The Loveless Jam chorale sang particularly loud and lustily on Wednesday night as the satisfying refrain of “I know you rider gonna miss me when I’m gone” came around and around. But we could have done any number of great leaving songs. “Movin’ On” “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Ya” and “Bye Bye Love” come easily to mind. Partings are a great topic for a song, because they’re laden with emotion and they call for acknowledgement and commemoration. I saw a funny little article the other day about “ghosting,” the practice of just slipping out of a party without saying an obligatory thanks to the host. But we’re kind of old school about this stuff. Tip your hat. Offer thanks. Send a note.
Our four-and-a-half-year, 206-show party at the Loveless Cafe Barn wound down last night, and even as we thanked our hosts for their hospitality, we heard from dozens of fans who commiserated with us about the end of one era and encouraged us in our new adventure. It was emotional to be sure. Moving is just so, well, moving. And as a show, it was a classic. Sure it was hot, but then again, it was hot.
In kicking off with Greg Trooper, we remedied a long-time oversight. I was reminded yet again what a unique and gifted songwriter he is. Even in a well-worn “I’d climb every mountain” theme, he offers stimulating twists and crisp language in “This I’d Do.” While “All The Way To Amsterdam” presented a more complex character-driven song whose melody is as lush and lovely as its subject is difficult. Greg did “Everything’s A Miracle,” one of several off his new Incident On Willow Street album and a song rich with details and layered story. I’ve missed Greg since his move from Nashville to near his family home in New York, so it was great to have his graceful and powerful voice, his incisive songs and his pork pie hat on our stage.
I had positive memories of the The Sweetback Sisters from their gig on Roots a few years ago, but I’d forgotten just how exciting and skilled they are. Emily Miller and Zara Bode sing with zest and joy, and they front a polished western swing band that plays with finesse and highly danceable meters. The boppy country of opener “Trouble’s Gonna Get You” was decorated with twin fiddles and the inventive Telecaster twang of guitarist Jason Loughlin. Drummer Stefan Amidon surprised us all with his how-low-can-he-go voice, singing lead on the trucker country song “Be Back Home Tonight.” But the highlight of the set was undoubtedly a four-voiced a cappella number toward the end. Most of the band gathered around a microphone and just when you think they’re going to sing of God and salvation, it turns out to be a prohibition-era folk song in praise of near-hallucinogenic moonshine. Clearly they have better sources than I do. The place went wild, as if they’d taken a nip or two themselves.
At its core, our show and the Americana movement are inspired by pure country music, and it seems lately we’ve had at least one strong dose of that in nearly every show. This week’s contribution came from the steely-eyed, smooth-singing James Intveld. With a voice that sounds like Elvis blended with Buddy Holly, a commanding stage presence and timeless songs, he’s one of our standard-bearers. I only wish he got to record more often for a label with some muscle. He offered up his most famous song, “Cryin’ Over You” and wrapped with the danceable anthem of American optimism “Somewhere Down The Road.”
Rapturous applause and cheering-while-standing was in store for muscular and mighty guitar rocker Derek St. Holmes. In his second Roots appearance, he opened with a pretty straight Chicago-style blues but then he cranked up the fire for a trio of riffy rocking tunes. Not only was this cathartic, it was family time. You see, our boss and co-founder John Walker goes way back with Derek to their shared Detroit home town. And while Derek’s last visit saw John sit in on a tune or two on guitar, this time he was the second guitar player, and the two truly collaborated on a display of impressive electric mashing. John is a guy who is pretty much made of joy, but I’ve probably never seen him so into the moment and fulfilled.
And speaking of family, the final act of the night featured guys who have been with us more times than we can count, and it’s still not enough. They’re simply the cream of the Music City rootsy crop. Shawn Camp sang and picked. Guthrie Trapp blew us away again with his poly-tonal, blazingly smart electric guitar. Mike Bub, our all-star first bass man, found a great pocket with drummer Larry Atamanuik, while Chris Henry lent mandolin chops and great support vocals. This was just pure fun, with Shawn’s “Bad Day For Love” leading off, followed by the “hippie chick” song “Rain In Durango,” which set off a dance stampede. New to me was the very funny “Too Drunk To Karaoke” and familiar to all was his Garth Brooks hit “Two Pina Coladas,” on which he was joined by co-writer and fine Nashville artist Benita Hill.
The finale – The Last Loveless Jam – was as fun and boisterous as any I can remember, and we’ve had some good ones. I brought my guitar along to pick a solo verse (badly) and lending my little voice to the larger whole summed up the spirit of the show and our musical movement. We’ve laughed and cried at the Barn. We’ve consulted and communed. We’ve danced and discovered. We’re off to a new home and an updated vibe. But this party is over, and I think we said a proper goodbye.