Category - music

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Bonnie Bishop Brings Down The House

…and lends new meaning to the expression “never give up” as she celebrates the release of her new album “Ain’t Who I Was” at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville this past Sunday night.

The photo above is one that I WiFi transferred from my camera to my phone while I was still at the venue and uploaded to Instagram. Now I see it ain’t all that sharp.  Sometimes li’dat, as we used to say in Hawaii...

I’ll have more to say about Bonnie’s album (and the inspiring story behind it) next week. In the meantime, here are some more photos from the show, and you can listen to the album via Spotify:

Have You Ever Felt Like This?

I was just text-messaging with a friend about the music business.

He said “What the hell do I know?”

I replied, “What the hell do any of us know?”

I wish I could remember where I first-ever saw this cartoon.  I know nothing more about than it was drawn by a cartoonist named Ron Cobb.

But I think of it often, like when ever I think of a foreign landscape (like the “new” digital music business) and how we often try to get “plugged in” with obsolete ideas and technologies.   The metaphor seems apt.

If that doesn’t make the point, then there is always this reliable chestnut that is often attributed to Hunter S. Thompson:

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

Of course, that could probably be said about a lot of businesses…

The Joy of Making Music:
Karen Waldrup At Douglas Corner

For those of you new subscribers who haven’t seen the expression before, “The Joy of Making Music” is the umbrella/brand for my studio and performance photography business.

This week I had the pleasure of shooting Karen Waldrup at a showcase she performed at Douglas Corner in Nashville.

I met Karen at a music industry gathering a few weeks ago. I was there with my camera (name tag: “My name is Paul; Ask me about my silent shutters”) and met Karen  hanging back at the bar at 3rd and Lindsley while waiting for the proceedings to commence.  We traded business cards. Then I saw a flyer on the bulletin board at “my office” promoting her showcase and figured, “may as well…”

These “industry showcases” are not your typical ‘singer/songwriter’ show; they’re kick-out-the-jams and belt-it to-the-rafters (well, depending on the act) affairs intended to get the attention of the industry types who can make a difference in a rising artist’s career (read that: label heads).

From what I can tell, Karen Waldrup has been banging on some of those doors for a while – and now she’s got the chops and her career is primed for a breakthrough.   She’s got an A-Team band behind her, and this was as ‘professional’ a showcase as I’ve seen in my twenty-plus years in Nashville.

As befits any truly original musician or performer, Karen Waldrup is not an easy woman to peg: she’s a little country, a little southern rock, a little pop. She’s a southern girl who likes her whiskey and wonders if her ex-lover’s fancy new wife serves it as well as she did.  She’s a polished performer with a powerful stage presence who can deliver the goods across the spectrum from hard rocking country to acoustic power ballads.

I caught her here in the rare moment on stage when she seems to be soaking it all in; I say “rare” because  most of the time she was full-throated rocking out. (The rest of the photos will have to wait until she and her management team have signed off on them.)

In the meantime, have a  listen to Karen’s 2015 EP “Getaway”

and check out this rhinestone-fringed guitar!
It's a bird... it's a plane... it's Karen Waldrop's rhinestone-fringed guitar!

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s Karen Waldrop’s rhinestone-fringed guitar!

Y’All Are Gonna Wanna Get Hip
to Bonnie Bishop

About 5 years ago, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the annual American Music Conference here in Nashville (little known fact: I was actually on the Founding Council that started the AMA back in like 2000).

After the conference, I sat down with the program guide from all the showcase and went on line (at the time it was to stream/listen to some of the artists whose showcases I’d missed.  One track stopped me in… well, my tracks.  It was an artist I’d never heard of named Bonnie Bishop and the track was called “Lucky Ones.” Here, listen to it for yourself:

Bonnie has released a couple of records since then; visit her Spotify page to hear more.  What you’re going to hear is one of the gut-wrenching-est voices this side of… well, Janis Joplin comes to mind…

I tracked her down later that year, and she let me photograph a showcase that she performed at one of Nashville’s clubs.  She was still doing her level best to land a fucking record deal…

Over the past decade+, Bonnie Bishop’s career has seen all the vagaries  typical of today’s itinerant, independent singer/songwriters – they who that travel and toil under the radar of the mainstream commercial music industry.  They for whom the life of an “artist” is “mostly driving.”

Two years ago, she was on the threshold of throwing it all in.

That’s all going change with the release of  her new CD, “Ain’t Who I Was” next month.  The title track was released today:

And here’s what you need to know about the pedigree of this new record, which will be officially released on May 27:

  1. It was produced by Nashville’s hottest producer, the Chet Atkins/Owen Bradley of the twenty-teens, Dave Cobb.  Talk about being on a roll: Dave Cobb is responsible for the breakthrough solo releases by Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and  2016 multi- CMA, Grammy and ACM winner Chris Stapleton (all Spotify links).  You just don’t get any hotter a hand than the one Dave Cobb has been playing over the past few years.  And the Atkins/Bradley reference is not an overstatement – he recently took over the keys to Nashville’s fabled Studio A (sometimes referred to as Nashville’s Abbey Road), which was built by Chet and Owen in the 1960s and narrowly escaped  a condo-developer’s wrecking ball in 2014.
  2. The release and distribution of “Ain’t Who I Was” is being handled by Thirty Tigers, a new-paradigm label services and distribution company that is one of the few companies  that has cracked the code on the new digital business – and not coincidentally the same firm that handled the break out releases for Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, among others. has got a great account of the kismet that went into the song selection and production of this new record:

The recording sessions were coming to an end when Cobb’s cousin, singer/songwriter Brent Cobb, walked into the studio with a track he’d co-written earlier that afternoon.

“Dave opens a brand new bottle of his favorite tequila,” Bishop remembers, “and we all take shots. Then Adam [Hood] and Brent play us the song they wrote. I have chills. I look over at Dave, who is nodding his head and grinning at me. Then I sing the words back to them while Brent plays the guitar and they sound so natural coming out of my mouth. It’s like I’ve been singing this song all my life.”

The song was “Ain’t Who I Was,” which became the title track to the new CD. When you hear it, you can’t help but think that the spiral has come back around, only at a much higher level, and that Bonnie Bishop is about to become, truly, one of “the lucky ones.”

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

RIP George Martin – A Beatles Playlist

Like the rest of the world, I awoke to the news this morning (I read the news today, oh boy?) of Sir George Martin’s departure from this earthly plane:

George Martin, the urbane English record producer who signed the Beatles to a recording contract on the small Parlophone label after every other British record company had turned them down, and who guided them in their transformation from a regional dance band into the most inventive, influential and studio-savvy rock group of the 1960s, died on Tuesday. He was 90.

The New York Times obituary mentioned several songs that are regarded as among the breakthrough recordings that Sir George produced with the Beatles during their tenure at EMI / Abbey Road Studios in the 1960s.

So, naturally, I skipped over to Spotify and assembled a playlist of those breakthrough songs:

RIP, Sir George. Words fail, let the music speak for you…

Scotch Mist’s Greatest Hits (music from 1982)


Sailing off the coast of Maui on the original Scotch Mist in 1982

Well, that was ridiculously easy…

In the 1980s, I lived in Hawaii and owned/operated a yacht charter service out of Lahaina Harbor on Maui. The boats were called “Scotch Mist” – the name bestowed by the original owner who sailed his Cal 36 sloop in a race from Victoria, BC to Maui in 1970. I acquired the boat/business in 1980, and in 1982 added another boat, the Santa Cruz 50 “Scotch Mist II.”

Sometime in 1982, I put together a mixtape of island and sailing songs – the old fashioned way: by dropping a needle into a vinyl groove, then recording the track onto a reel-to-reel tape. Stop the tape, find the next track, cue the tape, drop the needle, rinse and repeat a couple dozen times. It took about two days…

Last night I saw the name Danny O’Keefe in a thread that J Fred Knobloch started about great guitar solos. I recognized the name because a song called “Islands” – from his 1973 LP “American Roulette” – was one of the tracks in that “Scotch Mist” mix tape I assembled in 1982.

After finding “Islands” on Spotify, it occurred to me to see if I could find the same tracks and build a playlist on Spotify. I found all but one (Mark Almond, “Trade Winds”).

It took, oh, maybe 15 minutes to search for every track in the list and add them to a playlist, which is posted here for your “summer has arrived / Memorial Day weekend” musical enlightenment:

More “Joy Of Making Music” Rachel Ries

I had the good fortune to photograph Rachel Ries when she opened for Melissa Greener at Douglas Corner in Nashville last month:

Originally from South Dakota, Rachel has a very interesting background:

Rachel_Reis-P2130161Daughter of Mennonite missionaries, Rachel Ries hails from the inspiring, vast expanses of South Dakota, by way of Zaire. Her formative years were filled with Congolese spirituals, Mennonite hymns, Suzuki violin and The Carpenters. Currently splitting her time between rural Vermont and New York City, Rachel crafts sly and compassionate songs for the crooked hearted. With an electric guitar, clear voice and steady hand, she pulls the listener into her world of city grit, country dirt, and her open-eyed search for redemption and reason. Her songs are fine-tuned delicacy with a snarl and disarming candor. Proudly carrying the torch of her love for the domestic arts, Rachel’s homemade preserves and hand-stitched notebooks can often be found at shows, nestled amid the 180 gram vinyl, cds and t-shirts.

She also has a  cool new album, Ghost of A Gardner.

And good as her music is, I think this album cover art may be my favorite so far this year: I


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More “Joy of Making Music” Melissa Greener

Melissa_Greener-P2130647I’ve known Melissa Greener since she first arrived in Nashville (from native Detroit) about five years ago.  We have traveled in familiar circles all that time, but I think I have actually heard/seen her perform just once, when she sat in for a few songs amid somebody else’s set… somewhere.  The details are fuzzy, all I remember is she played a “fan fret” acoustic guitar – an instrumental choice indicative of a woman of some distinction, even if I can’t remember now what exactly she played on that exotic instrument.

Well I sure remember her material now.

Last Friday, Melissa performed a set at the Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville – which she mentioned from the stage was her first full show here in the entire time she’s called Nashville home.

It was worth the wait.  Boy, was it worth the wait.

For this show, Melissa assembled a full band (sorry, I don’t know the name of all the players – will update when that info comes across my transom). The stage was filled with keyboard, bass, drums, lead guitar and two harmony vocalists.  And despite all that personnel, this was the blessed (i.e. rare) show where the quantity of sound did not drown out the lyric content.

Melissa Greener proved to be an incredibly compelling performer.  Start with deft, intricate guitar figures played on both acoustic and electric guitars (no fan frets); add rich, thoughtful lyric imagery (that you could actually hear!) sung with a solid, soaring alto and joined byroof-raising harmonies from Kira Small and Vicki Carrico, and you’ve got the makings of one of the most outstanding shows I’ve seen in Nashville in quite a while.

The house was full, no doubt a testament to the many friends that Melissa has made over the five years she’s been among us.

But what was really impressive was the response when the show was over: these jaded Nashville audiences rarely rise at the end of a club show by a local; but this night, as Melissa Greener wrapped up her final tune, the audience was on its feet.

Or as one observer from the audience commented after the show, “we knew that she was good… but we didn’t know that she was that good!”

Melissa pours her heart and soul into every note and word.  Hopefully these photos catch some of that spirit.

Listen to the opening track from Melissa’s  2013 CD “Transistor Corazon” while the slide show plays.  When it’s over, click the Spotify link below to listen to the entire album.  And when it’s over, don’t be surprised if you feeling like playing it again (as I am doing as I finish this post…)

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