Steve Wildsmith

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

Archive for December, 2011

The Well, new live music venue, opens next month

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Previous owners haven’t had a lot of luck with the spot at 4620 Kingston Pike in Knoxville’s Bearden neighborhood, but if we were betting peeps over here at The Daily Times, our money would go on Gina Truitt making something vibrant and viable out of it.

She’s certainly going to give it her all — The Well opens next month in that location, formerly the home of 4620 Jazz Club, which couldn’t survive long after owner Melissa Rosenthal died in a car wreck in 2007. It closed briefly, re-opened under new ownership and was purchased by Daniel Leal, who turned it into 4620 Reinvented. That place did OK, hosting artists like Toby Lightman and Wayne Hancock before changing names (and target clientele, becoming a gay bar) to Velvet … but for more than a year, it’s been vacant.

Now, Truitt — who used to run The Spot, a former midtown watering hole and patio bar, for 10 years and most recently managed Sunspot on “The Strip” and Barley’s Taproom in the Old City — is the property’s new proprietor. It helps that she’s plugged into the local music scene in a way few club owners are; after all, her sweetheart is local singer-songwriter Matt Woods, whose music and work locally is known and respected.

A brief description of The Well, from the venue’s website: “Our stage is the newest addition to Knoxville’s strong music scene. Moreover, we are the only place providing original local, regional and national talent west of downtown … The Well is a comfortable spot to enjoy food, drink and original live music. The Well offers a smoke-free environment with a separate smoking room. We are open to patrons 21 and up seven nights a week, hosting music for five. Look for nightly drink specials, half-price food on Sundays, vinyl record nights, afternoons with newly released CDs, guest chef nights and more.”

The grand opening is the week of Jan. 20, and by the look of the calendar on the aforementioned website, things are going to start off with a bang.

Congrats to Gina. Now do your part by supporting.

Written by wildsmith

December 22nd, 2011 at 9:13 am

Everybodyfields ‘lost’ recordings likely to stay that way

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In February 2010, in a blog post announcing “the fake that sunk a thousand ships,” the solo record by Sam Quinn of the everybodyfields, we mentioned an album that the band — which includes Jill Andrews as co-founder/co-leader and the instrumental firepower of Josh Oliver, Tom Pryor and Jamie Cook — recorded shortly before (and probably during the process of) breaking up in 2009 was sitting on the shelves at Rock Snob Studios in Knoxville.

Quinn and Andrews have patched up their relationship, are pals again and the everybodyfields are playing one final show this year, the fourth since getting back together for Bristol’s Rhythm and Roots Reunion, and while the members won’t rule out playing together again at some point in the future, that final record will probably stay shelved, Quinn told me this week.

“It’s probably not ever going to happen,” he said. “I think the bulk of the work we did was pretty good, but recording in the middle of that period was tumultuous, and it wasn’t our best work. I think there’s a reason to keep it in the can right now. There were a few songs that were very good, but to be honest, I haven’t listened to it in ages.

“It might be something to go back and listen to and then we’ll go, ‘That’s pretty cool’ — or it might just sit up there. That was just a time when nothing was firing, and I think we were realizing that was probably as far as this thing was gonna go.”

New music is on the horizon from Quinn and Andrews individually, however. Quinn is putting together a more upbeat follow-up to “fake,” he said.

“I’m kind of taking the Wings sort of approach on it by playing bass,” he said. “I’ve got guitar players and electric guitars, and it’s sounding kind of laid-back, not unlike a slow Crazy Horse. It’s sludgy and slow and not-so-happy in parts.”

He hopes to play more shows in 2012, he added, while Andrews will continue to tour in support of “The Mirror,” her 2011 full-length.

“I’m mostly writing a lot, and getting together with a lot of people and writing for other people,” Andrews said, adding that local fans should expect another Jill Andrews show sometime in the first quarter of 2012.

Written by wildsmith

December 21st, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Streamliners to kick off winter ‘Alive After Five’ series with a little help from R.B.

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l_77eb633d4633fd436e2f11c66d8eb8c2R.B. Morris

He’s already done the tux thing, and he wouldn’t mind doing it again — but on Jan. 6, local singer-songwriter/poet/playwright R.B. Morris will get to check off another item on his bucket list.

As the kick-off to the “Alive After Five” concert series at the Knoxville Museum of Art (1050 World’s Fair Park Drive in downtown Knoxville), Morris will sit in with the Streamliners Swing Orchestra, a regular at The Capitol Theatre in downtown Maryville and a favorite of “AA5″ patrons. It’s a show put together by “Alive After Five” coordinator Michael Gill, and it’s been years in the planning, Gill told me this week in an email.

A few (5 or 6?) years ago, I interviewed R.B. for an ill-fated publication that went belly up before the story got printed, but I learned two surprising things about RB that made the effort worth it,” Gill writes. “One was that he had been an All-KIL (Knoxville Interscholastic League) basketball player in high school, and, two, that he had long had a desire to sing with a big band. I stored that away in my memory banks and vowed to myself that one day I would make that happen. To make a long story somewhat shorter, that day is coming January 6 at Alive After Five when the winter series premiers with The Streamliners Swing Orchestra, joined by special guest vocalist R.B. Morris.”

Morris credits Gill for making the collaboration happen, even though he and Streamliners bandleader Mike “Catfish” Spirko are still working out a time to rehearse for the performance.

“He immediately was saying, I know a bunch of standards,’ and I said, ‘That could be great; I wouldn’t mind doing that, but I would love to work up a couple of my own tunes,’” Morris told me. “I think I’ve got a couple that lend themselves to that — ‘Old Copper Penny,’ which (a friend) described as sort of a Tin Pan Alley song, and ‘Summer’s Breaking Down’ might be good. We’ll have to see what works out, though. It’s still their gig, but just the idea of singing with them is great.”

Whether he’ll wear a tux, however, remains to be seen. He rented one for a dinner concert he performed earlier this year at The Square Room in downtown Knoxville — mostly as a goof — but it turns out the show might have been good practice for the Jan. 6 show.

“I came out, playing it solo, and I sang ‘Moon River’ and ‘Days of Wine and Roses,’” Morris said. “I didn’t have the big band behind me, but those are potentially big band songs.”

Written by wildsmith

December 21st, 2011 at 7:56 am

Announcing ‘Waynestock 2: For the Love of Phil,’ Feb. 2-4 in Knoxville

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Last year’s Waynestock weekend was born out of tragedy — the death of Andrew Bledsoe, oldest son of long-time News Sentinel music writer Wayne Bledsoe.

The organizers — Tim and Susan Lee, Steve Wildsmith, Mic Harrison, Wil Wright and Jason Knight — didn’t know what to expect. All they knew was that a friend was in pain and a lot of mutual friends wanted to do something, anything, to help. And so a festival was born.

Over three days at Relix Variety Theatre in Downtown North Knoxville, musicians played and fans came, and the Bledsoe family received an outpouring of support. It was such a beautiful weekend, filled with love and music and community, that organizers knew almost immediately they wanted to do it again.

In November, tragedy once again struck the music community when Knoxville expatriate Phil Pollard died suddenly in his Virginia hometown. Although Phil departed Knoxville a few years back, the legacy he left behind — and continued to return to contribute to — is monumental in the local scene. Numerous groups benefited from his talent, and the local scene benefited from his whimsical, quirky, intellectual personality. Whenever Phil played, it was truly a show; music and art and some sort of zany magic all combined to make for nights of wonder, laughter and creative genius.

He left behind a wife and three daughters, and once again the East Tennessee music scene is being called upon to give back. Waynestock 2: For the Love of Phil will be a fundraiser for the educational fund of Phil’s three girls. It will be held again at Relix Variety Theatre, and in the same spirit as the original Waynestock, it will be three nights of love and light and remembrance and celebration, all for a good cause.

Performers include: Thursday, Feb. 2 — Songwriters in the Round featuring Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle, Greg Horne, Kevin Abernathy and Jay Clark; Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet; Ian Thomas; and Christabel and the Jons. On Friday, Feb. 3 — Sara Schwabe and Her Yankee Jass Band; The Lonetones; Tim Lee 3; R.B. Morris; and King Super and the Excellents. A post-Waynstock after-party, featuring the deejays of Magic Hu$tle (Lil iFFy, Tom Ato and more) will begin at 1 a.m. and continue into the early hours of Saturday, Feb. 4. And rounding out the weekend on Saturday night — The French (featuring Phil’s brother-in-law, Brett Winston); The Theorizt; Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere; Senryu; and finishing off the evening, an All-Star Tribute to Phil, featuring members of his various bands and some of the titans of the music scene paying homage to the man so many knew and loved.

This year’s organizers also include Rusty Odom, editor/publisher of Blank News; and Wayne Bledsoe, the festival’s namesake. In putting together this year’s lineup, organizers wanted to maintain the spirit of community that permeated the original through inclusion of some of last year’s acts, while at the same time including as many of the acts with which Phil was associated as possible. The groups scheduled for Waynestock 2 will continue the Knoxville spirit of talent, grace and beauty of spirit that made the first festival such a weekend of magic, and organizers believe its connection to Phil and the people who loved him will make it every bit as successful.

Admission is $5 per night, and the music begins at 7 p.m. each night. Other activities are being planned around the weekend-long event, the details of which will be announced in the coming weeks.

It’s an opportunity for those who feel they’ve received so much to give back … a chance for remembrance and celebration … a time for musicians and fans of all genres, styles and types of music to come together and lift their hands in unity for a guy who’s spent his life uniting an amazing East Tennessee music scene through his words.

We hope you’ll join us. For more information, check out the website set up for this event — www.waynestock.org, and look for further releases and e-mail blasts as the event draws closer.

Maryville College’s Clayton Center launches ‘Cozy Winter Nights’ series in January

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jonathan_maness_web_pg_lmc1Jonathan Maness

Hoping for a repeat of the success of the “Friday Nights Live” series held during the spring and summer, organizers at Maryville College’s Clayton Center for the Arts are launching another concert series next month.

The “Cozy Winter Nights” series kicks off Jan. 28; all performances are in the Lambert Recital Hall, a cozy little theater in the Clayton complex that has some great acoustics and not a bad view of the stage from anywhere in the room. All performances take place at 8 p.m.; admission is $10 per performance. Here’s the lineup:

Tickets to the concerts go on sale Monday, Dec. 19; to purchase, or for more information, call the Clayton Center box office at 981-8590.

On My Honor show off in Maryville, on in Knoxville

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On My Honor — (from left) David Fear, Lucas Sams, Drew Justice, Jordan Garner and Trey MeHaffey

The show must go on, but it ain’t going on in Maryville.

After The Daily Times Weekend section ran a story on Thursday profiling the band and the show scheduled for tonight (Dec. 16) at Heritage Bethesda Church of God, 2525 Tuckaleechee Pike in Maryville, the guys in local pop-punk outfit On My Honor received an unexpected phone call at 10 p.m. Thursday night.

“Apparently, because of the article and words in it like ‘punk rock,’ people were calling the pastor (Rev. William “Buddy” Sweet) and saying they were going to report him to the pastoral board and have his license taken away,” guitarist Lucas Sams said. “So the pastor got scared and said we couldn’t do the show.

“I don’t really know what to think about that; we’ve never had that happened before. All the bands are totally positive, and there would have been nothing non-Christian going on. Half the band were Christian bands; everybody in our band is a Christian. And even if some people at the show weren’t Christian, I would think they would want to have something like a show that would bring them into the church.”

Sweet was unavailable for comment; however, his grandson — Storm Owens, a member of local Christian hardcore rock band East Old Topside and a guy instrumental in booking many of the shows held at Heritage Bethesda in the past, said, “The show has been moved due to unforeseen complications with the church and local community.”

“Shows at the church have always included Christian bands, so the frustration of the community is unfortunate and misled,” Owens said in a written statement. “The effort of the church is to provide a local place for both Christians and non-Christians to fellowship, just as Jesus fellowshiped with those that were non-believers in order to create a relationship and display the overwhelming love of Christ. This is the most important thing by far.”

All-ages rock shows have been taking place at the church since early summer of this year, and Thursday wasn’t the first time a Weekend story profiled a band performing there. In June, Weekend profiled local Christian metal band Morior Invictus. According to MI vocalist Joel Rainwater, his band had nothing but a positive experience there.

“We had no problems; in fact, I thought we were playing there again soon,” Rainwater said.

That remains to be seen; Owens said it’s too early to tell how complaints might affect future shows at the church. By Friday morning, Sams and his bandmates had worked to update all social media discussion of the show to reflect its new location — Sams’s house, 930 Mundy St. in Knoxville. It’s a much smaller place for a rock show, Sams said, but the guys in OMH have been advocates for the all-ages scene for too long to just call it off.

“It’s going to completely pack my house to its capacity, and the ironic thing is that I can guarantee you, nobody would have tried to bring alcohol to that church — but some of them probably will try to bring it to my house,” he said. “People wonder why younger people are so jaded by religion — this is why. They wonder why kids are going out and getting in trouble and doing drugs — that’s why.

“There’s nothing positive for them to do. The only place that has all-ages shows is a place like Valarium (940 Blackstock Drive in Knoxville’s Warehouse District), where a lot of people don’t want their kids to go because it’s downtown, and it’s a place that serves alcohol. So what else are they supposed to do?”

Written by wildsmith

December 16th, 2011 at 10:43 am

REVIEW: ‘Brent Thompson’s Christmas EP’

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“I’m gonna find a way into your house / and it’s probably gonna freak you out …”

So says the protagonist at the heart of “I’m Just a Squirrel (Trying to Get a Nut on Christmas),” one of three holiday songs on “Brent Thompson’s Christmas EP,” available now for download on Thompson’s Bandcamp site.

Those familiar with Thompson’s brand of humor will revel in the beauty of this song, a ballad that follows the journey of a hungry, furry-tailed forest rodent as he sneaks into a house in search of food, risks obliteration (“Oh! Is that your shotgun? It’s time to say my prayers! I’ll remind you, if you shoot me, there’ll be squirrel everywhere!”) only to find a savior in Santa, who gifts the little guy his heart’s desire … and an iPhone 5.

It’s a song that could have horribly wrong, but Thompson has the chutzpah to pull it off with the tongue-in-cheek aplomb that’s made him such a great host on “Eleven O’Clock Rock,” the Internet TV show on Knox iVi that he’s hosted since its inception. Channeling Alvin and the Chipmunks as the voice of our song’s hero, he succeeds in crafting a nod to C + C Music Factory, Christmas and “Tom and Jerry.” The song, in fact, could very well serve as the basis for an animated holiday classic, were it to fall into the right hands. It’s some quirky brilliance courtesy of a heck of a talented and funny guy.

(And it’s not all — Thompson brings a jazzy, torch-song feel to both “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Christmas Song,” the other two tracks on this EP. Proceeds of the $5 cost go to the Ronald McDonald House, and the song can also be found on the “Homegrown for the Holidays: Volume 2,” the local Christmas music compilation put together by WFIV-FM, i105, to benefit the Ronald McDonald House as well.

The Knoxville scene is gifted with all sorts of talented folk, and Thompson is among that collective. He’s long had a penchant for the fun and the offbeat (remember Brent Thompson’s Wandering Circus?), and his “Squirrel” song is evidence that it’s still alive and well. This holiday season, it’s his gift to the rest of us, and — if you pardon our very bad pun — we give it two bushy tails, straight up and quivering.

Jon Worley offers a helping hand to musicians via Brother’s Keeper

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jonworleyJon Worley

Back in May 2010, after local singer-songwriter Jon Worley resurfaced after dropping off the radar for a couple of years, he alluded to some of his troubles at the times when he called up out of the blue.

Founder and leader of the Cornbred Blues Band, Worley was a fixture on the local music scene for several years — playing shows, couch-surfing and getting into all manner of trouble, usually with a good story to tell. But then, around 2008, he said, it was time for a break: “I played 600-plus shows in 2.5 years, and I woke up homeless in the back of my van with my tooth falling out and arthritis in my leg,” he told us in May 2010. “I had to reevaluate and take a little time off.”

Since then, he’s moved back to East Tennessee from the Philadelphia area, and he’s set up shop as the unofficial “artist-in-residence” (our title, nobody else’s) of the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood Center — still known as The Birdhouse — in historic Downtown North Knoxville. He curating shows there, but he’s also using it as a base of operations for a new non-profit organization he’s started — Brother’s Keeper, a helping-musicians-help-themselves sort of outfit that draws on his experiences as both a troubadour and a down-on-his-luck artist.

“(The Birdhouse) is just a physical brick-and-mortar place to employ the philosophy of the non-profit — to have an open community space for people to come together, artistic and otherwise, to create an alternate economy,” he said. “But that’s just half the story. What’s really going on is that I have basically set up a network with Brother’s Keeper, where I’m hosting traveling artists coming through Knoxville, giving them just the basics: help with emergencies if their car breaks down; a place to sleep that won’t give you scabies; hot coffee in the morning; some wi-fi.

“By doing that, we’re showing the rest of the music community on the East Coast that’s traveling at large how awesome Knoxville is, and if they use my services, they have to pay it forward — they have to get a paying gig for somebody else in the network, or host them when they come to their town. It just encourages everybody to let everybody else know where they’re playing.”

Already he’s got one high-profile underwriter on board — Scott West, the man who helped revitalize downtown Knoxville with his wife, Bernadette, and the various businesses they started — Preservation Pub, Earth to Old City, Oodles Uncorked and more. West’s sister now owns the Pub, but West plays a large role in its operation, and supporting Brother’s Keeper makes good business sense for smaller venues, West said.

“We’re in a position in this economy of not being able to pay musicians as well as we once paid them, and if we want the regulars to keep coming in — and the Pub is a cathedral to a lot of people who spend three or four nights a week in here — then we can’t charge those people in a way that allows a musician like Jon Worley to make a living,” West said. “So you have to figure out ways to help the artists make it, and that’s why we’re helping with Brother’s Keeper. We want to provide for them as well as we can, and if we can’t pay them like we’d like to, we can find them a place to sleep or get them coffee or food or a couple of beers when they’re playing shows.We’re trying to underwrite Brother’s Keeper so it can help the very artists that allow us to stay in business and allow the patrons to keep enjoying live music.”

According to Worley, the idea for Brother’s Keeper dates back to when he broke his foot, back in 2007. Trying to scrape up enough money to get it taken care of was a challenge that contributed to ill effects that still plague him today.

“I realized that the social structure that I’m in is so marginalized — you’ve got people that pick your produce, carnie workers, and at the bottom of the pile are musicians, artists and performers,” he said. “We have no safety net. You figure that the average family making $25,000 to $30,000 a year is one car part, one illness from going under, and then you magnify that. I’ve been lving on $5,000 a year for the last 15 years, and it’s only by the grace of God I’m still here. My philosophy is, nobody else has to live like that or suffer like that.”

West agrees, which is why he’s contributing to making Knoxville the hub of a network that includes Worley’s connections who have established Brother’s Keeper outposts in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans, Asheville, N.C. and Charleston, S.C. His donations — and those of others who will soon get on board, Worley hopes — allows public/private partnerships between artists and community businesses to flourish. By contributing, business owners will be investing in the local music and arts community, Worley said, strengthening it for the good of everyone who benefits from music and the arts — like West.

“I’ve known Jon a long time, and he, like 99.9 percent of musicians, lives a starving artist existence,” West said. “A lot of people in the entertainment industry pick up work as waiters or bartenders, but Jon’s one of the guys trying to make a go of it purely on music. And he’s getting by on $5,000 or $6,000 a year.”

Get him going, and Worley will talk about plans to turn Brother’s Keeper into an artist-run one-stop shop — record label, booking agency and more.Worley himself is heading out next week for shows in New York and Philly, both of them benefits for the non-profit. He’ll be back off and on and running Brother’s Keeper from the road. In the meantime, interested artists (and business moguls) can contact him at madmonkbooking@gmail.com.

Written by wildsmith

December 8th, 2011 at 11:10 am

Smoky Mountain Highland Games brings Albannach to East Tennessee

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The Smoky Mountain Highland Games will return to the Maryville College campus May 18-20, 2012, and if you missed out this year, it’s a chance to take part in and witness a weekend of international revelry, unusual athletic competitions and food that may or may not cause you to vomit. (Haggis, anyone?)

This year, one of the high points was the music, which took place all day on the festival grounds and was part of a concert put on by the Downtown Maryville Association. It looks as if music will be just as big of a part of the festivities this year, with performers on the bill including Colin Grant-Adams, the Martin Family Band, Father Son and Friends and Albannach. I interviewed one of the members of Albannach back in 2008 and had this to say about the band’s music:

“With the shrill call of the pipes, the steady banging of the drums and the call-and-respond nature of some of the vocal parts (there’s very little singing), it’s no wonder Albannach’s style has been described as Celtic ‘battle music.’ It’s a ferocious, primal thing of beauty, the sound of ancient ancestors being summoned up from rich earth to tell tales of battles and victories and celebrations around fires so big the darkness of a Scottish night was pushed back beyond the nearby hills. The band’s music creates a different sort of mosh pits than those at metal concerts — the feel is more tribal, the stomping more rhythmic, the clatter of boots and shoes desperate to tap into the elemental forces of earth and stone and water that seems so closely associated with Scotland.”

Keep in mind those are just the headliners. In addition to those four signature entertainers, Games organizers are setting up two more stages for local and regional musicians — so if you’re interested in being a part of, email entertainment@smokymountaingames.org.

Written by wildsmith

December 8th, 2011 at 9:05 am

Delbert McClinton on politics

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Got to interview Texas bluesman Delbert McClinton this week in advance of his Saturday, Dec. 10, show at The Bijou Theatre, and I couldn’t resist asking him about his fellow Texan — Gov. Rick Perry — and the race for the presidency in 2012.

He was reticent to talk much at first … but then he got wound up.

“I don’t talk politics — I don’t trust any of them, ever, so I just don’t do that,” he said.

Long pause.

“But it’s hard not to realize that the wh0ole world’s a total wreck. Everybody’s got to believe something, and one of these guys is gonna win — so at this point in time, right now as never before, it’s a mess. And I can’t imagine, at this point in time, that anybody can really do much better than Obama has done. He came in and inherited a big ol’ bag of shit. Look at unemployment — it went down last week, and it hasn’t been doing that much lately. That’s not gonna save the world, but it’s a pretty big step.

“He got usout of Iraq, and he speaks in full sentences. I don’t know … he just makes more sense than anybody has in a while. George Bush took this country into a major nosedive, but what the hell was he gonna do, either? We got attacked out of nowhere (on Sept. 11). All of this was so incredibly unprecendented for the U.S., and nobody’s gonna fix it in four years. Nobody’s gonna fix it in 40 years, I don’t think.

“Radical things have to happen, and I just hope they’re done by a rational man,” he added. “But I don’t know if there much chance of that.”

Written by wildsmith

December 7th, 2011 at 8:28 am