Is there a word for something that feels like an ending that’s really not? What’s the emotion that attends change or that feeling when a chapter in a really great novel closes and the next one awaits? It’s hard to put your finger on because of a paradox in human nature. We crave stability and the affirmation of the familiar. And yet we’re no longer living in small farming villages in Mesopotamia, so obviously we’re more restless than complacent.
I’ll have to fall back on the old expression “mixed emotions” to describe how we are approaching Wednesday, June 18, our last regular show at the Loveless Barn after almost five years of weekly productions there. We are certainly excited about our new venue, the grandly named Liberty Hall inside the Factory At Franklin (we’ve shifted plans from Jamison Hall since I first broke the Factory news here on the blog in May). But this will be the night we celebrate our love for the Loveless. I’ll be posting some detailed thoughts about that on show day, so let’s look ahead to the night’s artists.
Our lineup reflects many sides of the music we love, from the bone-hard country of James Intveld to blues-heavy rock and roll with Derek St. Holmes, both making return visits. We’ll enjoy eclectic swinging retro sounds from The Sweetback Sisters and one of the finest singer-songwriters in America, Greg Trooper. Also, late in the game, we’ve stirred up a spontaneous gathering of Roots all-stars to take us home among our beloved Nashville pickers and friends. At this time, I can confirm country/Americana icon Shawn Camp with Guthrie Trapp, guys who’ve meant a lot to the MCR family.
I’ll start with Trooper, because getting him on Roots has been an evangelical cause for me for some time. It’s finally happening.
In liner notes to Trooper’s remarkable 2003 album Floating, Steve Earle told the slightly self-incriminating story of meeting and falling for the songs of Greg Trooper. The New Jersey born songwriter, who’s lived in a lot of cities since, including Nashville, joined a short list of greats whose songs made it into Steve Earle’s memory and performances. “The covers that really count,” Earle wrote, “are the ones that I do in live shows because they are the songs I sing because I wish I’d written them.” Earle also is outspoken about his envy of Troop’s singing voice, which is indeed the hickory-smoked, plain-spoken essence of what a male songwriter should sound like.
I first discovered Troop when I was writing at the Tennessean and his album Straight Down Rain just walloped me with its rare blend of tenderness, strength, textured sound and illuminating lyrics. He shifted over to Sugar Hill Records where he released two more excellent projects, including one produced by the legendary Muscle Shoals figure Dan Penn. Trooper’s most recent disc came in late 2013 entitled Incident On Willow Street. It’s got a film noir cover and 12 story songs that take us inside complex characters. I keep getting drawn back to “Everything’s A Miracle,” where a cynic and a dreamer can’t keep their love alive. But there are many other testimonials to the verdict of rock critic David Marsh, who proclaims that Trooper “deserves about 12 times the attention he’s received.” Troop visits us from his New York home for a special show-opening set.
James Intveld also merits wider awareness as one of the seasoned veterans of hard West Coast country music. His resume is full of accomplishments as an anchoring musician at LA’s famous Palomino Club, as a songwriter (he penned Rosie Flores’s best known tune “Cryin’ Over You”) and an actor who’s worked with Sean Penn and others. Some photos of James back in the day with colleagues John Jorgenson, Dale Watson and Dwight Yoakam recently went up on Facebook, and it’s a time machine back to a great era for country music revivalism. It’ll be a great pleasure to hear Intveld croon and twang on our stage again.
Derek St. Holmes surprised me on his first visit to Roots. He’s spent his life playing mostly hard rock with Ted Nugent and others. And while his set was loud and tough, his rocking blues left plenty of space for his roots to show. He was first inspired he said by seeing Elvis on Ed Sullivan and his music school was Detroit soul. His songwriting is tight and his voice is impressive. He’s been a Nashville area resident for years now, and we feel he deserves a regular stage here amid his fellow master musicians and rock legends. Watch for some stretched out guitar jams with his buddy and our boss John Walker.
We haven’t seen the Sweetback Sisters in years, so it’ll be a happy reunion. The Brooklyn based band shares a record label (Signature Sounds) with some of our faves like Lake Street Dive and Joy Kills Sorrow, though their vibe is more classic and throwback. Not-real-life-sisters Emily Miller and Zara Bode believe in the magic of sibling harmony an a sense of forward looking fun. “We’re a renegade retro band that mixes up country, swing and honky tonk,” explains Bode in the band’s official bio. “Sometimes what we deliver is straight out of the 50s; other times it’s BR549 meets The B52s.” And they have a picture of themselves with the rockin’ parade car of our MCR West Coast affiliate KRSH 95.9 FM, so we’re feeling particularly cuddly with them right now.
Planning for our final set and final jam(s) will be underway right up to show time. We hope to surprise and delight and celebrate. We understand the disappointment some of expressed about leaving the Loveless. It has something special. But so does our new home and we can’t wait to commune with you there. It’s not the end of the story. Just another chapter.