Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Celtic Cup Christmas

I'll be bringing a team of talented friends dedicated to sharing the holiday spirit through music and merrymaking. Some of us might even wear hats.

Come on out before the parade, after the parade and (we won't tell anyone) even during the parade, to warm up with some good tunes and great food and drink.

Friday, December 3, 2010
6pm - ???

The Mark Kelly Hall Christmas Ensemble
Featuring Charlsey Etheridge, Jack Pearson, Kathy Von and more
The Celtic Cup Coffee House
106 North Anderson Street, Tullahoma, TN, 37388
Phone: 931-563-7733
Free admission

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Round" out your Thanksgiving weekend

This'll be a fun writers night, with the smooth-voiced Terry Thompson and the sweet yet fiery Georgia native Tori Bigelow.

Surely you'll be thoroughly sick of Thanksgiving leftovers by Sunday night, and this is the best way to keep the weekend going as long as possible!

Sunday, November 28
7 pm - 8pm (come early, stay late!)
In the round with Terry Thompson and Tori Bigelow.

The Listening Room
In Cummins Station
209 10th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-4124
(615) 259-3600
Free admission, free parking on and across the street. Bring an appetite!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ain't No Grave gonna make you keep still during this song

I'm no Pentecostal--I'm not particularly demonstrative even for a Southern Baptist--but this rendering makes me want to get loud in a dusty wood-floored church, surrounded by women with beehive hairdos (not a B-52's reference, kids).

I first heard this song from Russ Taff, on the Under Their Influence album. I prefer that version, featuring the great James Hollihan's instrumentals and the equally great Ashley Cleveland's bgv's. I do a poor imitation of it from time to time when I'm feeling especially free. I even added my own verse...about dancing, yet!

Here's Russ Taff singing live to the track. Make room. You will move.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A vote for Bill is a vote for Dana

Forget about platforms...forget about the issues...forget about politics altogether. When we go to the polls to vote for our next governor, we Tennesseeans have a chance to make a difference like never before...in Dana Carvey's career.

Just think: if Bill Haslam gets elected, there's a chance he'll go on to be President of the United States. Not only would that mean Sarah Palin would NOT be president for that term or two (a good thing in itself, if you believe like I do that she shouldn't be in the Oval Office without a guest pass), it would also give Carvey the opportunity to do what he does best: pretend to be someone else for money and laughs. Come to think of it, being president offers the same opportunity, based on past officeholders. And some didn't even have to do the pretending to be someone else part.

Mike Myers (Wayne to Carvey's Garth) may be ready to come back into the spotlight as well. Anyone up for "Austin Powers Goes to Nashville"? And if SNL doesn't want him back, at least Carvey would be a shoo-in for the job of presidential body double. Hey, if Stephen Colbert, a fake conservative, can address the real Congress (which turned out neither funny nor profound, apparently; just odd), then why not this?

But really, Haslam doesn't need to be elected president or even governor to bring this dream to life. He just needs to get caught in one of those YouTube phenomena that elevate common people to the heights of celebrity and bring the stars down to our own level. So let's keep those cameras rolling.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

At the Listening Room, Sept. 26

This is a great way to keep the weekend going as long as possible!

I'll be playing in the round with some very talented people at the Listening Room on Sunday. Sept. 26 (as you know if you read the title of this post). We're kicking off this writers night hosted by Lorna Flowers at 6 pm. Come early and get a good seat (there's lots of 'em, but don't take chances), order a good meal and enjoy.

My "co-rounders" will be Tori Bigelow, Melissa Fuller and J.P. Williams. All very talented, of course.

The Listening Room
In Cummins Station
209 10th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-4124
(615) 259-3600
Free admission. Free parking, too; either in the spaces along the street in front of Cummins Station, or across the street in the designated lot.

Carl Reiner unmasked

I never noticed the resemblance before, until I saw comedy great Carl Reiner on TV...and he reminded me of a certain riveting scene from the Star Wars film series. Pictures don't lie. Clearly this is one of Hollywood's best kept secrets. Until now. Move over, TMZ.

It's tough to get people to take you seriously once you've established an image as a comic. Quite an accomplishment here. Way to go, Carl.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pat Terry at the Celtic Cup, Oct. 15

Not too early to plan for this one! I'm honored once again to share a bill with Pat Terry.

Pat's songs and presentation are sometimes quirky, sometimes poignant, but always compelling. He is one of my musical heroes from way back, and I am far from alone in that.

He is well known to many from his days in the Pat Terry Group, who were part of the first wave of contemporary Christian music, a.k.a. "Jesus Music," in the 70's. Some know him for his hard-hitting, hard-rocking solo work from the 80's. Still others know his work from the liner notes of some very successful artists, as he eventually made a name for himself in the Nashville country market as a songwriter. His credits include hit songs performed by Sammy Kershaw, Tanya Tucker, Alan Jackson, B.J. Thomas, John Anderson and more.

Pat's latest work is as good as anything he's ever done, which is saying a LOT.

And, by the way, he's as nice a guy as you could wish to meet. Hence the part about me sharing the bill with him!

The Celtic Cup Coffee House
106 North Anderson Street
Tullahoma, TN, 37388
Phone: 931-563-7733

Friday, October 15, 2010
6 pm - closing (9ish)
Free admission, but bring an appetite and money for tips and CD's (namely Pat's)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Amber Hayes CD release

My pal Bill Dee is helping propel this new talent to stardom, one song at a time. Hear the future of country music, blah, blah, blah, at this FREE show! Always fun to see the beginning of what may be the subject of a "Behind the Music" special (CMT style) many years down the road. Catch it before the smiles and good times turn to broken promises and debilitating addictions, just before the rehab and comeback!

Kidding. Except for the "free" part.

Amber Hayes CD release party
Thursday, September 2, 6-7 pm
Station Inn
402 12th Avenue, South
Nashville, TN 37203

Listen online: www.wsmonline.com

Monday, August 09, 2010

Lounge music...the good kind

Some talented friends are playing in the Lounge at 12th & Porter this week. All of them have shared the stage with me, and will again, sooner or later...so you know they must be good. Or generous and tolerant. Either way, worth a visit.

To prove that "two outta three ain't bad," here are Charlsey and Dave in action:

And here's a glimpse of Kathy Von:

See you at
12th & Porter
114 12th Avenue North
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 320-3754

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Well, what would YOU say?

I'd say, "Don't worry, horrible spelling and grammar skills won't keep you out of heaven, no matter how much they irritate some of us here on earth."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Lifesaver Tribute: a flood relief benefit

The bad news: this has nothing to do with candy with a hole in it.

The GOOD news:

Some classic names representing contemporary Christian music from the 70’s all the way up to today are coming together in concert to support one of their own. “The Lifesaver Tribute” is a concert to benefit the husband and wife musical duo known as Farrell & Farrell, who lost their home in the Nashville flood. The concert gets its name from one of Farrell & Farrell’s hit songs.

The concert will feature Amy Grant, Susan Ashton and a special reunion performance by the Pat Terry Group. Also performing are Kirk & Deby Dearmon, Brynn and Gersh (the husband & wife team made up of former members of RachelRachel and WhiteHeart), and more.

The concert will happen Wednesday, July 28th at 7pm, at the Village Chapel, 2021 21st Ave. South in Nashville. Tickets are $50 in advance or $55 at the door. Seating is limited so get yours now online at www.iTickets.com or www.patterryonline.com, or by calling 800-965-9324.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Don't mess with Texas

So, NOW do you know what they mean?

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Vaughn Montoya (not that she really had a choice)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Alexander Kelly: Frontier Lawmaker, Indian Fighter

This is the text of a story published in the UT Alumnus, a newsletter for graduates of the University of Tennessee, in 1975 (enhanced here by the results of my "exhaustive" research, a.k.a. Googling). Any additions, corrections, or questions are very welcome.

It tells part of the story of my great-great-great-great grandfather, from whose family I get my middle name and possibly my melancholy nature, my readiness to contend for territory (usually intellectual rather than geographical) and my gift of gab (I realize whether that's actually a gift depends on your point of view...but this is mine).

I always feel the need to mention my mixed feelings about the nature of some of his exploits, being directed against a people whose cause I have more sympathy with than he did, to say the least. Even some of the language and tone is relatively recent article would not be considered appropriate today, especially as a university publication. But he was a man of his time, and clearly a brave and adventurous one at that, dedicated to protecting his own, so I focus on the positive aspects of his character rather than the unfortunate targets of his pursuits. You can really only repudiate so much of what your predecessors did, while speaking their language, living on the land they claimed, and otherwise enjoying the benefits of those actions you might criticize.

To continue that thought: we've probably all fantasized about meeting our ancestors. But do we realize what that might really be like? Think of the most racist, ignorant and/or superstitious thing you've ever heard a parent, grandparent or other old relative say. Then imagine that a few generations back, that person would likely be considered a raging liberal, a broad-minded, forward-thinking genius. Sobering, isn't it?

Anyway, back to Granddaddy Kelly:

(From the UT Alumnus, 1975, p. 27)

Like John Sevier, Alexander Kelly was a man of action—a leader in the defense of the settlers against Indian attack and a leader in the territorial and state governments.

Like Sevier, too, Kelly was a charter trustee of Blount College, and thereby a champion of education in the infant State of Tennessee.

Sometimes a "conflict of interest" arose, and Alexander Kelly had to choose between sitting in the legislative chamber and riding against marauding Indians. In those rare instances, military duty took precedence.

For example, while the territorial legislature (of which Kelly was a member) was meeting at Knoxville on Aug. 28, 1794, “on motion of Mr. Kelly, seconded by Mr. Hardin, ordered that Mr. Kelly and Mr. Beard have leave of absence, to go on a scout against the Indians."

A threatened incursion of hostile Cherokees made it necessary for the two militia officers to put aside their legislative duties for days of hard riding through neighboring hills and valleys.

A week later "Mr. Kelly returned and took his seat" in the legislative hall—just in time to vote on the resolution to create Blount College.

Alexander Kelly was one of several Blount College trustees who claimed Ireland as their birthplace. Kelly was born about 1750 in County Armagh and was brought to America as an infant.

Settled First in Virginia

The family settled in Virginia, and during the Revolutionary War the home was in Greenbriar in that state. On July 9, 1776—five days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence—Kelly enlisted as a private in the Ninth Virginia Regiment. On October 4, 1777, Kelly was taken prisoner by the British at Germantown; and it was 1785—after he had moved to Tennessee country—that he received the balance of his military pay, an amount of 23 pounds, four shillings.

Apparently Private Kelly was not a prisoner for very long. He was married and a son, John Kelly, was born in Greenbriar County, Virginia, on June 12, 1779. At some time between 1779 and 1783, he took his family southward into Tennessee country. Old records reveal that Alexander Kelly was appointed an assessor in Greene County, North Carolina (Tennessee) in April 1783; and two years later he was named a major of Greene County militia in the short-lived State of Franklin.

By 1792, Kelly had moved his family to Knox County, where he became a farmer and miller. He was appointed a colonel of Knox County militia, and in 1793 he took part in the expedition against the Indians who had attacked outlying stations and threatened the territorial capital of Knoxville.

Pursued Indians into Georgia

Under John Sevier, the militia pursued the Indians into Georgia and defeated them at the forks of the Coosa and Hightower rivers, near the present site of Rome, Georgia.

In that battle, Colonel Kelly led a maneuver that settled the issue in the militia's favor. Finding the river ford obstructed by Indians entrenched on the opposite shore, Sevier sent Kelly's party downstream to make a crossing. Kelly and some of his men swam the river, thus getting the attention of the Indians who "left their entrenchments and ran down the river to oppose their passage." The main force of militia quickly forded the river and routed the Indians.

When the territorial legislators were elected in 1793, Alexander Kelly was chosen a representative from Knox County.

In 1795 Knox County was divided and Blount County was formed. Kelly was one of seven commissioners named to find a site for the county seat and to erect county buildings. The site of Maryville was chosen, and the town was named in honor of Governor William Blount's wife, Mary Grainger Blount.

Kelly moved his residence to Blount County about that time, settling in the vicinity of present-day Louisville and building a mill on Lackey's Creek.

Appointed commandant of the county militia, Kelly lost no time in fulfilling his responsibility to protect the settlers of Blount County.

Early in 1795 Indians came out of their mountain towns and raided isolated homes in the new county. Kelly raised about fifty men and marched across Chilhowee Mountain to Tallassee Old Town. Upon reaching the river and seeing smoke rising from the opposite shore, Kelly sent a detachment across the stream to attack from the rear—a maneuver employed so effectively at Hightower. The surprised Indians were routed from the river bluffs, with eight being killed. Kelly's company suffered no injuries.

This swift action brought peace to the new county. Kelly was elected to the first Senate of Tennessee, serving Blount County in 1796-97.

Always a pioneer, Kelly was one of the early settlers of Marion County, Tennessee, claiming some 3,000 acres of land there in 1824. Not long after settling in the new county, he was drowned in the Sequatchie River.

NOTE: "Greenbriar" could be a reference to Greenbrier County, West Virginia; it was part of Virginia until the Civil War.--MKH

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Grammar Still Matters...just not as much

This graphic going around Facebook can be tagged with friends' names to show up on their pages. An online equivalent to a quick hug, I suppose. I guess love means never having to check your spelling (or is that "you're spelling"? I'm confused now). Sweet, though.

(Yes, ladies, he's STILL single!).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Grammar Matters

Sometimes the omission of one word...a one-letter word, in this case...can make a noticeable difference. It can change a sentence or phrase to mean the exact opposite of what was intended, or at least spin it in another direction.

Ran across this ad in a casual scan of of the Musicians section of craigslist:


OLD'S COOL BAND is appearing tonight (Saturday June 19th) at Cedar Creek Marina on Saundersville Rd. in Mt. Juliet,Tn.
Come out and PARTY! We will rock you! T-Shirts are on sale at the Marina

The ad contained these images, displayed just like this:

Never mind the fact that the two-letter abbreviation of a state should be all caps, and have a space after the comma...or that the "start" of the show seems to run for three and a half hours...or that there's no period at the end of the ad. Small stuff. This IS craigslist, after all.

And never mind how the logo competes with the smaller version of itself on the gray graphic; maybe they were hoping people would re-post on Facebook and wanted to provide a choice of graphics. We'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

But do you notice the crucial difference between the text part of the ad and the graphic? Check the slogan on each (and try to ignore the missing apostrophe in "haven't"). Are they trying to say "our set will include a handful of original or obscure songs along with the familiar ones, as a special bonus you may really enjoy" (as the text ad implies)...or are they trying to say "don't worry, you won't have to sit through many unfamiliar songs at all, because we have a tight limit on those so as not to put off our audience" (as the graphic implies).


On the plus side, I think the play on the phrase "old school" is really good. The logo uses some well-worn images, but that probably conveys the nature of their music (they ARE "old school," after all).

Oh, well, party on, y'all. Hope you feel you wasted less time reading this than I suspect I wasted posting. But I do feel a little better. And if you think it was worthwhile, see this post for more idle, unsolicited (and correct) criticism along the same vein. And you may consider seeing a therapist, as well.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Have "gelato fun" at the Celtic Cup, June 26

Looking forward to playing the Celtic Cup again. This is a really nice place; great place to relax with a friend or a book with a cup or bowl of something delicious. Got a new song I wrote to accompany the cappucino machine (if you can't beat 'em...). Sure, it's hot for coffee...but they serve a whole range of items to help you chill, including that cool, smooth Italian favorite--no, not The Situation--gelato. (On the other hand, if those mokes from New Jersey can do the CMT Awards, you never know where they'll show up).

Saturday, June 26, 2010
6 pm - closing (9ish)
The Celtic Cup Coffee House

Find it on Facebook
106 North Anderson Street
Tullahoma, TN, 37388
Phone: 931-563-7733
Free admission

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Music by which to eat lunch

In an effort to promote culinary commerce, music-centered community and grammatical correctness, singer/songwriter Mark Kelly Hall will provide “music by which to eat lunch” at the Mudpie Restaurant & Coffeehouse on Saturday, June 5. The acoustic show begins at 11:30 am and continues until around 1:30. Admission is free.

Hall is a native of the Chattanooga area and now lives in Nashville. He addresses topics such as love, faith and the 70's, with an approach that is often humorous but always serious. His songs reflect the spiritual heritage of the Bible-belt South, combined with a lifelong fascination with American pop culture, and seasoned by his experiences in places far away from his native Tennessee. He performs an eclectic blend of acoustic folk/pop originals and favorites, flavored with congeniality, personal insight, and a touch of country blues.

Mudpie Restaurant
12 Frazier Ave
Chattanooga, TN 37405
Phone: 423-267-9043

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Facts v. Truth


I would've captured a screenshot that didn't feature the depressing "game over" but of course that would've required interrupting progress in the game. Which reminds me, did'ja ever notice that in movies and TV shows, players were usually shown ending a game with a big win, loud bells and cheering from the sidelines? Which showed that the creators of the movies and TV shows were either clueless about how these games normally end (in a loss of the final virtual life, or ship, or ostrich, or whatever, and a more subdued celebration of the score), or they didn't think enough viewers knew it and would be confused.

It's an odd feature of storytelling that sometimes the facts have to be manipulated in order to present the truth more effectively. Songwriters do it all the time. Not to mention producers of "reality TV." Guess it depends on the situation as to when "storytelling" becomes "lying," even in an entertainment context (director Oliver Stone, self-proclaimed "former Satanist" Mike Warnke, Milli Vanilli...any other examples come to mind?). I suspect there are some scientists using this principle to justify their public statements regarding global climate change. Which is why it's harder and harder to accept anything I hear from either side of the argument. Although those who claim graphs to be irrefutable proof and use terms like climate change deniers" (thereby subtly casting their opposition in the same category as Holocaust deniers) definitely reduce their credibility in my eyes.

At least with Pac-Man, there's no doubt who the enemy is. No wonder it's been such a popular game; we may not know when it will end, but at least we know how.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Simple Choice

I watched the film You’ve Got Mail last night on TV. Shutup.

Anyway, I have to admit I enjoyed it this time around about as much as the first couple of times I saw it. Shutup.

There is one scene—scene transition, actually (I took a film class in college)--that impressed me the first time around and stuck with me.

It’s where the little bookstore has closed, and Kathleen Kelly’s dream, the only life she’s known, has died with it, and all is dark and dreary and sad in the winter night. Fade to black. Then fade into blue sky, trees blossoming along the sidewalk. The hope of new life (and love?) returning. Springtime in New York.

I think I would’ve caught the significance even without the film class. It’s pretty obvious, actually. Textbook. Downright corny, even. (This ain’t Ingmar Bergman, folks).

But then, a lot of good things in life are obvious, textbook and corny. For example, I have fond memories of family holiday gatherings where my grandmother cooked a big turkey meal and stayed so busy fussing that she seldom sat down to the table where we were all crammed in (and loving it), catching glimpses of the Lions playing on TV, and chatting up a storm…followed by the men mostly relaxing, the women mostly cleaning up and the kids amusing themselves as they do. And on our departure, my mother saying “Y’all come to see us,” and the liturgical response of “Y’all come see US,” knowing they probably wouldn’t come see each other until next holiday at grandmother’s, and would probably be OK with it.

Obvious. Textbook. Corny, even. But I wouldn’t trade it for “cool” at all (although I admit the Christmas dinner I had on a Hawaii hotel terrace watching the waves with new friends was pretty nice, too. But that’s beside my point).

In so many films, by contrast to this Hanks/Ryan gem, so much of the budget is dedicated to special effects and so little on character and story (I’m talking to you, Transformers and the latter Star Wars films), that they feel more like roller coasters than movies. And leave me cold. If I want thrill rides, I’ll take my great-niece to Lake Winnepesaukah again and try to forget how even welded steel can break and metal bolts can fail and turn a good time into the next YouTube horror show. (But it was fun, Katelyn, really. Although next time I may take a kid who’s too short for certain rides).

“Cool” (whatever that may mean to you at the moment) is hard to maintain (and expensive to produce, usually). It’s exhausting to keep up with it. Which is why I don’t really regret missing out on “Lost” (I didn’t think it was a good idea to watch a plane crash every week before I went to Africa in 2004, and I never caught up). What is “alternative” today is on the shelves at Wal-Mart tomorrow, at rollback prices. And if you have to make a lot of effort to attain cool, you’ve already failed. Part of maturity is learning to own your tastes and preferences, and not feel pressured to conform to the trends. I believe those who are brave enough to “embrace the corny” in their own lives and in others’ are happier (in contrast with those Goth people—so much makeup!). And eventually the deeper things in a person’s life may surface of their own accord, expressed in a natural eloquence and simplicity and originality. As a songwriter I can say from experience that “simple but meaningful” is an achievement. This is not to be confused, by the way, with “simplistic”—that would refer to an incomplete expression of an idea, where “simple” implies wholeness with brevity.

I’m not saying every choice should be for the obvious (see the previous post); we just shouldn’t be afraid to make it if it’s right.

Unfortunately, TV people are bound by the obligation to show commercials and look for places where they can go to breaks without violating the flow of the material. Given that most directors stay up long nights (and keep many other people up with them) considering and reconsidering how they’ve arranged every second of their work, if you ask them, they’d probably say finding good places for commercials in their films is a little like finding the right time during a eulogy to pass gas. In the case of You’ve Got Mail, inevitably the commercial comes right at the aforementioned fade to black (TV people are masters of the obvious choice—been there, done that), and by the time the ads are over, the uplifting effect of the coming of Spring is fairly diluted, if not destroyed. But thanks to Netflix, this is an easily avoided problem. So look for it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Or am I thinking of Sleepless In Seattle? When Harry Met Sally? Oh, well, you get the point. Shutup.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to write better songs sooner

This list may sound a little harsh or negative, and I certainly don’t claim to have “arrived” as a songwriter myself (commercially or otherwise), but I have learned a few things over the years through both experience and observation, and I believe this may save some folks a step or two in writing better songs sooner. Take it as you will.


Don’t start out with any version of the phrase “I woke up this morning.”

Don’t include any of these phrases:
“walking down the street”
“walking down the road”
“trav’ling down this road”
“down on my knees, I’m begging you please”

Don’t rhyme “heart” with “start” or “part.”

Don’t say “inside my heart” when you mean “in my heart” and need an extra syllable.

Better, don’t use the word “heart” at all if you can help it (I think you can).

Don’t refer to the “feelings inside”—where the heck else would they be?

Better, avoid using the word "feelings" at all.

Don’t write about rain, especially as a metaphor for emotions, blessings, etc. Don’t even THINK of comparing rain to tears.

Don’t refer to dreams or flying, or even flying in your dreams.

Don’t rhyme “fire” with “desire.” Best to stay away from both words altogether.

Pick just about any line from the song “Amazed” by Lonestar…and don’t use it.

Don’t use words that neither you nor anyone you know whose first language is English would use in real life, just to make a rhyme and/or fill a space (unless you can do it with a wink). Desperation shows.

Don’t put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble just to make it scan. That’s cheating (I’m talking to you, John Rich & Gretchen Wilson…”keepin’ it counTREE” indeed!).

Never mind that even the best of writers will ignore some or all these guidelines at some point. Some (even many) people have even had success doing it; but you’re not them. Yet. But if you make an effort to write fresh lyrics about real stuff, preferably from your own life, you’ll be one step closer. And at least your song will irritate the rest of us that much less. So until you can laugh with recognition at this article, then it’s for you. Please abide by it. You'll thank me later.

NOTE: This list does not apply to rap. No one expects rap lyrics to be good—at least not in the same way. Or anything close to it.

And praise lyrics are another level of discussion as well. Not because they're above criticism--just the opposite, I think--but because there are so many praise songs that show so little effort at maintaining any kind of lyrical standard, it's hard to know where to start. Besides, the people who write praise songs are often under the impression that their work is directly "inspired" (despite strong evidence to the contrary), so any analysis comes across as a spiritual attack or at best makes one sound like a cynical old coot. Assembling a random collection of religious and quasi-romantic phrases and setting them to music is not strictly "songwriting" in my view, but God uses the foolish to confound the wise, so who knows. God bless us all.

P.S.: On a positive note: there are many popular songs we could use as a standard to measure the quality of our lyrics. One that is way up there in my book is "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses" written by Gene Nelson & Paul Nelson and recorded by Kathy Mattea. This is possibly THE perfect country song; one of 'em, anyway. It's simple, it's emotionally provocative, and it illustrates the theme (of the man's "countdown" to his ultimate goal of retiring to be with his wife) in a subtle way that is not just clever--it's brilliant. Eighteen...dozen...ten...four. Brilliant.

I'd be interested to hear what songs anyone else would put in either category of cliched or sublime.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Waterworks...and the opposite

Here's the reason I was off from work unexpectedly today...and will be tomorrow...and will continue to be for who knows how long.

The office is most likely OK; it's well above the waterline; just half a block down 3rd Ave. from the Davidson County Court House and public square (between the extended paths of the two bridges in the middle of this picture, on the right side of the river).

Our usual parking lot (on the other side of the river, also between the bridges, between the round white storage tanks and the stadium in this picture) is underwater. It doesn't drain well at the best of times, so this is no surprise to me.

For my part, I can't help thinking I could get a lot done if I could find a place to park and get in. Assuming the power's on. However, there's a lot going on and we're not quite essential enough to be allowed in. (I'm choosing not to take that personally). So we're on forced vacation; no complaints here, given the impact this flood is having on so many.

The big project coming up this week was to print the annual budget to be presented to the Mayor. Don't know if that will be postponed...but I have a feeling the numbers would need to be adjusted significantly if it is to reflect the new economic reality the flooding has brought to the city and county. Or they could leave it like it is...making it more like MY budgets...over-optimistic and not necessarily based on reality!

Spent some time and energy helping a couple of friends clear some wet stuff from their garage. Glad to be able to offer a little help to someone...yet it's a drop in the bucket (so to speak) compared to how much more there is to be done.

Just ran across this video of a fish caught by the same friends' neighbors yesterday...shoulda brought our nets!

People have made the statement "Well, we'll be able to tell our grandkids how we experienced this." Can't say that thrills me; even if that's true (it assumes there won't be events that eclipse it...we'll leave that discouraging thought for later) I'd trade that privilege for a retelling of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" if it meant this had never happened. The kids would probably not be listening anyway without a fullblown multimedia presentation wired directly into their brains. Sheesh!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Filling the Celtic Cup with music, May 7

Forget the Sunday morning burnt toast and lame greeting cards; this is how your mom REALLY wants to celebrate Mother's Day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

One Day In Ellijay, April 17

Looking forward to playing this event in Ellijay, Georgia, presented by The Orchard Church to benefit Casa de Misericordia (House of Mercy) Orphanage in Coahuila, Mexico. My friend and occasional stage partner Charlsey Etheridge invited me to be a part of the festivities. She's on the bill as well as guitarist Dave Mohr. [As I mentioned in a previous post, the three of us are also playing the evening before at the Mudpie in Chattanooga see the two in action here)]. There'll be all manner of food, fun and frivolity for a good cause.

12:00 The Orchard Band
12:30 412 Orchard Youth Band
1:00 Matt & Joe with CC Morgan
2:30 The Voice
3:00 Seth Shelton
3:30 Mark Kelly Hall
4:30 Erin Burr
5:30 Dave Mohr
6:30 Charlsey Etheridge
7:30 Calhoun Christian Band

For details click here: www.onedayinellijay.com

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Math Problem...or Pronoun Trouble?

Ran across this ad on craigslist:

looking for a person to book shows worth while for this band by using this link http://www.southfest.com/tennessee.shtml

we are www.myspace.com/rustysharpthings

paid per gig booked. you get 90% of what we get paid. no joke. we get nothing you get nothing. we get a grand you get $100.


Let's see...I get 90%...so if the band gets paid $1000...that means I get...$100. Hmm. That doesn't sound right. Dang, this music bidness is more complicated than I thought!

Oh, well, they sound great and have cool art; guess a person can't be expected to do everything well. I just hope whoever wrote this isn't the one counting the money after the shows.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

April showers...make good Mudpies

Charlsey Etheridge & I will be bringin' it back to the Mudpie in Chattanooga, Friday evening, April 16. She continues to impress me with her vocal talents, her cool songs (whether she's doing an original or a classic), and the fact that she doesn't even have to look at the lyrics! (Hey, I claim to be a song WRITER, not a song MEMORIZER; never have let go of that visual connection, I suppose. Occupational hazard, maybe. Or maybe I'm just a control freak.).

Plus, she has a faithful following, some of whom aren't even related to her. Some new fans from the Feb. show are shown here. Talk about a beautiful audience! This is the kind of motivation I need to keep my eyes off the cheat sheets!

We might even have a guest guitarist named Dave Mohr backing us up (i.e., making me sound good and her better); that is, if we can coax him over Monteagle. He's done well to get as far south as Nashville, seeing that he's fresh from Chicago. Check out him and Charlsey from a recent performance:

See details and more dates at www.markkellyhall.com.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Fallen Angel, the premiere

Really looking forward to seeing this film. I've known about it for awhile, but just found out it's premiering at a theater about 3 blocks from my apartment, April 20. Got my tickets right away!

I was a fan of contemporary Christian music as soon as I heard it. It was in the 70's, and unless you count the music I heard at church that was made mostly by adults and aimed mostly at teens, the first CCM music I remember hearing was by Andrew Culverwell (or just "Andrew"). My mom brought his album (on cassette) home from a convention of GA's (Girls in Action, a Southern Baptist missions education program/club that I'm pretty sure has changed its name for obvious reasons). Songs with a beat, with guitars, and clever lyrics that had a serious biblical message but peppered with a sense of humor ("There'll be bread in the city tomorrow, in the city tomorrow there'll be bread. If you say you don't believe and...[something]...you can't conceive, in the city, tomorrow you'll be dead"). Can't remember it all, but I liked it.

After discovering more CCM artists such as Sweet Comfort Band, Degarmo & Key, Amy (of course) Grant, the Imperials (having evolved from Southern Gospel to what came to include an Earth Wind & Fire imitation) and even a Swedish (?) hard rock group called Jerusalem, I worked backward in music "history" to find Larry Norman. He's considered by most to be the father or grandfather of popular Christian rock. Very strange (and therefore cool) stuff; very creative, and most of it not churchy at all. However, the church crowd would hear his post-rapture lament "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," when it became a youth choir favorite and was heard (if I'm not mistaken) in the film "A Thief in the Night," a forerunner (so to speak) of the much-later "Left Behind" series.

Turns out, the more I've read by him and about him over the years, Larry had some serious issues, and was not the most mentally stable individual you could meet (possibly due in part to an in-flight head injury, but he was already pretty weird). For awhile he accused Bill Gaither (though not by name) of stealing his material. Come to think of it, not the most unlikely thing he said...but the fact that he even talked about it, much less posted it, was unusual in the music biz, especially the Christian music biz.

My interest in the music offered by the CCM industry (which is what it became) has waned over the years, to the point where I seldom listen to CCM radio. I feel like I know what they're going to say already, and it's mostly aimed at teens anyway, and I'm one of those people who are less than impressed with the lyrical depth of it all, and maybe I'm too close to it in some ways to get excited about...so for the most part it doesn't speak to me much. My own music has followed the same trend away from overt religiosity. I'm more impacted by the truths that hit me when I'm not looking, and from unlikely places. And I think it's more of a challenge to write that kind of song, as well, while at the same time I can do that kind of song anywhere without feeling like I'm pushing something on someone who, rather than responding, is more likely to be turned away by the effort. Parables rather than sermons are my favorite model for songwriting. Everyone knows the stories are more interesting and more memorable.

Anyhoo, I look forward to a fascinating and possibly disturbing time seeing this film--like a NASCAR crash--especially given the things it promises in its trailer to cover. However, I think it's a healthy thing that the truth is known about Christians as famous as Norman was (to his fans), and as much as he influenced the whole genre of CCM (intentionally or not). The church tends to put famous Christians in an impossible position: we revere them as saints and apostles, yet hold them to standards we ourselves don't really believe possible (or necessary, for that matter, thanks to grace) for anyone to maintain. The result is that any hint of the failure that is inevitable in a human life is bound to be a stumbling block. We set a trap, and condemn our catch. Silly, when all along, we've been told there's only one perfect Man, and He's our only legitimate example for life.

Larry Norman was many things. Musical genius. Prophet. Great entertainer. Sinner. But fallen angel? Nope (that would technically make him a demon, beyond redemption). Just another fallen man. Those are everywhere (such as behind my keyboard right now). But not all permanently down, thank God. Thank God, for sure!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Music to warm the soul

Here's one worth dropping five whole dollars for: seeing Heather Morgan and band at Douglas Corner, a cool venue at 2106 8th Avenue South, Thursday, Feb. 18 at 8:30 pm NST (Nashville Standard Time).

Heather's talent only becomes more evident as time progresses. The folks in charge of the Country Throwdown Tour apparently agree with what I've been telling y'all for years, since they've added her to the tour. She'll be appearing at venues around the nation May-June along with Jamey Johnson, Little Big Town, Montgomery Gentry and more. It'll be a mix of big-stage shows and, just like you find at co-sponsoring venue the Bluebird Cafe, writers in the round. She's excited about it, obviously, and I think she'll have lot of new friends and fans by the end of the summer.

* * *


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Beauty tips from Mom

Sometimes I worry about my mom. She says Sarah Palin would be really pretty if only she'd get herself some contacts and get rid of those glasses. (I'm serious, and so is she).

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Online ads make strange bedfellows

You know, this practice of topically relevant advertising on websites, where the ad is placed on pages that have content related to the product or service, is quite ingenious. A good thing for advertisers, who can get their messages to their target audiences, and good for web surfers, since the unvoidable ads are, if not less annoying, then at least sometimes actually useful.

But even a system like this, with all those computer geeks and marketing minds working together, can go astray from time to time. Hence this ad for a devotional book for couples, on a message board for singles:
(Click to view at full-size)

Hey, it could've been worse. Much worse. In fact, maybe this one IS on purpose; it's a reminder to all of us still looking for that special someone who can love us for (what's left of) a lifetime (and vice-versa), that the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side, and that marriage isn't all roses and champagne--that it takes effort as well, because life is a struggle whether solo or in tandem.

Still pretty funny. Especially since Anita is a friend of mine. A professional comic, in fact. Joke's on her! Or us. Or not.

Friday, January 29, 2010

You never even called me by my name

I've been a casual witness to quite a few hopeful openings and almost as many "wonder what happened to?" closings of businesses offering food, music and (usually) drink. Usually from the sidelines, where I notice a new name in the music listings or see the promotional efforts in the local media.

I also have a touch of experience in marketing, especially from the presentation side of things; logos, concepts, copywriting, etc.

So I feel like (or like to think) I have a certain sense of whether a place is doing a good job of establishing a foothold in the hearts and minds of the public, and more importantly, the budget of its target audience (assuming it has one in mind).

I worked at a cafe just off Music Row called Edgehill Studios Cafe for a couple of years, getting the word out about the place and its events through music listings, printed calendars, flyers, radio spots and the ever-changing PowerPoint presentation running on the flatscreen TV behind the counter.

It was an ongoing effort (and often a losing battle) to get people to say the name, the whole name, and nothing but the name of the cafe. Especially one of the original owners (a big-idea guy). Sure, as long as we all knew what we were talking about, fine, but effective branding is essential, as any marketing novice or Disney employee will tell you, so name consistency kind of, uh, matters.

One day we heard from someone who had tried to find us by calling information and they were told we weren't listed. Then I noticed we were listed in the phone book as Edge Hill (2 words) Studios Cafe. Which explains the EH logo (which, I was told, was given about a day's worth of design consideration--not enough, people). I couldn't help but think that if I'd only been there at the beginning, I could've prevented some confusion. My strong recommendation would have been to drop the "studios" altogether; even though it supported the cool concept of a multifaceted creative space...it also no doubt confused people, given our aforementioned location off Music Row (where there are a remarkable number of recording "studios"). And we got one inquiry from someone looking for living space (another kind of "studio"). Or maybe they would've ignored me altogether, I don't know.

The place is still going strong (or at least going; I haven't seen the books). No doubt due to sensible and hardworking management (who are welcome to hire my talents again, by the way). It helps that its main product offering is a legal and addictive substance (caffeine). And it has a great location, and it's a cool space. And I like to think I helped, too.

[UPDATE: New owners took over and wisely dropped the "Studios" part of the name. The place is still open as of January 2014].

Another great little venue with identity problems, this one no longer with us, was located in the building occupied by what had been Sole Mio, and now houses the downtown Copper Kettle. The well-meaning and much-appreciated folks who wanted to make it a songwriters' mecca started with a down-home approach to the menu and called it Ga' Dang. Surprisingly, Ga' Dang did NOT serve Vietnamese cuisine. If you say the name with a strong Southern accent and draw the first part out, you may get it. Yeah.

Then, thankfully, the name was dropped and replaced with Lyrix. Big improvement, but I couldn't help thinking "80's karaoke bar." Didn't keep me from playing there, or enjoying it. Actually, the name was the only negative thing about it, other than the fact that they appealed to songwriters who are not known for big tips (or big orders).

Here's one that is, for me, very close to good: Pick's. Decent logo, but why the apostrophe? Does it belong to someone named Pick? If they'd left it off, it would have that image of guitar picks lying around after the songwriters impress everyone with their craft...as well as implying that this place is full of things you would choose ("pick"), and it also could be taken as a sports context (as in "first round draft."). My hunch is they thought the apostrophe was necessary to make it plural. Sigh.

I remember one place in Chattanooga called "The Place." 'Nuff said.

On the other hand, some establishments broadcast the wisdom and good taste of their owners with every mention. They don't have to be terribly self-explanatory or "cool" or stylish or French (please no). The best names are reasonably simple to say and spell, memorable, and meaningful. They at least have something about them that the target audience would be able to relate to in some way. The "Tin Roof"; even if you don't know why that's relevant, you picture it in your head immediately, and it implies a rustic (but hopefully not rusty) charm. The "Wildhorse Saloon" tells you what it is and beckons you to stride on in, cowboy hat optional (unless you're a tourist, in which case it's mandatory). "Mercy Lounge" is a little offbeat, with a spiritual/intellectual air, but "mercy!" is also a Jerry Lee Lewis exclamation, so you get that, too.

Maybe I'm just oversensitive to this issue given my own name issues. But in case you start your own business, especially in Nashville, please get some opinions (preferably including mine--as you may guess, it will not be difficult) before you order that metal illuminated sign.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good news, bad news

Good news: I have President's Day off (Monday, February 15) because the print center I work for closes when our client (Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County) takes a day off.

Bad news: my choices are to work in another location, take an unpaid day, or burn a vacation day on a Monday when I have little hope of having anything to do that is interesting or necessary.

Good news: maybe I'll get a sweet Valentines Day gig the night before and need to sleep late or travel home.

Bad news: given my current relational status and history, it's statistically unlikely that a Valentines Day gig wouldn't be extremely depressing. Refer to the post-breakup scenes in "The Wedding Singer" for clarification.

Good news: if I did get the above gig, I'd have the whole day to recuperate from the aforementioned aftereffects.

Bad news: I'm being incredibly self-involved by worrying about this at all, much less blogging it.

Good news: I have a job, I have vacation time, I have a day off, I'm single and not completely out of hope (relationally or otherwise), I'm sure that nearly any gig would be in itself the best therapy available (especially paid...so call me) and I have a blog to work out all this stuff and hopefully enrich someone else's experience as well.

Good news wins!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Three-Hour Tour

Gearing up for a series of shows in early February; it occurs to me that that would be a really good time to be healthy and for the weather to be good. Feel free to join me in prayer to that end! And my car; let's keep those wheels moving!

For details on each show, click the flyer. Feel free to distribute any way you can. And it'd be real nice if you could drop by one or more of the shows, too. Or send a friend.

Thursday, February 4, 6-9 pm
2nd Avenue Cafe
204 Cumberland Street East
Cowan, Tennessee 37318
With Charlsey Etheridge

Friday, February 5, 6-9 pm
The Mudpie
12 Frazier Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37405
With Charlsey Etheridge

Saturday, February 6, 6-9 pm
The Celtic Cup
106 North Anderson St.
Tullahoma, Tennessee 37388
With Joni Bishop

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Learn from the best: Steve Seskin & co.

Just got the word that the Steve Seskin Songcrafting Seminar is coming up, Jan. 22 - 24 here in Nashville. This town is host to a lot of seminars, workshops and meetings dedicated to improving your songwriting skills, and numerous individuals with various degrees of industry cred offering to help you for a fee. The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) would be in the top of my recommended list...and I wouldn't mention the bottom, even if I had anyone in mind. This is not an NSAI event, but it offers the same quality of instruction from some top writers in the field. It's not cheap, but if you want to improve your ability to communicate through words & music, or just hang out with the experts, it's a good value.

You can see what Steve and his talented friends will be offering for this weekend of instruction and inspiration by clicking here. This page includes a link to course descriptions.

Additional pro writers participating in the weekend include Allen Shamblin ("I Can't Make You Love Me," "He Walked On Water") and Gretchen Peters ("Independence Day").

If (like me) you already know everything there is to know about songwriting (HA! as if), and you just want to see a great concert, Steve will be performing at my former workplace-away-from-work, Edgehill Studios Cafe, on Friday Jan. 22. Admission for non-conference folks is $10. See photos from a previous event here.

For more info contact Claudia Young.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

This blog post was MY idea

Here’s something you’re not likely to hear at your next party: “I’m an advertising professional and the new ad campaign for Windows 7 was my idea. You know, the commercials where a pc user brags about how he thought of a fairly obvious computer function, and e-mailed Microsoft about it, and voila! It showed up in Windows 7? Brilliant, don’tcha think?”

The reason you won’t hear this (other than the statistical unlikelihood of those particular ad execs showing up at your party) is that pretty soon people will realize how faulty this premise is, and it will not be something its creators will brag about, or even admit to once the checks are cashed. (Of course, the MONEY may be something they're willing to open up about).

The main problem is that this approach assumes that either:

1) ...the folks at Microsoft are too dense to have come up with these ideas themselves, and rely on the suggestions of customers to improve the product…with no compensation or real recognition for them, by the way,


2) ...pc users are so egotistical, deluded, and/or stupid they assume that when a new product feature shows up in a product made by a huge corporation, it’s because they sent an e-mail to suggest it, and NOT because of the expensive ongoing process of research and development that any competitive company conducts.

Yep, this is a great campaign…if you work for Mac. Or if you have Al Gore as a celebrity spokesperson.

Really puzzling that this made it through the meeting(s). OK, OK, I know, the message is supposed to be "our customers are smart" and "we listen to our customers' suggestions." But at version 7, this begs the questions "Did you think we were idiots up until now?" and "What have you guys BEEN doing with our suggestions all this time?"

I think when it comes to consumer technology, customers expect a company to be led by geniuses who are in touch with their needs, so that new & brilliant features are implemented even before the customer knows it's possible, much less desirable. This is how Mac is perceived...and I'm saying this as someone who actually prefers pc's for the most part. This campaign will not help overcome the "cool" factor of the Mac.

Making your customers and your client look like idiots, and thereby supporting the smug, superior assertions of the competition in THEIR advertising…well, let’s just say this is an unconventional approach to getting more business for your agency. Just make sure your receptionist has some busywork to do to kill time when the phones go silent.