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Modern rock trio Chevelle will perform Thursday (March 8 ) at The Valarium in Knoxville, and in interviewing drummer/co-founder Sam Loeffler for last week’s Daily Times Weekend section, he reminisced on shows past in Knoxville.
In 2010, he remembers, Chevelle came through with Shinedown, 10 Years, Puddle of Mudd and Sevendust as part of an arena tour that ravaged the Civic Coliseum; that night, Chevelle bandmates Pete and Dean Bernardini headed over to The Valarium to see the Smashing Pumpkins play. And the last time Chevelle rocked Knoxville, some shady T-shirt vendors came up empty-handed, he recalled with a laugh.
“We were sitting outside the tour bus in lawn chiars and we saw all these bootleggers running back and forth, selling T-shirts and stuff,” he said. “We found out later on where they had stashed their shirts, and we took all of them. They were selling them for $10 per shirt, and our merch guy was blown away. He wanted to find them and asked who they used to print those shirts! They were these nice five-color designs, and probably cost $6 to make.”
The girl who will be growling and swaggering her away through a cover of R. Kelly’s “Bump n’ Grind” on Saturday night from the stage of Brackins Blues Bar in downtown Maryville?
Yep. That’s Robinella.
You may find yourself doing a double-take, if you’re expecting the soft-spoken, jazz-country lilt for which Blount County’s most famous songbird — who goes by Robin Ella Tipton Bailey to friends and family — is best known. But she’s been branching out of late, throwing her lot in with the dance-rock cover band Pulse and co-opting some of that band’s songs for her own sets.
“It’s more fun than anything — an eight-piece band with four singers,” Robinella told us this week. “(Local jazz singer) Sarah Clapp (Gilpin), she’s involved, and then Shawn (Turner) is the lead singer. Sarah and I do a lot of backup for him, but we sing lead on a few songs, too. It’s really fun. I’m loving it.”
It’s the first collaborative project Robinella’s been involved in since the dissolution of Robinella and the CCStringband following her divorce from bandleader (and now Black Lillies frontman) Cruz Contreras. That was shortly after the release of 2006’s “Solace for the Lonely”; although the two went their separate ways musically, they’ve reunited the full band on a couple of occasions. In recent years, Robinella has scaled back her performances, choosing instead to concentrate on her art projects. She occasionally plays full band shows and tours as a solo singer-songwriter on occasion; in recent months, she said, she’s been able to perform more.
“Beau (her son with husband Webster Bailey) is getting bigger, and Webster is more than happy to watch the boys,” she said. “This year, I’ve already been up to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky. I think I’m going to keep playing.”
In addition to material from the CCstringband era and from 2009’s “Fly Away Bird” album, she’s starting to incorporate some of the Pulse covers into her set. It makes sense, given that her keyboard player, Justin Haynes, is also the bandleader for Pulse.
“I saw them play at the Dogwood Arts Festival last year,” Robinella said. “I played solo, and they were the last group of the night. It’s a total dance band, and I stayed there and danced for a long time. And Justin eventually asked if I wanted to sing with them.”
Given the fun she had as an audience member, she had to say yes. On stage, she adds to the energy of the ensemble with her on-stage enthusiasm and takes the mic for some “upbeat girl songs,” as she calls them.
“They like me to do ‘Rock Steady’ and ‘Proud Mary,’ and Sarah and I just learned ‘Lady Marmalade,’” she said. “I do a couple of ballads and some old-style blues songs like ‘Smokestack Lightnin’.’ And they like for me to do ‘Bump n’ Grind.’ I don’t know who sings it — I think it’s R. Kelly — but it’s fun! I don’t know if they think it’s funny or they like it or what, but I do it.”
Many of those songs, she added, have been co-opted into her own setlist, along with a few other classic covers like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” She’ll give them all a workout — along with other Pulse material — on Saturday night at Brackins Blues Bar; in addition to Haynes, her band for that gig will include Pulse drummer Nolan Nevels, Pulse bass player Clint Mullican and local roots/blues guitarist Jack Wilburn.
“It’s actually going to be new for him, too, but he’s picking up everything real good,” Robinella said of Wilburn.
Playing more — with Pulse and under her own name — has inspired her to get back into the studio as well, she added. She has enough material to make a couple of albums and wants to cut one this calendar year … providing she can find a flow that suits her.
“I’m really going to try to make sure it has some continuity, because my records never have any,” she said with a laugh. “I’m always all over the place with genres, so I’m going to try to focus on a theme and a sound. I’m going to make some kind of album this year, though, even if it just ends up being a gospel album and not new originals.”
Robinella’s performance at Brackins takes place at 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Admission is $5.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blues guitar ace Joe Bonamassa knows what it’s like to be derided by the purists of the genre.
Despite his obvious devotion to the blues and his affinity for everyone from Robert Johnson to Eric Clapton (the guy opened for B.B. King when he was 12 years old, for Pete’s sake), he acknowledged this week in an interview with The Daily Times that his fast-and-loose style, and his affinity to push conventional boundaries, often leads those who define the blues by rigid parameters to dismiss his abilities and contributions.
Which is why, he said, he’s an advocate of throwing the doors open. The blues needs fresh meat, he believes, and those who have their hearts in the right place shouldn’t be denied access.
“What I try to tell people is that whatever’s left of the music business, the blues represents less than 1 percent of the total music sold in the world, so my point is very simple – we can’t afford to be exclusive or some kind of secret society,” Bonamassa said. “We can’t afford to shut out kids who dig Zeppelin more than Howlin’ Wolf. To me, the definition of the blues is that it’s a giant umbrella – everything from Robert Johnson to Led Zeppelin to the Jeff Beck Group to Muddy Waters to Free, and it’s just as much about Paul Rodgers as it is Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang.
“It doesn’t make any sense to spend any energy arguing over it, because if you truly love the music and want to see it survive, we’ve got to be a united community. To me, that is where I see the blues down the line: in the hands of the young generation of players who are going to define it and amalgamate heavy metal or whatever into it while still giving props to B.B. King and Muddy Waters.”
Bonamassa performs Sunday, Nov. 27, at the Civic Auditorium in downtown Knoxville. Look for our full interview with him in the Thursday, Nov. 24, edition of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section.
When the media decides a piece needs a Christian point of view, Casting Crowns vocalist and songwriter Mark Hall often finds himself cringing when he sees who gets picked.
It’s not that Hall feels Christians should shy away from publicly stating their beliefs on political issues; his band, he pointed out, makes no secret of its advocacy for the sanctity of life. But there’s a fine line in speaking the truth and wielding it as a weapon, he told The Daily Times recently.
“I believe that the mainstream media can be pretty strategic in the Christians they pick to talk,” he said. “It’s always that guy, the God guy. I’m generally embarrassed by the people I see on TV talking about these things. If you know our music, you know where we stand on those issues and that our thoughts are passionate and strong and tied to our faith.
“But at the same time, the Bible says it very clearly – if you speak with the tongue of angels and have great wisdom and great things to say but you don’t love the people you’re talking to, it’s just noise. And people have heard that coming from the church for a long time now.”
Casting Crowns performs Saturday, Nov. 26, at the Civic Auditorium in downtown Knoxville. Look for our full interview with Hall in the Thursday, Nov. 24, edition of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section.
After winning the Knoxville competition and mopping up at the state level, local teen country singer Laurel Wright is set to compete in the regionals of the Texaco Country Showdown on Thursday night at Cotton Eyed Joe (11220 Outlet Drive in West Knoxville). A win will send her on to the finals, which will be held at the mother church of country music, the hallowed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
“That would be awesome!” Wright told The Daily Times this week (between breaks from her homeschooling in rural Blount County, where she lives with her wonderful parents, Ronnie and Lori, and her sister, Lindy. “That’s always been my dream, to play at the Ryman.”
The win would also give Wright, last seen on the local stage at the Foothills Fall Festival, a chance to go for some national spotlight. The showdown is billed as “the largest country music talent search in America … designed to find the most promising country music talent and give these performers a chance to launch their professional music careers.”
The grand prize also includes $100,000, which would go a long way toward jump-starting Wright’s career (which has gotten quite a boost from local country radio giant WIVK-FM). She’s working on her debut album with local Mojo Recording Studios owner Lewell Molen out at his headquarters in Greenback, and Molen will back up Wright at the Showdown. They’ll have seven minutes to impress the judges, and Wright plans to give her all to two of her originals, “Can’t You See” and “Everything.”
“It’s just been a great experience, and I’m not nervous — but I probably will be whenever I get up to go on stage,” she said. “Lewell said that if you don’t get at least a little nervous before you sing for people, you should probably stop doing it, because you’re not having fun.”
Everything gets started at 6 p.m. Thursday night (Nov. 3) at the Joe; admission is only $5, and Wright hopes to see as many familiar faces cheering her on as possible.
See below post for the full story. This morning’s status update, courtesy of Ms. Donna Davis: “Our son in law, Phil, is still with us while preparations are being made for him to give life to others, when he slips from us. We are overwhelmed with grief yet buoyed with the knowledge that Dawn and the children will be surrounded by a wonderful family of friends to help them through this tragedy.”
We have no words, other than a post on that great website Knoxblab that seems too apropos: Someone proposed that when Phil gets to heaven, he’s allowed to be in charge of thunder.
Rest easy, man.
Sarah Lewis (center) and her husband, J. (right) have put Jag Star in indefinite hiatus to spend time raising their children.
Tonight’s “20Fest” party being thrown by Metro Pulse throughout downtown Knoxville is a star-studded affair to be sure, filled with rockers throughout the long and storied history of the East Tennessee music scene.
However, there are some noticeably absent names — not the fault of MP, but simply because … well, those bands aren’t around, or those rockers have taken a step away from music. In keeping with today’s big celebration of Knox rock history, I caught up with Sarah Lewis of the pop-rock band Jag Star this week, and while she’s still making music, she’s much more concerned with being a mommy these days.
“I had Sofie, our first kid, and she’s 2 now; then I had Charlie, and he’s 1,” Lewis said. “It’s crazy how our lives have changed. Everybody told us it would, and that’s why we waited to have kids so we could focus on our career. Then they came along, and we realized we were really missing out. We kept thinking, ‘Why didn’t we do this 10 years ago?’
“We would never take back the fun we had doing Jag Star, but we love being parents, and it’s such a time-consuming thing — in a good way — that we want to be completely involved. We can’t imagine dragging them out on the road at this point, or even taking time to rehearse for shows in Knoxville at this point.”
That’s not to say that Jag Star is finished, she added; for now, however, the Lewises are content with their all-American lives. Her husband (and Jag Star guitarist), J., sells real estate through Keller Williams Realty.
“He’s always been interested, and it was the perfect time when we started having kids,” Sarah said. “He really likes it.”
Sarah, meanwhile, works from home, composing music for television shows like “LA Ink” and “The World According to Paris,” starring celebrity Paris Hilton.
“The guy who originally contacted me about doing background music was a Jag Star fan who had placed our music in other shows,” she said. “I had sent him some background music and said, ‘By the way, I do this, too.’ That’s what I really love to do, so I sent him my stuff, and word just started spreading that way. It’s so different than what it used to be for me — they tell me what they want it to sound like, like whether they want it to sound tense or dramatic, and I have to imagine something and write around that. And they just plug it into the right spot on the show.
“I can do it at home, and the kids are right beside me playing while I do it. And I don’t do it every day. It’s been fun — probably the least stressful part of my music career, because I’m not worrying about the lyrics or the vocals, and I can do it at my house with my instruments and my keyboard.”
And while the instrumental score may not be identifiable with her voice, fans of the show can still hear a Jag Star show every now and then — although how it’s used isn’t necessarily up to the Lewises.
“One of the shows used ‘Sofie’ (about their daughter) for this really dramatic part about Paris wanting to lose weight,” Sarah said with a laugh. “I just thought, ‘That’s so wrong! That’s not what that song was intended for!’ But you just have to laugh, because it’s kind of cool.”
For those unfamiliar, the Lewises took the Knoxville music scene by storm in the late 1990s, releasing the folk-pop EP “In the Beginning.” At the time, the band’s sound was tempered with Sarah Lewis’ mandolin playing and the gossamer-threaded sounds of former band member Erin Archer’s viola. That carried over to the band’s full-length independent debut, “Crazy Place,” released in 2002, but by then the band had adapted a much more rock-oriented sound, evident by the single “Mouth,” which won Lewis the John Lennon Songwriting Contest.
The next record, “Cinematic,” took a decidedly pop-oriented turn. The songs, however, displayed a confidence born out of maturity, snapping and sparkling with Lewis’ lilting vocals and the uncomplicated but irresistibly catchy interplay between the members. Outside the studio, the band made two trips overseas, to the Middle East in the fall of 2003 and to U.S. bases in the Pacific in early 2004 to perform for American troops as part of a USO tour.
In addition, the group also won a Budweiser sponsorship, was featured in an advertising spread in Vanity Fair’s music issue and played at the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles as finalists for the New Music Awards, having been selected by Dick Clark. Throughout its career, the band’s songs have been featured on a handful of TV shows — “Road Rules,” “The Real World,” “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” on MTV, “Roller Girls” on A&E and “Pacific Coast Highway” on the Travel Channel among them — and Sarah Lewis was signed to a songwriting house based out of Los Angeles.
In 2008, the couple moved briefly to Nashville before returning to East Tennessee when Sofie was 4 months old. At the time, the band started work on “Static Bliss,” released last year during Sarah’s pregnancy with Charlie. With two kids, the Lewises just don’t have the time (or energy) to make Jag Star a priority.
“A lot of people say, ‘When’s your next show? Why aren’t you playing locally?’ But even the time and the work that goes into anything that you do — especially if you want it to be worth somebody coming out to see you do it — is a lot,” she said.”It’s just so hard for us to get out now. We stay in touch with people and with some of our fans, but they know how crazy we are right now. With a 1- and a 2-year-old, they don’t expect a lot of us.”
The Texaco Country Showdown continues tonight at Cotton Eyed Joe (11220 Outlet Drive in West Knoxville), and after the boys in Blount/Monroe County band Southbound won the first round of competition on July 21, two more Blount County music acts are set to go head-to-head tonight.
It’s be a bit of a lover’s quarrel, albeit a professional (and friendly) one — local teen country singer Laurel Wright will compete against the boys in the John Titlow Band — which includes her boyfriend, Zach Long, on bass.
“It’s gonna be really different,” Titlow admits, pointing out that his band and Wright have shared the stage many times for various benefits and concerts — but never as rivals.
“They’re already saying it’s rigged!” Wright jokes about her beau’s group.
In all seriousness, both are fine representatives of Blount County in the competition, which gives them a chance to go for some national spotlight. It’s billed as “the largest country music talent search in America … designed to find the most promising country music talent and give these performers a chance to launch their professional music careers.”
Tonight is the final of three rounds of competition (the Greylan James Band won the contest last Thursday, July 28), and the three winners will compete on Thursday, Aug. 11, for the championship and the opportunity to compete nationally for $100,000. (And, we’re obliged to point out, the JTB and Wright are the only competitors tonight; there are three other country artists going up against them.) The competition starts at 9:30 p.m., and ladies get in free (admission is $5). It’s all ages, but for those 21 and older, there will be free pitchers of beer served.
Regardless of who wins (although we’re obviously pulling for the Blount County faction — both of them), it’s a feather in the cap of both groups. Wright is about to get busy in the studio, making an album with local Mojo Recording Studios owner Lewell Molen out at his headquarters in Greenback. She’s still talking from folks to Nashville, and who knows what those conversations may bring, but for now, fans of her music should be glad they’ll finally have an album in hand.
“We just decided it the other day,” Wright said. “Me and Lewell talked about it, and if we do one now, if somebody wanted to sign me later we’ll already have it done.”
Deciding what to put on it will be the hard part — she has 40 or 50 original songs and continues to write more (including “Can’t You See,” her latest, about “a boy being wrapped around my finger,” she said with a smile). That’s a Herculean effort given that she’s also a homeschooled high school junior doing her best — and succeeding — to enjoy her teenage years.
“I think everything is balanced good right now,” she said. “I feel really blessed.”
Speaking of new albums, the John Titlow Band is working on an acoustic record the guys hope to have out in late fall, Titlow said.
“We’re still working on some of it; it’s completely new material, and we have some really good songs,” he said. “I’m really proud of what we’re doing. It seems like the second go-around is going a lot easier and better than the first.”
Fans may have noticed that the band is getting out a lot more these days — after getting in with Copper Cellar, the John Titlow Band has been popping up at the various Smoky Mountain Brewery/Calhoun’s Restaurant locations around East Tennessee.
“It’s just exploded in the last six months. Things are really going good for us,” said Titlow — who was called on stage by up-and-coming country star Bradley Gaskin on Wednesday night at Cotton Eyed Joe to sing Gaskin’s hit, “Mr. Bartender.”
Assuming one of the two acts wins tonight, they (or she) will be in good company, given Southbound’s win on the 21st. And it’s proof that there are some extremely talented country musicians right here in our backyard. There’s a reason for that, according to Jason Harris of Southbound.
“We remember where we come from, and the way you live gets into your writing,” Harris said. “You write music that your neighbor can say, ‘I know exactly how that old boy — or old girl — feels. They relate to that music.
“Being a part of (the showdown), it just felt great to be recognized and have the opportunity to be able to go on to the next (level). And to have the opportunity to get national recognition out of this whole thing is just an added bonus itself.”