Steve Wildsmith

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

Archive for March, 2011

“Boom in the Park” Music Festival to accompany Boomsday

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Boom in the Park logo

Labor Day in East Tennessee already comes with the biggest fireworks show in the nation that weekend, and now there’s a music festival that’s going to coincide with it.

The Boomsday folks have announced that, starting this year, Boom in the Park will serve as a “family-friendly event that takes place on Sunday, Sept. 4, at World’s Fair Park in Knoxville, TN.  Boom in the Park offers world class entertainment and a beautiful setting for watching the Boomsday fireworks, all at a very affordable price of just $25 per ticket (plus applicable fees).”

Performers for this year are a melange of classic rockers, including Lou Gramm, formerly of Foreigner; John Elefante of Kansas; Bobby Kimball of Toto; Mickey Thomas and Starship; country musician Chuck Wicks, Columbia Nashville teen recording artist Jordyn Shellhart; and country songwriters Benita Hill, Kirsti Manna and Bernie Nelson.

(On a sidenote: Is it just me, or are there a lot of Foothills Fall Festival alumni on this lineup?!? Both Chuck Wicks and Starship performed at last year’s downtown Maryville event; Kansas played in 2009; and Foreigner rocked it in 2008. And Kimball was scheduled to share the stage with Starship last year before backing out.)

Back to Boom in the Park — gates open at 1 p.m. and the music starts at 2; a 30-minute break will take place for the fireworks between 9:30 and 10 p.m., and the tunes resume until 11 with Chuck closing out the show. Tickets go on sale at 10 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, April 1), and can be purchased on the event’s website, the Boomsday site or by calling 1-800-514-3849. You can also buy them in person at Disc Exchange, 2615 Chapman Highway in Knoxville.

Luther Dickinson: Playing with NMAS and The Black Crowes ‘a different beast’

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Luther Dickinson on stage with The Black Crowes at The Tennessee Theatre, September 2010 (Mark A. Large/The Daily Times)

After The Black Crowes wrapped up their “Say Good Night to the Bad Guys” tour at the end of 2010, it didn’t take long for guitarist Luther Dickinson to step back into his role as singer/guitarist for the North Mississippi Allstars, the band he founded with brother Cody and bass player Chris Chew.

I interviewed Luther last week in advance of the Allstars show opening the concert season on Saturday, April 2, at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, and he described the difference between performing with the two groups as “a different beast.”

“There’s not a lot that really translates,” he told me. “With the Crowes, I was only playing lead guitar. I didn’t make the setlist, I just played lead, and that’s a blast. It was a really big band, a large ensemble group, and that’s a blast. That was the biggest thing I had to adjust to — that and, rhythmically, it’s really different, because you have this behind-the-beat, swampy, roller coaster groove.

“With the Allstars, it’s anywhere from a two-piece to a three-piece at most. I grew up playing in smaller configurations, so it’s a lot more free. And rhythmically, Cody is completely so tight, it’s easy to lock into him. I rely on him so much; he’s got such a great groove, I can just fall right into it. It took me a while to figure out how to stay in a groove with the Crowes, especially when I was soloing, but it came together.

“With the Allstars, I’m playing guitar, singing, making the setlist — and the way (Crowes singer) Chris (Robinson) and I make our setlist is completely different,” he added. “I admire the way he makes setlists, but I can’t work that way. I belabor those mother——-, man.”

Written by wildsmith

March 31st, 2011 at 7:26 am

Sundown in the City 2011 lineup announced

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sundown

You’ve been asking about it, so start making plans — Sundown in the City, the annual free concert series held on Market Square in downtown Knoxville, returns for 2011 on April 21.

It’s a free series of shows that was scaled back from a weekly run over several months in previous years to every other week last year. For 2011, there will be five Sundown performances, all taking place on Thursdays starting on the 21st.

It first began in 1998 and is an annual entertainment event held every spring, brought to the public by AC Entertainment and a number of sponsors. Gates open at 6 p.m. every Thursday, and the music starts at 7. Free parking is available after 6 p.m. at the Locust Street, Market Square and State Street garages.

This year’s lineup includes:

Review: Miranda Lambert at the Civic Coliseum, March 26, 2011

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mirandalambert

It’s easy to please a crowd full of fans, and there were certainly plenty of those in attendance on Saturday night at the Civic Coliseum in downtown Knoxville.

It’s a lot harder, however, to win over skeptics — but country star Miranda Lambert succeeded admirably.

Full disclosure — I am not a fan of mainstream country music. I find much of it derivative at best and just about as far from traditional notions of country as you can get at worst. Studio albums coming out of Nashville these days sound like what they cost to make — a million bucks, and for that amount of money, a pack of howling dogs can be made to sound like a choir of the heavenly host through studio trickery.

A live performance, however, is hard to fake, and on stage is where performers propped up by good producers often fall short. Miranda Lambert is not one of those performers.

I’m familiar with her because my job requires me to keep up with popular music, even though the bulk of it is not something I would purchase or listen to on the radio. Miranda, however, intrigued me with her selection of a track by one of the best underground songwriters out there, Fred Eaglesmith, for her most recent album — “Revolution,” released in 2009. The song, “Time to Get a Gun,” gets a countrified makeover in Lambert’s rendition, but she maintains the heart of Eaglesmith’s narrative of a desperate man facing desperate times.

In fact, of all the songwriters penning tracks for Nashville stars, Miranda gets props for her selections — John Prine (”That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round”), Steve Earle (”Hillbilly Highway,” which she delivered with all the sass of a wildcat locked in a phone booth on Saturday night) and Julie Miller (”Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go”) among others. What I respect even more, however, is that Lambert’s originals hold their own with those fine choices.

Needless to say, however, those who paid upwards of $40 apiece for tickets to her show would have no doubt cheered themselves hoarse if Lambert had sang obscure selections from the They Might Be Giants catalog. But that’s OK, because that enthusiasm and adoration makes a concert like Lambert’s all the better.

Here’s the thing for which I have to give grudging respect to mainstream Nashville artists — they know how to put on a show. They tailor every performance to the specific crowd (across the video screen behind her band, snapshots of various University of Tennessee and Knoxville signage flashed during her performance of “Famous in a Small Town”) and go out of their way to engage those in attendance. Saturday night, Lambert worked her ass off — grasping outstretched hands down front, taking care to sing directly to the nosebleed sections on either side of the stage and playing her redneck girl with downhome appeal and a side of sexy to the hilt.

And the thing is, Lambert’s performance seems genuine — that she really is a small-town Southern girl who’s probably notched more than a few deer kills, scared more than a few ex-boyfriends with her wild-girl temper and danced on more than a few bar counters in her day. Clad in a sleeveless leather hoody and a short skirt, she was sexy without being a tramp, wild without being a party girl and entertaining as hell without being a diva. If it had been any other country artist on stage, Lambert could have passed for one of the girls in the audience, whooping and hollering and having a big time with the best of them.

And that’s what sells records. Sure, she played the hits and made more than a few covers her own — the aforementioned “Hillbilly Highway,” Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo,” Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.” She preened and strutted, chatted with the crowd, gave her band members a chance to shine and even brought up hometown girl Ashley Monroe for a couple of songs. For the final song of the night, she brought out opening acts Justin Moore and Josh Kelley for a searing rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band,” and she even made reference to her high-profile engagement to fellow country star Blake Shelton.

In short, she owned the stage. Her voice is a work of art, her act is pure entertainment and her songs strike a chord in those who don’t just listen to country music but live it every day — small-town lives, struggles of the heart, big-time hopes and dreams. In a Southern city like Knoxville, it was as powerful as a Sunday morning sermon from the pulpit, and by the time the audience filed out into a rainy Saturday night, their souls seemed satiated.

And that’s all we can ask of the stars who provide a soundtrack to our lives — a hell of a good time that leaves us feeling a little bit better because somebody who seems like our sister or our girlfriend is telling our story up there beneath the stage lights. Lambert did all of that and impressed on this writer, at least, that there’s still hope for the kind of music coming out Nashville these days.

Written by wildsmith

March 27th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Music, Review

Jill Andrews full-length lands June 7

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jillandrews

Just in time for her performance next weekend at downtown Knoxville’s Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival comes word of the forthcoming debut album by former everybodyfields chanteuse Jill Andrews. According to Big Hassle Publicity, it’s titled “The Mirror,” and it was recorded with Scott Solter (Superchunk, The Crooked Jades) in North Carolina and Neilson Hubbard (Glen Phillips, Matthew Perryman Jones) in Nashville.

According to the press release, the record “nudges Andrews’ folksy roots into an effortless, classic-pop sensibility and keen eye for human drama.  Her clear, lovely voice sounds more adventurous than ever, and on tunes like the album’s title track, her words are wrapped in shimmering piano lines and a collage of background harmonies. But beneath many of the songs’ bright shells lies plenty of the tough, true words that have become a hallmark of Andrews’ career.”

Andrews funded much of the album through a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than $13,000 to cover the production costs. Over on her website, she’s offering a free download of the title track.

She’ll perform at 7:15 p.m. Friday, April 1, at The Square Room, 4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville, as part of Rhythm N’ Blooms. Tickets to the festival are $40 for a weekend pass/$20 for a day pass.

Written by wildsmith

March 24th, 2011 at 8:51 am

Laurel Wright (and some Sisters) get the Opry treatment

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march 12,2011 bsfo

Take a look at that there poster and you’ll see that Blount County is well-represented on the list of this weekend’s inductees into the Big South Fork Opry. The organization, a nonprofit group that provides instruments for students, is holding its final show on Saturday, March 12, at Crossville’s historic Palace Theater, 72 S. Main St., and two Blount County ladies of music are on the bill.

First up is Rhonda Whiting, one of the lovely Sisters of the Silver Sage, those lovely ladies of Blount County’s Wildwood community who have made a name for themselves playing Western music around these parts over the years. The sisters recently released a new video for the song “Seek Higher Ground” (watch it here) and will host Marshal Andy’s show on Sunday, March 27, at Bearden Banquet Hall in Knoxville.

Several other performers will be at the Crossville Palace on Saturday night, but the only other one that gets us excited is the pretty and talented Laurel Wright, who’s quickly becoming a Blount County musical ambassador, among other things. We last caught up with her in December, when she and the John Titlow Band were playing a benefit show at Foothills Mall, and we’re pleased to report she hasn’t slowed down in the least.

After this weekend, the Big South Fork Opry is moving venues, to The Princess Theater in downtown Harriman, and Wright will be a regular member of the cast (along with the Sisters, from what we understand). Saturday’s show begins at 7 p.m., and admission is $10.

In other news, Wright is one of the first confirmed acts for the upcoming Daystar Music Festival, taking place from noon to 9 p.m. April 16 on the World’s Fair Site in downtown Knoxville as part of the Dogwood Arts Festival. No word yet on other performers; we’ll keep you posted.

Caitlin Cary on Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown reunion possibilities

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Just got off the phone with the lovely and talented Caitlin Cary, who got her start fiddling and singing with alt-country provocateur Ryan Adams in the North Carolina-based band Whiskeytown. Since the release of the group’s final record “Pneumonia” back in 2001, she’s been a busy girl with various other projects — a solo career, which included two stellar releases; Tres Chicas, which still performs occasionally; partnering with Thad Cockrell for the phenomenal duets record “Begonias”; and now the band The Small Ponds (with Matt Douglas of The Proclivities), which stops in East Tennessee on Saturday, March 12, for a show at Patrick Sullivan’s Saloon, 100 N. Central St. in Knoxville’s Old City.

Our interview about The Small Ponds will hit the ol’ Interwebs on Thursday, but while I had her on the phone, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask her about her old friend and those persistent rumors of a possible Whiskeytown reunion. Fortunately for me, she’s as gracious as she is talented and didn’t hang up the phone or tell me to get bent.

She acknowledged the ever-present talk of Whiskeytown reuniting (even joking that if she had a kid to put through college, it would definitely be more than just talk) and said she and Adams still talk from time to time.

“He called me from Paris not long ago,” she said. “His life seems so different than (a) anything I ever imagined about him — being married to a starlet (actress Mandy Moore) and vacationing in Paris — and (b) how I remember him, as this bumpkin who was a little crazy. But I’m really happy for him, and he seems happy. I don’t keep up with what he’s doing musically like I probably should, but it sounds like he’s in a place where he can afford to be, like he feels like he’s accomplished enough already that he feels like he can relax and do whatever he wants, whether it’s painting or poetry or music or whatever.

“He seems much more peaceful than any time I’ve ever known him, so I’m really happy for him.”

Like most old friends, they usually end their conversations pledging to see one another soon, to collaborate in the future and to reignite that musical fire that bonded them back when alternative country was in its early heyday. And while nothing is set in stone as far as Whiskeytown getting back together, it’s not a far-fetched notion, she added.

“I imagine that’ll happen eventually,” she said.

Written by wildsmith

March 7th, 2011 at 11:47 am

Rhythm N’ Blooms lineup announced!

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rnb
In less than a month, the second annual Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival will take place, so it’s about time the lineup was delivered to music aficionados. The good news … make that great news … is that the lineup looks to be well worth the wait.
Last year, In 2010, Rhythm N’ Blooms grew from a quaint little addition to East Tennessee’s annual Dogwood Arts Festival into its own three-day celebration. A big change for 2011: Instead of only selling full weekend passes, organizers will offer day passes for single-day show-goers. Last year, organizers faced the challenge of selling the $40 weekend pass to show-goers who were interested in seeing one or two of the acts on the bill and didn’t look at the bigger picture.

“Audience members seemed to be a little tentative to experiment with new music last year,” Attack Monkey media guru and R n’ B organizer Chyna Brackeen told us back in December. “I’m hoping we can overcome that. If you’ve bought a festival pass, there’s no reason not to jump around and see if you can discover someone new who will really blow you away.”

A web-only pre-sale starts Monday (March 7) and runs through 5 p.m. Thursday, March 10. During that time, three-day weekend passes will be available for $35. On Thursday, regularly priced weekend passes ($40) as well as day passes ($20) will be available both via the website and all Pilot Travel Centers.
Without further ado, here’s the lineup for this year’s festival. Keep in mind, Brackeen said, there are still a few artists to be announced, and at least one major announcement to be made in the coming days:
  • The Felice Brothers
  • Darrell Scott
  • Robinella and the CCstringband
  • Larry Keel and Natural Bridge
  • Scott Miller
  • Danny Barnes
  • Michelle Malone
  • Jill Andrews
  • Joe Pug
  • Erin McKeown
  • The Whigs
  • Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside
  • Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen
  • Town Mountain
  • Amy Speace
  • Apache Relay
  • Ponderosa
  • Brooke Waggoner
  • Big Daddy Love
    The Jompson Brothers
  • Rayland Baxter
  • Marshall Ruffin
  • Diamond Doves
  • Sara Petite
  • Adam Hill
  • Young Buffalo
  • thecitylights*
    Valley Young
  • Light Pilot
The festival will take place at participating venues throughout downtown Knoxville.

Written by wildsmith

March 6th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Royal Bangs make national TV debut

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royalbangs

Late night talk show host David Letterman loves him some bands with Knoxville connections. (To be fair … he loves music, period, or at least the people who book his musical acts do.) On Feb. 2, The Boxer Rebellion — fronted by Maryville native Nathan Nicholson — performed on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” Now comes word from Motormouth Media, the publicity company representing Knoxville three-piece indie rock outfit Royal Bangs, that the Bangs will be the musical guests on Letterman on April 1.

That’s the week the band’s new album, “Flux Outside,” drops. We reviewed that here.

UPDATED: The Bangs will actually be on “Letterman” on April 1, not March 28.

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March 1st, 2011 at 12:01 pm