Refreshed, recharged, relaxed and revived, we took the Loveless Barn over again last night after a two week break and brought Music City Roots back for its sixth season. The menu was lovingly prepared by our talent honcho Todd Mayo, and while our guest artists weren’t exactly household names, we had a great crowd and a show that flowed as logically and artistically as any we’ve had. Four courses plus dessert. Delish.
Starters was the spoken word brilliance of Minton Sparks, MCR’s “Dark Minnie Pearl.” This remarkable performer and writer conjures up stunningly sharp characters and leaves the audience giggling, sometimes uneasily and sometimes with unmitigated glee. With Joe McMahan strumming or chunking or snapping his acoustic guitar, Minton spun magical tales – of an aunt who wanted to be an AM radio DJ and of a creepy Elvis-meets-Jimmy-Swaggart minister. Also great was her story about actually meeting Minnie Pearl in her civilian garb while tending bar at a country club in Nashville years ago. Is it music? Yes, actually. And with more layers than most songwriters even dream of.
Next up, a man to whom we owe and apology. Mr. Elio Giordano is a Nashville-based bass player and singer who’s organized the city’s newest, swingingest big band, a country-jazz hybrid he calls Hank Sinatra. The apology is that our research department discovered and promoted another Hank Sinatra (out of NC) on the web site up to just before the show. D’oh! Sorry man. In any event, we’ve got the right bio HERE. And wow, what a band. It’s big time country boogie swing and blues, with superb musicianship. Our pal Randy Kohrs played electric steel and Elio did a masterful job singing and smacking his big white upright bass. Watch for these guys on Lower Broadway and take your dancing shoes.
We also loved Julie Gribble, an artist who’s made a scene in her home town of Atlanta and that little burgh out west they call Los Angeles. Her stuff is nice straight-up folk-rock songwriting, served with a winning smile and a cool throaty voice that often gets compared to Natalie Merchant. She dedicated “It’s About Love” to her parents who recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary (if I clearly understood her stage intro) and she shined on “Dolly’s Words and Tammy’s Tears,” a song about the power of truthful country music to get through life’s tougher times.
Capping off the night was the hard-to-anticipate set of the David Mayfield Parade. Mayfield has been one of the key guys in Cadillac Sky for the past three years, and this week the surprising news broke that C-Sky is hanging it up. So suddenly what had been a side project for David was suddenly vaulted to the fore and the new CD that was released just this week took on a new import. Based on last night’s set, Mayfield is A) not a bluegrass act and B) going to be a big deal. He likes to shift gears hard from serene to pile-driving. His eclectic band made a perfect bed for his plaintive but authoritative voice to jump around on. He covered “Sea of Heartbreak” brilliantly and “I Just Might Pray,” from which he got a cool music video, sounded like a perfect debut single. Welcome to the big time, oh bearded one.
Then to wrap things up (on time – how about that?), host Jim Lauderdale led a super-quick turnaround after Mayfield’s set into a fantastic ensemble take on Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms.” Don’t think I’ve ever heard that one as a sing-along before, but it worked. And that, my friends, was dessert.