Aside from a handful of performances since getting back off the ground in late 2010, pop-rockers Westside Daredevils have been conspicuously absent from the local music scene.
Back then, fellow pop aficionado John T. Baker threw in his lot with the group, and the guys felt rejuvenated and re-energized. Fast-forward three years, and according to guitarist-turned-drummer Gray Comer, the WSDD journey, which began in 1999, has come to an end. But at least the boys are leaving us with a little present before they go their separate ways.
“The new Westside Daredevils album (which will be self-titled) is finished,” Comer wrote last week. “The final mastering tweaks (sequencing, fades, etc.) aren’t quite done yet, but from a general musical standpoint, it’s done. However, it will, barring a drastic change in circumstances, be the final Westside Daredevils album, as the band is no more. To make a long story short: about 80 percent of the way through the album, we came to the collective decision that we’re simply not able, due to various life circumstances, to devote the time needed to maintain a healthy, viable, functioning rock and roll band. That being said, we are VERY proud of the album and like it very much, and we think you will, too.
“The album will be released online our Bandcamp site, which launches this weekend at http://westsidedaredevils.bandcamp.com. All of the previous albums will be available for download on the site, as well as the new one, on a “name your own price” (which can be zero) basis. There may be a physical release of the CD, depending on overall interest and finances. However, at this time, there are no plans for an official CD release show or a farewell show, although we’re not ruling either of those things out, or, for that matter, any future collaborations or the inevitable reunion gig at Waynestock 2016 or whatever.”
Pause for a moment while I pour out some of my 40 in honor of the guys. I fell in love with their music back in 2002, when I first wrote about the album “All Things Small Produce a Spark,” which I noted at the time was partially recorded (the guitar tracks, at least) at the Rockford home of Gray’s mother, Judy, in rural Blount County. Here’s to all the best for the guys in whatever endeavors they choose to pursue in the future.
In the late 1990s, before she would go on to front Dixie Dirt, singer-songwriter Kat Brock teamed up with her high school boyfriend Joe McLemore — the guy who taught her to play guitar — and drummer-about-town Dave “The Animal” Campbell to form the band subbluecollar.
The group released the “Daydreams” EP and parted ways amicably when Brock felt called in a different direction. McLemore and Campbell would go on to form The Coveralls with Bryan Garvey and Chris Canada, Dixie Dirt came and went, Brock moved to Nashville and then to Brooklyn, eventually coming back to East Tennessee four months ago with a trunk full of dreamy shoegaze home recordings. We’ll catch you up on her journey and the road back to Knoxville — she’s working at Tomato Head on Market Square and aiming to become a certified personal trainer — and on her upcoming solo show at The Pilot Light on Tuesday, March 26. Look for the story in Thursday’s Weekend edition.
The big news, though, is her journey back to rock. Her searingly personal songs are part of her, but back home, she wanted to have fun. Her first weekend in town, she called McLemore and the two played; wanting to start a rock band, she went to see The Coveralls at Barley’s Taproom.
“That’s when I realized that I don’t want to assemble a band; I want them,” Brock told me today. “They rock!”
And so subbluecollar is back in business.
“It makes me happy,” she said. “They have a brotherhood I can’t explain. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and it’s like their little sister came back. We have a history that really shows.”
They’ve been practicing hard for a show coming up April 20 at Barley’s in Knoxville’s Old City and are planning to hit the studio soon after; the bulk of the material is new, with only four songs from the late 1990s — “Trackstar,” “Rocketship,” “Funny Red Eyes” and “Anthem” — surviving.
“It’s just nice. Really, really nice,” Brock said.
Last month, we talked to Aaron Snukals, marketing and special events director for Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson — 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville — and he revealed some of the names on tap for this year’s “Shed Concert Season,” which kicks off the first weekend in April. He revealed a few names — The Kentucky Headhunters, Blackberry Smoke, Mustang Sally, Todd Snider, Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard, James McMurtry, The Flatlanders, Marty Stuart, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ and Leon Russell among them — and now the first two months of dates have been announced.
Tickets to the following shows go on sale March 1:
- April 6: The Jompson Brothers with the Cathouse Prophets
- April 13: Elizabeth Cook
- April 20: The Flatlanders
- April 27: Big Gun
- May 3: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’
- May 4: Midnight Special
- May 11: Cutthroat Shamrock
- May 17: Blackberry Smoke with the Cathouse Prophets
- May 18: Paul Thorn
- May 24: Leon Russell
- May 25: Shooter Jennings
- May 31: Marty Stuart with the Barstool Romeos
- June 1: Mustang Sally
Obviously, it’s gonna be a busy, crazy spring at “The Shed,” and for the SMH-D folks in general: the Tennessee State H.O.G. Rally takes place in Maryville May 28-June 1, and SMH-D is the rally’s official headquarters and venue. Look for more details on a downtown Maryville street party that will coincide with the rally in the coming weeks. Call “The Shed” at 977-1669 for more information on ticket prices; shows all start at 8 p.m. If you have the scratch, your best bargain is a season pass — $195 for every show at “The Shed” this season (barring extra special events, of course), which runs through October.
If you’ve tuned in to WDVX-FM in recent weeks hoping to catch that beloved local program “Writer’s Block” on Wednesday nights, you’ve been out of luck. Host and creator Karen E. Reynolds amicably left the station at the end of December — all on good terms (”I love the station, but it was time to move on in order to grow,” she told me over the weekend) and still fully in love with the grassroots, artist-oriented philosophy of WDVX.
But “Writer’s Block” lives on. After almost 15 years on WDVX, the program will move to WFIV-FM, i105, starting March 13. And it’s getting bigger: It’ll be a two-hour show instead of just one, and it’ll be on twice a week as well, from 8-10 p.m. on Wednesdays and 6-8 p.m. on Saturdays. (And regular listeners need not fear: Dennis Double will continue to be Reynolds’ co-host.)
Reynolds said she decided on a “cooling-off” period for “Writer’s Block” instead of immediately jumping to another station out of respect to WDVX. She didn’t enter negotiations with WFIV until after she’d stepped down from WDVX — “I’m the ‘loyal’ type and felt it wouldn’t be respectful to be in ‘talks’ with someone else while my program still aired there,” she says. But the night she made the first announcement on WDVX that she was taking the show elsewhere, the offers started rolling in.
With WFIV — which gives a platform to other local artists like Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle, who host the “In the Spirit” show on Sundays — on board, Reynolds now has an outlet that’s given her the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. The concert series “Writer’s Block LIVE,” which used to take place at the Knoxville Museum of Art and other area venues, will be returning, this time to Riverside Theatre right here in Blount County. “We will not only be recording the concerts for the radio broadcast, but will also be filming them for televised specials,” Reynolds said. “That won’t begin until late April or May — we’re still working on confirming the first artists — but there WILL be a ‘Writers Block LIVE — Writers Block In The Round’ at Boyd’s Jig & Reel on Friday, April 5th as part of the Rhythm n’ Blooms festival.”
Being a part of a commercial outfit means possibilities for syndication as well, she added.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for the program and provides increased visibility for the artists aired on the show.”
Dopplegangsta: Faulteroy (left) and Reginald Birch
The local crazy-ass rap duo known as Dopplegangsta, which teamed up with wizard-rapper LiL iFFy to put together the Magic Hu$tle collective, has a show on Saturday night at The Well in Knoxville, and it’ll likely be their final performance for a while. Perhaps ever, Lil’ Lord Faulteroy confirmed today.
“(Reginald) Birch is gonna be a daddy; I’m making studio upgrades; and IF we come back, it will likely be to promote a full-length record (and) not a single,” he said via Facebook.
The duo made a splash locally with the summer anthem “Myrtle Beach Ya’ll” back in the summer of 2011; it received heavy airplay on WUTK-FM, 90.3 The Rock, and at the end of that year, Magic Hu$tle was born. The collective has grown to include a number of other rappers, two of whom — Halfdeaf and deejay Black Thunder — will be on the bill Saturday night.
The show features a couple of out-of-town rappers as well — Southern Croat and Blacknerd. It starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $5. Check out the event page on Facebook. You can also check out the guys at 8 p.m. Tuesday night on The Rock, located at 90.3 on your FM dial.
This Thursday’s Weekend cover guy is Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, who performs Saturday, Feb. 16, at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. We talked at length about his most recent solo album, “Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance,” and, of course, his band.
“We’ve got a tour in March for about two weeks, and then we’re going to come home and go straight into the studio,” he said of the Truckers. “Because we did (2010’s) ‘Big To Do’ and (2011’s) ‘Go-Go Boots’ at the same time, it’s been a little over four years since we did anything. We’ve got some new songs, and it feels good. The band (which lost bass player Shonna Tucker in 2011 and John Neff late last year) has gone through some changes and some rough times lately, but we seem to have come out on the other end in a good place. We’re smoking hot right now, and we’re very excited to go in and record.”
As for the title track of “Heat Lightning” — funny story about that. Hood’s sister worked on the record with him and pointed out that heat lightning, technically, doesn’t rumble. That precipitated a friendly sibling argument between the two.
“We bickered back and forth, and in the end even though I said it was still gonna be the name of my goddamn album, it was bugging the shit out of me, but I didn’t want her to know it,” he said with a laugh. “So I ended up doing some research, and I found out that it does rumble! You just don’t hear it because it’s so far away! Just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean it doesn’t rumble; therefore my title is even more perfect.
“So I printed out a link talking about that, and I mailed it to her. Along with a picture of me shooting her a bird.”
Organizers of the Dogwood Arts Festival teamed up with Attack Monkey Productions queen Chyna Brackeen today to announce the 2013 Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival lineup, and it’s a good ‘un. Without further ado, here are the artists that’ll be performing at the event, which takes place April 5-7 in Knoxville:
- the everybodyfields
- Erick Baker
- The Time Jumpers (featuring Vince Gill)
- Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
- Justin Townes Earle
- My Brightest Diamond
- The Features
- The Vespers
- Mike Farris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue
- Charles Walker and the Dynamites
- The Black Cadillacs
- Erin McKeown
- Sugar and the Hi-Lows
- Lil iFFy
- Joy Kills Sorrow
- Shannon Whitworth
- Amanda Shires
- Flow Tribe
- J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices
- Angel Snow
- St. Paul and the Broken Bones
- Humming House
- this mountain
- Josh Oliver
- Aftah Party
- Betse Ellis of the Wilders
- The Lonetones
- Kelsey’s Woods
- Hiroya Tsukamoto
- Greg Horne
- Brent Thompson and the Wandering
- Valley Young
- Weird Miracle
- O Youth
- lipliplip hands
- Johanna Divine
- Jerry Leger
- Steff Mahan
- Writer’s Block LIVE!
And that’s not all, according to today’s press release: More artists will be announced. Other details:
Venues include The Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum, John Black Photography Studio, Latitude 35, The Square Room, the Bill Lyons Pavilion on Market Square, the Knoxville Visitor’s Center and, new for this year, venues in Knoxville’s Old City, including Barley’s Taproom, Boyd’s Jig & Reel and Crown & Goose. Trolleys will run back and forth between the various venues, so you can park and ride without missing a show.
Tickets: A $175 VIP pass gives access to all shows all weekend in addition to priority seating and parking, a VIP welcome reception, artist meet n’ greet and more. The $55 weekend-long festival pass provides access to all of the performances and venues occurring over the course of the weekend. Day passes for each day are $25. Passes can be purchased online at www.rhythmnbloomsfest.com, or in person at the Knoxville Visitor Center.
This year’s sponsors include Blackstone Brewing Company, sponsored by Pilot Flying J, and produced by Dogwood Arts and Attack Monkey Productions. Additional sponsors include: Sharpie, Young Professionals of Knoxville, Sound Ventures, Bandit Lites, Rik’s Backline Pros, Visit Knoxville, WDVX, WFIV, WUTK, Knoxville.com and Metro Pulse.
Kenny Woodhull, the guy behind the former Old City venue New City Cafe, blogged a bit about it on Jan. 18, and in an email exchange a few weeks ago, he told me that his organization New City Resources — which has put on several shows at Old North Abbey in Knoxville — was partnering with 4MS Entertainment, the organization behind The Square Room, to put on shows there, including a March “Talk Is Cheap” performance, a show in April by Andrew Peterson and the band CALEB and a show next week by Christian singer-songwriter Michael Card. In addition, “We’ll be hosting a weekly songwriter’s night on Thursdays starting soon,” Woodhull wrote.
So what does this mean for “Scruffy City Ramble,” the variety show/concert series produced by Chyna Brackeen of Attack Monkey Productions, the company that’s presenting the Feb. 20 Tift Merritt/David Wax Museum show? That remains to be seen, Brackeen
told me on Wednesday, despite Metro Pulse’s report that it’s “on hold” for the time being.
“We will still have the Feb. 21 show — it’s been scheduled, it’s still on, and it’s still happening,” she said, adding that Henry Wagons, Sturgill Simpson, Lydia Salnikova and This Mountain. “At this point, The Square Room had a conflict with the March date, and we agreed to give that up. I’m not sure if we’ll do a March show or not, since I’m slammed with the Black Lillies (whom Brackeen manages) performing at South By Southwest and planning for the Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival (which takes place the first weekend in April). But we plan to pick back up in April.
“Right now, we’re looking at venue options. I would love to keep it at The Square Room, but they’ve advised me that they have a conflict on Thursdays. We would like to work out something for one Thursday a month, but if we can’t, we’ll be looking at other venue options. Because ‘Scruffy City Ramble’ is such a big production, we can’t move it off of Thursdays at this point, but that’s certainly a conversation I’m willing to have down the road.”
Stay tuned for what will develop for “Scruffy City.”
Breaking news, local music lovers: Robinella (also known as Robin Ella Tipton Bailey, the chanteuse who used to front Robinella and the CCstringband) has a new album on the way (it’ll be out in “three months, max,” she told me this week), and when she performs at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Lambert Recital Hall at the Clayton Center for the Arts (502 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville), you’ll get to hear plenty of the material that will be on it.
It’s called “Ode to Love,” and the bulk of the songs were cut in Connecticut with jazz guitarist and producer Frank Vignola (who’s worked as a sideman to Madonna, Ringo Starr and Leon Redbone, among others). Save for a couple of covers (“Stardust” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”), the songs are original Robinella compositions, she said, and feature a number of guest stars.
“Technically, I think it’s my best album,” she said. “I recorded for two days in Connecticut, and Frank played on it, and then I took what I’d recorded back to Knoxville (to Scott Minor’s Wild Chorus Studio) and finished it with all my local friends.”
Those guests include dobro master Rob Ickes, jazz vocalist and string bassist Nicki Parrott, Blount County bluegrass phenom Jesse Gregory on mandolin, Blount County boy and Knoxville Jazz Orchestra bandleader Vance Thompson on trumpet, harmonica player Michael Crawley and the guys with whom she’ll perform on Saturday: bass player Taylor Coker, guitarist Mike Seal, drummer Nolan Nevels and keyboard player Justin Haynes, the latter two of whom perform with her in the R&B side project Pulse. She also performs a duet with Mike McQueen of the Blount County band HollowTree — “We’re hoping Quentin Tarantino’s going to need to pick it up for a soundtrack,” Robinella added with a laugh. “It’s a weird song called ‘My Crazy Love.’”
Admission to Saturday night’s show is $10; stay tuned for updates regarding a release show for “Ode to Love.”
There was a moment during Waynestock 3 when the tragedy that spawned this whole beautiful thing came rushing back.
Kevin Abernathy was on stage, singing his heartbreakingly gorgeous song, “Love Alone.” It’s a track that first appeared on his sophomore album, “Beautiful Thing,” and one he re-recorded for his most recent solo effort, “Some Stories.” It’s also the song he played on stage at The Bijou Theatre during Andrew Bledsoe’s memorial service.
Working the front door with Andrew’s dad, Wayne — the guy for whom Waynestock is named — I caught a glimpse of it in the man’s eyes, which brimmed with tears. It wasn’t the only time he got emotional over the weekend — his remarks to the assembled crowd before the all-star jam that brought Waynestock to a close included a few as well — but it was a reminder of how Waynestock started.
“There would be laughter, bouncing off the walls … smiles in photographs up and down the halls … if you could live on love alone …”
The tears, however, were few and far between.
This year’s Waynestock rose money for the Community School of the Arts. Although the past two Waynestocks were held in response to tragedies — the death of Andrew in late 2010 was the catalyst for Waynestock 1, held in early 2011, and the death of beloved local musician Phil Pollard in late 2011 was the driving force behind last year’s event — this year was different. As one of the organizers, I freely admit my uncertainty of how well another Waynestock would be received without such visceral pain driving the momentum.
It’s human nature, really. When Andrew died, those of us who love Wayne wanted to do something, anything, to help our friend. Everyone we asked, from Daniel Schuh at Relix Variety Theatre (the gracious home of Waynestock since the beginning) to the musicians who played that first year to the sponsors who helped get the word out to the donors who gave of their time and equipment, agreed to take part without hesitation. The folks who came to see the music gave generously above and beyond the $5 cover. After such a weekend of magic and beauty, it seemed impossible that we could repeat its success.
But we did, last year. Again, tragedy was the catalyst, but remembrance and love became the legacy. And while there was no single beneficiary, no fallen friend or loved one, to whom Waynestock was dedicated this year, love remains the post-Waynestock emotion that best sums up the whole weekend.
“Tangled up in kisses, on the side of the road, still running on empty with a million miles to roll, if you could live on love alone …”
The doors opened Friday night to a dedicated group of Con Hunley fans who had driven all the way to Nashville and arrived four hours before he was scheduled to take the stage. Warrior-poet Black Atticus charmed and entertained, and Abernathy was the perfect lead-in to the night’s big event.
Every act who took the stage at Waynestock made fans of those in attendance who’d never heard them before, but the act that brought in the most people was Con Hunley, backed by Mic Harrison & The High Score. For Mic and the boys, it was a big deal; family members came to see them share the stage with an icon, and they were in fine form. Mic and guitarists Robbie Trosper and Chad Pelton provided killer licks and sweet backing vocals for Con’s amped-up brand of country soul, and when they opened the show (after Mic and the boys warmed up everybody with “The Colonel Is Dead”) with a rousing, juke-joint inspired version of “Livin’ on the Funky Side,” the exhilaration was palpable. Con’s older fans felt rejuvenated (and even got their balladeer fix on with a few of his slower-tempo numbers), and fans of the local music scene were content to watch in wonder as history was made with Hunley’s return to Central Avenue.
It was the sort of magic that defines Waynestock, and it would be repeated throughout the event. The Rockwells, absent from the local scene for a few years now (save for a single performance last May), were as enthusiastic as the dancers that crowded the stage during their set, with mild-mannered Tommy Bateman peeling off one killer pop-rock lick after another and Jonathan Kelly managing an impressive leap mid-song that would have made Pete Townsend proud. The Mutations, performing in front of a screening of the 1967 Peter Fonda flick “The Trip,” kept the dancers happy, with Harold Heffner getting down among them for a fired-up and impassioned version of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Yak Strangler, featuring Andrew’s brother, Rylan, on drums, wrapped up Friday night, and with winter weather moving in throughout the day on Saturday, the turnout for night two appeared, at first, to be in doubt.
Those who stayed at home missed a hell of an exotic set from Saturday’s two openers, the Gypsy jazz-influenced Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego and the klezmer band Dor L’Dor. (Dor L’Dor dad/bandleader Ken Brown even brought out the shofar, the traditional Jewish ram’s horn pipe, for the group’s finale.) Johnny Astro and the Big Bang steered everyone back to the middle of the road with some straight-ahead American rock ‘n’ roll done to perfection, and the Americana outfit Guy Marshall proved that it’s East Tennessee’s answer to the beloved and long-running Murfreesboro band Glossary. Sam Quinn and his Americana power-trio co-horts — Tom Pryor and Jamie Cook of the Black Lillies — were the perfect lead-in to the grand finale.
“Too bad the heart has to have a mind, to tell it what to do when the eyes are blind …”
And once again, art and community and love were elevated into something else. Magic seems too hokey, too generic, to describe it, but what other word fits? What other word accurately captures the wonder of seeing the Tim Lee 3 (Tim and Susan Bauer Lee with drummer Chris Bratta) sharing the stage with Greg Horne, Mike McGill, Kevin Abernathy, R.B. Morris, Black Atticus and Jodie Manross? Atticus flowing smooth the lyrics of R.L. Burnside’s “Snake Drive” while the band powered behind him like a growling muscle car … the boogy-woogy honky-tonk of McGill and the rest howling through his original, “Women, Whiskey and Pain” … Sam Quinn, grinning like a madman and watching the Lees blister through his haunting takes on Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” and “Cortez the Killer” … Manross and Morris, trading lead as well as Bonnie Raitt and John Prine ever did on Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” … the whole damn family, wrapping up the night with a gloriously ramshackle version of Morris’s “Distillery” … that’s the stuff that Waynestock is made of. That’s the juice.
That is magic.
“There’d be no children troubled in their sleep, nothing else desired, nothing else to need, if you could live on love alone …”
After the house lights went up and the instruments were packed away and the last drinks poured, those of us who conceived of this thing felt like exhausted children on Christmas night. We take no credit for the creation of that magic, and like everyone else who walked away amazed and grinning and wearing those “did-that-just-happen?” expressions of slack-jawed joy, we recognize that Waynestock is so much more than just us. It’s so much more than Andrew Bledsoe and Phil Pollard, who no doubt were in the house and dancing and grinning along with the rest of us over the weekend. It’s so much more than the assuaging of grief and the remembrance of those departed and the banding together to overcome tragedy.
It is about celebration. It is about unity. It is about beauty and music and lifting up what is so good and right about this beautiful, brilliant and occasionally bizarre scene. It is about raising a flag in Happy Holler and declaring, “WE ARE KNOXVILLE.”
If we could live on love alone, then we would never have to leave Relix. The kegs would never run dry and the bottles would never dwindle. The sound would never be muddied and the instruments would stay tuned and the infinite possibilities of musical mayhem would play out for the rest of our days.
Love alone, unfortunately, isn’t always enough. And in a way, that’s OK, because Waynestock then becomes this bubble, this magical (yeah, yeah; there’s that damn word again) world to which a door is opened once a year and everything good about who we are as musicians and music lovers and human beings who call Knoxville, Tenn., home manifests itself in vibrant, vivid ways. Shutting that door for another year — and knowing there’s no guarantee it will open again — is bittersweet, but something tells me this will happen again. Part of me screams that it must. It’s too good, too special, to not revisit.
Besides, the key is simple … love. It opens the door. Love alone is all that’s needed to get back to the place that Waynestock shows us is possible. Love alone … well, sometimes it is enough.