Category - music

Psssst… wanna hear some music?

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 LaLa.com) 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.

RollingStone.com 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)

ScotchMist2

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

ghostcoversmallforweb

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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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More “Joy Of Making Music” Thomm Jutz & Craig Market

Nothing is more
beautiful than a guitar,
except, possibly, two.

— Frédéric Chopin

Last Wednesday night offered a stark contrast to the night before.

Where Tuesday night’s performance by the New Dylans at the Belcourt Theater was nearly an hour of screeching instrumentation and unintelligible lyrics, the following night at the Station in was a perfect example of how beautifully crafted songs played with exquisite instruments can produce a totally satisfying experience.

Thomm Jutz and Craig Market actually wrote together for the first time while Thomm was producing The 1861 Project. They co-wrote two songs for Volume 2, including “The Old Songs:”

Thomm and Craig kept writing after that, and over the past couple of years assembled a collection of co-writes that they’ve now released in a collection called “Nowhere To Hide.”

I was called in to shoot some promo stills late last year.  The slide show above features a few of those shots and some from the CD Release Party at the Station Inn.

On stage, Thomm played a 1948 Martin D-18, and Craig played a 1937 D-18.  It’s hard to describe how beautiful those two guitars sounded together.  That quote from Chopin will have to suffice.

Or just listen to the CD and hear for yourself:

Need some photos from one of your live shows?  Visit The Joy Of Making Music.com
T&C

A “Band On The Brink” – An ‘Industry’ On The Edge

Last night, a rogues gallery of characters from Nashville’s business and creative communities assembled at the Belcourt Theater to deliver what could be considered a start-of-the-New-Year self-assessment: 

bannerThere were three parts to the evening that did a surprisingly good job of hitting any number of moving targets.

The first part was a short documentary film describing the origins, history, demise and resurrection of a band called “The New Dylans.”  The film was the final, compiled installment in a year long effort to document the reconstitution of a group that broke up in the mid 1990s – and uses their tale as an object lesson on the State of The Music Industry in Nashville in the Digital Age. Read More

Greetings, New Subscribers….

…and welcome to your first edition of The Weekly Digest.

The Troubadour Logo - it's a long story...

The Troubadour Logo – it’s a long story…

(Oops.  I got so wrapped up writing this this morning that I forgot to tag the relevant posts for this week’s digest – I thought I’d done that already. It should have included the first two posts below (Jeff T and Melrose Abbey)  Doh!)

I’m sure there’s a better name for this recurring missive, but despite my vaunted creative genius that’s the best I’ve been able to come up with so far.

I am pleased to see that there have been a notable number of new subscribers to this list in the past week – which is even more notable because I don’t know who any of you are.

Most of the subscribers to this list are friends and family – people with whom I have had some form of personal contact since I started the list several years ago. But lately, I’m seeing new subs from people I don’t know, whose e-mail addresses I don’t recognize,

I recall reading somewhere that your ‘fan base’ isn’t really growing until it begins to spread beyond the people that you know personally – so it is gratifying to see that my reach has begun to grow organically beyond a certain inner circle.

I am involved in several realms of creative endeavors.  My most recent business card (I make up new ones all the time) identifies me as:

Paul Schatzkin
writer·photographer·musician·artist

…and each of those categories represents some measure of both accomplishment and aspiration.

Read More