Thursday, December 20, 2007

Celebrating at the Family Wash

Had an enjoyable evening out last night (more than my expression in this picture might indicate) at the Family Wash. Nope, not doing laundry (though that's not the worst way I ever spent an evening out); the Family Wash is a former clothes cleaning facility that has been remodeled into a artsy restaurant featuring fancy dishes and live music. This bastion of all things left-of-center is in East Nashville, known either as the trendy, trashy-chic part of town or as the area where you're most likely to be robbed or shot, depending on whom you ask. I suspect even the fiercely-loyal residents who brag about it the most are as careful as anyone to lock their doors and avoid lingering outside after dark. But things are improving.

There was a group performing the music of Vince Guaraldi from the soundtrack of the Charlie Brown Christmas special we've all watched since childhood. It also turned out to be my photographer friend Kristina's birthday and she was already planning to celebrate with friends there, so I was happy to be able to join her group for dinner.

We were seated at the entrance-side section of the restaurant that is separated from the main dining room by a large window; while it did keep us from feeling like we were in the middle of the action, it also kept the music to a conversation level (and our conversation from disturbing the serious listeners), so for me it was win-win.

We made a very congenial gathering, especially considering many of us had just met; we spent a good deal of time explaining how each of us knew Kristina, the "hub." It was an interesting mix of creative people; in addition to myself and Kristina, the group included a couple of artists (one of whom is also a Starbucks barista), a guy who supplies drum parts, and a construction manager (if you don't think construction is a creative pursuit, you don't know much about construction).

We all got along very well and there was never a lack of conversation. I was not into the group's discussion about and sharing of the various beers and/or wines they ordered, since I've never developed a taste for alcohol of any kind (just as well--that way I know it'll never be a problem for me; like Forrest Gump says, "one less thing"). But if the question of Mello Yello vs. Mountain Dew had come up, well, they would've had an earful.

I guess it's my obstinate nature, or my youngest-child tendency to welcome ways to stand out from the crowd, or maybe my anti-alcohol Baptist upbringing, but I've never understood why people are so insecure about not joining in when other people are drinking...and especially why anyone who is drinking would be offended by those who aren't (not that this was the case last night, but I've heard it happens). Insecurity drives some strange behavior. As much as I appreciate the urge--and even the need at times--to conform for the sake of fellowship and goodwill, I'm happy to know there are some things I'm simply over. Of course, there's a long list of things about which I am insecure, and the other side of being a youngest is an inherent chameleon-like ability to find ways to fit in (since we had no power in the family group, we had to be flexible), so I really have no stones to throw.

I do, however, have a goodly portion of my chicken pot pie left over to savor; a great way to remember an evening of good food, great music, and friendly company. And I didn't even get carjacked.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tonight's musical lineup

One of my "I told you she'd be a star" stories in progress, Heather Morgan, will make the 3rd & Lindsley stage her own tonight. Also on the bill is harmonica player Wes Charlton. Show starts at 9, compliments and much applause to follow.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

They are women, hear them...rock

Despite how much I talk about it and blog about it, I'm not a dedicated fan of honky tonk music or country music in general compared to some people, but it's fun to watch it happen live, especially when friends and acquaintances are on stage. Such was the case last night. Since I was already familiar with 3 of the 5 ladies that are collectively known as the Honky Tonk Angels, it was a treat to see them perform last night at the 5 Spot in East Nashville.

Casey Kessel, mandolin; Kimberly Quinn, drums; Kelly Archer, acoustic; Sara Beck, electric; Lauren Lucas, bass

The group is made up of singer-songwriters who are all enjoying various levels of success in the industry. Casey Kessel and Kelly Archer teamed up with their pal Danielle Peck to write some of the songs on her debut album. Among her other cuts, Kelly’s “Biker Chick” was released by Jo Dee Messina this year. Lauren Lucas had a “glimpse” of the mountaintop as an artist; though her Warner Bros. debut album didn’t see enough airplay to satisfy the “gimme now or hit the road” demands of executives beholden to corporate investors, her talent and fan support seem more than adequate to carry her to glory via her current alternate route as an independent. Sara Beck garnered local press recently by enjoying the privilege of sharing the stage with Stevie Wonder at his personal invitation. I was not familiar with Kimberly Quinn, though my tablemates Linda and Milton (both relocated employees of Nissan in nearby Smyrna) were; obviously she has something going on talent-wise to share the good company of the other ladies on stage.

Their song choices were mostly drawn from the repertoire of groundbreaking female country artists such as Loretta Lynn and of course Kitty Wells, but they did stray from the formula to include pop hits such as “Be My Baby” and “Delta Dawn.” [Yes, I realize the latter was also a country hit, but for me it’ll always recall the image of Helen Reddy: short hair, red dress and defiant attitude. I didn't relate to her role as feminist diva, but I liked her music anyway.]

The performance was loose--sometimes looser than planned. Even though they sheepishly apologized to the industry-hip crowd for the occasional goofs, since HTA is mostly a just-for-fun project for its members (as far as I can tell), they were less concerned with perfection than just having a good time. The crowd quickly adopted their philosophy; after all, these ladies have more than earned the right to cut loose and laugh at themselves, so why not join in?

Wherever your opinion falls in the argument over whether God made honky tonk angels…given the talent, beauty and charm that graced the stage last night, I don’t know anyone else who’d be qualified. In a good way.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday tuneage

Since you asked (or wanted to but were too shy) here are a couple of recommendations for Christmastime music listening.

Fleming & John have put the most rockin' spin on "Winter Wonderland" since spandex-and-hair band Stryper recorded it in the 80's. They've offered it and another song for free download. About the first song, their myspace bulletin said:
This one is a bit touchy...can't post it on our MySpace as Led Zep doesn't have a sense of humor about parodies. They did give us permission to give it away though. A bit LoFi but we don't know where the original master is. So HERE it is in all of it's ridiculous glory.

Turns out those bulletins are useful for more than just self-interviews and exploitation by spammers!

Here are the links; you can click to listen (depending on your computer setup) or follow the instructions below to download (legally! free!):

"Winter Wonderland" (Led-ed version)

"Carol of the Bells"

To download, Cntrl-click and "Save Link Target As..." on a Mac. On a pc, right-click and "Save Target As...".

If you're into a more subdued approach, check out the melancholy and achingly sweet (but far from syrupy) sounds of Mindy Smith. She has 4 songs from her Christmas album "My Holiday" posted on her myspace site.

Click the Play button after the player loads, top right. A nice change to the myspace player is that it continues to play all the songs without having to prompt each one.

The album is in stores and on iTunes.

And of course there's Andrew Peterson. Not only does he have songs from his Christmas album (which features his talented friends as well as himself) posted on his myspace, he'll be bringing it live to the Ryman Auditorium tonight. Here's an article about it in the Tennessean.


This just in:
Here's one discerning diva's opinion of the show (summary: it was good...the important part you need to remember: I was right).
--MKH, 12-17

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Been pretty slow lately. I realize this is a hectic time for a lot of people in America, shopping, decorating, planning, traveling, working extra hours to pay for it all. Not me. The workload at the fulltime job is so slow that in the art department we spend more time brazenly surfing the internet than working. But we still take our scheduled breaks.

As a so-far-still-single man, I don't go crazy on buying gifts (once our family got to a certain size, we declared a limit for the sake of preserving financial sanity). I live by myself so I'm over the feeling of obligation to decorate. Not much to plan; I go to parties hosted by other folks...I'm always good for the sodas or chips or whatever else you can buy at the convenience store on the way. My travel is a 2-hour drive to Chattanooga. I really should make more of an effort to get a second job, but nothing seems worth the trouble or inconvenience at this point.

So, inertia is setting in. I feel a little like the children in the Wood Between the Worlds in The Magician's Nephew (part of C.S. Lewis' Narnia Chronicles series). Not a good place to stay. But I'm sure it's temporary.

One bright spot was volunteering at Safe Haven yesterday evening, with a group from my church singles class. Safe Haven offers temporary housing and assistance to families. The facilities are very decent and arranged like a dorm or hostel. We served dinner, made family pictures, did crafts. I played a few Christmas songs and let the kids take turns strumming while I made the chords--always a kid-pleaser. Would've been neat if Danielle Peck, their celebrity spokesperson, had dropped by...but no such luck. Oh, well.

I look forward to the pace picking up. I'm no activity addict, but this is getting to be more leisure than I can stand.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

An offer I CAN refuse

Just ran across this WSM promotion:

Uhh....tempting, but...I mean, I'm sure Eddie's a nice guy 'n' all, very knowledgeable about the music...I think I'll pass.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gone country...but which one?

What is country music? It seems that most people would have a hard time answering that question, at least in a definitive way. that is often (but not always) about life in either the rural American South or the wild West...involving immorality (drankin', cheatin', carousin') or deep religious belief or both...played and sung with a people wearing cowboy hats. But even the most casual listener knows this description is more stereotype than reality.

Giving examples is easy enough: Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney. Only one name is needed for some: Dolly, Garth, Reba, Cash, Merle, Buck, Hank (Sr., Jr. or rarely, III). The history-minded might reference Jimmie Rogers or Roy Acuff. Usually the names a fan mentions will come from a certain era, the one they consider golden by comparison to the rest; the older the fan, the better the old days of "real" country (whatever that is). Never mind that the old-timers of (name the period) were making the same complaints about how the artists of the day were destroying the tradition.

Most people would probably paraphrase what someone once said about obscenity (you do the Googling), and say "I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I hear it." Or at least, I know when I'm not hearing it. Most agree that much of what's on "country radio" is as much rock, pop and even hip-hop as it is country, and plenty of country music is not even considered for airplay.

So does country music have certain distinctive stylistic features? Time signature? Instrumentation? Lyrical approach? Number of lines or verse/chorus structure? Is country whatever is played on country radio and put in the bins labeled as such in Wal-Mart? Can you sing it with a Northern accent? Or British? Or even (shudder) Russian or French? Can Jessica Simpson sing country? Is it too late to stop her? Do you have to have stories of a poverty-stricken upbringing or look good in tight jeans ("not that there's anything wrong with that") to be an authentic performer in the genre?

This ambiguity is apparent even--especially--in Nashville, which long ago claimed its place as "Music City USA", the heart of country music for those who heard it via radio and recordings and saw it performed live at the Grand Ole Opry shows. Every award show is as much an opportunity for debate as it is a celebration of the music that has been a moneymaker and/or a heartbreaker for artists, writers, industry execs and wannabe's. Like sports, the music industry is a point of fascination and sometimes downright obsession for onlookers and pro's alike. Even if you don't have a stake in the race, it's hard not to feel the need to express an opinion (but then, I have that problem with a lot of topics).

I'm interested in the ongoing discussion for what it reveals about the participants as much as anything. But before we get into whether Big & Rich should be applauded or tarred and feathered for their long-term impact (if any) on Nashville (have you seen the picture of the monstrosity--er, house John Rich is building?), it's helpful to get some historical perspective. May not help answer the question but it does reveal that the argument has been going on for quite awhile, even before the Opry conceded to such modernities as the use of drums (gasp!) and electrified instruments (oh my!) on stage.

Two books--one I've read and one I plan to read--should be a big help.

I just finished reading "the official inside history of the home of country music," written by Colin Escott. It's titled The Grand Ole Opry : the Making of an American Icon. Found this one in the library, but it's available online as well and I'm sure at the Opry gift shop and bookstores everywhere.

The story of the Opry is told using lots of quotes from artists and staff, with plenty of pictures. Having ushered at the Opry House for a few years made the book that much more interesting to me, even though I had heard or read some of the information elsewhere.

This book covers many of the controversial issues that are inherent in an enterprise that has the combined goals of entertaining, turning a profit and preserving the dynamic, shifting culture of country music...while maintaining its balance amidst the tug-of-war of those who claim it (management, artist, and the public).

On my literary to-do list is Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City by music journalist Craig Havighurst, heard occasionally on NPR and a former Tennessean reporter. Havighurst has written what he calls "a history of Nashville's music business told through the historic broadcaster that made it all possible." WSM was the station that birthed the Grand Ole Opry, the radio show (not "concert" as solemn host Eddie Stubbs likes to point out) that has become to country music what Atlanta is to Delta customers; if you haven't played the Opry, you're not there yet.

I spoke with Havighurst a few months ago, and he mentioned that this book is not the "authorized" story, and in fact it may ruffle a feather or two in it should be even more interesting than the Opry book above, especially regarding the controversies of how WSM and the Opry have been managed. The book was instigated by the "what were they thinking?" incident of not long ago when the powers that be considered turning WSM into yet another talk radio station.

He'll be signing his book at Davis Kidd in Nashville tomorrow (click for info).

Meanwhile you can preview the first few pages (click this link and use side arrows to advance pages)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Have You Hugged Yours Today?

In case you can't think of anything to be thankful for this week...this might bring something to mind:

World Toilet Day

19 November was declared 'World Toilet Day' in 2001 by 17 toilet associations around the world. Since then there has been established an annual World Toilet Summit and many other regional conferences. Each toilet association has also engaged in many activities promoting clean toilets in their own respective country.

Since 2001, World Toilet Day has become a global platform for academics, sanitation experts, toilet designers, environmentalists etc. to share the latest on rural and urban toilets. Thi

The World Toilet Organisation asks each individual, in their respective country, to request better equality (more facilities for women); more accessibility & special provisions (for the disabled & mothers with babies); clean toilets (for everyone); and more toilets (for the less fortunate).

About World Toilet Organisation (

The World Toilet Organisation has the following objectives:

* Establish a world body to coordinate and promote sanitation issues.
* To continuously generate awareness for the importance of a good toilet environment.
* To gather resources and promote creative development in the Research & Development, Usage & Attitudes and Aesthetics & Functionalities in Design for the betterment of health in general.
* To propagate the need for better toilet standards in both the developed and developing economies of the world.
* To provide and promote a community of all toilet associations, related organizations and committed individuals to facilitate an exchange of ideas, health and cultural matters.
* To collate, publish and disseminate information globally in a timely and viable manner globally.

But seriously...what would we do without them? Don't answer that. If you've ever gone without one....

* * *

And in a coincidence I wasn't even aware of when I originally posted this...

Mr. Whipple Actor Dick Wilson Dies at 91

Rest in peace to one of our nation's most beloved advertising characters. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was never portrayed in a more endearing and memorable manner.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Musical to-do's this week

Thursday: Heather Morgan with Matt Ramsey & Faith Gilmore

Saturday: Kim McClean live DVD recording

Every day: Thank God for great music and the talented women that make it. Not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Give a hug, get...detention?

I feel more intelligent (relatively speaking) every day...and this one makes me feel like a genius.

(Kids, make sure your parents are OK with your reading explicit act of human contact is discussed).

This eighth-grade girl (center of the pic) gave hugs to two of her friends--half-hugs, actually, but hugs--as they left school. Shocking, huh?

She was given DETENTION because the morons who run the school deemed that this was the kind of "display of affection" that was prohibited by policy, as outlined in the school handbook.

Here's the full story.

No mention of a record of misbehavior, any complaints, anything. Nor is there a reference to a warning being issued; regardless, they applied the punishment for a second offense because she gave two hugs. Clearly these "leaders" know as little about the law as they do about human behavior (especially middle-school girl behavior). I wonder how three people could come to such a misguided conclusion. Actually I wonder if they dress themselves in the morning.

I don't throw the word "moron" around that much (not publicly, anyway) but the principal, assistant principal and the superintendent have more than earned the title in my thinking.

What ARE they teaching in the schools our education professionals attend? Or NEA seminars, maybe? I realize teachers are under a lot of stress and expected to do way too much with way too little in the way of financial and parental support. And too many people are too eager to sue. And of course, there's Oprah's problem in South Africa. Actually, teachers are my heroes...the good ones, anyway.

However, some seem to have come to the conclusion that it is never their job to exercise any judgement whatsoever when it comes to discipline, or any human interaction with their students. Not allowing a kid to take an aspirin (but a condom? No problem!)...treating a spoon in a 2nd grader's backpack as if it were a nuclear warhead...forcing "school standard attire" to achieve an illusion of conformity, despite a lack of evidence of any effect on this.

I don't expect every educator to display the wisdom of Solomon, but a little common sense would prevent this kind of nonsense from happening. There's a time for punishment and a time for mercy; some folks apparently need to check their watches.

I mean, did these people learn nothing from The Breakfast Club?

If all an educator can do is interpret a policy in the most rigid and literal way possible, like a computer...why don't we just let HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey take over? Or has he already? HAL...are you there? HAL?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Odd "news" pic of the day

Not that this is part of a series I'm doing...this just struck me as so odd, and SO badly composed, I thought it blogworthy. This is Anastasia Brown, who helps connect the Nashville music industry with the Hollywood film industry (and vice-versa). Local party scene "reporter" Heather Byrd managed to make even this gorgeous example of God's handiwork look, uh, less than her best. Scary, even. Proof that antlers make for a poor podium, in case you were wondering.

It's not so much that the picture is bad...and I'm not sure who took's that the reporter chose to include it "as is" in a photo slideshow as her contribution to the online Tennessean. Don't hold your breath for the Pulitzer, Heather.


Last Thursday I got a glimpse of "history" at the Koinonia Family Reunion concert. This event at the Factory at Franklin was a celebration of the years of ministry through the Koinonia Coffeehouse & Bookstore on Music Row. Koinonia, named after the biblical Greek term for a spiritual sense of fellowship and community, was a local manifestation of the Jesus Movement of the 1970's. Belmont Church established the venue to invite the street people and musicians (still not always easily distinguishable) to explore Truth, on a "come as you are" basis. Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were among the artists whose music was nurtured there, and both were unannounced participants in the reunion concert.

I missed MWS's part because he provided "pre-show" music and I was merely on time (early for me). Amy, however, was part of a four-artist round and stayed through most of the evening to watch the show. She was eager to make clear that she viewed the older artists with the respect due to mentors, and downplayed her "star" status as best she could. She raised eyebrows with a comment about their relative innocence during the coffeehouse days: "Little did we know then that our best sinning was still ahead of us." I would guess the unspoken responses varied from "Amen" to "speak for yourself, Amy." But I knew what she meant.

I felt like a long-lost cousin by marriage in this "family" of artists and church members. I never actually went to Koinonia until just a few years ago, to attend a couple of concerts and participate in a couple of writers nights. The place was little more than a meeting space for Belmont Church at that point, though a space with a history. I had seen several of the artists on stage (Billy Sprague, Jim Weber) at a similar concert series in Knoxville in the 80's, called Aslan's Lair. And the time frame the event harkened back to was a little before my time. Still, I enjoyed the music and even recognized a tune here and there. More importantly, it gave me a better understanding of my own personal musical and spiritual heritage, and hopefully a little inspiration to start my own "movement" today that might just have as great an impact. Who knows, maybe I already have.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

But my face rings a bell

In addition to having a common name (see previous post), I also apparently have a common face. I've lost count on how many people have told me I looked familiar and had clearly never seen me, and how many have mistaken me for someone else.

I was at Tin Pan South a few years ago and a singer/songwriter I was standing next to in one of the clubs looked at me intently and said "I did a session with you!" But since I'd never done any recording in a Nashville studio I knew he hadn't. Should've told him he still owed me for it.

I was sitting at McDonald's before ushering at the Opry one evening and a family (probably tourists) was nearby. After a while the father said with a grin "You're famous, aren't you?" I said no....though who knows what a faster-thinking and less-honest person could have done with that. I mean, if I were "famous" would I be at McDonald's by myself on a Saturday evening? OK, yes, I might. So maybe it wasn't such a stretch.

A couple of times earlier this year I went up to two different women to offer compliments on their respective musical performances, and they both hugged me thinking I was someone else, even though I had spoken to one several times before. So it's not always a bad thing. But I don't plan on volunteering for any police lineups, just in case.

I found this site that finds famous faces that supposedly look like a picture you can upload. I can't say I'm in agreement with the results, overall...Dakota Fanning? Really? And Tom Green didn't show up; that's the one I've gotten most often since I've had the goatee. One more cautionary example of the limits of technology.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The real Mark Hall

Having a common name has been, for the most part, a source of amusement for me most of my life. "Like the card company, only backwards" is what I used to tell people to help them remember "Mark Hall." The main problem has not been so much getting people to remember it, it's keeping them from mistaking me for all the other Mark Halls of the world.

When I was a kid, there was a guy next door a few years older than me who shared my name. My family found it very entertaining to put me on the phone when one of his teenage girlfriends called.

There's a character in Michael Crichton's book Andromeda Strain (made into an excellent film) with my exact name, including middle. That was cool, though I think I would have liked the film anyway.

In high school I found out there was another guy there with my name when I was called to the office (for a good thing) and he showed up too.

After college I was doing missions in Hawaii and applied for a missions assignment (same place, longer term) and used a Cleveland, TN, youth pastor as a reference without notifying him (I had worked at his youth camp). My Hawaii supervisor got a call from the Mission Board to check some very contradictory information that the youth pastor, I had been married and divorced twice, for example. Took a while to sort that one out.

Over the years I've discovered there are several musical Mark Halls; one played for Vigilantes of Love out of Athens, GA (a roommate from there knew him) played in a Celtic Christian band named The Crossing...and the son of one of the pioneers in the Muscle Shoals scene wrote a song for Tim McGraw ("I Like It, I Love It"). And of course, for those who follow contemporary Christian music, the songwriter and lead singer of the very successful Casting Crowns has put me in the role of "not that Mark Hall". I've ushered a couple of Dove Awards nights where his/my/our name was announced. It was almost like a Dickensian vision of what could have been, had I reached that level of success (in worldly terms). At least he's done right by the name. And I've made the joke more than once that if I get any of his royalty checks by mistake, it's too bad for him.

Now one of my multitudinous namesakes is a county commissioner in my hometown of Cleveland; more amusement for family and friends there. I've never found out whether any of the ones I knew of there were the same person. I'd say chances are good that's the case...but given my experience I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

This is why when I moved to Nashville to join the teeming community of songwriters, where name recognition is very important, I decided it was a good idea to include my middle name, in print or online, to help avoid confusion. Except for people who don't read very carefully (or something) and call me "Kelly." You just can't win.

Monday, October 29, 2007

He's traded rhinestones for the real thing

Country music legend and Opry regular Porter Wagoner passed away yesterday. He was 80 years old, had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, and had fought various other health challenges that come with the territory. Can't say it was a surprise, but definitely reason to pause out of respect.

Country Hall of Famer dies at 80

I realized one night while ushering at the Opry that a line from my song "God Never Says Oops" might have originated with Porter's song “I’ve Enjoyed As Much of This As I Can Stand.” My dad, when tired of watching whatever TV program the family had outvoted him to watch, would say that as a joke as he got up to do something else. That's what I was thinking of when I wrote "Larry is lonely/He's been single all his blessed life/He's enjoyed all the freedom he can stand/And now he wants a wife." Then when I heard Porter sing his song, I figured either that's where my dad got the line, or possibly they both got it from other people. Either way, it's a good one.

One of Porter's hits was "A Satisfied Mind" (he didn't write it but he made it his own). It was also recorded by Bob Dylan, the Byrds, and others, but it seems especially applicable for Porter:

"A Satisfied Mind"
by Jack Rhodes & Joe Hayes

How many times have you heard someone say
"If I had his money I could do things my way"?
But little do they know that it's so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind

Once, I was wading in fortune and fame
Everything I'd dreamed for to get a start in life's game
Then suddenly it happened, I lost every dime
But I'm richer by far with a satisfied mind

Money won't buy back your youth when you are old
Or a friend when you are lonely or a love that's grown cold
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind

When life has ended, my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones, I'll leave there's no doubt
But there's one thing for certain, when it comes my time
I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind

25th Reunion report

So, the reunion. I enjoyed it a little more than I anticipated, which is not saying a huge amount (see previous post), but something. The weather could not have been better; clear skies, warm but with a slight chill after sundown.

The "tailgate" turned out to be hanging out together in/around a pavilion on the school grounds; didn't notice anyone actually eating (except one, as I left the game). Which was OK. Just a handful came for this part. The new principal gave us a tour of the campus; we were prepared for a shock, but it all looked surprisingly the same, with the exception of the library (which has been "Starbuck'ed" to include a coffee bar and tables for casual reading--very clever) and a refurbished gym (not that I would have noticed; since gym class wasn't required I only went there for pep rallies during school hours).

A knot of us classmates ended up in the same section at the football game. One former marching band member noted the much-reduced size (and corresponding quality) of the current band, compared to the glory of the band in her day (victory in statewide competitions made it less uncool to be in band, apparently). The team wasn't exactly dominating the field; apparently BCHS hasn't caught onto the UT strategy of booking easy opponents for Homecoming whenever possible, but then alumni contributions are probably less crucial. But none of the comparisons dampened the enjoyment of each other's company. And two of our classmates had family members in the Homecoming court, so we had that to brag to each other about.

On Saturday I got to the Cleveland Country Club a little early, and the others trickled in slowly. There was a lot of glancing and downright staring across carpets to determine if we were supposed to know that person, etc. The nametags for alumni only were helpful in sorting out spouses, but many times we weren't sure until we came close enough to read the names. An international summit of U.N. leaders could hardly have exhibited a more cautious-yet-cordial manner. Except for the former cheerleaders, who all still looked pretty much the same, and were not given to quiet greetings anyway.

I was reminded several times of the different "life stages" that were represented. Some had young children, some had kids starting college; most married, some still single, some single again; some working average jobs, one guy a hospital CEO...and one not present, a math whiz, rumored to be doing secret government work. Some of us had about as much to say now and we did in high school (or as little). And that's....OK (to quote Stuart Smalley from SNL). At worst it was interesting to see how time had treated us; at best, it was great to find we could pick up on old friendships and find them as fresh and soul-nourishing as ever.

Attendance from the 20th (about 200?) to the 25th (about 75) dropped so much, I can't help wondering what the next one will be like, whenever it happens. To quote Phil Keaggy's song "Cherish The Moment": "We may not pass this way again, so take nothing for granted."

After the group picture was taken, I headed out to do the solo acoustic gig I had wrangled for late Saturday night in downtown Chattanooga. I have mixed opinions even now about whether that was worth doing, given the lack of audience (for most of it) and the hassle. As if my ego hadn't already been tested enough that weekend! But it was a good reminder of why I need an audience to do much of my best stuff. Funny songs and stage banter are just sad otherwise. But a few people cheered on the latter part of the set, and I don't know if I finished well, but I did finish loud.

I continued in the spirit of the reunion weekend on Sunday and met up with my friend John and his wife. We had not had a huge amount in common as middle- and high-schoolers; our friendship was born as much out of location as anything, since we were both stuck out in the boonies and were the closest neighbors our age. Long bus rides have been the catalyst for many relationships, and ours was no exception; in this case it was a school bus. But we did manage to forge a strong bond, which was evident in our chat over tacos.

Then I was off to the evening service at a local church. My friend Janelle and family members (friends of my family from way back) were singing several songs, and she had invited me. One of her sisters had been in Geometry class with me in h.s., so yet another connection to make. She had told me the service started at 6:30, but as I slipped in at 6:35 or so, I realized the service must have been well under way, as Janelle and co. were already singing, and especially as they sat down after that one song. So one of the few times I would have been on time (relatively speaking) I was the victim of her error! I gave her a hard time about it. But it was a minor hitch, and the service capped off a memorable weekend.

See the pics below or click here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From country club to nightclub

This weekend I'll be headed south to Cleveland, Tennessee, the place of my upbringing (I would say "where I grew up" but obviously that process is not past tense) to join with my fellow high school alumni in marking the 25th year since our graduation. Some will be celebrating the great time they had at Bradley Central, and some will be celebrating their liberation from it. I'm mostly in the former group, but the latter has a point.

I didn't love it but I didn't hate it; the academic side was mostly easy, so that made it tolerable, but the social side was definitely mixed. I wasn't as awkward in real life as Napoleon Dynamite, but I can definitely relate to him. Lived in the boonies, had no car, rode the bus through senior year, drew a lot in my spare time, was fairly clueless about style and girls (never went to dances or ballgames--I had NO dates), and tried to make up for it all with the false bravado and "cool" exterior most high schoolers probably feign as a coping technique in order to survive (many never stop feigning). Instead of numchucks I had humor. Thank God for the church youth group, the center of my social universe. And I still wear a plastic Casio watch (when something works....).

I didn't see much of anyone from h.s. after graduating. I found it odd that out of a class of over 500 I was the only one I knew of going to the University of Tennesssee, but being thrown into that huge pool was what I needed...that, and the Baptist Student Union (now Baptist Campus Ministries). And, again, church.

The 20th reunion was the first one I attended; that was a fascinating experience...seeing who'd changed, who hadn't, revealing my secret crush to the "victim" (her husband was understanding) and then to everyone, a la a Conan O'Brien sketch (which killed, to my delight). And doing a couple of songs for everyone, and getting few (solicited) laughs as well. These were my equivalent to Napoleon's "sweet" dance routine that wins over the crowd (you have to see this film). Mine was 20 years later, but good enough.

This time, I have no wife or kids or hot girlfriend or even a date, or great career or property or car, or much of any of the typical things men like to display at these things as a way of saying "See? I'm NOT a loser!" Or even a CD to show for all the time I've spent doing music instead of pursuing the typical American dream. I do, however, have plenty for which to be thankful: family and friends, memories and stories of experiences I wouldn't trade for anything (and in some cases the accompanying pictures), and a body and mind that still cooperate. And hair. And most importantly, I've been blessed with the gift of grace and a hope for an even better life beyond this one.

So I guess my role will be to make the guys who do have all that stuff all the more thankful, and to remind everyone (incl. myself) that God's grace is sufficient to make complete that which seems incomplete. And if a few married folks look my way with a sigh of envy for my freedom...well, I wouldn't celebrate it but it can't be helped.

After the banquet at the Cleveland Country Club on Saturday I'll go straight to Midtown Music Hall in downtown Chattanooga to do a solo set as an opener for a young band of local rockers. Better wear a collar so as not to get cultural whiplash.

I don't expect to fit comfortably into either "club," but I'm happy to give it my best to make both my own for the time I'm there. And maybe offer something of value in both places. These days that's as much as I ask least until I record that CD.

"Cool Bear in Repose" (my title) by fellow alum Elvis Wilson. Named after you-know-who, and currently an art director whose past credits include the cover art for Bela Fleck's "Cosmic Hippo". Now that's cool.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

East Side Music Scene

This oughter be a good 'ern:

East Side Music Scene
Thursday, Oct. 18, 8 pm
12th & Porter, Nashville

Casey Kessel, Kelly Archer, Jerry Castle, Johnny Microwave and JD Simo.

As long as they don't brag about how their neighborhood is cooler than mine, we'll get along just great.

I've never actually heard "Johnny Microwave," but the name makes me very curious. Sets up a certain expectation for very short songs.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Another meaningless comparison

Switched at birth? No. But fun to put side-by-side anyway, for pure visual effect.

This is Josh Duhamel of the TV show "Las Vegas" and Johnny Knoxville of "Jackass." They're both on TV. And they look alike. So....yeah.

Which is sure to make you wonder: what else could you have been doing with the time it took you to read this?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Peace is the word..."

Peace symbol becomes sign of 'glitz and glamour'
Emblem of social change becomes accessory for kids
(from the Tennessean)

"Kids really see the peace symbol like a smiley face or hearts," Dunn said. "Kids don't make the same (political and social) connection. It is just another fashion symbol."

Yeah, it's like...remember when wearing the cross used to mean you liked Jesus? Like that.

Funny how each person quoted reads her own priorities into the issue:

The Fashionista:
"It has been around, but this year it is all about glitz and glamour." (Who makes these decrees?) "Kids really see the peace symbol like a smiley face or hearts."

The Peacenik:
"For the majority, it is a statement of how they feel about things going on in the world." (Has she taken a poll?)

Just another example of how we tend to interpret others' actions by our own motivations.

And is it just me or does every so-called "fashion expert" come across as a little too eager both to tell people what to do, and do what he or she is told? Not to mention kind of shallow and not too bright. It's no coincidence that wonder every fascist movement has its own uniform, at some point.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Little Debbie lives

I knew a guy in college named Mark Waldron who would ask if you wanted to see his girlfriend and when you said yes, he'd pull his wallet out and, with a very serious look, show you a picture of Little Debbie (of snack cake fame). When you laughed, he'd look at you with a glare and say "What're you laughing at?" It was funny.

So is this, in a cute kind of way:

I know the young woman on the right (seriously). I don't know if she posed with this hat at my suggestion or not, but I'm very happy she did. Last I heard she was looking for an upstanding, conservative cowboy type; "dress for the job you want," they say. If you're fortunate enough to fit the description, and meet the rest of her criteria (her standards are appropriately high), I'll be glad to recommend you. Otherwise, just enjoy the picture. You can even print this one out and lie to YOUR friends, but of course you'll be the only one in on the joke, so don't expect anything more than a polite and possibly puzzled look.

I Get To

I "surfed across" an interview with Deborah Norville (who grew up in my neck of the woods not far from Chattanooga, by the way) talking about her career, her faith, and her new book Thank You Power. She encouraged viewers to contact her via her website, so I did, because I felt I had to make sure she was aware of the song "I Get To." I first heard this song when Blue County performed it at Tin Pan South this year, and have not gotten over what a powerful message it has: instead of saying "I have to..." too few of us say "I get to...". The book and song go together like PB & J. (Of course I'm assuming the book avoids the errors of The Secret...I'm giving Deborah the benefit of the doubt for now).

I found a link to a site where it's available to listen:
Go to and listen to the song "I Get To" (give the music player on the upper right time to load, and click the title if a different song starts playing first).

I also found that it's available for purchase on iTunes as well. So I let her know.

(Here are the lyrics, by the way).

I got a standard reply (apparently I wasn't the only one responding to her invitation to write), with a promise to try to follow up with an individual message. Good 'nough.

THEN I read the entertainment column in the Tennessean this morning, with the headline "Norville to sign her book that teaches 'thank you power'." Hmmm. She'll be in town on Friday, as it turns out, so I launched a small but focused effort to let Blue County, their label and the song's publishers know they need to get her a copy of this song. This is the upside of a slow work season; I get to play publicist.

Meanwhile, I ADJURE YOU, COMMAND YOU, AND INSTRUCT YOU to take the 3 or 4 minutes required to listen to this song. Trust me, you need it as much as I do.

Monday, October 08, 2007

No animals were harmed in the posting of this blog

First, read this story from the Tennessean (Oct. 8):

Man pleads guilty to beating girlfriend’s pig
Staff writer
A Nashville man who beat his girlfriend’s pet pig after the woman kicked him out of the house pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty this morning.

Carl Houston was originally charged with aggravated animal cruelty and was facing a felony conviction for beating the animal, which goes by the name of “Bacon Bit," on November 2006.

In exchange for pleading guilty to the lesser charge, Houston, 39, agreed with prosecutors to serve 11 months and 29 days probation, ordered to perform 20 hours community service and attend anger management.

He is also required to stay away from his ex-girlfriend and Bacon Bit, Davidson County District Attorney General Spokeswoman, Susan Niland said.

If you're not already giggling (though I'm sure we agree that it's wrong to mistreat animals, let's assume the pig is feeling better now) you might get a laugh out of some of these:

· It's not Mr. Houston's fault; she told him to pick on someone his own "size," and he thought she said "IQ."

· Like the saying goes, "You always hurt the one you love...or her livestock."

· Maybe he was trying to patch things up by fixing her a nice pork dinner...the hard way.

· He was making a point about how cold she was being toward him, and things just got out of hand.

· To be fair, Mr. Houston was provoked. After the woman threw him out, the animal taunted him by writing in poop "And they say I'M 'some pig'."

· Mr. Houston originally used an insanity defense, claiming he'd heard the phrase "Take HOME a PACKAGE of TENNESSEE PRIDE" one too many times.

· It's always the pets that suffer the most.

· Marv Silverman of the Jewish Defense League said "We told you people to stay away from pork."

· Early reports of Mr. Houston being contacted by recruiters from the Atlanta Falcons proved to be unfounded.

· George Jones had no comment at press time.

Friday, October 05, 2007

"L & C" = "Live & Coherent"

For those of you who like to keep your options open until the last minute...this is what you were holding out for (how's that for hype?):

Tonight I'll be jumping in on a round at Dunn Bros. Coffee, in the L & C building, downtown Nashville. Hosted by Karin Paparelli and featuring guitar master Gary Talley (of BoxTops fame..."Gimme a ticket fo' an aeroplane") somewhere in the mix (hopefully way forward, at least during my songs).

Actually L & C stands for Life & Casualty, the insurance company. My grandfather sold policies for L & C way back when, and my dad did too for a you might say my family helped build that tower. So when you come, show some respect and don't leave a mess!

Here's a page with all the relevant links to get you there.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Coming up for air

These guys (and a few gals) need our prayers...even after they get out. Mining work is no picnic under the best of conditions...but when the power goes out...

Here's the story:

Hundreds of S. African miners surface

Wild…in a good way

Attention, those of you who, like me, are interested in all things South Africa…
Click the pic to go to the official loads automatically, so watch your volume.

Let’s hope this is as good as it might just possibly be.

It's a show “about a New York veterinarian who moves his second wife and their two sets of children to a South African game reserve run by his former father-in-law.” I've never made it out to the game parks in my S. Africa trips, but as one who was yanked from a comfortable "Wonder Years" life out to more of a "Green Acres" existence, I expect to relate to the kids pretty well.

Go to Wikipedia for more info (sorry, but it had more info than the CW site offered).

Thursday, September 27, 2007

GMA = Good Morning Anita!

Got a tip from a slightly-confused but helpful friend that my comic/singer/songwriter/author/etc friend Anita Renfroe got some major-league coverage yesterday morning on ABC's "Good Morning America."

(I just can't get away from this lady lately! See the previous post, below).

My friend's confusion was that, since he didn't have the sound on the TV at the time, and since his view of the national media is based on more suspicion than fact, he assumed this lady he thought he'd heard of had said something to upset a bunch of liberals somewhere, and figured that's why she was on TV. I have to be careful to filter his interpretations of certain things (pretty much anything involving human relationships), and fortunately in this case he was wrong. But with Anita, it was a definite possibility.

GMA hosts Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer introduced a clip from Anita's DVD as something they found on the web. They were heard laughing at it throughout, and gave it major kudos afterward.

[The clip including the intro was up on the GMA site for a while, but has since been removed...the world must go on.--MKH, 10-1-07].

See what the fuss was all about:
click to go to Anita's myspace, find the "Total Momsense Clip"
or view below.

Reminds me of the joke that you can judge your level of cultural sophistication by whether, when you hear the William Tell Overture, the first thing you think of is the Lone Ranger. Nowadays it's also an age test. Oy.

Back to Africa...without me, this time

Yet another group of adventurers will depart the comforts of home for the thrills of travel (with a few possible minor hardships, annoyances and inconveniences thrown in) as the next missions team from Brentwood Baptist Church heads for Cape Town, South Africa, tomorrow morning. I have a few regrets that I won't be going with them, especially since I don't even have my own solo trip lined up for later as I did last year. But I couldn't let them go without sticking a hand in here and there, in attempts to be involved in the effort in my own small way. I did an update to the team blog and made sure to remind them to blog if possible (it's in the expert hands of Amanda, its creator). I engaged a team member or two to carry a few small gifts to friends there and to bring back some apartment decor for me ("contributing to the S.A. economy" counts as ministry service!). I even got to do a little voluntary advance p.r. for my comic friend Anita Renfroe, who'll be over there in May for a conference, by sending some of her books with the hope of getting her hooked up with Living Hope.

Call it a "heart for the people," a hobby or even an obsession...hopefully somewhere along the way I'll have managed to do something that is helpful in a long-term sense. Otherwise I'm just being a pest for no redeeming purpose!

As a tribute to the team, here's a little parody I made up and have never had the chance to peform (because the airport lobby is not as conducive to impromptu concerts as you might think):

Missionary Man
(to the tune of "Ramblin' Man" by the Allman Bros.)

Lord, I'm a missionary man
Totin' my Bible and doin' the best I can
When it's time for leavin', my passport's in my hand
'Cause I'm a missionary man

Friday, September 21, 2007

They put the "fun" in "funeral"

Funerals can apparently be the source of laughs...and life lessons. See our sales dept. after the show.
Check out the little feature story under the big picture of the owners.

Here's the text in case the funeral home owners have come to their senses by now:

Ms. Benice Jenkins (Rickey Smiley) &
Mr. John Beckwith Jr.
at Sis. Cora Jackson's Funeral

Saturday, June 9, 2007 - Comedian Rickey Smiley made radio history by conducting a Mock Funeral / Comedy Sketch Show, with the assistance of Golden Gate Funeral Home at the Friendship West Baptist Church for his elderly character Bernice Jenkins's best friend who has been deceased for two years named Cora Jackson. The plight is Cora’s life insurance policy elapsed and she
was unable to be buried.

You really can find anything on craigslist

Here's an actual ad from craigslist, the website featuring free online classified ads:

Thursday, Sept. 20
Big Sale - Sat - Couch, chair, desk, TV's, Baby, Lawn mowers & more (Crieve Hall (Nashville))

I'm tempted to e-mail them and ask "How much for the baby? And does he know how to operate the lawn mowers?" Or call the dept. of family and children's services. They could probably use a laugh.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Laughing In the Dark…Auditorium

I took my mom to see Chonda Pierce on Sunday, at the Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga (just blocks from where I was born, at the then-Women’s Hospital on McCallie Street…look for the historical marker). Chonda is one of the top Christian comics in the country (which would mean "in the world" as well, given the demographics involved--not too much competition for that title in Bulgaria, for example). Her material is aimed at women, but anyone with a sense of humor can appreciate her comedy, especially anyone who grew up in the church; still, I was glad to have my mom there as an "excuse" to be in the audience made up mostly of ladies.

This performance was a live video shoot, the second of two over the weekend that will be edited into a DVD release*. The Sunday "matinee" we attended was great, and the floor was nearly full, but I sensed the Saturday night before had been a higher-energy experience. But there's much to be said for seeing a performer when she feels she can let her hair down (so to speak).

*This sentence was trickier to compose for me than it would seem. I've gotten in the habit of avoiding saying "filmed" in order to be more precise (or "anal" as some might call it); when you're using videotape you're not "filming," you're "taping" or "shooting" or "recording." But now the term "taping" is not likely to be correct because of direct-to-disk technology has eliminated the tape. And "filming" has been so widely used (or misused) its meaning is becoming more and more separate from its origin, so it's approaching being "correct" as a metaphor if not as a literal term. On top of that, it wasn't just that they were recording a live performance; the whole point of the performance was the recording of it, so the video folks made no attempt to hide the process, so it wasn't just that they were recording a concert, they were shooting a video. This meant we were not only an audience, we were actors, such as when they had us provide a few rounds of applause at the beginning so they could use the video and audio to "sweeten" the mix in editing. Sometimes you have to fake stuff to get the truth across.

So ANYway…

We had pretty good seats. The only complaint was that the boom arm of the remote camera, which was based near us, was stretched across our line of sight a good bit of the time. The operator put the camera distractingly close to the top of people's heads, too; if her audience had skewed more toward the Pentecostals, more than one beehive would have needed serious repair.

The first part of the show was pretty loose, and Chonda covered several familiar topics of her lifelong attempts to subvert and/or overcome a strict upbringing, the result of mostly-misguided attempts by her parents and church to be holy. Russ Taff made an “impromptu” appearance to sing a couple of songs, and was feeling much better since the last time I saw him…good for him. I can’t help wishing he’d emote just a tad less and stick closer to the melody…but that’s a songwriter talking. Van Morrison should enunciate, too, but you can’t have everything (“where would you put it?” HA! I kill me.)

Chonda asked what denominations were represented in the audience, and welcomed each that was called out, offering a barb or story or two to make the point (also familiar but true) that religiosity can unfortunately get in the way of the kind of unity Christ intends for His children; we don’t have to sacrifice the essentials to live as one.

In the second part, as she had warned, her subject was more serious. But as she shared her very recent and ongoing experience with clinical depression and some of its roots in her life, complicated in her case by the apparent contradictions inherent in a faith that would seem to transcend the need for anything other than divine intervention, she was funnier than ever, and equally profound. The best performances are often inspired by the worst experiences, as she proved, though I gather she would readily admit that even the most spiritual of people would have a hard time, even on a good day, reconciling the high personal price she's paid for those results we all enjoyed so much.

A couple of gems from the show: a large bald man with a white beard was on the end of the third row center, and as I predicted to my mom, he was a target for Chonda (“Well, it’s nice to see Santa Claus made it!”). I suspect there was some “engineering” that put him there for that purpose (he took it well), but no matter.

In answer to church people (and Tom Cruise, I’d say) who condemn any use of medicine to treat depression, she suggested a response: “If you don’t approve of my using medication for my condition, then why don’t you take off your glasses and drive home!” With a laugh, of course. All about the laughs.

Chonda wasn’t just talking about freedom, she was exhibiting it, especially in the dance portions of the show. Dancing, as she pointed out, is frowned upon by some in the church as sensous (“leads to beer” she quoted her mother as saying). And dancing to disco music…in a John Travolta outfit…even if the words to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” were altered slightly to fit the message (“’Cause when I’m sad, I’m so so sad”)…scandalous. Unless you know about grace. She clearly does (and her mother does, too, judging from how she jumped into the fray for the big finish)…and now so do the rest of us, a little better. [As if the dancing weren’t enough, the intermission music was straight from pop radio; I heard two or three of the tunes on the drive home that evening. Wonder how they managed that?]

My mom stayed with the show the whole time, which was a pleasant surprise given the length of the show and the fact that my mom is not the most patient consumer of live entertainment. But though the show did fail to leave either of us wanting more, we agreed it was worth sacrificing our respective Sunday afternoon naps. And we are people who value our naps, trust me. And her book is on our “would like to read” lists.

I look forward to checking the DVD to see if we made the final cut. I assume the title will have to do with dancing and freedom, since that was the theme. If you want to join the "Where's Waldo" game, my advice is not to blink. But don’t eat or drink a lot before you watch it, either…if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering Rich Mullins

Andrew Peterson, Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, Jeremy Casella, and Ben Shive will present a concert called "Remembering Rich Mullins."

Performers will share their favorite songs by Rich Mullins along with their own songs.

The concert benefits the Martha O'Bryan Center.

Thursday, September, 20
at Second Presbyterian Church
3511 Belmont Blvd., Nashville
Cost : $12.00
For more info on tickets call: 1.800.838.3006 or go online to:

Mullins is best-known for "Awesome God" (a hugely popular praise song...maybe because it's so easy to play and sing, as long as you stick to the chorus; did you know there are verses to it?) and "Sing Your Praise To The Lord" (the latter his first "hit," made popular by Amy Grant) but unless you were glued to Christian radio in the 90's and haven't listened to his albums, you haven't heard anything close to his best work. He deserved the accolades he received (critical and otherwise) more than most, and seemed the least comfortable accepting them. He offered that rare combination of substance and style where the message and the music reinforced each other more than they conflicted. Ever hear that contrived CCM attempt at an anthem "I'm Proud to Be a Christian"?...yeah, Mullins' music was pretty much the opposite of that. That's my "humble and correct opinion," anyway.

I was privileged to see him live a couple of times. The first was while I was in college at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, about the same time as his first album came out (containing the original version of his somewhat prophetic "Elijah"). I frequented a coffeehouse series called Aslan's Lair, held in a tiny basement just off campus. Rich did a concert for a packed house (not saying much, but still...) backed by writer/producer/singer Wayne Kirkpatrick ("Place In This World," "Change the World") and someone else whose name escapes me. Rich persuaded (forced) the introverted Wayne to sing the then-hot Amy Grant song "Wise Up," one of many of WK's quality contributions to CCM, pop and country music (right, Garth and Eric?).

Then I saw Rich with his band at a church in Ashland, Oregon, in '91 or '92. They had a big overflow section with a large screen just outside, easily filled due to his considerably larger following by then. I was inside, near the front, next to my friend and occasional performing partner Scott, singing along, enjoying every second. It was one of the best concert experiences I've ever had.

Even if I don't make it to this concert (I don't always end up going to events I tell other people about), I'm glad to know it's happening...glad to know his work is still echoing off walls around town, in real time and generated by real people...I have a feeling Mullins would be happy about that, if he weren't too preoccupied with whatever he's up to in heaven to pay attention.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Today the food court...

You just never know where talent and a willingness to share it will take a person. My efforts at getting the music out (and in some cases, the money in) have allowed me the privilege of sharing a step or two of the journey with several of those talented folks. Example: Edwina Hayes (on right in this picture with Carissa Broadwater*: photo by Michelle Radcliffe).

I met Edwina a few years ago, when I was scouting for someone to help me fill several 3-hour slots performing in the food court of Prime Outlets Mall in Lebanon, TN, on Saturdays during the Christmas season. I knew my fingers couldn't handle that much wear, and it's more fun with someone else; I had done a similar gig at Warehouse Row in Chattanooga with my friend Michelle Young.

I found Edwina performing a multi-artist showcase at 12th & Porter, and her stage presence and sweet nature were evident right away. Plus, she is a Brit, so her accent made everything she said sound classy (not in a stuffy way, but more like the Nanny on TV--proper yet fun-loving).

Fortunately she was not too proud to sing at a mall, and since the pay was good and we had the freedom to include originals, it turned out well for both of us.

Edwina "held court" for a while at the Sherlock Holmes Pub, and when she was playing she'd invite pretty much anyone up to do a song or two--a great way to make friends in Nashville, in case you're taking notes. This is how I got to hear and meet Livingston Taylor (brother of JT), and how he got to hear me, for what that was worth (he was kind). I was happy to tell him how much I'd enjoyed his book "Stage Performance," written from a class he teaches at Berklee in Boston, and especially to see a professor practice what he preaches.

Then Edwina was signed to Warner-Chappell U.K. as a writer. That led to an artist deal, so she returned to England to record an album, and has been touring the U.K. ever since. Even opened for Nanci Griffith and Van Morrison.

Again, I'm not saying I deserve any credit for her current success, of course...I'm just glad to have witnessed some of it up close.

AND I'm glad she's coming back for a visit next week! Here's where she'll be:

Hear Edwina Hayes

Brown's Diner
Monday, Sep 17
8:00 PM

Bluebird Cafe
Wed. Sep 19
6:00 PM
with Kacey Jones, Bob Saporiti and Jon Mark Stone

*P.S.: Is it my imagination or is Edwina’s friend Carissa Broadwater the grownup spittin’ image of my 3rd grade crush, Kathy Hyde? And don’t they both look a lot like Melissa Sue Anderson from “Little House On the Prairie”?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

FabHab: more than just a cover band (but not much)

Presenting more songs (or song parts, or references to songs, or raised eyebrows indicating passing thoughts about songs not actually being played) in one set than any other band you've ever ignored at a club while shouting a "fascinating" story to your pretentious friends about dealing with your condo owner's association while they eye the door for someone else (anyone else) to arrive...the Fabulous Has Beens will hit the stage once again next week. I consider this performance a late birthday present to me, though I have no indication anyone associated with the band knows or cares that I'm marking another year of life. It's enough that, if they did, they'd go on with the performance regardless and wish me the best, as long as I showed up and paid my five bucks to get in.

From their bio:

From humble beginnings to an even more humbling career…..The Fabulous Has Beens have realized every musician’s dream…Or rather, they’ve realized that the spoils of rock and roll notoriety…the constant debauchery and the endless supply of narcotics and female companionship, are reserved for more popular and successful artists. So setting aside any residual dignity, they celebrate their insignificance and wear proudly the badge of being one of the least relevant bands in the annals of rock and roll history.
Their swan song, “Live at the Blue Sky Court,” still holds the distinction of being the worst selling 8 track tape in the history of recorded music.
[Now] Content to manufacture a future by living off the past success of others, The Fabulous Has Beens set out to prove, night in and night out, that when they are on stage, there is only one band on stage.

See you at the Rutledge, 9:30 pm, Friday Sept. 14.

* * *

(post date Sept. 17)
As I like to say often, especially when it's true, "I was right." Here is a link to the pics of the good time that was had by all at the show:
FabHaB live at the Rutledge