…every time somebody comes to visit you, you take them to a country/bluegrass concert.
When Adrienne came to visit us in August, we went to the Bluegrass in the Smokies festival in Sevierville. Aside from meeting the WDVX chicken, the big revelation of that concert was the wonderful Bradley Walker, a singer with a voice so rich that it seems like only a matter of time before Nashville picks him up (if he wants to go "mainstream," that is). We bought his album Highway of Dreams, which you can get on iTunes here; my favorite tracks are Should Have Took That Train and Price of Admission.
Then, when Andrew and Bea came to visit us in October, we went to the Foothills Fall Festival in Maryville (which, if you didn’t know, is pronounced “MUHR-vul”). No new musical revelations there, as the acts were big-name commercial artists (Trent Tomlinson, Big & Rich, etc.), but the concert was memorable — and not just for Andrew’s and my shock and awe as we constantly hit "refresh" on our cell phones to get the latest football scores on the evening that #1 LSU and #2 Cal both lost to unranked opponents. :) The most memorable moments of the concert were the thunderous ovation that the crowd gave to a group of soldiers in Iraq during a live satellite-phone conversation with their commander (nobody does patriotism like the South), and the moment when Tomlinson introduced his cover of Ring of Fire with the utterly unprovoked statement, "If you don’t like Johnny Cash, you can kiss my ass!!"
Well, the country/bluegrass trend continued this past weekend with my parents’ visit. I took them to Sunday afternoon’s special weekend edition of the WDVX Blue Plate Special, the wonderful daily event in downtown Knoxville that I often attend on my lunch breaks. This particular show featured Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time, and man — they were good! Here’s a clip, though it doesn’t do them justice:
I knew in advance that they were at least decent, based on their current hit, ‘67 Chevy Malibu, which I’d heard several times on the radio. But I was definitely impressed by the consistent quality of their songs at the concert. Great performers, too! And if you’ve heard the song Murder on Music Row by George Strait and Alan Jackson, well, Cordle wrote it, and he and his band performed it Sunday. Great stuff. Anyway, I once again came away with a new album, Took Down And Put Up (again, iTunes link here). I haven’t had a chance to listen to it all the way through yet, but I think my favorite song from that album that they played at the concert was Hole In the Ground. Then again, I have a soft spot for mining songs, for whatever reason. (I blame the Barra MacNeils.)
In any event, tomorrow I’ll again take visitors to a bluegrass concert (well, half bluegrass, anyway), as I’m meeting up with Becky’s parents for the Blue Plate Special featuring a “twin bill” of the bluegrass band Balsam Range and the jazz band Silver Lining. I don’t know much about them, but I’m sure it’ll be worthwhile; the Blue Plate Specials are almost always good, and quite often great.
The biggest musical revelation of recent weeks for me, though, came not from a concert I attended, but from a song I heard on the radio — on WDVX, the same station that puts on these Blue Plate Specials (not to mention that chicken). The song is Wicked Twisted Road by the Texas alt-country band Reckless Kelly. It’s an absolutely haunting tune; when WDVX played it during my afternoon commute, I actually made a point of pulling out my cell phone at a stoplight and texting to their studio e-mail address, “GREAT song!” A few days later, I found it on iTunes, and I’ve had it stuck in my head ever since. You get it from iTunes here; it’s Track 1, the title track. I haven’t bought the whole album, but I may have to, if that song is any indication of its quality.
The RIAA, apparently determined to make itself into a self-caricature, is now arguing in court that it’s illegal to copy CDs you legally bought onto your computer for your own personal use.
The shameless blog plugs worked! Julie Moffitt, the former SoCal VoCals phenom, is now a "FameCast Fenom" and winner of a cool $10,000! She won first place in the Internet competition’s Singer/Songwriter category, thanks to a furious rally in the final day of voting. (She was in third place as late as Wednesday evening; the polls closed at noon Thursday.) That rally is probably due mostly to Julie’s own network of fans, but hey, you never know — maybe it was support from the Irish Trojan crowd that pushed her over the top. :)
There’s been no reaction yet on Julie’s blog or her Facebook group — probably because she’s been busy celebrating, and deservedly so — but I’m sure there will be eventually. Anyway, congrats, Julie!! (Hat tip: Mike.)
UPDATE: Julie — who, incidentally, was also named the "Critics’ Choice," as seen in this video — just sent an e-mail to her fans titled "WE DID IT!!!" The full thing is reproduced after the jump, but here’s the money quote:
Whether I had won or not, this has been a life-changing experience. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like the VH1 "Best Week Ever" Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I won $10,000, was chosen as an industry favorite in my genre, and I got a puppy!! IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m really excited for next year Ã¢â‚¬â€œ more touring, a new album (HOORAY!) and time to take advantage of all these new industry connections IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been making. :) My 10-year high school reunion is about a year and a half awayÃ¢â‚¬Â¦is that enough time to get a Top 10 single on the radio?
Like I said, the whole thing is after the jump.
P.P.S. I say "debut album," but of course, Julie is also prominently featured on the SoCal VoCals’ best album to date IMHO, V3: Previously Unreleased, including in particular Track #12, "Total Eclipse of the Heart," her signature solo.
Former SoCal VoCal Julie Moffitt (previous posts here and here) has risen to the #2 spot in the FameCast Singer-Songwriter Finals, which puts her achingly close to the $10,000 prize — but she still needs your support! In an e-mail to her fans last night, Julie wrote that she "The polls close at noon today. So, with apologies for the excessive shilling :) … one last time … vote for Julie!
(You must be registered to vote. Registration is free. One vote is allowed per account per day, so if you voted yesterday, you can vote again today.)
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution yesterday honoring Tommy Makem and declaring him “one of the greatest Irish-Americans of the 20th century.” The resolution was co-sponsored by, among others, John Larson of my parents’ district, John Larson — pandering to the Hartford Irish :) — and Joe Courtney, also of Connecticut.
As regular readers will recall, I posted a ton of stuff about Makem when he passed away back in August. You can read of all of it here, in reverse chronological order. If you only want to read one post, make it this one: “Tommy Makem, 1932-2007 Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ and what he means to me.”
Anyway, after the jump, the full text of H. Res. 768 honoring Makem.
P.S. As you’ll notice if you read the resolution, it is now an officially recognized fact, according to the U.S. House of Representatives, that when Tommy Makem split up with the Clancy Brothers, he “left the band amicably.” Heh. Not so sure about that, but hey, if the House says it, it must be true! ;)
Julie Moffitt, of SoCal VoCals/Total Eclipse of the Heart fame (previous post here), still needs your help! It’s crunch time in the FameCast Singer-Songwriter Finals, and Julie’s in the running for the $10,000 prize… but she needs votes. Lots of votes! The polls close at noon EST tomorrow, so now’s the time to vote for Julie!
(You must be registered to vote. Registration is free. One vote is allowed per account per day.)
Here, by the way, is what Rolling Stone reviewer Gary Graff had to say about Julie’s performances on the linked page:
The smartest thing you do here is give us a real
sense of range with two very different songs played, no less, on two different
instruments. It’s great to hear a piano song, and "Bound to Fail" is an
exceptional song — even though there are things you can, and should, do to it
when it’s recorded, like speeding it up a bit, particularly in the bridge. But
it’s a song that will definitely benefit from a full band arrangement, and your
vocal here is well nuanced, mixing pathos and playfulness. "Oh Hell" is a lot of
fun and lets you sing in a completely different way — and show some
instrumental chops, too, since it’s hard to do those barre chords on a 12-string
acoustic. You are ready for prime time, so let’s hope others cotton on to that
Also, she has a new puppy. Which means she needs that $10,000 for dog food. So get out the vote already! :)
Julie Moffitt, the former SoCal VoCals singer (most memorably the amazing soloist on Total Eclipse of the Heart for the better part of four years), now has a budding independent music career — here’s her MySpace page — and last weekend, she was in Austin, Texas for the finals of FameCast, an online reality-show music competition thingy that awards $10,000 to the winner.
Julie writes all about the FameCast experience on her blog. She says that after two years of keeping herself grounded even as the gigs and the money have gotten better, her experience with a “total rock star lifestyle,” courtesy of FameCast, has her “hooked.” Heh.
Anyway, Julie is one of five finalists in the singer-songwriter category, and now it’s up to the online audience to decide whether she wins the big bucks. So, for those willing to help a Trojan out (or just interested in listening to some good music), here’s the link where you can watch Julie’s performance and vote for her! (You have to register before you can vote. It’s free.)
I particularly like the second song she does; it shows off her ability to really let loose and belt out the music with the same sexy, sultry edge that made her version of Total Eclipse such a highlight of the VoCals’ repertoire when we were at ‘SC.
The photo at the top of this post, by the way, is one that I took in 2002 when I was tailing the VoCals around the Bay Area for a photojournalism assignment that eventually also spawned a Daily Trojan article. Julie loved the picture and asked me to make her a copy, but I promptly lost the negatives, and only found them again just recently while going through old photo boxes. So, I have now finally sent her that copy she asked for, a mere five years late. ;)
UPDATE: Julie’s very excited to finally have that photo. She even blogged about it: “There was one photo in particular that I fell in love with, but somewhere along the way, it was lost, and though Brendan and I spent months trying to find it, eventually I had to give up and hope that one day I could recreate the shot. Until a few minutes ago, when I received an email containing [it] … Thank you Brendan!!” You’re welcome, Julie!
P.S. Julie isn’t the only SoCal VoCal from that era who is enjoying musical success. My other favorite VoCal alum, Bryce Ryness, is in a band, and last year he played Roger in the national tour of Rent. Oh yeah, and he’s married to fellow ex-VoCal Meredith.
At 10:45 PM last night, I was sitting on an MTA bus in Nashville, brooding silently. My "worst birthday ever" was winding down with a whimper. Oh, I’d had fun counting down to midnight with Kristy the night before (after which she serenaded me with an interpretive dance to the strains of Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’," played on my iTunes), and of course, I’d gotten my free taco from Taco Bell. But mostly, my 26th birthday had been drudgery: a six-hour mandatory CLE class, a pair of Southwest flights that had gotten me from Denver to Nashville, and now a couple of lonely bus rides. At 10:45, I was en route to the Greyhound station, from which I would depart for Knoxville. It looked like I’d be spending the final 75 minutes of my birthday travelling to, and then waiting around in, a grungy Greyhound station. (My bus wasn’t scheduled to leave until 12:45 AM.) I was cranky, I missed Becky, and I was just generally annoyed about the overall suckiness of my birthday.
When the bus dropped me off at around 11:00, things got even worse, because now I was in the heart of Nashville at 5th and Broadway — which, for those who don’t know, is the home of a whole bunch of great honky-tonk bars. The sound of live music was wafting out into the street, tempting and torturing me.
I would love, I thought, to spend the last hour of my birthday sitting in a bar, listening to some live country music. And with almost two hours until my bus was scheduled to leave, and the bus station only three blocks away, I had time to do just that. But it was (I thought) logistically impossible: I was dragging around a suitcase and a garment bag and hauling a heavy backpack with, among other things, my laptop inside it. With all that luggage, I’d barely have fit through the door of one of the bars. And it’s not like I could leave my luggage somewhere. I was traveling alone, so I had nobody to watch my stuff. So I turned away from the awesomeness of Nashville nightlife and resigned myself to the fact that the last hour of my birthday would be just as crappy as the first 23 hours. Up the hill toward the Greyhound station I walked, still brooding.
But then! When I got to the station at around 11:10, I beheld a miracle: it has lockers!!! Okay, maybe not a "miracle," but a possibility I hadn’t considered, for sure. Anyway, yeah, the station has lockers — big ones — so I didn’t hesitate: I picked up my bus ticket at will call, then stuffed all of my bags into a locker, secured it, and headed right back out into the night, back to 5th & Broadway, to finish off my birthday in style.
It was about 11:25 when I got back there, so I figured I had about 35 minutes at the bars before I needed to head back to the station. Naturally, I resolved to make the most of it. So I started out at Second Fiddle, where I listened to a couple of songs; then I headed to Layla’s Bluegrass Inn for a couple more songs; then to Tootsies for a couple more (including "Happy Birthday," although they were singing it to an attractive young lady on the dance floor, not to me); and finally (or so I thought) to Legends Corner for yet a couple more. Totally awesome.
When the band at Legends finished playing "Sweet Home Alabama," which I love, and I saw that it was 11:58, I figured that was my cue to leave. So I tipped the band and headed out, crossing the street with every intention of turning away and trudging back up to the Greyhound station. But then I glanced into the window of the Full Moon Saloon, and found myself drawn inexorably inside by the gravitational pull of the comely female fiddle player in the snug blue jeans. (It was the fiddle that drew me in, of course; I love fiddles. What did you think I meant?) Unfortunately, that band wrapped up their set literally 20 or 30 seconds after I walked in the door, so I headed back out onto the street again… but now my appetite was whetted for one more bar, one more band, one or two more songs. Hey, it’s only your 26th birthday once!
It was midnight now, but I reckoned I could afford another 5 or 10 minutes. So I slipped into The Wheel next door. The band there played a couple of nice songs, and then at around 12:07, busted out Johnny Cash’s "Ring of Fire." Now that is a thoroughly proper way to end a session of honky-tonk bar-hopping, not to mention a birthday (albeit a few minutes late). I hooted as they started playing it, sang along for the chorus, then walked back out the door (applauding as I went) after they finished. I turned left and headed back toward the Greyhound station. It was 12:11 AM. I got back to the station at 12:19, retrieved my stuff from the locker, and made my 12:45 bus with plenty of time to spare. I even got a good seat.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a crappy birthday turns awesome at (literally) the eleventh hour. In 45 minutes, I went to six bars, listened to six bands, and totally redeemed my birthday. Then I slept like a baby on the bus ride home. And I’m half-consciously humming "Ring of Fire" as I write this.
I love Nashville. :)
Blue Plate Special hosting Grammy winners Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there's a huge crowd to see such a big act perform for free. I should have gotten here sooner!
Luciano Pavarotti is dead. He was 71.
A very dear friend contacted me recently about Austin City Limits. I’ve always been a fan of Austin City Limits so I was interested. And, to my amazement, it turns out her two sons, in an indie band called The Frontier Brothers, are competing for a "new artist" slot on a future broadcast of Austin City Limits. I knew they were a serious working band (out of Fort Worth), but this news about this opportunity, and especially about them in relation to this opportunity, was new to me. I passed the word on to friends who are music fans and to a few friends who trust me when I ask a favor of them. And only one friend misconstrued this situation as something like American Idol. Austin City Limits is a long-running PBS program presenting well-respected, professional musicians. And it seems it is offering an opportunity to working (but not nationally-known) bands to be introduced in a new band slot. This is so NOT American Idol.
I now go to the site each day (one vote per day being allowed) and I vote for this band. I urge you all to check this out at the URL I am putting below. (Actually, this URL will specifically take you to The Frontier Brothers on the band ballot, but it also gives you the page, The Sound and the Jury.) You can sample their music (you can sample any of the bands’ music) and if you like their music, you can cast a vote for them (or for another band there). One reason this particularly appeals to me is that this to me is so far superior to American Idol. No ridicule, no comedy, no Not-Ready-For-Primetime bands. The Frontier Brothers is a serious working band making their bones in venues all around Texas and the Southeast, and this is a serious opportunity for them. For all these bands. And that matters.
Check it (and them) out: http://acl.mp3.com/feature/soundandjury/?band=THE-FRONTIER-BROTHERS.
I’ve blogged a lot about Tommy Makem since his death two weeks ago, including a lengthy post explaining what he meant to me. But they say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and in this case, an audio clip is worth about a million of ‘em. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Brendan Loy, at 3 years old, singing about moonshine:
The song is “The Hills of Connemara,” and I know it’s probably bad form to call myself “cute,” but good lord, is there anything more adorable than hearing a 3-year-old sing, “Run like the devil from the excise man”? :) I had no idea what any of it meant, of course; I just thought it was a fun song. But there you go: if you thought maybe I was exaggerating when I told those stories about singing rowdy Irish songs in my early childhood, now you know I wasn’t. (And if you ever wondered why I took such a liking to “Rocky Top,” maybe that question too is answered: apparently I just like songs about concealing illegal alcohol from the authorities!)
The audio clip comes from an old cassette tape, recently dug up by my mom, of my parents and I performing Irish music in our living room for my Grandma and Grandpa Loomer and my Papa Loy — all now deceased — and my Uncle Robert, sometime in 1985. You can hear a lot of Grandpa in that clip; he’s the one who played an “A” for my mom before the song, who commented “the show’s getting better, Robert,” and who cheered loudly at the end. In this later clip from the same concert, of “Place in the Choir,” you can hear Grandpa again at the end, and also Papa Loy saying “This is good, I want to hear the rest of it” when I abruptly interrupted the song to comment on our previous performance. (Hey, what do you want, I was three!) Entirely aside from the nostalgia of the music, and of hearing myself as a little kid, it’s also really cool to hear my grandfathers’ voices again. :) Anyway…
Judging by my parents’ comments, it seems that that was the first time I ever sang along with them on “Place in the Choir.” Which is pretty funny, because it soon became one of my all-time favorites, and has always remained so — to the point where, when my mom busted out the guitar last week in the Adirondacks so we could sing a few songs in Makem’s honor, it was one of the first songs I suggested. We had some trouble remembering the verses, but here it is: the same song, by the same singers, 22 years later…
P.S. It’s possible I was 4 years old, not 3. The tape is labeled “1985,” so I’m assuming I was 3, since I didn’t turn 4 until October 30 of that year. But it could have been late 1985, in which case I would have been 4. It’s also possible the label is wrong. But in any event, I was really young.
Tommy Makem’s funeral is later today in Dover, New Hampshire. A large crowd of mourners is expected.
Rumor has it that my mom was planning to bring her guitar to the cabin in the Adirondacks where we’re meeting up tomorrow. If that happens, I suspect we may sing a few songs in Tommy’s honor.
P.S. Here is the Irish Echo article about Makem’s passing.
Just wait till I have one of my own to indoctrinate… :)
Speaking of which, Becky is 19 weeks pregnant as of yesterday, which means that little Baby Loy now “measures 6 inches, head to bottom Ã¢â‚¬â€ about the length of a small zucchini.” From A(vocado) to Z(ucchini) in just three weeks! And if all goes well with the ultrasound next Monday, hopefully we’ll find out whether he’s a male zucchini or a female zucchini!
Funeral arrangements for Tommy Makem have been announced:
Relatives and friends are invited to call Monday from 7 to 9 p.m., Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., and Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., at the Tasker Funeral Home, 621 Central Ave., Dover. [Yes, but will there be booze at the wake? -ed.]
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. on Thursday at St. Mary Church, corner of Chestnut and Third Streets, with Rev. Fritz Cerullo, O.S.A. Pastor as celebrant. Burial will follow in St. Mary New Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, it is requested that memorials in his name be made to a fund being started in the name of Tommy & Mary Makem Fund, c/o Attorney William H. Shaheen, P.O. Box 977, Dover, NH 03821-0977.
Also, according to Makem.com, “Condolences and Mass Cards can be sent to PO Box 336, Dover, NH 03821-0336.”
P.S. There will be a tribute to Makem on Sunday at the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, OH. Makem was originally scheduled to appear at the festival.