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2010 October at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

A cross between Rolling Stone, Soldier of Fortune and the Oxford American

Archive for October, 2010

The Steel Wheels: Ridin’ hard

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This week, I interviewed Americana band The Steel Wheels, performing Friday (Oct. 29) at Brackins Blues Bar in downtown Maryville (showtime is at 9 p.m., cover is $4).

Great music — I particularly dig the title track to their most recent album, “Red Wing” — but what’s impressive about these guys is their dedication to bicycling. Band founder Trent Wagler told me the bicycle runs the band does were inspired by the eco-touring so many musicians have advocated in recent years.

“It was initially my idea,” he said. “I used to work at a theater in Washington, D.C., and I like biking as transportation. It makes you mindful of how you’re getting on, and in talking with other bands about green touring, we talked about what we were doing to reduce our carbon footprint on this planet. We talked about doing this or that, and one of the ideas was that if we could just back everywhere, we wouldn’t be using any fuel.”

Wagler jumped on the idea, but he didn’t want to commit for everyone. However, mandolin player Jay Lapp agreed, and so the two set out, initially, as a duo.

“We’ve done two bike tours — the Virginia tour, which was upwards of 200 miles in a week, and a tour of Michigan, which was 460 miles in 10 days,” Wagler said. “I didn’t want to force the guys to do it if they didn’t want to, so I decided to book a solo tour to see how I liked it. Jay heard what I was talking about and said he wanted to do it.

“It’s a lot of fun. Some people hear you’re doing it but have never heard your music — or don’t even care for your music — but they’ll come out to see you based on that, and some of them end up falling in love with the music when they hear it. We’re trying to make it an annual event.”

Written by wildsmith

October 28th, 2010 at 9:12 am

Sam Bush remembers Maryville

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I have a story on mandolin maestro Sam Bush for Friday’s edition of The Daily Times Weekend section — Bush plays at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus on Friday, Nov. 5 — and when I interviewed him, we reminisced about a funny story he told me the last time we talked, back in 2007.

During that interview, he recalled a previous show he played in Maryville, at the long-gone venue The Down Yonder, which existed at one time at the corner of West Broadway Avenue and Cusick Street. Bush arrived in Maryville with his band, New Grass Revival, to find that their tour poster had been altered.

That was several years before the band included two of Bush’s famous contemporaries, Bela Fleck and John Cowan. New Grass Revival had just released the 1977 album “When the Storm Is Over,” and the gig posters for the tour to support it featured the album’s cover.

“It featured these two, artistically done naked angels, and we didn’t think it was in bad taste,” Bush told The Daily Times in 2007. “We thought images like that had been a part of art for hundreds of years, so we didn’t think anything about it when our booking agent sent those posters out for clubs to hang up for our shows.

“Well, someone told the folks at the Down Yonder that it looked obscene to have these naked angels hanging up, so when we got to the club, the guys there had drawn bikinis on the angels, and that made it look obscene. I’ll never forget pulling up to the Down Yonder and seeing bathing suits on those angels.”

Good times. Don’t think anybody will be defacing tour posters for Bush’s show this time around.

Written by wildsmith

October 27th, 2010 at 8:39 am

The Features come together for Brock

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Here’s a show for a worthy cause: Murfreesboro-based indie rock band The Features will perform at The Valarium in Knoxville on Nov. 11 as part of a benefit concert for local pedal steel player Brock Henderson.

I last talked to Brock more than a year ago, when I did a cover story on The Drunk Uncles (Brock no longer plays with that group). I called him up to get details on the Nov. 11 show and for some reassurances about his health.

“I had surgery that I needed to have for years to have some tissue in my sinuses removed,” he told me. “Luckily, it turned out to be nothing more than a big ol’ cyst. I have insurance, but the deductible is so high that I have to pay for everything — like, $4,000. I’ve been teaching and playing music, so I’ve just been struggling anyway, and this was just another kick in the nuts.”

Enter The Features — or at least Features bass player Roger Dabbs, who recently married Henderson’s sister, Melissa. (Brock refers to Roger as his “brother-in-love.”)

“He called and said, ‘Hey, man — we want to do a benefit for you,’” Henderson said. “They’re the coolest, most down-to-earth guys. They’ve been touring the world, playing with the Kings of Leon.”

In fact, the band released “Some Kind of Salvation” last year on the Kings own label imprint.

Henderson has fallen into the weird position, though, of organizing the benefit. It’s a role he’s not unfamiliar with — a few years ago, he helped put together a show for fellow scene musician/pedal steel ace Tom Pryor — but he admits it feels a little odd organizing one for himself, even if it wasn’t his idea.

Also on the bill for the show on the 11th: singer-songwriter Ian Thomas, band JC and The Dirty Smokers and Henderson’s new-ish project, The Brockefellers.

“I’m putting lot of energy into The Brockefellers kind of thing – it’s a trio, it’s rockabilly-surf-Zappa music, and we’ve got a lot of adult edu-tainment going on,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of fun, silly songs, up-tempo songs, surf songs; the goal being I want to entertain myself and everybody in the audience.”

Doors open at 8 p.m. on the 11th; the cover is $10 ($13 if you’re younger than 21).

Written by wildsmith

October 23rd, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Gun*Slinger: The rest of the story …

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It’s always good to see some Blount County bands get love from the Knoxville press. Matthew Everett over at Metro Pulse has long been a fan of Maryville-based glam-metal revivalists Gun*Slinger, and this week’s edition featured a story on the guys, who perform tonight at the Longbranch Saloon on “The Strip.” However, the very next day Everett blogged about an e-mail he received that stated singer Cole Graham is no longer with the band.

WTF? When I wrote about the band back in August, things seemed good; even after the brouhaha at Irish Times that same weekend, the foursome seemed more determined than ever. So I set out to get to the bottom of what happened.

Graham was the first to get back to me, and he was adamant about one thing — despite the wording of the e-mail Everett received, he was not fired from the band.

“You can’t fire someone who created the whole thing,” he told me. “I quit because these guys wanted to spend $80 of my hard-earned money to go up to Nashville and play a battle of the bands. I guess me and my insolence caused them to go get a new lead singer.”

According to Graham, he disagreed with the decision to make the trip to Nashville to compete and was vocal about his opposition. In the end, however, he said he showed up to the home of guitarist Marcus Ott to make the trip … only to find the rest of the guys ready to leave without him.

“It was just desperation — everybody was wanting it to go somewhere and wanting to break through, but I told them I thought the trip would be a waste of time,” he said. “And it was — they came home and didn’t win anything, and no fans showed up. I told them that would happen, because we’re a Maryville-based band, a Knoxville-based band. We needed to work on it locally.”

Before the rest of the band pulled out, however, a heated exchange followed, and when the dust settled Graham and his former bandmates went their separate ways.

“I told them to keep the name, if they have to, but all of the songs — even the stuff that’s unreleased — are mine,” he said. “Considering all the songs are mine, if I could find the members, I suppose I would go under a different band name. I’m considering going under my own name and hiring a backing band.”

According to the rest of the band, however — Ott, bass player Ryan Scott and drummer Blake Rider, speaking in solidarity to me via an Internet chat conference — the issues go much deeper than Graham’s resistance to the Nashville contest.

“The last couple shows we had, his attitude and his performance was not quite what we felt it should be,” the guys said. “For example, his excessive cussing and vulgarity toward the audience was above and beyond what is ‘rock and roll,’ and we watched over half the crowd get up and walk out over it. After the crowd reacted to Cole’s antics by walking out on us, Cole decided he did not want to finish the show. He decided he didn’t want to put on a good show.

“We felt his performance ‘give up,’ and he would leave the stage in the middle of songs. He became overly intoxicated so that he could keep on going. We had to finish songs on our own. After that gig, we were to go to Nashville for a battle of the bands. Cole refused to go. But it was too close for us to cancel without damaging our name, so to prevent that we decided to go and take a fill-in singer to honor our committment. Upon finding this out, Cole decided to quit, but not before cussing and insulting us. So we decided to fire him. Unfortunately, he quit first.”

According to Graham, his on-stage persona exemplifies what made glam-metal, or hair-metal, great in the 1980s — an abrasive attitude, an in-your-face personality and an anti-authoritarian air about it all.

“It’s the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, man,” he said. “There’s nobody out there who’s doing rock ‘n’ roll right, representing what rock ‘n’ roll is the way they should. And people who try it are gonna get condemned for it because it’s more than what the indusry will accept immediately. The guys didn’t have the guts to stick with it, so I told them to get Mr. Rogers for the frontman.”

Of course, those who keep up with Gun*Slinger may be just rolling their eyes at this point. After all, the band went through this once before; Ott, Rider and Scott went on to back country act Jennetta Leann as the band Tipton Station before eventually reconciling with Cole. Both sides, however, say such a reconciliation probably ain’t gonna happen this time around.

“As for Cole ever fronting Gun Slinger again, short of a miracle – unless God appoints him our lead singer – there is no chance of Cole fronting Gun*Slinger,” the band said. “Three strikes, come and gone. He’s out.”

On that point, they agree — Cole has no interest in going back, either.

“Even last time, I said let’s give it time and we’ll talk about it,” he said. “Not this time. They just don’t like my frontman style, but a lot of people who are in the industry, who know it and have been around it have told us time and time again that there’s a fire with this band, and it wasn’t them. I wish them luck and hope that they do well with their new endeavors, but as far as to say what they’re doing right now is Gun*Slinger – it’ll never be Gun*Slinger.”

OK, so maybe they aren’t in total agreement. Ott, Scott and Rider — who have tapped Ott’s brother, Daniel, as the new lead singer — are enthusiastic about their collective future, even if the old songs like “Pick Ur Poison” won’t be part of the Gun*Slinger recorded repertoire.

“The songs lyrically were his; musically, they were a collaboration. However, we agreed to take them off our websites and off our album,” the guys said. “But we will play them live (if we feel like it) just as we do cover songs. We have new original songs in the works. Fans will not be disheartened. We are sticking to the same Gun*Slinger style. Pure rock and roll!”

For tonight’s show, Daniel Ott has a work commitment he can’t get out of; singer Cortni McAndrews is (tentatively) filling in. In parting, the band had this to say:

“Please continue to stick with our band. We thank you for your continued support even amidst all of our trials. We apologize to any one who has been offended or cursed at by our former frontman. As for Cole, we wish him well in his life and his endeavors from this point on.”

Written by wildsmith

October 22nd, 2010 at 6:19 am

David Daniell loves him some Knoxville

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The Knoxville ties of acclaimed avant garde guitarist David Daniell continue to grow stronger.

I interviewed Daniell earlier today for a piece in Friday’s Weekend section about his upcoming show at The Pilot Light with Tortoise guitarist Doug McCombs. He talked about the recent album “Knoxville,” recorded with fellow auteurs Tony Buck (of the Necks) and Christian Fennesz at Big Ears Festival 2009 and released earlier this year on Thrill Jockey Records, and his love of our fair town.

“It’s really been interesting to me, becoming familiar with the music scene in Knoxville and discovering how constant it is,” said Daniell, who last played this area in January with the band Bright Shuttle. There are a lot of people there for whom music is just a part of their life, and it’s really great.”

Daniell and McCombs, who tour as a duo but bring on board a drummer for the individual shows, have tapped Pilot Light owner Jason Boardman to man the kit for Friday’s show.

“He should be perfect, and we get along famously,” Daniell said. “He seems to be a natural fit for what we’re doing, and we have this kind of shared thinking.”

Before we said our goodbyes, he mentioned one more Knoxville tie — Laboratory Standard Recordings, he said, will be the home of the next album by his long-time band San Agustin.

“Sometime around the end of the year or the beginning of next year, it will be out,” Daniell said. “I really believe in what those guys are doing with the label. I think they have the right idea about it.”

Senryu rider: ‘One old person’

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Hola, blog readers. I’m back at it after a week off. While vacating, I had the opportunity to see The Boxer Rebellion perform at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus; opening the show was one of my favorite local bands, Senryu.

It reminded me of one of my many conversations with front man/guru Wil Wright, one of the most creative, flamboyant and downright amazing musicians in the local scene. I can’t remember how the topic came up one day, but Wil revealed to me that, in the manner of rock stars making outlandish demands for backstage comforts on their tour riders, Senryu always includes one of its own — an old person.

Seriously. As in, Wright and his co-horts ask for an elderly individual (no specific age range, although when I asked if my dad, who turned 68 this year, would qualify, he said, “Most certainly!”) to keep them company in the dressing room while they prepare for the show.

“Having tour managed a lot, those (demands) always seemed a little bit stupid, so I’m always trying to figure out a way to ask for something that’s useful,” Wright said. “I put that on there only because it’s something I’ve encountered before at shows that I feel like have gone pretty successfully. If I run into old people before shows and talk with them, I feel mentally prepared. It’s like chips and salsa for the show.”

Unfortunately, no one takes the band’s demand very seriously, which means Senryu usually brings their own elderly good luck charm.

“It’s the perfect thing to put on our rider, because we’re serious about it, but nobody takes it seriously,” he said. “That’s been one of my favorite things about the band.”

I go into all of that to catch you up on a few lineup changes regarding Senryu — drummer and founding member Steven Rodgers wasn’t at the Clayton Center show; Wright revealed afterward that he’s taken a time-consuming job as band director for South-Doyle Middle School and assistant director at S-D High School.

“He’s definitely still on our roster, and obviously we’ll work with him as often as we can,” Wright said.

In the meantime, bass player Andres McCormack has moved over to the drumkit, and the band welcomes new member Zac Fallon — a solo performer locally who goes by the nom de plume Katie and the Bass Drums — on the four-string. (Andres’ brother Dan McCormack still rocks the guitar and keys.)

“Zac has been on the team with us for a very long time, so he’s super-famliar with the catalog,” Wright said of the changes. “The big transition is getting used to a new drummer. Where Steven was a very mathematical drummer, Andres is more of a power drummer and an instinctual drummer. I feel like I spent a lot of my time trying to frustrate Steven, writing things to push him out of his safety zone. The dynamic we had was interesting, because we come from opposite directions, whereas Andres and I both rely on our instincts.”

The band debuted a new song at the Clayton Center show, and the new lineup heads to the studio in December for a late winter/early spring release, Wright added.

“As with the last two releases, I’m trying to only write my parts, whereas before I wrote all the parts,” he said. “I come to practice and let everybody have a good time and write what they find interesting, and so far it’s been great. The songs we’re writing now definitely have their own thing.”

If you’re jonesing for new Senryu music in the meantime, check out “All These Clues,” dance remixes by DJ Tom Ato of some of the tracks off of the band’s full-length “Inkling,” released earlier this year. And if for some reason you find yourself in New York today, check out Senryu at 2:30 p.m. at Pianos on the Lower East Side, where the band plays as part of this week’s CMJ Music Marathon.

Maggie Longmire presents ‘Granddaughters’

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Back in 2008, we interviewed local singer-songwriter Maggie Longmire, a k a “The Lily of LaFollette,” about a work that’s extremely personal to her — “Granddaughters: An Americana Opera.”

About it, she told us “it’s been full of a lot of appreciation for family members, and perhaps some regret that I didn’t spend more time with some of them before they weren’t available anymore. To know their stories and some of their struggles, it makes you say, ‘Wow — I wish I’d had more time with them.’ It’s just funny how little things will mean something particularly profound to you.

“It gives you an appreciation for their personalities — how they did what they did, how they lived their lives. The way we live now, older generations seem to be separated from their children and grandchildren; something in our culture has developed in more modern times that folks seem to lose, especially the stories that the older generation has to tell. There’s nothing like having stories told from the person who lived them.

“It teaches you to look over your shoulder to where you came from, and it gives you an appreciation for those who loved us and brought us into this world and gave us our creative talent,” she added. “Discovering that someone in my family loved to write … that my grandfather loved to play guitar … discovering something I didn’t know but got passed down, all of those are new things to have gratitude for.”

Longmire’s musical roots may go back to the skills handed down by her ancestors, but she’s been making a name for herself since the late 1970s, when her long-time band, the Lonesome Coyotes, took the East Tennessee music scene by storm. As one of the Western swing/country-rock outfit’s singers and guitarists, she helped craft songs and played music that defined a generation of Knoxvillians’ entry to adulthood. With the Coyotes, she rocked the Budweiser pavilion all summer long during the 1982 World’s Fair and performed with the band on national television, during a guest slot on the soap opera “One Life to Live.”

After a 17-year hiatus from playing music after the Coyotes disbanded shortly after the World’s Fair, Longmire found herself returning to music. A chance meeting with one of her old bandmates prompted the Coyotes to reunite in 2002, and Longmire pursued other projects on the side. Her 2003 album, “Teachers and Travelers,” earned her the Best Writer award in the Knoxville alternative newspaper’s 2003 readers’ poll, and when her brother John asked for her musical assistance for a project he was working on, “Granddaughters” was born.

Now, “Granddaughters” will see the light of day on a Knoxville stage (again; it’s been performed once at The Laurel Theater in Knoxville’s Fort Sanders neighborhood). It takes place at 8 p.m. Nov. 20 at The Square Room, 4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville; tickets are $17 (you can purchase them here). About the show, she writes: “We have a great cast of musicians and singers. R.B. Morris will be on board to tell the story through both story and song. The music will be performed by the mighty acoustic orchestra Free Soil Farm, which includes: Jay Manneschmidt, Doug Klein, Cecilia Miller, Peggy Hambright, Charles Manneschmidt, Don Cassell, Danny Gammon, J.P. Reddick, Kate Reddick, Jenna Longmire, R.B. Morris and me.” Given the East Tennessee musical pedigrees of all of those players, it should be an amazing night.

Written by wildsmith

October 6th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Preservation Pub to get a “Big Love” overhaul

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One of my favorite people to run into out and about in the local scene is Jonathan Sexton, bandleader for The Big Love Choir. We profiled the group on the cover of Weekend about a year ago, and the dude hasn’t slowed down since. At Bonnaroo, he pulled off a hat trick — performing for adoring crowds, setting a Guinness world record for giving out hugs and proposing to his beautiful, talented girlfriend, Big Love harmony vocalist Elodie LaFont. Now, he’s pulling off a Big Love-style overhaul of local downtown Knoxville venue Preservation Pub, 28 Market Square. Here’s what his recent press release says:

The Big Love Overhaul:   Jonathan Sexton Takes over Preservation Pub   Oct 21-23

Singer/Songwriter Jonathan Sexton, is taking the reigns at Preservation Pub by pairing up with Blank News and My i 105 to showcase some of the best up and coming talent from Nashville, Atlanta, Austin and more on Oct 21-Oct 23. Jonathan is booking, promoting and performing in the festival as a way of bringing new talent to Knoxville, showing off existing local talent, trying out some new material for Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir. Sexton says, “since I signed with my new management company, publishing company, and booking agency in August, I don’t get to dabble in this side of the business as much lately, but it is something I certainly have a passion for, so I am grateful for the opportunity to put something together within the confines of the brilliant Knoxville music community.”

He quotes the Pub’s first lady, Bernadette West: “Few local musicians are as active in the regional music community as Jonathan is, he knows a lot of great music, and it’s always fun to see what he comes up with when I let him do the booking for a few days!” Sexton also says, “it is a good way to showcase a bunch of new tunes JSBLC has been writing since Bonnaroo. On the road, we often get contracted for 45-60 minutes sets, so now that we are going to be home for a few nights I am really happy to get involved in some longer sets of music.”

The lineup: On Thursday, Oct. 21, it’ll be Don Gallardo from Nashville and The New Vernacular from Knoxville, along with Black Lillies drummer Jamie Cook doing his singer-songwriter thang.

On Friday, Oct. 22, check out Matt Urmy, Knoxville ex-pat now living in Nashville; Atlanta power-pop outfit The Small Town Mayors; and a full band set from Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir.

On Saturday, Oct. 23: West Coast alternative outfit Listen Like Thieves will be joined by Oh No Oh My, led by Knoxville ex-pat Tim Regan (of Antenna Shoes and Snowglobe), and The Sextons, a father-son “outlaw country power rock trio” featuring Sexton, his dad Andrew and drummer Dave Campbell.

No word on admission, but it’ll most likely be $5 at the door.

Written by wildsmith

October 6th, 2010 at 6:40 am

The return of the Westside Daredevils

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Don’t call it a comeback … oh, what the hell. Definitely call it a comeback, and a most welcome one at that.

Intrepid entertainment reporter that I am, I keep an eye on the calendars of local venues a month or two out. Imagine, then, my delight when upon perusing the calendar of Patrick Sullivan’s Saloon (100 N. Central St. in Knoxville’s Old City), I discovered this gem, slated for Nov. 19: The return of the Westside Daredevils.

I’ve been a huge fan of this band since 2002, when I included the group’s album “All Things Small Produce a Spark” on my year-end best-of list. The last time I wrote about the band was in 2008 when the guys released “Brave New Nothing“; they dropped off the radar shortly thereafter, and a little more than a year ago, I blogged about how the band had probably been shelved indefinitely. So of course, news of a possible reunion show had me all a-twitter, and I reached out to Daredevil Gray Comer for confirmation. This is what he wrote back this evening:

“It’s been hard to get everyone on the same page, as we’re old men now and many of us have real jobs and responsibilities and BS like that, but the lineup is as follows:

  • Brett Cassidy: guitar/vocals
  • Jeff Caudill: guitar/vocals
  • John T. Baker: guitar/vocals
  • Brandon Smith: bass
  • Yours truly: drums

Yes, I’m playing drums, because we hadn’t been able to find a permanent solution on the drum seat that could tolerate our neuroses. Plus, I really enjoy playing drums and shockingly don’t entirely suck at it. And hopefully it will be the start of regular local shows to come. Several new songs will be debuted at the Patrick Sullivan’s gig.”

Local music fans, this is sweet, sweet news. The Westside Daredevils … with John T. Baker in the fold? Gorgeous, shimmering indie pop is a beautiful thing indeed, and those two musical entities make fantastic music on their own. Together, it’ll be amazing to behold.

Written by wildsmith

October 5th, 2010 at 4:09 am

The continuing adventures of Deek Hoi

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Every once in a while, Daniel Coy of the local indie outfit Deek Hoi checks in with us and lets us know what’s going on, with both his budding film career and the band. It’s been more than a year, however, since we last told you about “The Revenant,” the last project he dropped us a line about. Good to hear he’s still out there.

He dropped us a line over the weekend to let us know he’s just completed a music video/short movie that combines a new Deek Hoi track with song by the Silver Masked Tenor (a k a John Ferguson of the Apples in Stereo, ulysses and Big Fresh). You can watch it here.

He also writes, “I’ve also been re-releasing all of Deek Hoi’s past catalog on bandcamp, beginning with 2004’s ‘Music for an Unwritten Western,’ through 2010’s ‘Deek Hoi,’ which I’m releasing a track at a time. (Check out the band’s bandcamp site here.) Finally, I’m nearly done with a music video for the Apples in Stereo, part of an effort to make a video for each of their tracks on the new record ‘Travelers in Space and Time.’ I’m in accomplished company too — (actor) Elijah Wood worked on the first video for the project, the track ‘Dance Floor.’ My vid for them should come out in the next month or two.

“In the meantime, I’m still working on my series of inappropriate ads for local businesses, and working on two short-narrative movie projects that should begin shooting in January.”

Awesomeness abounds. Coy, by the way, is an alumnus of Maryville College. Back then, Deek Hoi, which included a few Maryville College students in the lineup, was known as Swayze. Check out Deek Hoi online.

Written by wildsmith

October 4th, 2010 at 8:29 am