Cara Blake Coppola

Arts

Scene&Heard: Blind Corn Liquor Pickers

The sound of the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers is the sound of the rowdiest of hootenannies in the biggest barn full of dancers, singing along to the music. Yet, they blur the traditional, swirl it around with the modern sound of electric guitars, the haunting voices of Beth Walker, Jory Bowling and others for a unique fusion of amazing music.

Filling the stage with eight members, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers creates a massive sound, each musician masterful in his skill.

Beth sings most of the songs, with harmony from Jory and some other members. The full band consists of Beth Walker on vocals, Joel Serdenis on mandolin and vocals, Travis Young on banjo, Ben Vogelpohl on drums, Will Rush on bass, Jeoffrey Teague on electric guitar, Thomas Usher on percussion and vocals, and Jory Bowling on guitar and vocals. Together they create an impressive wall of sound.

Their songs, like their sound, varies from song to song and between singers. Beth and Jory carry most of the leading vocals, both having incredibly powerful and unique voices. Jory’s deep voice resonates, and Beth wails with a strong, steadfast voice. Others take some songs too such as Joel. The music, like the band’s long career, has changed and shifted as members change, as their genre is hard to define. Somewhere where Prog grass, bluegrass, country, rock and blues all mix together with the culture of the hills of Kentucky.

“The sound shifts and changes as new people comes in,” says Travis Young, one of the original members of the band that started eighteen years ago. Over two decades the lineup has changed often and their five CD’s vary from each other quite a bit. This latest CD, The Sentence, is strongly influenced by the addition of Jory Bowling and his songwriting. The different members take turns with songwriting as well, including Travis, Joel, Beth and Jory.

The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers CD release show at the Burl

The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers are a testament to the love of making music. Anyone who knows about music performing knows it is not easy to get eight musicians in the same place at the same time. And dividing the spoils by eight makes no one wealthy, for certain. Weekly rehearsals, with several members of the band driving hours from their homes outside of Lexington so they can give their fans a high-quality performance, is a devotion. Their passion shows as soon as the show starts. “We put lots of time and energy into making a set we are very proud of,” says Beth.

The room was full that Saturday night at The Burl. Warmed up well by the Solid Rocket Boosters, followed by Senora May and Johnny Conqueroo, the Liquor Pickers took to a welcoming stage by 11 that night.

Filling the stage with the band and the room with their sound, the excited fans were amped up and ready to enjoy the gift of music the band offered. The new CD was six years in the making, many in the crowd knew the words to the songs and sang along with joyful devotion.

Representative of their diversity as musicians, The Sentence is a tapestry of the various musicians in the band, and no matter who is singing lead the rest of the band often joins together in a chorus that inevitably is joined by the crowd, and the entire room resonates with the pleasure everyone is having. That is the joy of the Liquor Pickers, the inevitability of moving your feet and dancing along, because that is what this music is made for. Singing of moonshine and mining and the trials of life as you journey down its road, the band creates the rhythm of working folks, and exactly the jubilation you need to dance it off on a Saturday night surrounded by a hundred or so of your fellow kinfolk dancing by your side, singing along to those hillbilly blues.

That is the sound of the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, that blend of the old ways and the modern reality, and the folks trapped in the in-between.

From the devotion of their fan base, their “family” as they call them, the Liquor Pickers took it upon themselves to create the Moonshiner’s Ball five years ago, as a way to celebrate the music of Kentucky, back before Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers put recent Kentucky music on the map.

A celebration of local talent is the foundation of the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers. They are a celebration of music, and their festival is the result of that love of music, love of Kentucky, and love for their fans who have loyally cheered them on for two decades.

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: Senora May

“I’ve been waiting for this night for so long; I’m so glad you’re all here!” Senora May told the crowd that gathered from the front of the stage all the way to the back of The Burl to celebrate her first CD release.

Lainhart is titled in honor of her maiden name, and many of the songs speak on the theme of family.

Senora May’s music is soft and easy on the ear. It envelops you with a warmth that is familiar and welcoming, even if you’ve never met her. With guitar picking that trickles along like a brook, her voice has the fluidity of a flowing brook. Senora is a child of the hills – the gorgeous backdrop on the cover of her CD is the backdrop to her life and her music.

I am inspired most by nature, second by people.  I can’t explain it. It’s just my process to be in awe of my surroundings, my emotions dictate which direction the song might turn, but I am initially inspired by some sound, or visual directly before me or triggering my memory.  If I hear a cardinal or a mourning dove, or I see limbs broken and scented from deer, that triggers something in my mind.”

The title song Lainhart begins with sounds of farm life that distort into sounds of war. Written when her brother Levi left for Marine boot camp, the song is a tribute to him but also to her family and the life they live in the hills of eastern Kentucky.

Ambient and significant sounds are in several songs on the album, a sonic tapestry of her story. It’s a story of family and love and distance and work of all kinds. Senora was joined onstage at The Burl by Josh Nolan on guitar and toy piano and John Isaacs on drums.

Senora May performing at The Burl

The album tells the story of a woman coming into her own. The wife of Tyler Childers, Senora May’s music is certainly influenced by being the wife of an actively touring musician. 

“Through the deliberate arrangement of my album, I hoped for people to navigate the loss, the support, pride, and then self-discovery and bliss through solitude. I would have surely lost myself through turn points of this project, if I hadn’t encountered the self preservation piece.”

She lives in peace with the solitude of her home, without electricity amongst the hills she grew up with, fostering her independence and her art, including music, graphic art, painting, stained glass, fibers, as well as other mediums.

Her song “By My Lonesome” is an anthem for the independent natural woman, confident in this solitude and strengthened by her abilities. Senora brags that she can skin any animal properly and teach another to do the same. A true child of the hills, she lives the authentic life she sings about, and her voice and lyrics roll as naturally as the fog in the hills at sunrise.

“Only Want You” plays to the background of coyotes yelping as she sings of a wife missing her husband who is out on the road while she listens to the crickets sing around her at home in the hills. Tyler has been touring for most of their marriage, especially so in the last year or so, and this experience certainly influences her music.

“Missing him when he’s gone is always there, I try to stay busy enough that it doesn’t become a problem. When I let my emotions interfere with my productivity, I call him and we talk about it and he’ll do the same. We have a really good relationship in that way. But yes, I would say quite a few of our songs have no option but to be inspired by our missing of one another.”

Her CD release was quite a success: a full house at The Burl with Tyler home to watch the whole thing. The crowd was treated to a spectacular natural light show as thunder and lightning blasted outside, knocking out some of the lights as she played. Loyal fans turned on their phone flashlights to illuminate her with love, singing her words back to her. The whole CD was inspired by her fans, “I put Lainhart out, for my fans who have bugged the hell out of me. I put it out for my family and friends who love me and have convinced me of my capabilities.”

The week after Senora May’s CD release at The Burl in Lexington, she played the early morning stage Saturday at the Kickin’ it on the Creek festival in Irvine, Kentucky, in her native Estill county. Senora was quite at home as the sun rose up over the ridgelines of the holler where the stage sat, the fog burning away with the day’s rising heat. She roused folks from their tents with her songs, luring them into the sunshine with her mesmerizing and sometimes haunting voice.

Senora May performing at Kickin' It On The Creek

A completely different scene than at The Burl, the festival takes place deep in a holler in Estill and Lee County, where Ross creek winds through the bottomland between two ridges. A long slightly-horrifying-to-drive gravel road takes you right to the house of Byron Roberts, a friend of Senora’s family who recalls the day she was born. Roberts has hosted the festival at his home for the last five years. 

The festival is a reunion of sorts for Eastern Kentucky musicians.

The whole feel was that of family, which Senora’s music embodied as she sang up on a stage adorned with flowers her father had grown and picked for her set. Local and homegrown, with love of family. It was the perfect setting for Senora May’s music, which helped bring the day of music to fruition, and would be brought to a head later that night by her husband Tyler.

Folks gathered around with sleepy eyes and happy smiles and cups of coffee as they sang Senora May’s words back to her, one of her favorite parts of making music and sharing it with others.

“I like the way I feel when I’m singing and people are singing along. I like to hear that my lyrics have helped someone in some way.”

It was clear during these two shows, her crowds like it just as much.

Cara Blake Coppola is a contributing writer for UnderMain and a book author. Video by Derek “Doc” Feldman.

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: Magnolia Boulevard at the Burl

It’s a given: when Magnolia Boulevard takes the stage, the crowd immediately starts dancing. Whether their songs swing from folky to blues or funk, the crowd is always movin’ and shakin’ with this band. The organic connection between band and audience is part of the energy that is propelling Magnolia Boulevard along a path of promise. And somebody is paying attention to this. Only two years old, the band has already gained the attention and sponsorship of Paul Reed Smith guitars.

The Burl filled quickly on this August Friday evening in anticipation of a three-band lineup. Warmed up by Boscoe France, another PRS band that got the crowd moving with some astounding guitar work, everyone was ready to keep going when Magnolia Boulevard took the stage. The opening jam made the audience bubbly and perfect for when lead singer Maggie Noelle stepped up to the mic and began singing.

Compared often to Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt or Janis Joplin, Maggie’s deep and flawless voice commands the room. With Gregg Erwin on guitar, John Roberts on bass, Ryan Allen on keys and Todd Copeland on drums, Magnolia Boulevard creates a solid platform of funky jams in support of Maggie’s voice and soulful lyrics. 

Magnolia Boulevard - Call on Me - Video by Red Barn Radio

Each instrumentalist is a master of his craft. The keys converse with the guitar, the bass slaps out its funky beat and the drums keep them all going. It’s impressive. The crowd happily takes it all in as they dance together. This is the vibe the band loves best.

“What we experience is genuine, and the crowd experiences that…the crowd’s got a lot to do with it too,” said bassist John Roberts. “The crowd is a member of the band, if you keep coming we’ll keep putting it out there. You gotta feed off that energy.”

The crowd clearly agrees with these sentiments. And they aren’t the only ones. After playing at Wilcutt Guitar’s 50th-anniversary show, in a slot right before the PRS guitar presentation, Magnolia Boulevard managed to capture the attention of Paul Reed Smith himself.  After their set, and the good luck of Maggie winning the prize PRS guitar out of the raffle, the connection was made. As Gregg had predicted to Paul Reed Smith, “you’re gonna fall in love with Maggie.”

Before they knew it, PRS was flying the whole band to Baltimore to play at their music festival and to record some songs at Smith’s personal studio. During that brief four-song set that was “easy” according to the band, Paul Reed Smith was apparently found standing off to the side, all by himself, mesmerized by the band during their performance. They hope to fly back out to continue working toward a full album under Smith’s guidance and sponsorship.

A creole of folk, bluegrass, funk and rock, Magnolia Boulevard serves up variety from song to song, but the sound of the band is its own, and even the blusier, funkier, slightly darker songs still make the crowd dance. The soul is obvious, and deep, and each instrument holds an equal place in the songs. Balanced. Some songs belt out a near Prince and the Revolution style funk, while others bemoan the deeply felt sorrow of blues. Then they slide funky-like into a jam-band piece that sends the vibe of the room into a frenzy.

Most of the lyrics are written by Maggie or Ryan, but Gregg has written some songs as well. Maggie claims to be “the baby of this band” in terms of professional musical experience. She clearly adores her band family. “I am grateful for this, I am learning so much in this process, they are great teachers.”

Magnolia Boulevard - Jezebel - Video by Shaker Steps

It is not common enough to see local musicians with great talent get the recognition they deserve. The music game isn’t an easy one, for sure. “Be prepared to work for it,” John comments. He and Todd go back to previous bands such as Tribe called Lex and have been immersed in the scene for a while. To be picked up by PRS and have such sudden success is a dream come true. They have been playing festivals and shows all over the region, including Master Musician Festival in Somerset and FloydFest in Virginia.

What’s next? “The stars,” Maggie smiles back. Here’s hoping, y’all…


Listen to Cara’s backstage conversation with members of  Magnolia Boulevard:

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Fresh Big Fresh

The cover photos for the Big Fresh’s sophomore LP release entitled Sweeps denote a certain image, a picture of nostalgia for a time when some of us were in our foundational age, young children surrounded by neon colors, living through the country’s desperate grasp on the wholesome ideal of the fifties while we heard about the Cold War on the huge TV that sat as the central focus in every house of privilege.

Their photos are intentionally set to look like the TV Guide covers of those days, when sitcoms were the unifying force for us all, what was talked about the next day at school, what folks looked forward to from week to week. As we were kids then, it seemed simpler times.

Big Fresh

The sound is all Big Fresh. The techno, synthesizer-heavy lightness of the eighties, the vocal harmony of backing vocals, the electronic sound that was emblematic of those times. Here’s a sampling:

Cosmos Song featuring Reva Russell English

Hottie Tottie featuring Ryan Hover and Chris Dennison

Uh Oh featuring Per Sunding and Karen Hover

Additional songs on the Sweeps EP include The Voices featuring Ken Stringfellow, and I Found Out featuring Tim Welch.

Yet the singers and musicians in Big Fresh are grown now, with kids of their own, and the experience of growing up to know that those really weren’t simpler times, that there is no simple time, gives Big Fresh the authority to claim and redefine this music as their own. “I Found Out” is a perfect example of this, a song that feels light and airy but seems to be discussing an angst only earned by living.

Big Fresh is a large collective of Lexington musicians, including Daniel Coy, Jeremy Midkiff, Ben Fulton, John Ferguson, Dave Farris, Nick Coleman, Ben Phelan, Faith Diamond, Bryan Gore, Brian Conners Manke, Matthew Clarke, Kate Drof, Kim Conlee and Trevor Tremaine. All of these people are also in ATTEMPT, and several are in numerous other bands as well. For John Ferguson, however, Big Fresh is “The project that is most near and dear to my heart…Big Fresh is specifically pop songs that are a little easily digestible.” These bands, along with Italian Beaches and Jeanne Vomit-Terror, all share members and are all putting out LP’s on the Desperate Spirits label, which they started.

Desperate Spirits is a local creation by the above mentioned, where they put out vinyl LP’s from their collective band of madly talented musicians. Sweeps is one of three albums they will have produced this year, not bad for a labor of love being done by working folks with a passion for music. They choose to produce “Vinyl artifacts” instead of putting out music digitally, which has its benefits and perks of course, “but to have this object, this artifact, you’re creating something that can be archived into history somehow. Even if we’re doing it for ourselves, there’s this physical thing we can hold.”

The album is the second of a set, the first Big Fresh LP called Fall Preview was released last year. The new LP Sweeps is a bold follow-up to the first. Each song, while resonating Ferguson’s vision of lighter, pop type songs, shows diversity between the songs, each one holding its unique place in the group. “Cosmos Song” features the female vocalists in the band, layering electronic songs in a haunting, enveloping way that wraps through the speakers. The LP starts and ends with “Hottie Tottie” and “The Voices”, respectively, more upbeat electronic sounds with robotic vocal overdubs, but then lead into and out of the more existential songs in the middle. Diverse and vibrant, the whole LP is a masterful orchestration of the surface level optimistic consumerism of the 80’s matched with the more accessible daily struggle of the daily life of jobs, kids and life.

Reflecting their lives as parents and to appease an audience of the same generation, Big Fresh will have their record release as a brunch, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 19th at The Burl. The Doodles food truck will be there and it is an all ages show.  Big Fresh hopes to be “mindful of how difficult late night shows are, how exclusive those shows are. Such a niche audience, we would like to branch out to other opportunities.”

After the record release, Big Fresh will be playing Sept. 8th at the Tahlsound Festival on Southland Drive, another daytime show that is all ages friendly. Ferguson spoke at length about what a supportive community Lexington is for the diverse talents of the folks on the Desperate Spirits label. “Lexington is great in that way in that everyone kind of supports everyone else. It is a very inclusive and supportive community.” The variety of shows that people around town can enjoy speaks to this inclusion.

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard at the Master Musicians Festival

The Master Musicians Festival 2018 sprawled over the sunbaked rolling hills of the Somerset Community College Campus. Food truck aromas followed the nose through booths offering crafts and tie dye t-shirts.  Good humored folks laughed and danced and sweated in the sun while an incredible line-up of musicians poured out hearts, souls and talents from the festival’s pair of stages.

The Eastwood Stage stage, nestled in the trees down a slight hill from the big main stage where headliner John Prine would play later that Saturday, was home to the local acts that were performing between main stage sets. Hosted by Eastwood Records, the second stage gave “the little guys a spot down here in the valley,” musician John Clay quipped when he opened his set.

Click on image for Cara’s chat with John Clay | Photo by Cara Blake Coppola

Since 1994, The Master Musicians Festival has hosted big names in Americana music on its stages for folks to enjoy. This year brought one of Kentucky’s legends as headliner John Prine shared his bill with the likes of Amanda Shires, JD McPherson, The Dead South, Dawg Yawp, and many more. Some hot local bands shared the big stage with those names, including Joslyn and the Sweet Compression and Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound.

But our attention was drawn to the second stage, a brilliant festival strategy of providing local artists opportunities to call attention to their offerings as set changes happen on the main stage.

This year’s second stage hosted several Eastwood Records bands in addition to John Clay and the Boxwine Prophets. The lineup included Dave Ernst and the Early Favorites and Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters. They shared the stage with other local favorites, including John R. Miller, Coby Langham and the Citizen’s Band, Eric Bolander Trio, Luna & the Mountain Jets, Bee Taylor, Magnolia Boulevard and the last night closed out after John Prine left the stage post encore with Reverend John & the Backsliders.

Wesley Allen founded Eastwood Records in Louisville four years ago, to honor his father, nicknamed “Eastwood” from his hometown of Eastwood, KY. In that time, he has come to represent some up and coming names in Americana within the mostly Louisville scene. Having a fond love for Louisville and Kentucky music, Allen “felt like it doesn’t get enough attention and I wanted to be the guy who changed that and put that out there.”

Listen to Cara’s conversation with Wesley Allen

Allen’s good friend Nathan Paul Isaac works in both camps, so the connection between the Festival and Eastwood Records was a natural fit. “I owe that dude a lot,” Allen laughs. The opportunity to put his musicians on a bill with such a remarkable Americana line-up was a great choice to make. “It brings an amount of exposure that you would have to pay thousands of dollars for anywhere else. The fan base that comes to this festival is heavily Americana, so to have three of my top Americana bands get to play here and get represented at festival with somebody like Amanda Shires or John Prine, you would have to beg for it, they literally just offered it to me. It’s a no brainer.”

John Clay, who plays on Eastwood Records as a lead act but also plays drums for several other bands on the bill, has been with Wesley since 2016. He’s been on tour for awhile playing drums with Colter Wall, and Nick Dittmeier before him, but is finishing working on two albums with Eastwood Records to be released soon.

John Clay and the Boxwine Prophets | Video by Cara Blake Coppola

John Clay sings with a soft warble to his voice, only to send his voice sailing loudly out over the hills in the next note. It’s an authentic voice that is powerful and feels like it belongs in those hills. He starts one song with a booming a capella that has a touch of twang and a load of truth. When he covers a TVZ song, folks get up and start dancing, despite the heavy July heat. His rocking honky tonk songs make people leave the cool comfort of the shade to move in the sunshine.

Asked how it feels to share the bill with John Prine, Clay searched for an answer. “It’s very shocking. A lot of my friends are on this bill. Most have been directly inspired by his music. To see your name on a bill with someone like that, it’s hard to explain.”

That seemed to be the sentiment of all the musicians I had the opportunity to talk with that day. It is surreal to be at home in such a friendly community as Somerset, nestled in the hills you walk daily, and to be doing what you love so much, in such astounding company. Everyone I talked with that day was walking in a sunshine- filled daydream.

Dave Ernst, who opened the Eastwood Stage that Saturday, was still reeling in the completion of his set with his band The Early Favorites. “It’s Amazing, my first time to the event. Blown away with how cool and friendly it is down here. It means alot. This place is amazing, stages are great, setting is wonderful.”

Listen to Cara’s conversation with Dave Ernst

Coby Langham was the next to play the Eastwood stage after Grayson Jenkins of Lexington finished his set on the main stage. Coby and the Citizens Band, named for Langham’s truck driving career, filled the stage as the day was still getting moving.

Cara chats with Coby Langham

Coby and the band nailed their set, singing solid Americana songs into the hot afternoon. Some songs were more playful, getting folks to tap their feet and move in spite of the heat, others more heavy like with lyrics like “a mountain of pills to swallow these hills.” His song “Sober Bible” was a sad, mournful tune about loving someone with an addiction. His songs sing of truth and life and the real poetry of real life. The harmonies were sweet, even pretty to contrast the dark lyrics that hit home to too many.

Coby Langham and the Citizens Band performing at the 2018 Master Musicians Festival | Video by Cara Blake Coppola

The parking lots were filling and people were setting up their chairs for a day in the shade. You could hear the music of the main stage from the second stage, so many settled in for the day amid the hammocks and children’s games thoughtfully constructed by the Festival. Golf carts whizzed by all day providing rides to and from the parking lots for everyone. Hot wooden benches were covered in soft woven blankets for comfort. Free water was given out everywhere. The festival felt very comfortable and welcoming, something mentioned by all of the musicians we interviewed.

After his set at the merch table Wesley Allen manned steadfast all day long in the heat, Coby and his band were happy and sweaty and enjoying their part in the festival. “This is the biggest thing we’ve done yet. It was the easiest ‘yes’ I’ve ever said to anything. To be here with John Prine, we’re going bonkers. It’s a real big deal for us.”

Later that night, John Prine took the stage and every musician mentioned was in the crowd. Prine’s music rang out over those hills to the love and adoration of everyone in the crowd. It was a great set, he played his classics “Dear Abby” and “Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore,” along with several songs from his new CD Tree of Forgiveness. He started and ended his whole set with “Paradise” while the crowd joined in with nostalgic love. The musicians who were so grateful to share the bill with him joined in.

Like Coby Langham said, “It’s a real big deal for us.”

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: A Last Chance Dose of JoAnna James

When JoAnna James begins to sing, you tend to hold your breath. She captures the attention of the crowd as she whispers her voice into motion, and soon she has drawn the room into her craft. Her voice carries you along as she powers into the chorus, and when she hits those notes…those notes, you only then notice that you hadn’t been breathing because you have to gasp.

I first heard JoAnna’s voice at the first Leonard Cohen Tribute at Soulful Space. She sang “Ballad of a Runaway Horse” and “Anthem” with masterful skill. That treat was repeated at the second encore performance at The Lyric on April 28. One of the highlights of the evening, JoAnna’s voice shifted easily from the slow, meditative sound of “Ballad” to the gypsy-like rhythm of “Anthem”, singing Cohen’s famous line, “that’s how the light gets in” with the spellbinding effect that certainly would make the late singer-songwriter proud.

Produced by Anita Courtney and Purple Carrots Productions, the Cohen tributes were both sell out performances that brought together a diverse array of local musicians to offer their personal tributes to the master. On April 28th, the doors of the theater were thrown open to ventilate the heat as JoAnna and the others joined in verses of “Hallelujah” that spilled out into the streets. JoAnna took the lead on the final verse and belted out a righteous final farewell to Leonard, bouncing her powerful voice off the walls of that historic theater with a stunning, goosebump-inducing crescendo.

Joanna James performing with Richard Young (bass) and Anna Hess (violin) at the original Leonard Cohen Tribute concert

JoAnna came into music as a young girl when her grandpa picked up a violin for $100 from a nun in Mankato, Minneosta, near her hometown of St. Paul. The middle of five kids, her siblings refused the instrument and Joanna was given the violin and lessons with a kind teacher she greatly admired.

Joining orchestra in high school, JoAnna happened upon the guitar, songwriters who played the likes of Lilith Fair, and a book of tablature for Nirvana Unplugged. By 14, she was playing a three-hour gig in a Wisconsin bookstore to a full house. From there, her career has taken her across the country several times over and brought her into songwriting collaboration with a variety of musicians and labels.

JoAnna cowrites and collaborates on songs with many, including Josh Grange, pedal steel player for Sheryl Crow, and Jessy Greene, who has toured with Foo Fighters and Pink, all friends from the “small Minnesota music scene.” She first hears the song, she says, and then finds different processes for integrating the lyrics and music. Inspired by “that” teacher, Mr. Hanlin, who taught her “the connection between music and poetry,” JoAnna is highly adaptive, whether meeting strict deadlines for toplining gigs or musing through a stream-of-consciousness for her own original songs.

Motivated by friendship and a sad but necessary goodbye, Anita and JoAnna are pairing up once more for a show featuring JoAnna before she leaves the bluegrass for the mountains of Colorado. Moving to be closer to family, the show on July 27th at First Presbyterian Church Chapel on North Mill will be JoAnna’s big send-off. She will be joined by several stellar local musicians including Anna Hess and Richard Young, who accompanied her at both Cohen tributes, and Lee Carroll on keys. Maggie Lander will join with backup vocals. The show will be a combination of musicians as well as covers and originals, some solo, some with accompaniment.

 “For me, to produce a show, it needs to meet 3 criteria,” says Anita Courtney of Purple Carrots Productions: “feature great musicians in an intimate setting that pays the musicians well.  JoAnna’s show checks all the boxes. The chapel is beautiful, has great acoustics and seats 100 people. I call JoAnna the ‘goosebump girl’. She gets inside a song, really tries to understand it, feel it and convey that to the listeners.”

Anita is very excited about the combination of musical talent that will be on stage with JoAnna for the show. “Lee Carroll’s stellar piano, Maggie Lander’s beautiful vocals and the professional and soulful string instrumentalists—Anna Hess on violin and Richard Young on bass—and I think we will all be gobsmacked.”

“Gobsmacked” was the compliment Anita received after the Cohen tributes, and she ensures an all-JoAnna James show will be equally effective. The intimate setting of the chapel, JoAnna’s powerfully subtle voice, and a cast of stellar musicians guarantee that she is right. JoAnna feels strongly the power music induces, and she hopes for that exchange on the 27th.

“My biggest hope is what I always hope for with a show…that some sort of cycle of exchange happens, cause that’s what music is, it’s this experience through time, and to share it with these people who are willing to give you their time and attention. I hope that people can walk away with some kind of good feeling and catharsis. That is my hope.”

Cara’s conversation with JoAnna:

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: Short & Co.

The lineup at The Burl on a Friday evening in May was packed with a triple header of local musical talent for the fifth year anniversary of Alcatraz Shakedown. Following Magnolia Boulevard and preceding the headliner, Short & Co. took the stage and took over the room with some face melting blues and guitar work.

Jeremy Short is the front man for Short & Co, his first band as frontman and lead vocalist and guitar. A lifelong musician who previously played as guitarist and backing vocalist for others, including Sasha Colette and the Magnolias, this band and their first CD, Lost in a Spin, is his first foray as lead guitarist and songwriter, which he claimed to be “brand new, incredibly challenging and a steep learning curve for sure.” All who listened that night and have his newly released CD can agree, this is a good thing.

Jeremy Short can play the blues. And I’m not talking just playing. Playing a guitar is one thing, using that guitar to channel the essence that is The Blues is another thing. It requires a master of the craft. Short is undeniably a master of the guitar, and The Burl’s welcoming wooden walls were happy to embrace his music and his sound that night.

From a family of devoted musicians and singers, Short was raised surrounded by the voices of his family singing in harmony. As a child he lived with his grandmother, who had a piano at home and played at church, and his grandfather, the preacher of the Methodist church in Wolverine, Kentucky, a small town in Breathitt County Short describes as “on the way to Hazard.” He thought everyone started Sunday dinner with the family by singing praises, “that was normal to me”. While no one in his family took their talent to the stage before him, Short grew up with a love of music and harmony. That is quite evident when Short & Co. takes the stage.

Short & Co: (L-R) Corey Heim, bass; John Clay, drums, vocals; Jeremy Short, guitar, lead vocals

Joined on stage by Corey Heim on bass and John Clay on drums and vocal harmonies, Short & Co. sounds like much more than three people up there. Their vocal harmonies were tight. John Clay, a seasoned musician and vocalist out of Louisville, kept a solid back beat of drums while also matching his voice to Short’s with tight precision. The bass gave that solid foundation and held it while Short sunk down into deep, solid confident blues solos.

Jeremy Short

Whether using his slide or not, Short is quite familiar with the neck of a guitar. Playing it with ease and soul, he ran up and down the neck creating slick blues licks while the drums and bass danced behind him. Ranging from a more Chicago style song then into a poppy sounding song that echoes his love of all Steely Dan guitarists, his set ended with a song that had a Rockabilly sound to it. Covering “Dead Flowers” by The Rolling Stones rounded out the set, giving a deep variety of great guitar led music for the crowd that night, which danced enthusiastically all night long.

His mastery of the craft of the guitar solo has earned Jeremy Short enough attention to be invited to attend Tyler Childers’ panel during Bonnaroo this summer, discussing the guitar solo during the festival. He will also be appearing at the Bluegrass BBQ festival in downtown Lexington. His new CD can be purchased at shows, or on his website at shortandcompanymusic.com.

Photos and video by Derek Feldman

Please follow and like us:
Uncategorized

Don’t Miss Cohen Tribute – Tickets Are Going Fast!

The world of audiophiles and lyric lovers mourned greatly on November 7, 2016, the day Leonard Cohen died. Leaving behind a legacy of songs known and loved by millions, Cohen left a gap in the world of beauty with his passing. Out of a desire to emulate the gift that he was and share it with her community, Anita Courtney felt a strong pull to put on a tribute show for Cohen.

She did. It was a huge success. And now, she’s preparing for an April 28th redux. More on that in a moment.

“Well, he was ready to go, and he left us so much,” Courtney recalls saying to her daughters when they told her the sad news back in November, ’16. Her first thought was to organize a tribute. The idea was shared with others, namely Lynn Motley, Diane Arnson Svarlien and Marlon Hurst, and together they planned the first Leonard Cohen tribute. On November 11th of last year, the concert took place at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church as part of the First Presbyterian Church Music for Mission series.

Adam Luckey and Sherry Sebastian of the Sherry Sebastian trio. | Photo credit: Kopana Terry

“It went beyond our vision…” Courtney states about the first sell-out tribute show. Choosing a variety of musical styles that would emulate Cohen’s catalog with creative diversity, the lineup of local talent was a broad representation of some of the area’s finest musicians. Twelve acts performed that night, each performing one or two songs from Cohen’s lifelong supply of songs and poetry.

Beyond a program that featured everything from a psychedelic/blues rendition of “You Want it Darker” performed by Doc Feldman and Art Shechet, to a jazzy, seductive version of “Everybody Knows” by Paper Moon Jazz Trio, the greatest beauty of that night was the creative variety the artists put into their songs. The evening ended with a rousing sing-along to Cohen’s most mainstream song “Hallelujah” with artists taking turns with verses. The entire crowd joined in, and Cohen’s words rose to the heavens from that church.

Carlotta Abbott was a member of that first crowd. “I had no idea we had this kind of talent in Lexington,” she kept whispering to her friend between each set. “Each performer, I was covered in goosebumps, it just went on and on throughout the evening.” 

Thrilled by the talent that stood before her all night long, Abbott was one of the folks who helped encourage Courtney to have an encore. The talent was spectacular, but the feeling of community and coming together was something she took away from the evening. “The group sing-along, it was a coming together, a unifying experience, it felt wonderful…”

The Four Leonards performing Cohen’s “My Oh My” at the first concert

When the evening was complete, Anita Courtney rested on her laurels and knew that beauty could never be recreated. The night was a total success. Mission beautifully accomplished. But…the phone kept ringing. The emails kept coming. People were insisting that it be done again. “People were using words like ‘I was devastated I couldn’t get in’ or ‘I was heartbroken I missed it’.” The demands were sending a clear message: this tribute had to be done again.

So, Halleluja! Leonard Cohen Tribute Encore is coming!

Sponsored by UnderMain, the 7 pm, April 28th concert is being staged this time at The Lyric Theater. With only a few exceptions due to schedule conflicts, the artists of the original performance will return. This time with more space available, the $15.00 tickets will guarantee a great seat in a historic theater that offers amazing acoustics, and Cohen will be praised once more.

“The Lyric has heft and history, and a solidarity with the themes Cohen sings about. The Lyric has soul, and Cohen has soul,” Marilyn Robie commented, one of the performers that night who will be singing “Dance Me to the End of Love” and “The Land of Plenty” with her group Navi’im.  

Nevi’im – Tom Green, Marilyn Robie, Kim Berryman-Smith, Margie Karp, Benjamin Karp—performing at the first Leonard Cohen Tribute | Photo credit: Kopana Terry

For those of us who are avid disciples of Cohen’s music and poetry, his words will resonate in a timeless manner, and we are grateful to be able to gather together to celebrate his diverse collection. Many people relate to Cohen’s “pan-spiritualism” and his lifelong struggle to find the truth, despite religious boundaries.

“…he sought truth, his songwritings were investigations. When he found something that was true he polished it to be able to say it well,” says Courtney. Quoting Cohen she added, “When you’re moved by someone’s music it means they were unable to hide themselves.”

Leonard Cohen didn’t hide from his fans and colleagues. He gave all of himself, as a sellout crowd at Louisville’s Palace Theater discovered when on the very doorstep of his 80th year, Cohen gave them not one, not two, not three, but four very generous encores.

This creative generosity can be heard in his last album “You Want it Darker,” released October, 16, 3 weeks before his death. This truth is what calls so many musicians to want to emulate Cohen, to give him homage for mastering the craft. All who will take the stage on the 28th for the second time are grateful for the opportunity. And those who filled the seats will do so again – joined, it is hoped, by the many who regret missing the original tribute concert, all happy for that chance to experience community around the poetry and music of the great Leonard Cohen.

To purchase tickets, please visit lexingtonlyric.tix.com

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: Marble Creek Rangers at the Elkhorn

The room at Elkhorn Tavern greets its visitors with an inviting warmth as embracing as the tantalizing aroma of BBQ and the fire burning in the fireplace. Closing out the cold and freezing rain pelting the bustling Distillery District on Manchester Street, the room is full of happy, warm folks listening to the Marble Creek Rangers. Between the smell of food, the charms of the fire, all the people glad to be there and loving the music Eric Cummins and his band were providing, it was the perfect place to be on such a cold, dark night.

The Marble Creek Rangers lead is Eric Cummins, who pulled the band together mostly from his other two bands, the more electric sound of the Eric Cummins Band, and the beloved Allman Butter Band. The Rangers are a more acoustic sound, but very eclectic, hitting everything from Johnny Cash to Gillian Welch, The Allman Brothers, Billy Joe Shaver and Alejandro Escovedo in their covers, mixed with originals mostly written by Cummins, with a fast, upbeat bluegrass sound. But even those are not just Bluegrass.

“We cut a wide swath,” Cummins says of his band’s diverse tastes and talents. Joined by Martie Clough on bass and harmony, Brandon Bowlds on mandolin and harmony, Mike DeLong on drums and Don Rogers on fiddle and singing, the Marble Creek Rangers are a powerhouse of solid musical talent.

The room was full of people grateful to be off work on a cold Friday night. UK had just won the game, their colors were adorned on sweatshirts and hats throughout the room, the playoffs played silently on the television behind the bar, and the feel in the room was so comfortable. The Elkhorn Tavern serves food ordered at the bar, everything from beer cheese plates to BLT’s and Hot Browns. Serving a diverse selection of spirits, including their own brands of several kinds, the Tavern gives the feel of an old neighborhood pub. The stone walls, hardwood, classic bar candles burning and animal trophies adorn the space, and the Rangers fit perfectly by the closed tasting room.

The drums were nestled back in the corner, Eric’s back was to the door and the sound of the band resonated and filled the space. Everyone seemed happy: happy to be there, happy the game was won, happy the band was playing high-quality songs with a good vibe.

Eric’s voice is solid, he can shift from Johnny Cash to Gillian Welch to Bruce Springsteen smoothly. His band is tight and has his back at every step, with every note. The fiddle and the mandolin partner perfectly, taking turns with their parts and making the music so alive folks were dancing around the room. Whether two-stepping or just shaking it where they stood, it was clear they were quite pleased with what they heard.

“Our best gigs come when folks are music lovers out in the crowd,” Eric later commented, and that synergy was clear on this recent night at Elkhorn. Musicians and crowd exchanged energies, and the friendly staff handing out delicious plates of food and good drinks made the fit quite pleasant.

 The Rangers feed off the crowd as well-seasoned musicians do, and reflected that in their playing. They are the kind of band that can play steadily to a crowd full of talking people but still command their attention enough that they all join in on the chorus. Their songs are recognizable, and the originals they bring into the mix perfectly with the sound. Eric and the band do not do setlists for gigs. Rather, they have a treasure trove of songs they all know and have played together, and even more they could fall into with Eric’s lead should he feel inspired to do so. That is the beauty of a well-seasoned band of great musicians.

Fellow musicians have called Eric fearless in the past, winging gigs with faith in his musical talent and his bandmates. “In everything I do I like the element of danger. If it works out it’s a big thrill, like ‘hey we did it!’…people don’t mind seeing you be human. That’s the fun thing about getting off your couch and going to see someone play…something will happen.”

After a long life where he attempted music full time, even busking down in Florida, and realized it wasn’t a solid “business plan” for a man with a family and wanting a home, he began working at Wilcutt Guitars on Southland Drive and has worked there ever since. He knows many successful rock stars through his work but is happy to be a local musician who makes music with his friends after work is done, and gets to play for receptive crowds like the folks at Elkhorn last night.

Cummins on Lexington…

“That’s the rewarding thing for me at this point: to go and play well and have fun making music with my friends.”

Eric plays regularly around town. You can catch The Eric Cummins Band at Parlay Social in downtown Lexington and the Paddy Wagon in Richmond regularly. The Allman Butter Band is playing The Burl on March 31st, and Marble Creek Rangers will be back at The Elkhorn Tavern later this month and are playing Inclusion Palooza at the Moondance Amphitheater April 21st.

After the Elkhorn show, Cara sat down for a chat with Eric Cummins:

Please follow and like us:
Arts

WRFL hits ‘Big 3-0’

WRFL, at 88.1 on the FM dial, has been fulfilling its mission in Lexington for an incredible thirty years. Next weekend, March 2nd through March 4th, WRFL will be throwing an epic party in celebration of thirty years as a pivotal force in Lexington.

Photo by Arden Barnes

WRFL was started back in 1988, when “College radio was a vibrant media platform for punk rock and alternative music culture,” says Phillip Kisling, the station’s promotions director. After a year of research and fundraising by Kakie Urch, lovingly referred to as their “punk rock godmother”, WRFL hit the airwaves to offer Lexington “a source of music, news and other programming not regularly found through other media outlets in central Kentucky.” In doing so, the station has been foundational in the education and training of many of Lexington’s broadcasters, sound engineers, and music producers, fulfilling the first part of their mission, “to provide its members with professional training and guidance in radio operations management, program development, and quality broadcast performance.”

For thirty years, WRFL has been providing a creative and informative outlet for Lexington and has helped greatly in fostering a sense of community around town in the music and art we celebrate. While affiliated with UK, WRFL works with the entire community, accepting interns from many area colleges. Students in fields such as broadcasting, journalism, marketing, business, engineering, music or art can find a place to learn their career with hands-on training and encouraged creativity.

Being a DJ at WRFL is an opportunity many around Lexington can claim. They have an open door policy at the station: as long as folks commit to three training weekends and some studio time shadowing an experienced DJ, anyone in the community –not just UK students, can host a show of any theme as long as the content complies with FCC and UK stipulations.

Featuring everything from social activism, to mental health issues, LGBTQ topics, to Russian radio, WRFL is a blank canvas that encourages the creativity of the community to thrive. “We’re really an open door, despite being in a basement,” Ben and Phil joked, and are excited for when the studio gets to move into the new Student Center that is currently under construction.

WRFL has provided that “bridge or handshake” between UK students and the city where they may be finding themselves for the first time. Kisling spoke of how he hated Lexington when he arrived as a UK undergrad from Louisville: “It wasn’t until I found WRFL that Lexington opened up to me.” The station became an introduction to Lexington’s alternative music and art scene, and in turn, many of those musicians and artists have appeared in the studio or have been a dj themselves.

All of this successful collaboration, creativity and love for commercial free radio will culminate in the 30th Birthday Bash for WRFL happening over an entire weekend at The Burl. The lineup for the venue is to celebrate WRFL, and will feature a special draft from Blue Stallion Brewery, a mango IPA called “The Only Alternative Left”, celebrating the station’s motto.

Washed Out is the big headliner on Friday the 2nd, with openers Idiot Glee and Helado Negro.

Kisling and Allen are very excited to bring such a big name to Lexington, offering their supporters and audience a chance to see a band they would normally have to travel a long distance to pay much more money to see at a bigger, less intimate venue. There is an after party for that show as well, featuring Hell Bent Hearts, Just a Test, and The Yellow Belts.

Saturday’s festivities begin during the day at the Downtown Arts Center, where thirty years of DJs will reunite and celebrate at a free, family-friendly exhibit of Rifle Magazine, the station’s program guide. The evening will be back at The Burl headlining Cults, with openers Ellie Herring, Hair Police and Devine Carama, along with an after-dance party with DJ’s.

The next day they are hosting a “Hangover Brunch” and are bringing in all the nostalgia, with bands that were playing when WRFL was first hitting the airwaves all those years ago, featuring Ten Foot Pole and Nine Pound Hammer, along with the younger phenoms of Johnny Conqueroo. That brunch also promises to feature a collaboration between the generations when some of the original musicians will be performing with their own musical kids, as the generations pass the baton and the great music keeps on playing.

Such a magical celebration the folks at WRFL have put together for us, a celebration of thirty years of alternative music on commercial free airwaves, a collaboration of some of the best and hardest working creative minds in town. For thirty years WRFL has held true to the mission, and next weekend’s celebration promises to be an incredible apex for the “Only Alternative Left.”

Listen to Cara’s conversation with Phillip Kisling and Ben Allen:

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: Chelsea Nolan on Red Barn Radio

Nestled in the middle of downtown Lexington, once a week on Wednesday nights Red Barn Radio broadcasts and live- streams original music to the world. Sending Kentucky’s rich treasure of music to the masses, Ed Commons and the folks at Red Barn Radio represent and support a different local and regional artist each week they broadcast. On January 10, folks gathered inside ArtsPlace in downtown Lexington to see Chelsea Nolan take her turn at the mic.

A native of Stanton, Ky, Nolan is a recent voice that has skyrocketed out of Eastern Kentucky over the last year, and she is taking her place among the group of massively talented singer/songwriters from the region. “I feel like I got on a rocketship, and then I got in a slingshot and they flung me into outer space.” Starting with her first solo gig back in October 2016, Chelsea soon was making a name for herself.

“I was drumming for people and being in the background, and being the support. I am a drummer before I am a singer or a songwriter, and I feel that I’m good at supporting people too. It just hit me one day that I had my own songs to sing.”

Photo by Derek Feldman

Songwriting is very personal for Chelsea. Her songs come from personal experience, and phrases and ridiculous things that folks say around her. She is always listening and gathering lines here and there from the people in her orbit. Her songs become an emblem, a story being sung of the hills and the people who live in them and make music with her. She says songwriting for her is like doing a puzzle. “Once I’ve got all the corners together it just falls in, and I’ve got no control over it. Thirty minutes max is probably what I have in a song, start to finish once I’ve got everything I need. If I have to force it it doesn’t’ have to be written. It has to be natural and real. I put myself into strange situations, just so I can get some ammo. It’s bigger than me.”

Music has always been a huge part of her life, and the life of her family, a Stanton staple. Brother Josh Nolan is a strong singer and songwriter, as well, and played Red Barn Radio previously.

“A couple years ago watching my brother do this, I was teary eyed the whole time. It’s such a good opportunity, so many people listen to Red Barn. That anyone thought of me to do that is crazy. I am excited and humbled.”

As soon as Chelsea begins to sing, you can hear why her music career has gained such momentum. Her songs are real, and true, and well-crafted. And she is hilarious. Not just in lyric, but between songs she has the crowd laughing until our faces hurt. She takes us along on an easy ride with her. Sometimes it gets real, just a little heavy, such as “That Old Town”, when she sings of the pills and the depression all-to-present in many small towns in the hills. But more often you find yourself bouncing along with her as your foot can’t stop tapping and you can’t stop laughing. Her southern accent bites with a sarcasm that is brilliant, and her verses often end with a twist of wit.

She tells stories between her songs, of hollers and ponds glowing with sunset; of friends singing together; and of love. She sings of driving backroads and watching the lightning over the hills. Her songs are for healing and for laughing, and they tell of real lives that anyone, Kentuckian or not, can relate to.

“I don't care if people know my name, I just want to be able to do this. I want to share what’s on my heart with other people, because it's on my heart for a reason. I want to be able to help other people with their stuff, because this has helped me with mine. I want to sing as much as I can, as loud as I can, to as many people as I can.” Chelsea Nolan

For the first half of her set, Chelsea was accompanied by Kristofer Bentley providing a homegrown percussion beat on the cajon while Chelsea played the guitar and sang.

She was resolute that night, playing in spite of coming down with the flu that has afflicted so many this winter. She refused to miss the chance to play Red Barn Radio. Barefoot, with a thermos of tea close by, she sat astride a stool and poured her soul into her songs.

Performing thirteen originals and two covers that she made her own, Chelsea kept the crowd enraptured. With her bluesy, soulful voice and thick country twang that tells her stories with a realness that is refreshing. Her guitar picking is perfect and she can’t help but bop along to her own beat and you can’t help but join her. Between the songs, host Brad Becker asked questions that gave Chelsea an opportunity to charm the crowd and listeners around the world with her tales.

She’s fun. Real fun and real good.

That night was an apex for Nolan. Red Barn Radio, in it’s 16th season of sending original music around the world on various radio stations, also live-streams their shows and is compiling video for a thirteen-episode season on local television. To play Red Barn and sit between those bourbon barrels and get to tell your story to the world is a great opportunity. Having accelerated their viewership with their You Tube videos of Tyler Childers, Red Barn Radio is a big part of the national and global conversation being had about Kentucky’s excellent treasure of music and musicians.

Chelsea Nolan has earned her rank among that group of musicians we are proud to call ours. Standing her ground among a pack of mostly guys, she keeps everyone laughing with her unique and well sung songs that provide a refreshing take on the stories the hills have to share with the world. As she says herself, “I am in a beautiful situation.”

Listen to Cara’s conversation with Chelsea Nolan:

Listen to Cara’s chat with Red Barn Radio’s Ed Commons:

Watch Chelsea’s Shaker Steps video:

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: Divine Carama

Music isn’t just music for hip hop artist Devine Carama, it is everything. It is the backdrop to his drive, to his work, and to his life. He raps about a mission that he believes with all his heart, and his life’s work reflects that daily.

Friday night, the first of December, a diverse group of musicians took the stage at The Burl to embody and play for Devine’s mission about community. His non-profit Believing in Forever was hosting a Coat to Keep the Cold Away fundraiser that night, sharing the donations with The Nest and the Reindeer Express. All the funds for the show went to the charities, and cover could be paid in a new coat or toy for donation. The trade off for the act of kindness was a line up of some of Lexington’s finest musicians, boasting a wide variety of genres of high quality music.

Robert Frahm started the night with his tight guitar slinging skills, followed by Sunny Cheeba. Joslyn and the Sweet Compression went next and set the stage for Devine Carama, the headliner of the show and the organizer from the Believing in Forever non-profit. Devine Carama was followed by The Summit and the Johnny Conqueroo. Devine was on the other side of having recently performed a 24-hour Hip Hop for Hope marathon in front of the Fayette County Courthouse.

For the past four years, Devine Carama’s winter season has centered around the Coat to Keep the Cold Away campaign. The first two years, his organization raised funds and collected coats for low income kids and families in the Central Kentucky area. Last year they expanded to Eastern Kentucky as well and bought and delivered 1500 coats to kids who needed them. This year, the requests reached nearly 2800. So Devine went to work. He did the 24 hour marathon and raised almost $4,000 for new coats, but it wasn’t enough. Thus, the beautiful night of music at The Burl that Friday evening.

Joslyn and the Sweet Compression are a great act to follow. They always leave the crowd happy and moving and loving life and everyone in it. From there, Devine took the stage solo. His DJ wasn’t able to be there that night, so he used pre-recorded beats as his backdrop. He did a short intro about who he was and why were were all there that night, and then, he let the words go. Oh man, all those words…

Divine Carama | Photo by Derek Feldman

For twenty minutes Devine Carama slayed lyrics upon lyrics. His rhymes were tight and flowing and talked about so much, about what is real. About life on the streets and about poverty and disenfranchisement and unarmed black men getting shot and community and Africa and about so much. His lyrics are dense and vast and you follow along with him, line by line, as he tells you what it’s all about. He calls to the crowd and they answer along, following the beat with him, moving in time to the rhyme.

“Poetry and lyrics are so important for me…” Devine commented, speaking of the early days of hip hop and of “Diverse complex parallel rhyme schemes, when it really mattered, and substance.” He wants his lyrics to speak about the truth of the struggles he sees in his community and America daily, “things that are going on in the world. Charlottesville, a lot of unarmed black men dying, Trump in office. You rarely hear them mentioned in hip hop. I come from the era of Public Enemy and NWA” when hip hop artists spoke out against the subjects that “will be in the history books.”

His lyrics are packed full of these themes. It’s astounding, how someone can remember all those words, to stand up there and preach and say all the lyrics with emphasis and pathos. To remember and to move, to instill the message in the hearts of the crowd below. The fog on the stage mixed with the cold air from outside and swirled around Devine as he shared his poetry and his passion with the room. The bass bounced against the walls and moved The Burl to a beat it wasn’t as familiar with, and it liked it. You could tell. The room danced that night, from one performer to the next, and the feeling was real good.

Taking a break after twenty minutes, Devine spoke to the crowd about his non-profit, Believing in Forever, which was founded in 2014. Their mission is to inspire education, community service, mentoring and expressive art. They hold nine in-school mentoring programs, called Impact 859. Sons of Single Mothers is another aspect, which recently received a grant from State Farm. They also hold Youth Open Mics, do Philanthropy projects such as A Coat to Keep the Cold Away, motivational youth speaking, and mentoring. They try to inspire strength in the next generation in ways that are “a little different than the norm.”

Mainly, Devine Carama wants all the forgotten, disenfranchised folks out in the community to know that there are people who do see them, who do care. Those are the people he raps about in his hip hop songs, those are the people he works tirelessly for to give them the comfort of a new, warm coat that fits well, and the comfort of taking the time to help with homework, and mentoring them through the difficult choices and consequences life brings. Even free haircuts earned for good grades. And a place to express themselves through spoken word and song as well. All of these things build community, and community is what Devine is all about.

Believing in Forever had a goal to reach, those 2800 coats that had already been requested from all over central and eastern Kentucky. The goal was not quite met after Friday night, so, driven as he is, Devine committed to another hip hop for hope marathon. This time, for 48 hours. For two days straight he would sit outside in the cold and rap his hip hop lyrics every hour, on the hour, for twenty minutes or so each time. Even in the cold, dark night, at 4 and 5 am, he was out there rapping. That was the point, he commented, “The commitment- even when there’s not a lot of people around. [It] symbolizes those families that are struggling that not everyone knows about. Every hour on the hour…Every hour.”

I sat with Devine outside the courthouse during hour eight of his 48 hour marathon. It was a sunny day at 3pm, but the wind was blowing cold, driving the dry, dead leaves around in circles, and after thirty minutes I was frozen cold and couldn’t feel my hands. He had forty more hours to go. He rapped outside to the traffic driving by. Folks honked in support, or walked by to greet him and shake his hands or donate to the cause. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergran Grimes stopped by to visit. And there were several interviews — including mine: 

Music is a strong force within a community. Whatever the genre, it can move people to act and to gather and to commune. When that music is joined with action, it can move mountains. Devine Carama channels his music from his soul, and imbibes it with his passion for community. When he puts that music to work for his beliefs, magic can happen. The magic of a kid getting a great new coat for Christmas, and the relief his parents or guardians feel with the gift of a stranger. The magic of a kid who passes a tough test because members of the community spent their free Saturday with him, working hard on helping him pass. When he does, he gets rewarded and praised and gets a new haircut. These are the differences that matter, this is the real magic of community. Devine Carama embodies that in everything he does.

“With the music I think its always about unearthing truths or emotions that are often suppressed in hip hop music. I’m an agent of change when it comes to that I am the voice that you don’t normally hear in hip hop music. The boy that doesn’t have a father, the young teenage girl who was molested. The underserved black kid that lives in a city that 90 percent don’t look like him. I want my music to be that, and I want my music to be uplifting to those who don’t have a voice.”

At the Burl | Photo by Derek Feldman

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: The Jettisons

Best Friend Bar is the quintessential classic college bar, nestled on the corner of Euclid and Woodland Ave. The geometric insides boast jutting ceilings covered with colored Christmas lights and shiny stars that hang year round. Posters and stickers from shows and bands past adorn the painted black ceilings and bathroom stalls. A small merch table is stuck back against a slanted wall, and band equipment is bundled up on the other side. Patrons clad in lots of black leather mill around the bar, getting ready for the three-act set as they order local drafts and burritos from Girls, Girls, Girls Burritos. The Jettisons are set to play second in a fully stocked night of promised punk music headlined by Sarasota’s Rational Anthem.

The Jettisons | Photo by Derek Feldman

The Jettisons is an amalgamation of four other previous bands from the Lexington area, a sort of supergroup of punk musicians. Brad Hagedorn, the drummer, and Travis Rosenbalm, the guitarist, were from Middle Class Mischief. They joined with Tom Blankenship, someone Travis had been wanting to do music with since Tom’s time in The Loaded Nuns and Slagsmiths. They all wanted Beth Jenkins on vocals. Her previous work in the ska band The Rough Customers boasted her vocals, a sound they all wanted for their new band. Cory Hanks, from Those Crosstown Rivals, was brought in for bass, and The Jettisons was born.

Musicians who have been part of the scene, each brings their own personality to the band, which they call truly democratic. “Definitely the most collaborative band I’ve ever been in,” says Tom, “…there is no established leader of the band, it’s a collective.” The musicians get together with a riff and a beat and record it. They hand it off to Beth, and soon she comes back with lyrics and they then pull it all together. When they had some songs compiled, they went into the studio with Jason Groves at Sneak Attack Studios and recorded an EP.

They all laughed about the experience and the astonishment when Groves put Beth in the drum booth to record her vocals. Once they heard the result, however, they were collectively in awe of both Grove’s recording skills and Jenkin’s vocal talent. “He’s worked with me before,” Beth jokes.

When they take the stage after local opening band Test Passenger and hit that first note, you can understand why. Beth’s voice is incredibly powerful and so direct. She wails up into high notes with flawless accuracy, then in the next breath screams out her gut-punching lyrics, only to go back to singing like she’s in a musical. Impressive. The band backs her with exact synchronization, their heads slamming in classic punk style, instruments slung low as they fill the small stage, their lead woman out front, in amongst the loyal crowd, the sound filling the small room and making the windows rattle.

Beth’s lyrics chanted and screamed, sung out like an aria, Tom and Travis adding perfectly timed responses to Beth’s calls, the chanting like prayers, and the crowd joins in. Small but fervent, the crowd slams and bounces and dances and pushes each other guidingly back into the middle where one dancer bounces and slams into Tom…while he’s playing guitar. A true audience participation show, a true punk show, the crowd and the band become one with the beat, and Beth’s voice guides them all.

The shambled room and the DIY sound gear is part of the charm of Best Friend Bar, in walking distance from most of the UK dorms. The air smells of the amazing burritos from Girls, Girls, Girls Burritos, a co-business with BFB, operated out of a door next to the bar. Amazing grilled burritos and quesadillas, chips and dip are served out of the door – your ideal edge-of-campus business. The punk vibes fit perfect that night, and the camaraderie and joy the crowd clearly felt were good for everyone.

Beth Jenkins, The Jettisons | Photo by Derek Feldman

“You don’t necessarily have to have a really big crowd at a punk show. Enthusiastic really matters…I’d rather see two people moving than fifty people not,” the band agreed. Dancing with their audience, Beth and Tom draw the crowd in on the floor while the band diligently keeps the beat behind, Brad’s drums the sidewalk they dance upon, Hank’s bass the beat of their steps. Travis and Tom support Beth out front, and the joy and experience and tight musicianship of the collective are quite clear.

Tom and Beth joke between songs, with the band, and with the crowd. The feel of the set is fun. Just damn fun, and they’re out there to have fun. This isn’t the punk I remember from the early days. These aren’t young kids who hate the establishment. Beth says, “Old punk is about trashing something, destroying something. Fuck this, fuck that. There is something to rebuilding. There is something to bringing something back.” And that is what The Jettisons clearly get across to their audience.

The term “posi-punk”, or Positive Punk, is the subgenre they have chosen,

“Posipunk…is maybe an overlooked subgenre, it’s something that a lot of us who grew up listening to this kind of music maybe should start leaning towards…in times like these” Beth comments, “let’s talk about rebuilding. Let’s talk about the rebuild.”

Travis agrees, “There’s never been a more important time to be positive, at least in my lifetime, as far as society goes.”

Their songs try to touch on this idea, to come together. To stay positive. A new song that will be on their second CD, a full-length album they hope to get out soon, Beth wrote for Travis when he was struggling with anxiety. “Watch the Sky” is a positive song that she wrote for Travis to understand that he was not alone. That is what The Jettisons want to convey in their lyrics.

The Jettisons having a big ‘ol time at Best Friend Bar | Photo by Derek Feldman

With that powerful message, along with Beth’s astounding voice, and the collective talent of the guys backing her, The Jettisons are creating a new wave in Lexington’s punk scene.

Meanwhile, out in the parking lot…

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: NP Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon

Formerly an old Methodist Episcopal church built in 1866, the Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY has been remade into an amazing live music venue, just up the road from Lexington.

Photo by Scott Preston for Cincygroove.com

Offering an opportunity for local Lexington talent to expand their circles a bit, often to open for a national touring act they admire, Southgate creates a unique and gorgeous space for musicians and fans to share their time together. As opening band for the San Francisco touring legends The Flamin’ Groovies, NP Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon were the first of three bands to take the stage in the Sanctuary Room at Southgate.

Opening for a legendary band such as the Groovies was a gig that Nate, aka NP Presley, was proud to add to his band’s roster. “Southgate calls us repeatedly, and they ask us to open up for bands we really respect. I’d rather play for a band we really respect and look up to.”

The Sanctuary room is exactly what it suggests, the room where Episcopalians once gathered in worship, stained glass windows now flanked by acoustic paneling, pews removed from the wooden floors to make way for tables and chairs, and the organ piping now the backdrop for the fully stocked bar. The stage is set where the altar should be, and the choir’s balcony above is now a green room for the musicians who meander back and forth in what must be the coolest view from a green room, ever.

Southgate House Revival

Churches, I believe, make amazing live music venues, as they are made to project sound and music so perfectly. The walls seem to agree with the evolution, and the Southgate House is no exception. The side of the room boasted heavily visited merch tables for all three bands, and the fans filed in, devotees to a certain groove, and many greeted each other as friends. The room soon boasted a promising crowd, with room in front of the tables for a dance floor. NP Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon were the first set of three that night, to be followed by Tiger Sex, and then the headliner the fans were collected to see, The Flamin’ Groovies.

As I’ve noted in previous columns of shows past, the opening set has to be one of the toughest. You have to get the crowd’s attention as they’re filing in, greeting others, buying merch, ordering drinks and settling in for the headliner most have come to see.

NP Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon are devoted fans of The Flamin’ Groovies, and routinely cover their song Teenage Head. They had the opportunity to open for one of their idols, and their reverence and respect for that assignment, to warm up the crowd and get them ready to worship when the time came, was met with a devotion that was apropos for the building. They played their thirty minutes in full force and with great joy, drawing from their most recent CD “Broken Fantasy” as well as past works, and the crowd responded beautifully.

N.P. Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon is a big band with a long story. Boasting eight members, they are headed by NP Presley, aka Nate. Nate is the distant cousin to Elvis Presley, his mother was Elvis’ cousin and also a Country and Western singer in Nashville. NP recalls as a young boy being woken up by his father to watch his mother perform live on TV, then going back to bed. Jesse Garon, Elvis enthusiasts may know, was Elvis’ twin brother who died at birth. Nate sees the band’s name as an homage to “the spirit of rock and roll.”

NP Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon at Southgate House Revival

When they take the stage, the full band is an impressive display, Nate and others dressing to the nines from their brilliantly shined shoes to their neckties. Heather’s eyes are masked in black outlines that are mystical and beautiful and match her alluring voice. Eight in number, including NP Presley on vocals and guitar, Heather Parrish on vocals, Tex Dynamite on lead guitar and vocals, Matt Sigler on guitar, Chris Childers on bass, David Lee Hinkle on keys, Joe Linville on baritone sax and Whitney Mehringer on drums, together they create a well orchestrated and powerful sound.

While the name of the band and even the nice suits suggest a rockabilly sound, the sound of the band is quite diverse, as their tight thirty-minute set demonstrated. “We want to avoid defining our sound. I have metalheads who love us, gospel kind of people who love us, I meet hippies who like us, bikers like us cause we’re the sound of what it’s about really, freedom.

“We’re trying to be a big band…so far people have been really cool about it.”

They segued easily from rockabilly to punk to rock to even a gospel sound. NP dominates the vocals, with Heather Parrish on tightly emphatic harmonies, but for more than one song they literally switched places, mics and all, and Nate backed up Heather, with other band members adding in tight four and five-piece harmonies on several songs as well.

The elevated stage with that gorgeous archway backdrop was a beautiful setting for their sound. They filled every corner of the stage with their large presence and gave every bit of themselves while they were up there.

Presley, Mehringer and Parrish

Heather’s powerful voice rose up and around NP’s deep lyrics, filling them in like a well-wrapped package. Keys and sax slide in around the music, and the drums keep a strong beat going, making the crowd move along. NP and Heather are up there preaching, telling the crowd their story, and making sure it drives home. They want their crowd to be in it with them.

“My hope is to see people cutting loose, not worrying about the problems that are weighing them down every day,” NP said. “Because this is where I go to get rid of the problems I have…its really nice to see people in awe out there, stopping dead in their tracks with wide eyes and they didn’t expect what was happening. You want people to enjoy themselves. I do this to get away from reality, and I hope people can leave all the bad parts of their reality behind and enjoy the good parts, in the few minutes we get to make music.”

Taking full advantage of their half hour, the band moved with well-rehearsed precision from one song to the next. “The River Styx” was a deep, gothic song that told a story freighted with warning. Heather’s voice added a haunting quality that commanded the room. “Idle Dreams” had a southern gospel sound that was heavy with keys, the band joining in as a chorus that suited the setting of the old church.

NP Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon at the Southgate House Revival

The set was over too soon, but the band filled every second of it with some righteous rock and roll. The energy they exuded to the crowd was contagious, and the audience was begging for more when it was done. Happy to have headed north a bit to open for an amazing night of music for some of their idols, N.P. Presley and the Ghost of Jesse Garon represented Lexington quite well that night.

Listen to Cara’s conversation with N.P. Presley and the band:

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: Joslyn and the Sweet Compression

And just like that, on a sultry October night, Willie’s Locally Known was filled with a damn funky beat. 

Joslyn and The Sweet Compression, consisting of a diverse group of Lexington musicians, set the mood and laid the musical red carpet for Joslyn Hampton to take the stage and display her impressive vocals. Trumpet, sax, keys and drums joined guitar and bass to fill those wooden walls with some tight, high-quality music.

They started out with an instrumental, letting trumpet, then sax take the lead, each musician feeding off what the others had done before him, and then, Joslyn took the stage.  They had to make a big sound, see, to match her voice. Good lord, that voice.

Dancing with the beat between her verses, the entire package is a tight assemblage. Beckoning the roots of R&B, Joslyn and the Sweet Compression rock out originals and sprinkle in a few covers. 

Joslyn and The Sweet Compression at Willie's

It is a masterful scene, each musician clearly exceptional individually; collectively they give the audience a taste of great quality. Joined on stage by her step-father Marty Charters on guitar, Smith Donaldson on bass, Rashawn Fleming on drums, Stevie Holloman on a double set of keys, Joe Carucci on saxophone, and Jeffrey Doll on trumpet, Joslyn owns the room with her deep, solid and flawlessly consistent vocals. Joined with backing harmonies by Rashawn and Stevie, her singing quickly got the crowd up and dancing.

Raised singing in the church with her father’s family and her grandmother Vivian, Joslyn’s life has been one of singing. She received a partial scholarship to KSU and was in their Concert Choir, and took vocal lessons for a few years practicing opera, which she loved. That skill and training are clearly evident as her songs complimented her vast range of skill, moving her voice up and down the scale with ease.

As for influences, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, and Jill Scott are Joslyn’s big 3.

Marty cites Sly and the Family Stone, Chaka (a major point of intersection), The JB’s, Junior Wells and the Beatles. Also high on his list is Ohio funk hero Roger Troutman and his band, Zapp.

Personally speaking, nothing gets this music voyeur happier than a band that is clearly having a good time up on stage.  Talent helps, of course, and skill, but it’s gotta be fun to really draw the audience in, even if the music is sad in tone. The Sweet Compression, with their fearless leader at the mic, is clearly having a wonderful time up there. The range of the songs they play is diverse, moving smoothly from funk, to R&B, to reggae, then sliding nicely into a slower soul song, Joslyn’s voice never faltering. The backing harmony supports her so well, and you can hear the church background in her skill set.

Like most musicians, Joslyn has to struggle to make time for music between her duties as a Security officer at UK. “Go to sleep, go to work, go to a gig, go back to work…that’s my life.” Joslyn and the Sweet Compression has existed for about a year, and their entity as a band was created somewhat backward from the usual.  She and step-dad Marty pulled some songs and lyrics together and then headed straight to the studio with Duane Lundy at Shangri-La. After recording their CD, they then decided to form a band to get the music out into the clubs.

Starting from scratch, excepting Marty and Smith, The Sweet Compression evolved into the band of troubadours that rocked the stage at Willie’s in their current form.  “I enjoy seeing the growth and process of everyone, including me…We know each other so well that we kind of fall into the right thing…we all get along…I think we’re bound to get far.” Joslyn has a strong affection for her band and the support they’ve given her; “those are my boys.”

The next step, they hope, is to spread out in “little circles” to surrounding cities like Louisville, Cincinnati, and further. They’ve gotten their foot in the door already and will play Headliner’s in Louisville to open for the Victor Wooten Trio, of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones fame. The band is excited to spread their sound outside of Lexington, but is so grateful for the response they’ve had in the short year since they released their debut CD and began playing out around town.

They recorded a live video at The Burl awhile back and were so impressed by the love they received from the crowd. “I was very, very surprised by the positive response we’ve gotten from the community…it’s been enlightening and humbling.” She wasn’t certain that their sound would resonate with the community, “I didn’t expect it to really pop for everyone, but it really has.” When they recorded at The Burl, the folks came “right up front”. “It’s like a high, it’s an energy from the crowd that feeds you…Your heart kind of just explodes.”

After a solid hour of funky soul songs, Joslyn takes a break to cool down while the band goes off on another instrumental melody that keeps the crowd bopping. The trumpet and sax have a chance to flash their talent together, the bass and keys keeping the foundation strong. A well-played jazz or soul instrumental jam always sounds to me like a conversation; guitar talking to bass, drums answering with keys, the horns adding emphatic expletives along the way.  The Sweet Compression is fluent in that language, clearly.

Then Joslyn takes the stage again, and the magic continues.

Sliding into a Chaka Khan cover of “Ain’t Nobody” the crowd takes the dance floor again and the room moves together in one solid groove while Joslyn hits those high notes with breathtaking precision. An Amy Winehouse cover of “Valerie” then merges into a Stones cover of “Gimmie Shelter”, hitting Merry Clayton’s notes with the same bone-chilling intensity. She then slowed the room down with a bluesy song that lets her slide her voice way high on the register, blowing the crowd’s mind.

Their greastest skill, just behind that of her incredible voice, is their ability to work the room; to engage the crowd and make them an equal part of the experience.

It can be difficult, sometimes, to play a gig at a restaurant.  You have to earn your place amongst the competition of the alcohol and the delicious BBQ. Your music, if you want the crowd to move and feel the vibe you are creating, has to rise above the savory vapors of the food and libations, yet mix with it to create an all-encompassing sound that makes the folks want to get up and dance away their food coma. Joslyn is the perfect fit for that need; her R&B sound, her smooth vocals, the sweet sound of the musicians’ conversation behind and within her created the perfect mix.

Willie’s danced that night, as it likes to do; those wooden walls absorbing the smell of brisket along with the bass and the sax and keys and her gorgeous voice to serve the audience a complete package.

Listen to Cara’s conversation with Joslyn:

Please follow and like us:
Arts

Scene&Heard: PeteFest

The inaugural celebration of PeteFest on the Jones family nature preserve in Louisville was at once a celebration and a time for sad reflection. Pete Jones, for whom the Festival is named, took his own life last December. 

On the day I interviewed Youngeun Koepke it had been exactly nine months to the day when she heard the terrible news of her good friend.

“Pete was seeking help, but we just didn’t know the severity of his depression.”

Youngeun Koepke | Photo by Derek Feldman

Almost immediately following Pete’s death, his family and friends began organizing the Pete Foundation for Depression Prevention, and their anchor event, Pete Fest.  As the PeteFest Marketing Director, Koepke wanted desperately to share the Foundation’s message that “it really is okay to talk about it.”

Nestled in the 90 acre Nature Preserve owned by Pete’s family, PeteFest began on Friday the 8th of September as folks started filing into the Jones’ fields and setting up their tents for the weekend.  One field was designated for RV’s and tents, with brilliant solar lights erected throughout the fields by the engineering family and their friends.  A wooded path lit by LED flashlights smartly zip-tied to trees led campers to the venue, a beautiful shiny party nestled in the trees.

Lights were strung everywhere, so when the sun began to set the woods were festively aglow.  Bubbles and glow necklaces were bandied about by happy children, sharing the joy on the wind as the bubbles and the lights and the music mingled to put folks in a great mood. 

But, of course, there was sadness. 

Pete is gone, and the festival would never have existed, but for suicide.  Koepke noted, “Last night as we were all celebrating, we all said ‘Pete would LOVE this…He is so proud of us, and he is with us. He is here.”

And that is the point of PeteFest.  To not forget; to not brush depression, anxiety, and suicide under the carpet, but to bring it all out into the open, to talk about it and to listen to those suffering from it. 

“Stomp the Stigma” is the PeteFest motto, because “we need to start talking about this.” The event’s mascot is an elephant, representing the University of Alabama white elephant of Pete’s alma mater, as well as the obvious “elephant in the room” symbolism. 

The statistics are that someone takes their life every twelve seconds. “I lost a dear high school friend when I was 21,” Koepke shared, “But it has shaped me; when I heard the news about Pete I knew I had to do something.  We are losing an entire generation of people. The ones suffering the most tend to be the ones who are the most loving, and giving. In his last message, Pete said he wants to help mankind. We are getting the message out there for him.”

That message was loud and clear at PeteFest.  All the bands performing had been invited by members of the Pete Foundation, and many of the bands gave toasts and had touching things to say about Pete, his family, and PeteFest itself.  Glasses were raised throughout the weekend to toast Pete, his parents Jeff and Molly Jones, and his siblings Jeff, Jack, Matt, and Michelle. Counseling and understanding were offered throughout the festival, and the entire Sunday lineup featured local young musicians from the area who chose to sing and speak out to “Stomp the Stigma”.

The Pete Foundation is focused on reaching youth, so they can save adults like Pete.  The organizers want people to be educated to understand the signs of severe depression and anxiety which can so easily lead to suicide. Pete had gained weight before his last days, and had been sleeping more and more; the signals too often become clear in hindsight. The Pete Foundation wants them recognized before they end in tragedy. The answer to that is education.  They have already partnered with the University of Louisville where they held a “pre-Fest for Pete Fest” to address anxiety, depression, and suicide on the college level. 

Next, they hope to work with local school systems to address youth and perhaps prevent the next loss.

Friday night held a great lineup, and the music carried the crowd into the wee hours. Those who wanted rest simply had to foray back across the illuminated path through the woods to the campsite, where the music was within listening distance, but not overwhelming. 

Saturday dawned as a beautiful day, the nine-month anniversary of when Pete Jones took his own life. His family and friends gathered together to begin day two of PeteFest.  Morning yoga was offered on the smaller stage, and counseling for anyone who felt the need to share or discuss their own anxiety, depression or suicidal tendencies.  PeteFest volunteers in logo t-shirts sporting elephants dotted the festival grounds as the crowd slowly filled the space yet again. 

The first band to take the stage that lovely day was The Local Honeys, consisting of Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs.

The Local Honeys | Photo by Derek Feldman

The Local Honeys are quickly gathering a following in the Eastern Kentucky area and beyond.  The first two female graduates of Morehead’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, Stokely and Hobbs boast a wealth of instrumental knowledge.  Starting with Linda on fiddle and Montana on banjo, they both switched to guitar at some point, changing instruments between songs, and playing each with impressive adeptness.  They also invited Appalatin’s Jose Oreta to join in on stand-up bass.

The Local Honeys with Jose Oreta | Photo by Derek Feldman

  The Honeys adhere to the old-time music style, writing many of their own songs to add to the canon of traditional Appalachian music.  Linda’s “Cigarette Trees” is a scathing song lambasting coal companies for devastating the hills of Kentucky and West Virginia.

Those hills and the surrounding cities of Lexington, Louisville, and Huntington, WVA are their stomping grounds, but The Local Honeys are bringing the traditional music of Appalachia to the masses as well.  There is a strong call for their music, they say, and they joke that of all the graduated accountants, teachers or other graduates with more “academic” degrees they know, they are the only ones they’re aware of who are using their degree (“A bachelor’s in Bluegrass,” they quipped), working full-time in the field of their education.

“We don’t have to compromise for anything, it’s very rewarding to make a living in a time when art is not valued,” Stokley said.  “We’ve been given a platform, especially in Kentucky, to play music. People are accepting and curious about their heritage…we’re playing the home music of Kentucky but we’re taking it to audiences far and wide.”

But PeteFest isn’t just about the music.  It was never just about the music. Linda shared her own personal struggle. “My father committed suicide when I was 8 years old… I have started to understand more and more what it is like to live with people with mental illness.  It has definitely affected my art, and Montana’s as well.” 

Their first CD includes a song she wrote about her father, “Keep my name, live and let be.” 

Scott Whiddon | Photo by Derek Feldman

Their perfect placement in the line up of PeteFest was an excellent start to the day.  They were the first of many bands to play that day, followed by Lexington’s Scott Whiddon on the next stage, and later the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers held the crowd’s attention as they danced to more bluegrass and festive songs, and all raised a glass to toast Pete and his family.

Blind Corn Liquor Pickers | Photo by Derek Feldman

 The Curio Key Club finished out the big Saturday night lineup, a supergroup of Louisville musicians who performed Paul Simon’s Graceland in full.

There are many festivals we are blessed with the opportunity to attend in Kentucky.  They all have purpose and meaning in their own unique ways. But PeteFest was different. The purpose and the meaning were woven throughout the entire festival, from the intelligently designed lighting by the Jones family of engineers, to the handmade benches and tables that were constructed on the property for the festival itself.  The gate boasted a handmade marquee of the bands, painted chalkboards and twine that gave a personal feeling; a feeling of the love and care that clearly went into creating a beautiful, safe, inviting space for anyone to express or learn about the struggles in this world from anxiety, depression, and suicide.  Bubbles were handed out to kids to blow at their leisure, hammocks strung between trees and under lights as folks settled in for the day. The beautiful VIP tent was open for the musicians and the press, looking like an Arabian palace with blowing plants and low, comfortable chairs for hard-working photographers to sit in the shade and rest from wrestling with their heavy equipment.

The Jones family and the Pete Foundation worked very hard to create PeteFest.  They labored over the smallest details, as one would at a memorial.  Every aspect was a reflection of their love for Pete, and their desperate mission to prevent others from having to suffer that loss in their lives.

Pete’s last message before he took his own life was that he wanted to help “advance mankind.”  That is the legacy that the Jones family and the Pete Foundation for Depression Prevention hopes to achieve in his memory.

The first PeteFest guaranteed they are already off to a wonderful start.

Please follow and like us:
error