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.

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

The everybodyfields reunite for Bristol Rhythm & Roots performance

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Thanks to “Ramblin’” Randall Brown and his fine blog, I was alerted to a partcularly delightful reunion taking place in September at the 2011 Bristol & Roots Festival — Americana darlings the everybodyfields will be reuniting for a one-off show.

The band got its start in the Tri Cities area (after founders Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews met as counselors here in Blount County at Camp Wesley Woods several years ago), and after the band split in 2009, both went on to pursue solo careers. After releasing an EP in 2009, Andrews is preparing for a June release date for her first solo full-length, “The Mirror,” and she’s scheduled a CD release show at Relix Variety Theatre for Friday, July 8. Quinn, who plays with his new band Japan Ten, released his solo album “The Fake That Sunk a Thousand Ships” last year. The two relocated to East Tennessee after the everybodyfields released 2007’s “Nothing Is OK,” and they’ve considered this area home ever since.

I talked to Jill this morning, and she said that it seemed fitting for the band to reunite for a one-time-only occasion at a festival that means a great deal to them both.

“Basically, we were just asked to do it,” she said. “We haven’t played together in a really long time, formally at least. And it just seemed like a good time to get together. Rhythm & Roots is one of our favorite festivals, because it really brought us up from baby musicians to real musicians, so it seemed like an appropriate time to do this.”

And while fans of the band, who were in the process of recording a follow-up to “Nothing Is OK” when the members broke up in early 2009, are hoping for something permanent, Andrews is quick to point out that probably ain’t gonna happen.

“It’s definitely prompting a lot of, ‘Are you guys getting back together?,’ but I’m very focused on my solo career at this point, and I think Sam is, too,” she said.

Andrews hits the road next month with J.D. Souther. Quinn can be seen next on Thursday, May 26, performing with his local “super group” King Super and the Excellents at The Square Room, part of the International Biscuit Festival. The Rhythm & Roots show, Andrews, added, will feature the rest of the band as well — Blount County’s Josh Oliver on keys (a Blount County boy preparing for his new solo album) and Tom Pryor and Jamie Cook, now of The Black Lillies, on pedal steel and drums, respectively.

Written by wildsmith

May 20th, 2011 at 7:55 am

Sam Quinn (of the everybodyfields) prepares for new CD

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Got an e-mail from Press Here Publicity updating us media folk on the latest with Sam Quinn, half of the folk duo the everybodyfields that relocated from Johnson City to Knoxville a couple of years ago.

We caught up with his former partner, Jill Andrews, back in November; we last did a story on the band itself in 2007, after “Nothing Is OK” was released. (Incidentally, there’s a never-released everybodyfields record that Sam and Jill recorded at Rock Snob Studios last year, before they announced their split. Whether it ever sees the light of day remains to be seen.)

Sam, it seems, is preparing for the release of his own solo album. For the rest of the news, I’ll turn it over to Press Here.

A much wiser man than myself once said, “It’s time to move on.   It’s time to get goin’. What lies ahead I have no way of knowin’.”  Such is the case here.  This compilation of song, steeped in hopelessness, fortified with anguish and iced with 10 years of immediate responsibility that fell into one’s lap seemingly overnight, is a set of talks to myself that have been a long time coming.   – Sam Quinn, 2010

In an effort to keep the good times rolling in a gleefully depressing way, Sam Quinn’s latest musical incarnation finds the everybodyfields’ co-founder looking deep into his heart to deliver a collection of soul-baring songs that are part catharsis, part healing, and all beautifully written and sung. Aided by his band The Japan Ten, Quinn is stepping out in front with some new tunes, fresh faces and maybe even a new pair of brown pants. Quinn’s debut album, The Fake That Sunk 1,000 Ships, will be available on May 11 on esteemed NC indie label Ramseur Records.

Following the break-up of the everybodyfields, Quinn found himself off the touring circuit; it was time to rethink his life.  “After years carrying a bass amp and wearing goodwill neckties and explaining what my band sounded like to drunk people, I found some time to spend at home,” he says.  He also grew his beard to righteous proportions and quit worrying about if his suits were pressed as he confronted a painful break-up and rediscovered his way through writing the songs that became The Fake That Sunk 1,000 Ships.

“I did sort of use the pop music to work my life out. This album is so down it’s ridiculous,” he admits. “If you’re having a good time, you’re probably not doing something right. A happy song can lift you up for three-and-a-half minutes but sad song can make you feel bad a lot longer. It’s real stuff I was going through, a real bad year in my life so I just wanted to hash it out and get over it.  It’s real – it’s not about hopping trains or coal mining or making liquor.”

Recorded in an abandoned barn and old milking stable in South Knoxville, TN, the recordings have a warm, organic sound of like-minded folks making music together without a lot of distractions. The songs are reflective, the harmonies are aching and heartfelt, with keening pedal steel lines, piano parts reminiscent of The Band, violin lines and songs that gently build into group sing-alongs. The songs fit like an album, with a mood that settles in and makes itself at home.

Quinn has one of those imperfect voices that breaks in all the right places and sticks with you like a memory.  The songs alternately address pain and hope and often feel like confessions. On the track “Gun,” for instance, he sings, “I’m your gun and I’m loaded baby/ I could kill you tonight/ I never thought I would hurt you like I hurt you/ I can’t get you out of my sight … I kill myself a little every night.”

And though The Fake That Sunk 1,000 Ships is a stunning debut, it’s no party album – it’s a late-night, driving and reflecting on the past kind of record.

Explains Quinn: “Pop songs are chemically engineered to make you feel great.  These ones take a slightly different approach.”

Sam on Myspace

Sam on the everybodyfields

The Fake That Sunk 1,000 Ships Track Listing:

Hello
Fanboy
So Strong
Suite Motown
Strange
Gun
Mardis Gras
Help Me
Late The Other Night
River

Written by wildsmith

February 23rd, 2010 at 2:43 pm