Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back to the Barn, for Bluegrass

Last Wednesday evening, the 16th, I got to listen for the first time to WSM-AM 650's new live music show "Music City Roots". Last evening, Wed. the 23d, I got to BE there, at the Loveless Barn, behind the famous Loveless Café out on Hwy. 100. Thus I went "back to the barn" sort of -- see my posting of Monday 8 March 2010.

This particular MCR celebrated the silver anniversary of the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Assn.). And it WAS international, since G2, a bluegrass band of young Swedes, was on the program. I hadn't heard of them before, nor a couple of the other artists. But just knowing the show would feature The Whites, Jesse McReynolds (both artists from the Grand Ole Opry), and Dale Ann Bradley sufficed to entice me to go "back to the barn"!

I attended with some of the choir members of the Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). We'd been invited to attend by staff member John Walker, and I'm most grateful to him! I rode out to Loveless with Gene & Cindy Lovelace (no pun intended) and also Associate Pastor Michael Lehman. We headed west from the church following the monthly Wed. supper, a hearty one of baked potato bar and salad bar.

Once we took seats in the barn and the show opened, it quickly evoked sweet memories of the live music shows that made the late, great Opryland Park my favorite of ALL theme-parks! This was due primarily, I think, to the openness of the venue. The setting sun shone in from the west, and despite air-conditioning the barn felt somewhat hot & humid; lots of programs were doing duty as fans. Since WSM and Opry's Eddie Stubbs emceed and the format was similar to that of the world's oldest radio show, this "Music City Roots" also evoked to a lesser extent memories of Grand Ole Opry shows I'd been to, particular the two I've attended at Ryman Auditorium.

Jim Lauderdale served as host. A non-performing guest was Craig Havighurst, author of "Air Castle of the South: WSM and the making of Music City". Jim interviewed Craig to start off the show.

Performing commenced with Alison Brown & Fair Weather Friends. I wasn't familiar with this bluegrass group, but was pleased with their performance. Shortly afterward we heard from G2. This band of young Swedes displayed great talent on the instruments and fluent vocals in English.

During the performance of one of the first groups, we got treated to the first unannounced cameo appearance from a big bluegrass star! He was Del McCoury! He sauntered onto the stage with a big grin, acoustic guitar and a nice-looking casual shirt -- quite different from his usual suit and tie! Oh, and he also sported his striking silvery pompadour -- LOL! Probably the best-known hairdo among bluegrass & country male stars -- after Marty stuart's, that is -- LOL again!

Other performers included legendary mandolin master Jesse McReynolds, Rodney Dillard et al., Sierra Hull, The Farewell Drifters, based locally, and Rockin' Acoustic Circus, another young group of five teens and a "vet", from Tulsa. Everybody new to me "blew me away" with their talent! So many of this evening's artists being so youthful, there isn't much danger of Bluegrass dying out as an active musical genre any time soon!

Before the final bluegrass group (thus, "headliners" or best-known artists) The Whites took the stage, I'd already decided that this "Music City Roots" had exceeded my best expectations! Everybody had provided such great bluegrass-listening pleasure; I found myself clapping along and/or singing along more than a couple times.

The evening provided pleasant surprises, and at least one "just surprise". Whenever I'd seen The Whites live before, daddy Buck played piano and wore glasses; THIS time with no piano he played mandolin. And Buck went without specs, while both daughters Sharon and Cheryl sported glasses which I hadn't seen them wear before! The Texans also provided a mixed surprise: Sharon's husband, bluegrass and traditional country champion Ricky Skaggs, joined them for a song or two. I was glad Ricky was there; I've always liked his music and had enjoyed speaking with him backstage at the Opry in the 1990s. But alas! he looks very different now. He's put on a few pounds (not that I remember him ever being "svelte"!). Moreover, he's let his hair grow to shoulder-length and much of it's now white! He just doesn't look very good any more: Ricky needs to lose the extra pounds and the extra hair!

Now, at one point about midway in the program Cindy and Gene left their seats at the same time, and were gone a rather long interval. Michael had also disappeared from the seat he'd been sitting in a row behind us other three. (Shortly I learned that he'd chosen to stand -- the folding seats were rather more uncomfortable than such seats are notorious for being.) When the Lovelaces returned Gene dropped a brown bag onto my lap; it contained a "Music City Roots" cap!

And so I came away from the Loveless Barn and MCR with very pleasant memories and a souvenir! Many thanks to the Lovelaces for the latter! And again, many thanks to John Walker for inviting the choir to the show, and to the IBMA for the sweet celebration of its 25 years!

No comments: