Nashville singer/songwriter David Fair is coming to Myrtle Beach this weekend for two shows. Tonight, Friday night, he’s opening for Phil Vassar at Club Boca at Broadway At the Beach (in fact, he’s probably on stage now!); on Saturday, he’ll be at 2001 Nightclub in their intimate Stage room.
David plays a rockin’ guitar, writes some solid lyrics and brings a kick-ass voice to the stage. No surprise, he grew up with music all around him. His dad, Joe Fair, is a respected Nashville singer/songwriter in the Christian music community (Listen to “I Am Certain,” written by Joe Fair, vocals by David Fair). By age 12, David was playing drums in a garage band. Then he joined Tennessee rock group Pieces of Eight, playing clubs and local events. David formed his own band at age 15. Dubbed Walt-Dizzy by David’s father, the group had a southern hard rock sound that helped them land gigs opening for Steppenwolf and headlining local shows throughout the south.
“After that I joined a hard rock metal band called Medicine Mann,” David said in a telephone interview last week. “I fronted them for eight years. We opened for some major acts.”
David is very low key about these major acts, so let me tell you. During his career, he’s opened for Tesla, Craig Morgan, Warrant, Skid Row, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, Jewel, Quiet Riot, Big and Rich, Eric Martin and Eric Church. He’s played The Fillmore in San Francisco, the Cannery and the Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville, and the Bitter End in New York City.
“It was pretty cool,” David says. “I opened for Tesla at the Warfield in San Francisco … and I played the Fillmore, too, which was great because my dad had played there with the Grateful Dead. I grew up looking at the poster.”
Have you been living in Nashville this whole time, I asked.
“No, I had moved to California in 1999. After I left Medicine Mann, I began to pursue the Americana thing.
“My dad really helped me make connections,” he laughs. “He’s good friends with David Garibaldi, the Tower of Power drummer, who hooked me up with Troy Luckketta, the drummer for Tesla, who wound up producing my first solo CD. Halfway through the album, Tesla went out on the road. That was when I opened for them at the Warfield.”
Returning to Tennessee, David toured with the Mulch Brothers, opening for the group and then playing in the band. He also began work – with the help of CJ Boggs – on a second EP, You Never Know.
“CJ played on my first album and played for Mr. Big, and now he has this engineering gig. We set up a studio in the house, brought in these fabulous players … it was great.”
Players included some of the best session players in Nashville and then some: Troy Luckketta, Tesla’s drummer; Kevin Carlson from Aldo Nova on guitar and keys; bluegrass performer Chris Thile; Bryan House, Sam Bush’s bass player; Bruce Bouton on steel guitar; “Banjo Ben” Clark, who plays with Taylor Swift and the Clark Family; Chris Solberg, Eddie Money guitarist, and N.Y.C.’s Phil Roselle, now part of the Sowing Circle.
David’s favorite writing partner, other than his dad, is music veteran Billy Falcon, who shares songwriter credits on half a dozen Bon Jovi albums and whose tunes have been covered by Stevie Nicks, Cher, Manfred Mann, Sherrie Austin, Meatloaf, Trace Adkins and others.
Based on what I’ve heard, the new CD will be a keeper.
Band members include: David Fair, acoustic lead vocals/guitar/harmonica; Moises Padilla/drums; David Phoenix/bass; Josh Gramling, lead guitar/backing vocals.
David Fair and I share the same hometown. Floral Park, N.Y. I went to school with his Uncle Dave. My older brother was great pals with David’s dad, Joe. Joe played ball on one of my dad’s ball teams, either Little League or Babe Ruth, and my sister is friends with David’s aunt.
Until last week, though, when I got a message on Facebook from David, I didn’t know him and wasn’t familiar with his music. Now I’m a fan.
Wilmington, N.C. is in for a treat as Americana duo Angela Easterling and Brandon Turner present an intimate listening room concert downtown at Press 102 on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
The folksy Easterling hails from Taylors, S.C. the mill town section of Greenville. Kudos for her songwriting and vocal talents have come from all over, including founder of legendary folk rock group The Byrds, Roger McGuinn. He said, “Angela Easterling is a bright shining star on the country/folk/ alt music horizon. Her gift is so special. I loved listening to her new Black Top Road CD … Brought me back to the time the Byrds recorded ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ – tradition meets youthful exuberance!”
Easterling’s newest CD, Beguiler, is full of sweet Southern charm that packs a wallop, as Southern charm is wont to do.
Guitarist Bandon Turner played on the recording and joins her for the Wilmington concert. Turner is an extremely versatile musician, moving easily between electric and acoustic or blues and bluegrass.
Earlier this month at the Summer’s Last Blast & Blues Festival in Piedmont, S.C., he performed with harp man Freddie Vanderford and literally stunned the audience with his searing guitar licks.
The Press 102 event is sure to be lively evening of passionate music from two top quality, up and coming musicians.
Press 102 is located at 102 S. Second St., Wilmington, N.C. Ticket price is $15, free for ages ten and under. Reserve seats via email: email@example.com.
Even with gas prices reaching $3.95 a gallon in some parts of the southeast (according to gasbuddy.com), summer is for road trips. And road trips mean music. So with that in mind, here are three recordings, as different as different can be, but each wholly satisfying and exciting in its own way.
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
Red Beet Records (2010)
I mentioned this album in my last post because I was about to go see these guys at their South By Southeast show at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot. I was so taken with their performance that night, I picked up a copy of the CD and have been transported to another place ever since. Mind you, this is more acoustic guitar than I’ve listened to for the whole last year, but it reminds me how much I value melody and harmony and intelligent song-writing.
Master Sessions features two of East Nashville’s up and comers: Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. If you’re at all into Americana music, you need to know about these two. For this 11-track disc, they’ve enlisted the talents of two of their own musical heroes: Mike Auldridge, legendary dobro player for the Seldom Scene, the progressive bluegrass group out of Alexandria, Va. and master of the pedal steel guitar, Lloyd Green. Throughout the recording, the synergy is awe-inspiring.
Opening track is “Wait a Minute,” the bittersweet Herb Pedersen tune about love shattered by life on the road. This song, by the way, was a staple for the Seldom Scene. And both Cooper and Brace say they used to be mesmerized by the group’s performance of it – long before they ever met. “Circus” is a sweet little tune penned by Brace and Cooper, one that I find completely enticing. Maybe it’s the simplicity. In the album notes, they credit contributions by Lloyd and Auldridge for taking the song “far beyond what Eric and Peter could have imagined.”
Track 8 is “I Flew Over Our House Last Night,” written by country legend Tom T. Hall. It’s another quietly longing tune that’s performed simply and beautifully. Of course, I could say the same thing about the whole album. And I do.
Track List: Wait a Minute, Suffer a Fool, It Won’t Be Me, Missoula Tonight, Big Steve, Circus, Behind Your Back, I Flew Over Our House Last Night, Nice Old Man, Silent Night, I Wish We Had Our Time Again.
Youth Is In Our Blood
The Dirty Guv’Nahs
In a nutshell, this CD is a rockin’ good time, and I can’t wait to take it on the highway with me. The sound is sophisticated and fresh. The band is tight. The vocals blow me away. There’s a great mix of rockers and power ballads. But why had I not heard of these guys before? Have I been living under a rock?
The Guv’Nahs have played Bonnaroo. They’ve opened for names like Zac Brown, Drive By Truckers, Blues Traveler, and Levon Helm, naming just a few here. The Dirty Guv’Nuhs has been voted – three years in a row – Best Band in Knoxvillie, Tenn. by the Metro Pulse Readers Poll.
Recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y. Youth Is In Our Blood brings some strong country, blues and soul influences to bear. Opening rocker “Baby We Were Young” sets the CD’s theme.
Love was the shape we made
Love was the breath we drew
Love was in our blood
And baby we were young
“Wide Awake” is a vocally rich ballad, somehow simultaneously fresh and reminiscent.
I’ve never seen this band live, but I’m betting that “Ain’t It Strange” is a great sing-along.
This band is one to watch.
The Dirty Guv’Nahs are Michael Jenkins (guitar), Justin Hoskins (bass), Aaron Hoskins (drums), Cozmo Holloway (guitar), Chris Doody (keyboards/ organ/vocals) and James Trimble (vocals). All 13 tracks are original with music and lyrics by Jenkins and Trimble on all except track 12 by Chris Doody and track 13 by Aaron Hoskins.
Track list: Baby We Were Young, Wide Awake, Walk Wtih Me, We’ll Be the Light, Song For My Beloved, New Salvation, It’s Dangerous, Courage, The Country, Blue Rose Stroll, Ain’t It Strange, Seeds On the Rise, Recovery.
Trouble With Lovin’
Serenity Hill (2010)
You remember the female vocalist in Little Feat belting out the Bob Dylan tune, “It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry,” on Chinese Work Songs (2000)? Well, that was Shaun Murphy. And this mama rocks the room. After leaving her gig with Little Feat in 2009, Murphy – also a veteran of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band and Eric Clapton’s tour band – formed the Shaun Murphy Band and released her first solo CD, Livin’ the Blues (Serenity Hill 2009), followed by last year’s Trouble With Lovin’ .
The ten-track CD is chock full of Murphy’s signature soulful blues, velvety smooth one minute, gritty the next. It’s hard to choose a favorite tune. The title track, “Trouble With Livin’,” is classic Shaun Murphy, really showing off her vocal range. “Blue Tears” is a sexy piece that can get your hips to swivelin’ in a heartbeat. On Burton Gaar’s “Mississipi Water,” Shaun gets that gravelly thing going that we love so much.
Also featured on the CD are some of Shaun’s high-powered buddies including Grammy Award nominee Johnny Neel (keyboard, harp), keyboard player Mike Finnigan, saxophonist Danny Pelfry.
In my unasked-for opinion, Shaun Murphy should be a lot more famous than she is. Buy her CD. Help make her famous.
Track list: Bed of Roses, Deservin’ of Love, Mississippi Water, The Trouble With Lovin’, Hopelessly In Love With You, Blue Tears, Did you Call, Rio Esperanza, The Blues Don’t Tell It all, That’s What Love Will Make You Do.
This is also published in Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine (issue June 2 – 16, 2011) and in the online version .
South By Southeast has put together another tasty Music Feast and I’ve been craving it since the show was still in the discussion stages. For my money, no one has a better story to tell than the singer/ songwriter, and this time around there are two of them – Eric Brace and Peter Cooper.
This pair has been touring, recording and performing together since 2004, which is also the year Brace moved to Nashville. They have quietly created a loyal following of Americana buffs who share their love for songwriting and harmony.
They’re touring in support of two new recordings, Master Sessions and Cooper’s solo effort, The Lloyd Green Album.
I talked to them last week as they were heading from Portland Me. to Northampton, Mass. to open for John Prine. In addition to penning tunes, these guys are respected journalists. Eric Brace is a former columnist for the Washington Post. He covered the city’s night life and music scene. Peter Cooper is a music writer for the Tennessean, the daily newspaper in Nashville, Tenn.
“Many may decry this fact,” Cooper laughed during our conversation, “but we have day jobs. Most musicians have day jobs and mine puts me right there in the music every day … interviewing people like Kris Kristopherson and others … it keeps me thinking.”
Google his name and you’ll find blog posts, interviews and newspaper stories about some of Nashville’s biggest stars. You’ll also find some great quotes about the latest CD out from this dynamic duo, Master Sessions released last year on Brace’s Red Beet Records label.
“The harmonies are unforgettable, classic and touching. One of the irresistible surprises of the year,” said Jim Morrison with No Depression (Visit www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/eric-brace-and-peter-cooper for a great interview and video clip.)
“This album’s title is no misnomer,” says American Twang, which puts the CD at No. 8 on its list of Top Ten Not Quite Country Albums.
“Eric Brace and Peter Cooper sound as if there were born to play together,” comes from ToxicPete.co.uk. Oh wait, looks like that one’s about an earlier disc, You Don’t Have To Like Them Both ( Red Beet Records 2009).
Getting back to Master Sessions, the disc features two of the duo’s longtime musical heroes – Lloyd Green on pedal steel and Mike Auldridge on dobro. These two names may not be on the lips of America, but bluegrass, country and Americana fans know them well. Green is one of the most respected pedal steel guitarists around. He’s played with the Byrds, Paul McCartney, George Jones, Charlie Pride and Alan Jackson.
Auldridge was a founding member of legendary bluegrass group, the Seldom Scene and more recently with Darren Beachley and the Legends of the Potomac bluegrass band.
“Eric and I used to go see Mike with the Seldom Scene,” Peter says. “He is the most inventive player!”
The album’s first track is “Wait a Minute,” a tune well-known to fans of the Seldom Scene. According to Cooper, it wasn’t a chart hit, but it was big. “We needed a third vocal,” Peter continued, “and we knew Kenny Chesney was a big Seldom Scene fan, so Eric texted him and he said he was honored to perform on a CD with Mike Auldridge.”
Longtime South By Southeast fans may recall Brace’s last visit to the Train Depot.
“I came with my band, Last Train Home, in 2007, and it was one of the best shows we ever did,” said Eric. “I mean that, it was one of our best shows ever … and Jeff Roberts … well, you can imagine some of the people you meet … Jeff was one of the all-time greats.”
I can hear him smile as he thinks about the former director of South By Southeast, who passed away suddenly in January 2009. It still hurts, doesn’t it? I think that Last Train Home show was one of the ones that Jeff nagged me to see, but I missed it. And, once again, I should have Trusted the Frog, because I’ve heard some of their music and I would have loved seeing this rockin’ roots band.
However, I won’t make that mistake again. I’ll be at the Train Depot for this show!
Tickets are $25 or $20 for annual SxSE concert subscribers. (Send an email with your name, number of tickets requested and your membership status to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Along with an incredible night of music, your ticket includes a potluck dinner and dessert, wine and beer from New South Brewery, soft drinks and coffee. Feasting begins at six o’clock and the music starts at 7 p.m.
Players on the Master Sessions CD are: Mike Auldridge – dobro; Richard Bennett – guitars, octave mandolin; Eric Brace – acoustic guitar, vocals; Peter Cooper – acoustic guitar, vocals; Lloyd Green – pedal steel guitar; Jen Gunderman – keyboards, accordion; Pat McInerney – drums, percussion; Dave Roe – bass; with Jon Randall – harmony vocals (2, 5, 11); Julie Lee – harmony vocals (4, 7, 8, 11); Kenny Chesney – harmony vocals (1).
Players on The Lloyd Green Album are: Peter Cooper (acoustic guitar, vocals), Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar), Richard Bennett (guitars), Jen Gunderman (keyboards, accordion), Pat McInerney (drums, percussion), Mark Horn (drums) and harmony vocals by Kim Carnes, Rodney Crowell, Pam Rose, Fayssoux Starling McLean, Julie Lee and Eric Brace.
Also coming soon from Red Beet Records is I Love:Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow, a tribute and nod to the 75th birthday of Nashville’s iconic country songwriter Tom T. Hall. The disc is produced by Cooper and Brace, and features the monster talents of Buddy Miller, Patty, Griffin, Duane Eddy, and Bobby Bare. Also performing are Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar); Jen Gunderman (keyboard, piano, accordion); Mike Bub (acoustic bass) and Mark Horn (drums).
The Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway, Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, log onto southbysoutheast.org. And don’t forget to check out these upcoming shows: Saturday, Aug. 6 – Josh Roberts & the Hinges; Saturday, Oct. 1 – Steve Young & Jubal Lee Young; Saturday, Dec. 3 – Yonrico Scott Band.
Cagle & Nash
If you’re not located in the Carolinas, you may not yet know about this Charlotte, N.C. duo, but Cagle & Nash are one of the best R&B acts around. Greg Cagle plays saxophone, guitar and sings lead vocals. Rick Nash plays a mean trumpet. Both are talented composers.
This soulful recording consists of 11 tracks and for my money, any one of them could be released as a single. Presentation throughout is solidly polished. This is pop meets old school and the result is spectacular. All songs on Soul Complete were written by Greg Cagle and Rick Nash.
The first song into it, I knew I was in for a treat. “Pick Up the Phone” is a jazzy piece that shows off the vocal talents of Greg Cagle, and Rick Nash – what a horn player!
The second track, “December,” boasts some equally rich horns. Also of note are the disc’s harmonies by Cagle and backup singers Robyn Springer and Jarrett Gillis.
Musicians on Soul Complete include: Greg Cagle (drum programming, saxophone, lead vocals, background vocals, guitar, bass, vibraphone), Rick Nash (trumpet), David Rhyne (percussion), Joe Miers (bass), Bobby Aycock (piano), Larry Gianneschi, Zach Wheeler, Greg Mitchell (alto sax), David Floyd (string arrangement, strings), Robyn Springer (lead and background vocals), Jarrett Gillis (background vocals), Tovaris Matthews (drums), Kenneth Leonard Jr. (piano), Steve McGuirt (drums), Bill Baucom (piano), Di Yonna Mitchell (lead vocal).
If you’re a fan of R&B, soul or pop, you’ll want to give this album a listen.
C&N is releasing another CD titled Loungevity later this month. I haven’t hear any of it yet, but I’m expecting big things.
Awendaw Green Records
I love the simplicity and authenticity of this CD. There’s virtually no digital manipulation. It’s just one lone acoustic bluesman singing, picking and stomping his own version of backwoods Delta blues.
Jeff Norwood is a superb storyteller. He doesn’t judge. He just tells it like it is – whether he’s singing about sex, race, religion, love, money or catfish, he just has a story to tell.
“Bad Ass Boogie” is “the way music was made, back in the woods, back in the day, everybody got high, everybody got laid, that was the tune that always got played, the bad ass boogie.”
“Walking Catfish Blues” really is about a big ole catfish walking around looking for love and something to eat.
“Horny Road” is the back country counterpart to suburbia’s Lover’s Lane, only the couples don’t stop.
In the same vein, “Shake” will transplant you to a street corner or a front porch on a sticky summer evening when temperatures and hormones are on the move.
Our faithful bard wrote all but one of Awendaw’s ten tracks. “Kokomo Blues” was written by North Mississippi blues guitarist/singer Fred McDowell (1904 – 1972).
Norwood, who grew up working on a S.C. farm, has paid his dues working some rough roadhouses and juke joints. Maybe that’s why he’s so matter of fact about his subject matter.
Awendaw, which is named for the small S.C. town where Norwood records, should be part of any serious blues collection.
I first heard this phenomenal performer at a club in Columbia, S.C. He was playing to a packed room – folks who knew the lyrics to every tune and the story behind it. It didn’t take me long to appreciate Edwards’ considerable vocal talent and songwriting skill. His voice is whiskey-edged velvet, tender and tough at the same time.
His latest CD, Everything Changes delivers the same kind of live energy and raw vocals that keep his fans coming back for more. As a songwriter, J Edwards ( and yes, his first name is J) wears his heart on his sleeve, and while his tunes aren’t necessarily autobiographical, he makes us believe they are.
The 11-track disc opens with a rockin’ Delbertesque number called “Junkyard of Love,” a song about a guy talking about a girl who’s maybe worked her way through most of the guys at the bar, and by the end of the tune, he’s going to get himself a “mechanic to start working out the kinks in his heart.” He’s ready to move on.
“Carole Ann” is a hauntingly sweet tune of life on the road. Edwards then picks up the pace for “Can’t Get Over You.”
“Lover’s Moon Over South Carolina,” is a road trip anthem with a special yen for heading home to South Carolina. It was voted in the top three at the Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guild of South Carolina songwriting competition.
Let yourself give in to “Skye.” Crank it up and go. It’s just plain fun.
Track seven, “Baby,” is going to take your breath away and fill you full of longing and sweetness until you just ache all over. This is that whiskey velvet I was talking about. Add to that, guitar work by Charles Funk … well, just wait for the goose bumps. They comin’.
Without even giving you time to recover, “If I Had To” is up next and it’s another tune that strips away the layers as you listen to it. Good stuff. Also called “Conner’s Song,” J was inspired by Columbia’s Chris Conner, lead singer for Sourwood Honey and later The South, who passed away in late 2007 of lung cancer.
“Use Me” takes the emotion from the previous two ballads and channels it into a rockin’ romp for the whole band.
Edwards’ songwriting ability is evident on “Catch Me,” a song of love and leaving and lamenting the contradiction of it all. The road warrior longs to stay but feels the constant pull toward the highway. As with most all J Edwards’ songs, powerful vocals combine with solid band performances.
All songs were written and performed by J Edwards (acoustic guitar). Other players include Charles Funk (acoustic, rhythm, lead guitars); Hesham Mostafa (bass guitar); Greg Bickley (keys on “Catch Me” and “Lover’s Moon;” Buddy Parker (keys on “Junkyard of Love;” Evan Simons (drums); Mike Marchbanks (drums on “If I Had To” and “Can’t Get Over You;” Erin Bates (background vocals on “Junkyard of Love”).
At this writing, the J Edwards Band has begun work on a new blues CD. They expect to be back in the studio by early March and hope for a summer release.
For a Second Time
(June 16, 2009)
Label: Cedar Creek Music
Well, today’s convoluted music news is that Daddy’s gonna be a daddy for a second time with For a Second Time, and if you understand what I’m talking about, then God love ya and log onto ReverbNation.com/DaddyTheBand PDQ because time’s running out to get your copy of this baby with the name-your-own-price option.
That’s right, the CD hits the streets on June 16 and Daddy’s letting you set the price (plus S&H) until June 6, all in time for Father’s Day.
I first heard about Daddy from Jeff Roberts, owner of the very independent Sounds Better Records in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “You need to know about Daddy,” he told me, “You start out with two solid singer/songwriters who are at different ends of the playing field and the place where they meet is completely different… it’s like two and two equal five … and they rock!”
He was right, so I did a story about their live Myrtle Beach performance courtesy of South By Southeast [Alternatives NewsMagazine, vol. XXV, No. 2, issue Aug. 28-Sept. 11, 2008] and later blogged about their first CD, a live recording titled Daddy At the Women’s Club.
For the uninitiated, Daddy, which made its official debut at this year’s SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, is made up of five super talented players. Founders and touring duo Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough deliver rockin’ guitar licks and write some of the wildest songs around. They first worked together in the bis-quits on John Prine’s Oh-Boy! label.We’re talking early 90s. Will was the 2005 Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the year and Tommy has twice received the Nashville Scene Best Song award.
The rest of Daddy includes monster talents Dave Jacques on bass (John Prine, Emmylou Harris), John Deaderick playing keys (Dixie Chicks, Michael McDonald, Patty Griffin), and Paul Griffith on percussion (John Prine, Todd Snider).
After listening to this bluesy-country group for the last three days, I’m happy to report that the band’s latest offering has been worth the wait. For a Second Time is a ten-track recording that’s classic Daddy – schizophrenic rants that morph into crystal clear observations of life. This little slice of roots-rock Americana with its gospel overtones and rockabilly undertones gets better with each listen.
Here’s how Tommy describes the opening track, “Nobody From Nowhere:” Will and I wrote this one together with acoustic guitars in my house. I love how the tunes came from that and flowed to a place that sounds like the bayou coastline looks, with flashes of Memphis. You can dance to it. It fuses and Motown and the Allman Brothers like probably never before.”
“Early To Bed, Early To Rise,” is another written and performed by Womack. He says, “It’s a tough song for tough times. I play the part of the curmudgeon commencement speaker who needs to put the fear of God into the young, fresh hearts and minds of this country. Warren Zevon meets Crazy Horse.”
Next up (and the only track not written by one or both) is folk classic, “The Ballad of Martin Luther King,” which comes from singer/songwriter Mike Millius, who reportedly wrote it the same night Dr. King was assassinated.
Track four is “Wash & Fold,” written by Will Kimbrough. Tommy calls it “Will’s tune of love in a laundromat.” The backstory is that it was inspired after bringing some gamey “tour-filthy” laundry to a city laundry and being subjected to utter rudeness after choosing wash-and-fold instead of springing for wash-and-press.
“He Ain’t Right,” track seven features Tommy’s lyrics, Will’s music. Basically, it’s Kimbrough singing Womack’s story.
The melancholy album closer, “Redemption Is a Mother’s Only Son,” was written by Kimbrough and Jeff Finlin, another talented American singer/songwriter traveling under the radar.
For June, South By Southeast is bringing us a roots-rock group that’s not quite a household name yet, except maybe throughout the upstate of South Carolina and North Carolina.
The Bad Popes are a popular five-piece group known for their own brand of Texas swing, their country leanings, their rockin’ roots and their folksy bluegrass.
At one show, you can expect to experience a combination of all that and more. Guitarists Jef Chandler and Charles Hedgepath handle the group’s lead vocals and the lion’s share of the songwriting. Hedgepath has also been known to pull out the mandolin. On bass is Greenville’s Chris Garrett. Kevin Heuer, who has been teaching all levels of drumset for 24 years is on the kit. Mike Bagwell is on pedal steel and dobro.
Right off the bat, I had to know: where did that name come from?
“Well,” Charles Hedgepath laughed, “I had borrowed this book from my mother-in-law. It was about these popes who weren’t exactly good … they were bad. It was strange and we like it … and now we’re The Bad Popes.
Both Hedgepath and Chandler are prolific writers. Charles said, “I started when I was 16. I went through a phase in my early 20s when all I wrote was instrumentals, but then I started listening to Hank Williams … what good songwriting. Now I take that energy … I try not to pigeonhole songs right away; I don’t set out to write any type of song. It’s never like ‘Oh, we need another ballad.’ I just write what comes.
“I’ve written, I think, about 30 songs with Jef. I like throwing ideas off someone else … and working together, it’s a good check-and-balance. We both work on lyrics and melody.
“If there’s a theme that runs through all our songs, I’d say it’s strong melody.
“Sometimes one of us needs help with a bridge. Or I hear something of Jef’s and I add a chord … or we add lines for each other. Sometimes we work from scratch and other times we help each other finish something already begun… We try to let the songs breathe … kind of cultivate. This lets us play whatever’s right for the song.”
Chandler agrees, “I write based on how I feel. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Tom Petty, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan. Lyrics and music have always been important to me.
He laughs as he talks about his introduction to music. “I started playing guitar at 12. I was also playing piano, but I dropped it for guitar because I thought the guitar was cooler.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid, I think, when I was taking lessons.
“For me, the songwriting comes as I’m trying to pick out another writer’s song.”
A serious student, Jef was an English major at Furman University and then took classes James Dickey, who was a poet-in-residence at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.
How does it work with two guitarists, I asked. “We both play rhythm or lead, says Charles. It depends on the song. We look at what the musical situation calls for.”
The band members are also known for their work in other bands including the Jef Chandler Band, the Work, Vigilantes of Love, Matthew Nights Williams Band, William F. Gibbs, Danielle Howle and Seconds Flat.
The June 6 smoke-free performance of The Bad Popes for South By Southeast will take place at the landmark Myrtle Beach Train Depot. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for those under 21 if you’re a member, $25 if you’re not. Don’t forget, your price of admission includes not only the show, but also a pot luck dinner along with free wine, soda and beer Dinner starts at 6 p.m., music at 7 p.m.
If you’d like to support this wonderful grassroots nonprofit organization, membership in SXSE costs just $25 a year. This all-volunteer group is dedicated to preserving and promoting all sorts of American music that mainstream America sometimes forgets. For more information, log onto http://www.sxsemusic.com and download an application form.
Sponsors include New South Brewery, QROCK Radio, Sea Note Recording, Pepsi, Sounds Better Records and the Anderson Property Group.
For more information call Jeff Roberts, owner of Sounds Better Records at 843-497-3643 or Seth Funderburk, Sea Note Recording, at 843-455-6499.
Buddy and Julie Miller
Written In Chalk (2009)
Label: New West Records
Genre: Roots, Americana
A friend of mine in California just sent me the latest offering from husband and wife duo, Buddy and Julie Miller. First thing I did was pop it in the car’s CD player, and I’ve been listening to it for a couple days now. Written In Chalk is a fine recording. In true Americana fashion, the disc is steeped in country, jazz and blues. Buddy and Julie Miller somehow manage to be both primitive and sophisticated at the same time.
To give you a little background, this talented pair may not be household names, but they’re well-respected among musicians and roots buffs. They’ve been married for the last 20 years, singing on each other’s solo albums as well as their duo CDs and appearing with a circle of musicians who sing their praises every chance they get.
Buddy Miller is known as a songwriter and co-songwriter for folks like the Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack and Brooks & Dunn. He has also performed with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. His 1999 solo release, Cruel Moon (Hightone Records) features harmony work from wife Julie, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.
Julie’s Broken Things (1999 Hightone Records) and Blue Pony (1997) CDs have both been acclaimed critically, showcasing her songwriting skills along with her vocal abilities.
Recorded at the couple’s home studio in Nashville, Written In Chalk is a soulful collaboration of the two. Buddy’s guitar work is stellar and the harmonies throughout are right on. Track two, “Gasoline and Matches,”written by Julie and Buddy, has all the earmarks of a hit. It’s sexy and fun; plus there’s a driving beat that makes you sit up and take notice.
“Long Time” is a sweet, sad, soulful tune and Julie’s voice just sends it home to the heart.
Flat out the most fun is “What You Gonna Do Leroy,” which was written by Mel Tillis and released by Burl Ives back in 1962. Buddy’s duet with Robert Plant was a great surprise, and definitely adds to the song’s charm.
There are some other guest contributors to the CD as well. Track three features Patty Griffin on “Don’t Say Goodbye” and on the duet, “Chalk.” Regina McCrary pairs with Buddy on track six, “One Part, Two Part” and again on “Hush, Sorrow,” track nine. The final track, “The Selfishness In Man” includes harmony from Emmylou Harris.
If you’re a fan of Buddy and Julie Miller, you’ll want to add this one to your collection. If you’re just jumping on the Buddy and Julie bandwagon, this is a great place to start.
Reviewed by Dariel Bendin
Oh Lonesome Me Records
Jeff Roberts and Seth Funderburk have once again put together a show that’s sure to appeal to alternative music aficionados, adults who still don’t play well with others, and other seekers of truth, insight and wit. On Sept. 13, South By Southeast is bringing Nashville “undersiders” Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough to the historic Train Depot in Myrtle Beach. Get your tickets now, because – though these guys may be flying under the radar of the mainstream public – alternative buffs know them well.
Singer/songwriter Tommy Womack has become something of a alternative country hero. The Village Voice said of him, “Think Spalding Gray if he’d grown up in Kentucky with a guitar and a vinyl copy of Black and Blue.” He has earned kudos from media outlets and bloggers around the country. Touring now in support of his fifth solo CD, There I Said It, Womack reveals a wicked, sometimes dark, sense of humor in tracks like “Too Much Month At the End of the Xanax” and “Alpha Male and the Canine Mystery Band.”
In addition, the talented writer is releasing his second book, “The Lavender Boys & Elsie,” which is a fictional collection of letters documenting the Civil War’s only all-gay Confederate regiment and other craziness. His 1995 autobiographical memoir of life on the road, “Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock & Roll Band You Never Heard Of” has become nothing short of a cult classic.
The other half of the duo, Will Kimbrough, is also no stranger to cynicism and humor. His newest offering is Americanitis, which demonstrates not only a healthy social conscience, but also the Mobile native’s impressive songwriting talent. Named American Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year, Kimbrough is also a sought-after guitarist.
Together, Kimbrough and Womack are the backbone of Daddy, a two- to five-piece band that delivers guitar mastery and rockin’ licks along with tongue in cheek tunes like “I Miss Ronald Reagan.” This will be the first time I’ve seen these guys, and I can’t wait.
If you’ve never been to a South By Southeast music feast, you’re missing out on a unique experience. Where else does your $25 ticket ($20 if you’re a member) get you a night of fantastically never off-the-shelf music, free dinner, free wine and free beer? And chocolate chip cookies?
South By Southeast is a nonprofit organization devoted to showcasing top quality musicians whose talents have either not yet been noticed or are generally ignored by the national media.
For reservations, call Jeff Roberts at Sounds Better Records at 843-497-3643. Better yet, stop by the store at 9904 N. Kings Hwy in Hidden Village in Myrtle Beach, SC. (There will be an opening act – don’t know who yet – starting at 7 p.m. Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough will go on about 8 o’clock.) Photo: L-R, Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack. Photo by Russ Riddle.