Steve Wildsmith

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Some parting thoughts on love and community and Waynestock 3 …

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There was a moment during Waynestock 3 when the tragedy that spawned this whole beautiful thing came rushing back.

Kevin Abernathy was on stage, singing his heartbreakingly gorgeous song, “Love Alone.” It’s a track that first appeared on his sophomore album, “Beautiful Thing,” and one he re-recorded for his most recent solo effort, “Some Stories.” It’s also the song he played on stage at The Bijou Theatre during Andrew Bledsoe’s memorial service.

Working the front door with Andrew’s dad, Wayne — the guy for whom Waynestock is named — I caught a glimpse of it in the man’s eyes, which brimmed with tears. It wasn’t the only time he got emotional over the weekend — his remarks to the assembled crowd before the all-star jam that brought Waynestock to a close included a few as well — but it was a reminder of how Waynestock started.

“There would be laughter, bouncing off the walls … smiles in photographs up and down the halls … if you could live on love alone …”

The tears, however, were few and far between.

This year’s Waynestock rose money for the Community School of the Arts. Although the past two Waynestocks were held in response to tragedies — the death of Andrew in late 2010 was the catalyst for Waynestock 1, held in early 2011, and the death of beloved local musician Phil Pollard in late 2011 was the driving force behind last year’s event — this year was different. As one of the organizers, I freely admit my uncertainty of how well another Waynestock would be received without such visceral pain driving the momentum.

It’s human nature, really. When Andrew died, those of us who love Wayne wanted to do something, anything, to help our friend. Everyone we asked, from Daniel Schuh at Relix Variety Theatre (the gracious home of Waynestock since the beginning) to the musicians who played that first year to the sponsors who helped get the word out to the donors who gave of their time and equipment, agreed to take part without hesitation. The folks who came to see the music gave generously above and beyond the $5 cover. After such a weekend of magic and beauty, it seemed impossible that we could repeat its success.

But we did, last year. Again, tragedy was the catalyst, but remembrance and love became the legacy. And while there was no single beneficiary, no fallen friend or loved one, to whom Waynestock was dedicated this year, love remains the post-Waynestock emotion that best sums up the whole weekend.

“Tangled up in kisses, on the side of the road, still running on empty with a million miles to roll, if you could live on love alone …”

The doors opened Friday night to a dedicated group of Con Hunley fans who had driven all the way to Nashville and arrived four hours before he was scheduled to take the stage. Warrior-poet Black Atticus charmed and entertained, and Abernathy was the perfect lead-in to the night’s big event.

Every act who took the stage at Waynestock made fans of those in attendance who’d never heard them before, but the act that brought in the most people was Con Hunley, backed by Mic Harrison & The High Score. For Mic and the boys, it was a big deal; family members came to see them share the stage with an icon, and they were in fine form. Mic and guitarists Robbie Trosper and Chad Pelton provided killer licks and sweet backing vocals for Con’s amped-up brand of country soul, and when they opened the show (after Mic and the boys warmed up everybody with “The Colonel Is Dead”) with a rousing, juke-joint inspired version of “Livin’ on the Funky Side,” the exhilaration was palpable. Con’s older fans felt rejuvenated (and even got their balladeer fix on with a few of his slower-tempo numbers), and fans of the local music scene were content to watch in wonder as history was made with Hunley’s return to Central Avenue.

It was the sort of magic that defines Waynestock, and it would be repeated throughout the event. The Rockwells, absent from the local scene for a few years now (save for a single performance last May), were as enthusiastic as the dancers that crowded the stage during their set, with mild-mannered Tommy Bateman peeling off one killer pop-rock lick after another and Jonathan Kelly managing an impressive leap mid-song that would have made Pete Townsend proud. The Mutations, performing in front of a screening of the 1967 Peter Fonda flick “The Trip,” kept the dancers happy, with Harold Heffner getting down among them for a fired-up and impassioned version of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Yak Strangler, featuring Andrew’s brother, Rylan, on drums, wrapped up Friday night, and with winter weather moving in throughout the day on Saturday, the turnout for night two appeared, at first, to be in doubt.

Those who stayed at home missed a hell of an exotic set from Saturday’s two openers, the Gypsy jazz-influenced Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego and the klezmer band Dor L’Dor. (Dor L’Dor dad/bandleader Ken Brown even brought out the shofar, the traditional Jewish ram’s horn pipe, for the group’s finale.) Johnny Astro and the Big Bang steered everyone back to the middle of the road with some straight-ahead American rock ‘n’ roll done to perfection, and the Americana outfit Guy Marshall proved that it’s East Tennessee’s answer to the beloved and long-running Murfreesboro band Glossary. Sam Quinn and his Americana power-trio co-horts — Tom Pryor and Jamie Cook of the Black Lillies — were the perfect lead-in to the grand finale.

“Too bad the heart has to have a mind, to tell it what to do when the eyes are blind …”

And once again, art and community and love were elevated into something else. Magic seems too hokey, too generic, to describe it, but what other word fits? What other word accurately captures the wonder of seeing the Tim Lee 3 (Tim and Susan Bauer Lee with drummer Chris Bratta) sharing the stage with Greg Horne, Mike McGill, Kevin Abernathy, R.B. Morris, Black Atticus and Jodie Manross? Atticus flowing smooth the lyrics of R.L. Burnside’s “Snake Drive” while the band powered behind him like a growling muscle car … the boogy-woogy honky-tonk of McGill and the rest howling through his original, “Women, Whiskey and Pain” … Sam Quinn, grinning like a madman and watching the Lees blister through his haunting takes on Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” and “Cortez the Killer” … Manross and Morris, trading lead as well as Bonnie Raitt and John Prine ever did on Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” … the whole damn family, wrapping up the night with a gloriously ramshackle version of Morris’s “Distillery” … that’s the stuff that Waynestock is made of. That’s the juice.

That is magic.

“There’d be no children troubled in their sleep, nothing else desired, nothing else to need, if you could live on love alone …”

After the house lights went up and the instruments were packed away and the last drinks poured, those of us who conceived of this thing felt like exhausted children on Christmas night. We take no credit for the creation of that magic, and like everyone else who walked away amazed and grinning and wearing those “did-that-just-happen?” expressions of slack-jawed joy, we recognize that Waynestock is so much more than just us. It’s so much more than Andrew Bledsoe and Phil Pollard, who no doubt were in the house and dancing and grinning along with the rest of us over the weekend. It’s so much more than the assuaging of grief and the remembrance of those departed and the banding together to overcome tragedy.

It is about celebration. It is about unity. It is about beauty and music and lifting up what is so good and right about this beautiful, brilliant and occasionally bizarre scene. It is about raising a flag in Happy Holler and declaring, “WE ARE KNOXVILLE.”

If we could live on love alone, then we would never have to leave Relix. The kegs would never run dry and the bottles would never dwindle. The sound would never be muddied and the instruments would stay tuned and the infinite possibilities of musical mayhem would play out for the rest of our days.

Love alone, unfortunately, isn’t always enough. And in a way, that’s OK, because Waynestock then becomes this bubble, this magical (yeah, yeah; there’s that damn word again) world to which a door is opened once a year and everything good about who we are as musicians and music lovers and human beings who call Knoxville, Tenn., home manifests itself in vibrant, vivid ways. Shutting that door for another year — and knowing there’s no guarantee it will open again — is bittersweet, but something tells me this will happen again. Part of me screams that it must. It’s too good, too special, to not revisit.

Besides, the key is simple … love. It opens the door. Love alone is all that’s needed to get back to the place that Waynestock shows us is possible. Love alone … well, sometimes it is enough.

Wolfe Jam details announced

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As Knoxville mourned the passing of local jazz legend Rocky Wynder, members of the local music scene were hit with another blow that same week when local drummer/bar owner/colorful character Ed Corts died.

A long-time utility player who pounded skins for such long-gone-never-forgotten outfits as Jacaranda, Corts made the acquaintance of many younger local players who never got the chance to sit in with him when he and his family ran The Corner Lounge in Downtown North Knoxville. The business didn’t make it, but it was a jumping-off point for the “Happy Holler” revitalization, and the Corner became a favorite watering hole of all sorts of local musicians.

This year, the annual “Wolfe Jam” will honor Corts, assist his family and of course uphold the legacy and memory of the man for whom it was named.

Those details first: Wolfe was a Knoxville boy — a resident of Bearden and a 20-year employee of Pick ‘n’ Grin Music off Kingston Pike, one of those establishments that ranks right up there with Covington Music, Murlin’s Music World, Roy’s Record Shop and Guitar Center as a place where local musicians can go and feel confident that they’re among peers, fellow pickers who know their needs and can meet them at a reasonable price.

Wolfe was a sort of jack-of-all-trades at the establishment — manager, teacher, technician, salesman, engineer, musician and confidant. On the side, he was a fixture in the local scene, playing is such groups as the Delta Flyers, Body Heat, The MacDaddies and Crawdaddy, the two of which partnered him up with local harmonica maestro Michael Crawley.

“He was one of those cats, I swear to God, that if you went down to visit him at Pick ‘n’ Grin, you’d have to have an hour and a half to hang with him,” Crawley told me a couple of years ago. “He would tell a couple of jokes, go out and take a smoke break, come back in give you a clinic on guitars. And if he was working on something of yours, he would go into great detail about what he was doing to your instrument. You couldn’t just run in and run out with Rick. For a lot of us, Rick was the only one who ever worked on any of our guitars. We’d always go out and watch him smoke and listen to him tell a joke or two. That’s the way he was, man.”

Pancreatic cancer killed Wolfe in December 2007 at the age of 53, and before the month was up, his friends and loved ones were putting together the inaugural Wolfe Jam.

This year’s event will take place March 10 at The Well, 4620 Kingston Pike in Bearden, costs $5, starts at 7 p.m. and the proceeds will be split between Ed’s family and the Joy of Music School. Performers include Y’uns, the Will Carter Band, Jodie Manross and Friends, Itchy and the Hater Tots, The MacDaddies and an all-star jam.

For more information, visit the Wolfe Jam website.

Written by wildsmith

February 21st, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Homecoming: Jodie Manross plans local CD release

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In early 2007, singer-songwriter Jodie Manross bid East Tennessee farewell to try her luck in New York City. We wrote about that here. Turns out, she’s done quite well for herself in the Big Apple, collaborating with Mark Lamb, himself a Knoxville expatriate and Circle Modern Dance alum who’s found fame with his own dance company in New York. You can check out some press on a recent work the two put on here and here.

In a couple of weeks, Manross is returning to Knoxville for a CD release show to celebrate her fourth album, “Myth of Solid Ground.” According to a just-in e-mail she sent out, the new album feautures production work from Knoxville’s own Greg Horne as well NYC music producer Sammy Merendino, Andrew Carillo (Joan Osborn’s guitar player), Graham Maby (bass player for Joe Jackson and Natalie Merchant), Rob Hyman (co-writer of “Time After Time” with Cyndi Lauper; producer of artists such as Patti Smith and Joan Osborn) and Darden Smith (Austin singer-songwriter) on back-up vocals.

There’s a song on the album, “Strength in Peace: A Song for Darfur,” that earned Manross an invite to the United Nations, she tells us.

The show takes place at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, at The Glowing Body, 711 Irwin St. in Knoxville, and will feature guest apperances by Horne (who opens the show), her one-time Knoxville compatriot Laith Keilany (now in remission from a long, arduous battle with Stage 4 cancer) and Nathan Barrett. Lamb will also perform improvised dance during the show. The cost is $5. For more information, call The Glowing Body at 545-4088.

Websites to check out: The Glowing Body online, Jodie’s website, Jodie on Myspace.

Written by wildsmith

September 29th, 2009 at 3:26 pm