Tinsel and Steel

At Christmas, nothing succeeds like excess, and our final show of the year took it over the river, through the woods and over the top. I walked in for Wednesday’s show and the stage was so bright I had to adjust my eyes. It was all the extra twinkly lights and white trash tinsel, strung with love by our ministress of vibe Laurie. And did Jim Lauderdale merely open the show with his guitar? No, our house band for the night Steelism backed him up, bringing “Holly And Her Mistletoe” to rarified honky-tonk heights. And our show, an ensemble holiday special put together with the help of Electric Western Records, was underway like a sleigh.

Steelism is two guys – guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal steel mad genius Spencer Cullum Jr. But their band – last night three guys plus Jay Rutherford of Los Colognes playing the jingle bells – is a spectacular ensemble that adds power and finesse to their instrumental concoctions. So when they kicked off with “Linus and Lucy,” certainly the greatest Christmas jazz tune ever, distributing the bass line to James Rowland’s keys and melody to Jeremy’s guitar, it was overwhelmingly groovy. The bossa nova bridge was especially smokin’. Then the band offered a couple of their twisty and mod originals before inviting on Derek Hoke, East Nashville’s laid back king of the honky tonk. He gave us a sweet swinging “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” that further demonstrated the flexibility and chops of Steelism behind him.

The second set opened with duo Escondido by themselves, which let us hear their serene vocal blend. Then when they brought Steelism up to flesh out the groove on “Cold October” we heard the striated pop sound that’s fueled their rise in the music press. It’s a really beautiful song. And the guests kept on coming. Andrew Combs brought his raspy charm to “Silver Bells” with spacey echoing vocals through Cullum’s steel guitar voice box thing. Combs invited up Jabe Beyer, another MCR alum, to sing on a song they wrote together, the shimmying, 1960s feeling “Emily.”

The cavalcade of stars continued with Los Colognes taking the stage for a joyful “Feliz Navidad,” followed by Ricky Young and Joel King pairing up Everly style on a Tom Petty Christmas song and their own Wild Feathers number “If You Don’t Love Me.” And then came a set we’d been hoping to see for a long time. Musician/actor Sam Palladio came out to Roots as a music fan soon after arriving in Music City to take on his role as insecure songwriter Gunnar in ABC’s “Nashville” TV series. I like Gunnar’s music (even when he’s purloining lyrics from his dead brother) but I like Sam’s even better. Opener “Headed For The Fire” was a rhythmic folk rocker that brought Richard Thompson to mind. “Driftwood” was languid and lovely, with earthy textures from the expert band. A special invitation brought MCR Alum duo Striking Matches out for a song, and that made for yet another fine show moment. It’s hard to grasp how much talent was involved in this great show. But the big crowd on stage for the Loveless Jam rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock.” We took a long time post show to say our final farewells before the holiday break.

We sure hope you had as good a year as we did. It began with our first overseas trip to Tamworth Australia and ended with and tinsel and twinkles. We got to see our first televised series go national and we launched a fund-raiser page to let our community contribute to the longevity of the show. We enjoyed our first ever Jazz Night and our annual Dance Party and Guitar Night. And our guest artists made indelible memories. I’ll cherish those incredible sets by Leon Russell, Luella and the Sun, Aoife O’Donovan, Seryn, The Travelin’ McCourys with Keller Williams, Pokey LaFarge, Sons of Fathers, New Country Rehab, The Oh Hellos, Jimmy Webb, The Wood Brothers, Jim Oblon, The Steeldrivers, Black Violin and many more. We are so very blessed to be able to bring these artists to a stage on the Edge of Music City. Thanks from everyone here, and best wishes for a musically rich 2014.

Craig H.

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