mother’s favorite soul singers and Tyrone Davis, his daddy’s favorite “I thought King Tyrone sounded cooler than Floyd Davis … ha!” he tells me. “The Ramblers part came from Delbert’s [McClinton] constant reference to the late model AMC car where the front seats lay back to meet the back to make a bed. The Graveyard part came from our first gig at Halloween of 2006, just to add a spooky flavor!
“We caught on very quickly locally and then we started having requests for the band’s CDs at shows. We were mostly improv, ad libs and jams with the exception of some very rare covers like “Little Head” from John Hiatt and “Same Kinda Crazy As Me” from Delbert Mclinton and stuff like “The Bug” from Dire Staits. So it was off to the back of my brain to start writing originals. Lo and behold I came up with a collection of hybrid tunes. Cultivated from numerous southern genres like jazz, blues, soul, country and southern rock I created the debut offering on KHP [record label] from the self titled CD.”
The ten-track recording, which was released in April 2008, features tight sophisticated song writing throughout. Jim Quick is a high-power entertainer who consistently leaves his audience lusting for more, but for my money, his greatest talent lies in his song writing, which ranges from soulful to clever to heart-wrenching. He’s a master storyteller.
In talking about the CD, he credits his band members for bringing a range of musical tastes and style to the project.
“We travel together and we each bring different musical tastes to the van. It’s really a potpourri of artists like Delbert McClinton, John Hiatt, Jerry Reed, John Prine, Government Mule, Brad Paisley, Chet Atkins, Sam Bush, Keb Mo’, BB King, and so many more that have helped us stay awake and content on the road.
“I would find myself really inundated by different sounds from all these artists flying in my head. Whenever I was alone I would take those inspirations and let them flow almost naturally musically. However, lyrically, I constantly challenged myself to be more creative and clever without seeming cliche or passé and at the same time very easy to comprehend.
“That was the hardest part of the project, however it was a very self-induced learning experience. I have to thank the band for taking mundane simple chord progressions that have been beaten to death through modern music and making them unique and fun to listen to … without losing that familiar edge that forces one to reminisce [about] a different time in music or one’s life.”
As talented as Quick is, he isn’t solely responsible for the success of King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers.
“I really wanted sparse instrumentation, scarce harmonies, and open spaces not only in the songs but in the layers of the over all mix. George Clinton once said funk is the absence of music and my music theory teacher always emphasized that silence was truly golden.
“I really got everything from everyone that I wanted throughout the project. It was hands on for all the musicians when it came to the arrangements. I really wanted a straightforward but laid back pocket on all the rhythm parts from Sam and got that.
Drummer Sam Bryant is known in the music industry as a first-rate blues drummer. Blues Review magazine singled him out as a drummer to watch, “an up and coming drummer.”
According to Jim Quick, “Sam Bryant is simply brilliant … He played with many great international touring artists like Kenny Wayne Shepherd. He’s ridiculously entertaining to watch and brings the musical presentation to another level by making the foundation so very high in technique.
“Albert is so colorful. His voice is unbelievable and his sarcastic sense of humor exudes from this stage setting to create a very personable atmosphere. His bass playing is second to none. It’s a very traditional style. His very simple but unexpected grooves make it so easy to build upon as a unit of musicians. I wanted poppy, upbeat walking bass lines and slinky movements on the longer form back beat jams from Albert.
Quick refers to guitarist Casey Meyer as “the hook.”
Casey is amazing in tune with the sound I am trying to create. I refer to him as “the hook”! He has solely created the calling melody via guitar riff on every single King Tyrone tune. It’s not only amazing because he is so creative, tasteful, and tonality perfect; but he is so young and has so much time to improve on his already great beginnings.”
“As for [Casey’s guitarwork on the CD], it was just rippin’ all the way through. I kinda just let him go. He hears what I want without explanation.”
The folks at Papa’s Pizza in Little River, S.C. are in for a rockin’ stompin’ night of King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers. Dickie and Dianne plan to start the fun early with a “porch party” outside from 5 to 8 p.m. with deejay Joey Warren and special prices on beer and pizza slices. King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers will storm the place beginning at 8 p.m.
I promise you, Papa’s won’t be taking reservations or even call-aheads on this night. So get there when you can, and get ready for a night of swamp funk, courtesy of the King himself.
Papa’s Pizza, Wings & Things is located in the Lowe’s Food shopping plaza on the road to Calabash. For more information, visit the website at http://www.papaspizzawingsandthings.com or call 843-249-3663 in S.C. and 910-575-7900 in N.C.
Note: Yes, this is Jim Quick as in Jim Quick & Coastline, a Wilmington, N.C. rock & soul band with a strong following throughout the South.
This will also be published in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine in Myrtle Beach, issue July 16 -30, 2009, p. 24.
©2009. Dariel Bendin.
Linda Rodney, better known to her fans as Chocolate Thunder, is a powerhouse and her latest recording is sure to satisfy your craving for tasty grooves and funk-laced R&B.
Ear Candy, released on June 25, is a sensory explosion of musical morsels. All 12 tracks were written by Rodney except track six, “Love Caused It,”for which she wrote the lyrics and Franklin Wilkie, the CD’s producer, wrote the music.
Wilkie, by the way, is the bass player who replaced Marshall Tucker Band’s Tommy Caldwell after his untimely death in 1980. Wilkie also played with another legendary S.C. southern rock band, Garfeel Ruff. Fans will be happy to discover that bandmates Rickey Godfrey (guitar and keyboard), Ronnie Godfrey (keyboard) and Buddy Strong (engineer) have joined him on the Chocolate Thunder CD.
“I met Frank a couple years ago,” says Rodney. “When I was ready to do the CD, I called him because I knew he could pull the right people together.”
The opening track, “Love Thang,” is the artist’s favorite, a woman’s song of love to her man. The groove is deceptively simple and the opening vibes and cello patch are unexpected treats.Rodney’s strong vocals are just a hint of what’s to come. Her voice is a wonderfully contradictory mix of sweetness and raw energy; softness and strength.
“Power of a Lady,” track two, had its beginnings in the kitchen. “I was standing there cooking and I started singing this melody and then ‘Never underestimate the power of a lady, Hey lady, do you know just who you are?’ I grabbed a pencil and just started writing the song. The lyrics have changed some, but that’s how the song started.” Aggressive double lead guitar work by Rickey Godfrey supports the lyrics beautifully.
Up next is “Got My Act Together,” a tune with a solid groove and strong vocals. Sweet sax playing by Tony Kennedy and sparse pads from keyboard player Steve Keeter add to its appeal.
The soul song, “Other Side of Memphis,” track four, has been released as the album’s first single and is already seeing some airplay. “I was in Memphis for a blues challenge in 2002,” Linda tells me. “I took this tour of the area and I was sitting in W.C. Handy’s home, this memorial home and the melody came. Maybe I was inspired by traveling there. It was electrifying to be in the same place as one of the fathers of the blues.”
“It’s All Good” is a rally to keep your spirits up, even when times turn sour.
I know times are tough
and things are tight
cause a whole lotta people
did things that just weren’t right.
Vocal work by husband and wife, Kim Morrison and Ronnie Godfrey, together with a first verse utilizing only Wilkie’s bass and drums by Tez Sherard behind Rodney’s lead vocals are indicative of Wilkie’s skill as a producer.
Track six is “Love Caused It,” pure funk with powerful vocals.When the producer is also the bass player, you know there will be at least one tune that showcases the bass, and this is it.Listen for the fusion guitar solo by Rickey Godfrey. It’s just one example of the great musicianship on this recording. When I spoke with Frank Wilkie about this project, he said, “Linda Rodney had so many songs … good songs … that we approached it as that ‘box of chocolates.’ You don’t know what you’re going to get until you take a bite.”
The next tune on the CD, “Ever New (I Love You),” is a melt-in-your-mouth ballad with a great melody line and honest lyrics that somehow pulled me in the first time I heard it. Nice saxophone solo from Tony Kennedy here. “My Georgia Pine” is track nine, and certainly the bluesiest tune of the collection. It’s a tribute to husband Ron, who Linda laughingly refers to as, “my reluctant manager!” Linda’s voice on this track is smooth and smiling. You can hear the attraction. Guitar work by Kym Mckinnon and muted trumpet solos by Craig Sorrells add to the stylish feel of this piece.
“Bring It On”is a lot of fun. Sassy and confident, Linda’s tells her man
You’ve been bragging
You’re a real, real big man
But here’s something
I want you to understand
I’m pretty bad all by myself
So save your chump talk for someone else
She softens a little bit, but still challenges him:
You bring the lightning
I’ll bring the thunder
You’ll see why they call me the Southern Wonder
Instrumentally, the song features the horn section, while the rhythm section is playing a funky four-bar groove and Steve Keeter is keepin’ cool on keyboards.
Rodney’s old school soul song is up next: “I Just Gotta Tell Ya.” It’s sweet and a little raw around the edges, with a notable piano solo by Steve Keeter.
“Ain’t Gonna Cry,” track 11, is one of the CD’s strongest. And funkiest. Everything comes together … Linda’s lead vocals are dead on. The guitar solo by Rickey Godfrey was – remarkably – done on the first take and has the energy of a live performance.
The final track, and another big winner is “555-HELP.”This song is just rockin’ fun and a great way to close out the CD. Speaking for myself, I’ll be a full-on chocoholic if I keep listening to this gal!
Ear Candy is Linda Rodney’s second CD. Her first, You’re Barking up the Wrong Tree (2002) featured more blues tunes. Frank Wilkie tells me two more CDs are already in the planning stages – another blues album and a gospel recording.
Additional musicians on the disc include: background vocals: Lori Guthrie, David Guthrie; drums: Creig Harber on “Power of a Lady,” “Other Side of Memphis,” “Ever New (I love You)” and “My Georgia Pine;” percussion, Jeff Holland; trumpet, Greg Day, Rich Parlier; and trombone, Wesley Day. Other liner credits include: Engineers: Buddy Strong, South Eastern Sound Studio; Aaron Whisnant, Dorcia Studio; Rick Sandidge, Mark V Studio. Mastering: Dave Harris, Studio B.Graphics: Lee Wilkie.
As we go to press, Chocolate Thunder and these guys are readying for a trip to the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 4. Watch out Canada. A Chocolate Thunder storm is coming your way!
For more information about Chocolate Thunder, visit MySpace.com/ChocolateThunder1.
This will also be published in the July 2, 2009 (p. 24) issue of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, the independent papers in Myrtle Beach, S.C.