Little known fact here, but Wednesday June 21 is Make Music Day. Of course we like to think of every day that way, but this event, launched in France 35 years ago and bolstered now in the US by the folks behind the NAMM instrument trade shows, is a global celebration that invites everyone who can and is inclined to perform in public. The official language captures it: “Every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, of every musical persuasion — pours onto streets, parks, plazas, and porches to share their music with friends, neighbors, and strangers.” Naturally, Nashville gets in on the action in a big way, thanks to the organizing efforts of Matt Fox and Alan Fey. Find out more about it and the many performance hot spots around town or just get out on your front porch and start a show. You’ll be joining folks from Detroit to Djibouti in a global Summer Solstice rite of rhythm, and it’ll be beautiful.
And of course we’ll be turning our stage into the front porch of Franklin on the 21st for our season-closing Make Music Night with one of the strongest lineups of the year, a true sampling of roots music at its highest levels. We’ve got an eccentric genius banjo man, moody folk, world class bluegrass and one of the strongest Texas country soul singers of all time. Behold this talent.
I have a feeling that Delbert McClinton is fixin’ to be hit with a flood of late career honors and prizes that will perhaps begin to make up for his decades of brilliant, under-recognized roots music. He’s got a couple of Grammy Awards and that’s cool, but this is a lifetime achiever if ever there was one. Raised in Lubbock and Fort Worth, Texas, he’s been rock and rolling since his teens. In his facility with blues, country, soul and gospel, he truly was one of the original Americana artists. Our community loves and cherishes Delbert, and perhaps all this will become more vividly clear to the wider world when a biography comes out this Fall. And perhaps his new album Prick of the Litter will put him in a position to win an AMA award or two. As the title and its self portrait of his kicked up stocking feet implies, McClinton gives no dangs, to put it politely. For anyone who’s ever loved a road house country band with a gravel-voiced belter and the searing bluesy lines of the harmonica, Delbert’s reputation is already chiseled in stone. We are honored to present him and his long time, trusted band the Self-Made Men.
Danny Barnes is similarly deserving of trophies and parades, and has been for many years. Then in 2015 the innovative composer and singer/picker was shocked to discover he’d won the $50,000 Steve Martin prize for Excellence In Banjo and Bluegrass. I’m tickled by that turn of events, because his daring blend of roots music sincerity with post-modern intellectual sensibility did tend to put him on the hard-to-reach shelves for the average American music fan. Whimsical, anti-establishment and sometimes dark, Barnes is an heir apparent to John Hartford and the Smothers Brothers, an avant garde traditionalist who’s described his own outlook as a “barnyard electronic esthetic.” The Texas native got his first banjo at age 10 and folded it into one of the most important country punk outfits of all time, The Bad Livers. I remember seeing them at Nashville’s long-gone Tower Records where Barnes began by describing his delight at the store’s excellent classical selection and how they’d had the Erik Satie works he’d been looking for. This is not normal for a slam-grass band leader. As a solo artist, Barnes has released a half dozen searching, absorbing and edgy recordings from the colorful banjo rock of Rocket to his current Stove Up, which is a pure, deep draw of bluegrass made with stellar partner musicians.
Opening the show will be an all-star jubilee (or is it a jamboree?) as we take a set to pay tribute to Mac Wiseman via the excellent project I Sang The Song produced by Thomm Jutz and our show’s frequent guest host Peter Cooper. Thomm and Peter will be on hand to lead a band featuring Sean Camp, Sierra Hull, Justin Moses and more. Dear Mr. Mac is just a bit too nonagenarian to be on hand, but we’ll sing and play to him over the airwaves and bask in the creative admiration all these talents brought to the project, which we highly recommend.
And rounding out our Summer Solstice foursome will be the moody and lovely duo of Quiles & Cloud, which are the poetic last names of Maria and Rory, songwriters who met at an open mic in the Bay Area a few years ago. Their story has that meant-to-be quality, and the lyrical elegance of their folk songs backs that up. Acoustic Guitar magazine editor Jeffrey Pepper Rogers put it thus: “Though clearly on the path blazed by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings—and trod by fellow travelers such as the Milk Carton Kids, Mandolin Orange, and Pharis and Jason Romero—Quiles and Cloud’s sound is not particularly Appalachian or twangy. Their music leans more toward contemporary folk and blues, with a touch of soul.” Their easy and instant chemistry was noted when they won a big duo prize in 2014 at FreshGrass, and Nashville’s own Compass Records saw their promise and signed them on for their current album Shake Me Now.
They say to save your best for last, and I’d say that our team has done just that. This will be a big one folks, our own farewell to Spring and our Fourth of July salute. Come on out but don’t forget to pick a few songs out in public before you do.