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

Fred for Prez in 08

OK, so he's an actor--a Hollywood insider. And a longtime politician--a Washington insider. And (gulp) a LAWYER, in real life as well as on TV. And not the picture of health. And Lord knows what else that is none of my business. And odds don't favor a conservative Southern Republican at this point, especially given Americans' reactionary voting tendencies.

BUT he's a Tennessean (rescued as a young child from being brought up in Alabama, the place of his birth), has held actual jobs at varying pay scales, a conservative, has a record of opposing waste in government, was at some point a regular attender of a church that to its credit teaches the principle that beliefs are to be acted upon (once declined a request to autograph a young lady's Bible on a visit to his parents' church, so at least he's got more respect for the Book than some Christian musicians), and well, he just seems like the kind of guy who could handle the job better than most. And being an "insider" is not such a bad thing if you want to get things done, so as long as they're the right things, this is a selling point.

So, pending further developments, and keeping in mind I'm no political enthusiast, nor do I claim to be an expert, call me a Fredhead. I've been called worse.

Wonder who'll be his costar--er, running mate?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nice work if you can get it

Had a nice time on Labor Day. Always nice to have a good excuse to sleep late, and I had two: I'd been up late finishing the last coat of paint on my kitchen cabinets (now I just have to get the excess off the places where paint doesn't belong, and wait until I can close doors without fear of removing paint when I open them again), AND a holiday.

After a longer-than-it-should-have-taken-but-what-do-you-expect-it's-WalMart ordeal exchanging a shelf unit due to a piece that was clearly put in the box damaged, I decided to check out the home version of the "Sowing Circle." This is a weekly writers-and-rockers event that usually happens at a club called Fuel in downtown Nashville. Since the club was closed for the holiday, hosts Billy Falcon ("Power Windows," Bon Jovi) and his lovely and charming daughter Rose (you can see her video "Up, Up, Up" if you rent "Inspector Gadget 2") decided to have it at their big new house in the Harpeth Valley area south of Nashville. In case you didn't know, your suspicions are correct as to where Tom T. Hall got the title for his song about the widow and the P.T.A.--after a slight adjustment.

The Sowing Circle was excellent! The "stage" area was set up on one end of the rear patio, opposite the pool, with room to dance in between. I didn't swim or dance, but it's always nice to know the opportunity is there even if you have no intention to join in. The music was provided by Billy, Rose, and various other artist/writers, backed by a full band. It included mostly originals (duh) and a few covers (Lionel Richie's "Stuck On You" works better as a blues/soul song than the smooth pop radio version would indicate). The assumption was that the neighbors wouldn't mind, and if the police showed up they'd know they were wrong.

The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was relaxed, and the only shortcoming for me (other than not performing myself) was the usual "Gee, sure would be nice to have a significant other of the female variety to share this" (those aren't the actual words I use, obviously; I never say "gee" to myself). But, much to be thankful for, nevertheless. So I choose to be thankful.

So let's hear it for the workers of the world who fought (literally and figuratively) for better working conditions for all of us. Never mind for now the abuses and excesses that unions have also brought here and there...I like to think these are outweighed by the improvements in the quality of life we enjoy. Remember that next time you complain about how short your coffee break is. I'll be taking a nap.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Clutching the coattails—er, shoestraps—of stardom

One neat thing ("nice" or "cool" would be too strong..."neat" seems right) about living in Nashville is that celebrity is always just around the corner. I don’t mean “celebrities are just around the corner” in “I ran into Donna Summer at the end of the cookie aisle at Kroger"...or “hey, turn left on Belcourt, I think that’s Leann Rimes”…which, come to think of it, would represent an equally valid interpretation of my statement. I mean there are so many things going on that the odds are pretty good that you could get at least a toe into the outer edge of that small “holy ground” illuminated by the spotlight of national—nay, international—exposure. As long as this meets your criteria for “celebrity,” you can find plenty of opportunities with very little effort, and often not even an admission charge.

Case in point: I ended up looking at the myspace site of country artist Lauren Lucas (through some series of connections I can’t remember, but she & I have mutual friends so it wasn’t even a six-degree separation; more like one or two). She had a major label deal and is now an indie (common story; label people often treat artists like fish: “catch and release”). I’d heard of her but not heard her. I found out she was shooting a video at a local club on Friday afternoon, and needed extras. I put it on my calendar as a tentative, and when the time came on Friday I decided not to go. Then, I decided, what the heck, I’ll go; I could use some music networking, or at least some time outside the apartment (the site of my ongoing cabinet painting project—more on that later), interacting with real people. I knew I’d see my friend and fellow music fan John there; his dedication to the singer/songwriters in this town (especially the attractive female ones) is admirable.

So as a result of that decision, my visage is a semi-prominent feature of some footage of the video for her song “If I Was Your Girl.” Guess not as many people were available as she and her crew had counted on (read those myspace blogs, people!) and when I arrived there were just a few of us standing around watching her and her band lip-synch (and drum-synch, and steel-guitar-synch, etc.) the song while the cameraman captured the scene. He shot several playbacks (that’s a production term, y’all) while being pulled back and forth in front of the 12th & Porter stage on a cart by a petite but apparently sturdy young woman (yes, that’s a compliment).

Then it was our turn. They asked us to bunch up in front of the stage, and shot footage over our shoulders, then shot the whole thing from our left side, then down over her shoulder. This picture, taken by Cari Parker, photog-turned-extra, was pretty much my view during the takes, only there was less smiling and more intense earnestness. Tough work. I got the feeling Lauren was a tad self-conscious about the whole thing (as pretending to sing a song in a club in the afternoon to a handful of people you’re pretending are part of a crowd tends to be), especially with all the close-up eye contact that was going on. She was doing the sweep-the-crowd technique. I hadn’t met her before but cracked a few jokes between takes to ease the tension, as we were all doing, telling her she had my permission to sing directly to me, etc. “Acting!” I started to offer the suggestion that she sing a whole line before moving her eyes to look at the next person for better dramatic effect, but I thought it would be better if I stuck to my role as “fan swaying and nodding slightly to the music.”

I introduced myself to Lauren during a break, and she couldn’t have been nicer. Even gave me a hug when they cut us loose. (I know what you’re thinking, but she’s taken—by a musician who’s originally from South Africa, as I discovered, coincidentally enough. God bless ‘em both-—He clearly has already).

If my face makes the final cut, and the video makes it to the public in any form whatsoever (no guarantees of either), I’ll naturally deny credit for its success, and won’t be hurt if she doesn’t mention me personally at the CMT video awards; just knowing I helped…will be enough.

All right, Mr. De Mille. I'm ready for my close-up!