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.