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The Square Room at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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Archive for the ‘The Square Room’ tag

‘Scruffy City Ramble’: The shows will go on

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38_EdpThis week, Metro Pulse reported some interesting news regarding booking and shows at The Square Room over in Knoxville.

Kenny Woodhull, the guy behind the former Old City venue New City Cafe, blogged a bit about it on Jan. 18, and in an email exchange a few weeks ago, he told me that his organization New City Resources — which has put on several shows at Old North Abbey in Knoxville — was partnering with 4MS Entertainment, the organization behind The Square Room, to put on shows there, including a March “Talk Is Cheap” performance, a show in April by Andrew Peterson and the band CALEB and a show next week by Christian singer-songwriter Michael Card. In addition, “We’ll be hosting a weekly songwriter’s night on Thursdays starting soon,” Woodhull wrote.

So what does this mean for “Scruffy City Ramble,” the variety show/concert series produced by Chyna Brackeen of Attack Monkey Productions, the company that’s presenting the Feb. 20 Tift Merritt/David Wax Museum show? That remains to be seen, Brackeen
told me on Wednesday, despite Metro Pulse’s report that it’s “on hold” for the time being.

“We will still have the Feb. 21 show — it’s been scheduled, it’s still on, and it’s still happening,” she said, adding that Henry Wagons, Sturgill Simpson, Lydia Salnikova and This Mountain. “At this point, The Square Room had a conflict with the March date, and we agreed to give that up. I’m not sure if we’ll do a March show or not, since I’m slammed with the Black Lillies (whom Brackeen manages) performing at South By Southwest and planning for the Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival (which takes place the first weekend in April). But we plan to pick back up in April.

“Right now, we’re looking at venue options. I would love to keep it at The Square Room, but they’ve advised me that they have a conflict on Thursdays. We would like to work out something for one Thursday a month, but if we can’t, we’ll be looking at other venue options. Because ‘Scruffy City Ramble’ is such a big production, we can’t move it off of Thursdays at this point, but that’s certainly a conversation I’m willing to have down the road.”

Stay tuned for what will develop for “Scruffy City.”

Written by wildsmith

February 7th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Scott Miller prepares for ‘Scruffy City Roots’ and two new albums

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Less than a month away from the launch of “Scruffy City Roots,” the new concert series that kicks off March 22 at The Square Room in downtown Knoxville, show host Scott Miller is delirious.

He’s been burning the candle at both ends and, speaking via phone, is finishing up a two-week stretch of studio work in Nashville that will culminate in the completion of a full-length album (due in the fall) and an EP with fiddler Rayna Gellert that could be out in as little as three weeks. He’s got two shows this weekend, then drives back to his home in Virginia before heading south to Atlanta and Florida, eventually winding his way back here for the inaugural “Roots” showcase.

Some background: Miller is a singer-songwriter who made his home for years in Knoxville and played as a member of The V-Roys; he moved to Virginia last year to be closer to his parents but made no bones about how often he’d be back in East Tennessee. “Scruffy City Roots” is an offshoot of the popular “Music City Roots” program broadcast out of Nashville; according to the show’s website (it’ll be broadcast live via the website and, we would imagine, on the radio; station to be determined), “Scruffy City Roots celebrates East Tennessee’s role in American roots music — including but not limited to country, jazz, blues, bluegrass and rock – by featuring musical performances by locally-revered and nationally-renowned artists. They aren’t all from Tennessee; and some of them aren’t even from the United States — but their music has been undeniably influenced by those styles popularized right in our backyard.”

“I did ‘Music City Roots,’ and I got to know (producer) Todd Mayo there, who’s a big UT fan, and he told me they were going to try and branch out and do similar shows in Memphis in Knoxville, and he asked me if I’d be interested in hosting it,” Miller says. “I told him, ‘You read the papers, right? ‘Cuz I moved.’ But that didn’t matter to them, and not to me either. It goes right into what I said when we moved — nobody is going to notice I’m gone.”

“Scruffy City Roots” — which will also feature Metro Pulse columnist Jack Neely conducting interviews — won’t be his first foray into broadcasting; he and his band, the Commonwealth, were the house band for comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s “Blue Collar TV” variety show for years. And while nothing’s been finalized as far as a format, “I’ll be a song-and-dance man as much as they need me to,” Miller says. “I really see this as an honor. I’m looking forward to it.”

The first “Scruffy City Roots” will feature music from Delta Rae, Rayland Baxter and a group called the “Scruffy City Allstars” (No word on the lineup of that outfit, although photos on the website show Robinella, Cruz Contreras and Jill Andrews as part of a tab collage.) The show’s at 7 p.m. March 22 at The Square Room, 4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville; tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and you can order them here.

He’s also looking forward to getting some new material out there. First up is Codependents,” an EP with Gellert recorded over a four-day period. It’s a duet album — guitar and fiddle — of five songs, including “Lo Siento, Spanishburg, W. Va.,” a song Miller released last summer. (The song on the EP is a re-cut version.) Other tracks include “Someday Sometime,” “We’re Leaving This Town,” “Unforgiven” and “Lost Not Broken.” It’s release will be noted and promoted, but not necessarily celebrated — no release show or anything like that. Those sorts of things will be saved for the full-length, which he’s cutting with studio ace Doug Lancio.

It’ll be an unexpected entry in the Scott Miller canon, as far as what that one’s gonna sound like, he says.

“I’m writing to his melodies, to different styles of music. It’s different than anything I’ve ever done, so all ya’ll will hate it,” he says. “Like I put in my newsletter — you’ll hate it and pan it and rip it apart, and we’ll still be friends, and then I’ll come back and make that mid-tempo, adult-contemporary Americana roots record everybody wants me to make. But right now I’m writing to Saharan drumbeats down here.”

The Boxer Rebellion cancels North American tour

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Keep the members of The Boxer Rebellion, and their families, in your thoughts. The band has cancelled its forthcoming North American tour — which included a Nov. 10 show at The Square Room — due to a “personal tragedy.”

You can read the letter from the band, posted on TBR website, here. The group includes, on vocals, Maryville native Nathan Nicholson.

Written by wildsmith

October 10th, 2011 at 11:52 am

The Boxer Rebellion announces Knoxville show, releases live album from Clayton Center

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Big news for local fans of The Boxer Rebellion, the independent rock quartet that includes singer Nathan Nicholson, a native of Maryville — the band is returning to East Tennessee for a Nov. 10 performance at The Square Room (4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville), and a new album, “Live in Tennessee,” goes on sale at noon today (Wednesday, July 27).

The band came to prominence in 2009 when it became one of the top-selling artists on iTunes last summer. The group’s sophomore album “Union” was named the iTunes Alternative Album of the Year for 2009, and in October 2010, the Rebellion performed at the Clayton Center for the Arts on the Maryville College campus. Thanks to Rob Loflin, Nicholson’s childhood friend and the original bass player in the earliest incarnation of the Rebellion (he now tours with the group as a guitar tech and joined the band onstage at the Clayton Center), that show was recorded for posterity and is now seeing the light of day as an international release.

“The idea at the time was, Nathan’s from here and it was going to be the first time he’d ever played to a hometown crowd and his family, and I thought it would be special enough to try and capture it, if nothing else for posterity,” “Since I have such a talented and good friend, Ben McAmis from Maryville (who owns RiverSound Productions in Maryville), I thought it would be a good idea to mix it and master it, and if it turned out really well, the band would have something they could use. And that’s exactly what happened — they played a great show, and Ben did an outstanding job mixing and mastering it.”

McAmis knew what he had on his hands shortly after the band finished playing — while the members greeted friends and family in the lobby of the Clayton Center, in fact.

“Right after we got done, Ben pulled me into the sound booth and said, ‘Hey man, listen to this.’ I put the headphones on and he went back and let me hear a minute or two of one of the tracks, and it blew me away. It just sounded so good,” Loflin said.

Once McCamus mixed the record and it was sent to the band’s manager, the rest of the group agreed. Manager Sumit Bothra said he felt it was one of the best live albums he’d ever heard, and plans started rolling to make it an official live release. At noon today, it’ll be available on iTunes and via the band’s website.

“Anybody who hears that album is going to say, ‘S—, I missed an amazing show,” Loflin said.

Those who weren’t there last fall have a chance to make up for it, however — tickets for the band’s Nov. 10 show at The Square Room go on sale Aug. 5. The band Canon Blue will open, and the show will start at 8 p.m. Tickets will be $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

The band is touring in support of its most recent studio effort, “The Cold Still,” produced by session ace Ethan Johns. Released exclusively on iTunes on Feb. 1 — the day before the band performed on “The Late Show With David Letterman” — the album entered the iTunes top 10 alternative list in less than 24 hours.

Nicholson is the son of local attorney Joe Nicholson and the late Susan Nicholson, who got his start playing music by taking guitar lessons from Palace Theater owner/local flatpick champion Steve Kaufman at Murlin’s Music World. When his mother died in 1999, Nicholson moved to London the next year, determined to make a living as a musician. There, he met the guys who would become his Boxer Rebellion bandmates, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Written by wildsmith

July 27th, 2011 at 7:57 am

Oh No Fiasco throws down a CD release at The Square Room

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Back in February, we did a story on local dance-rock sensation Oh No Fiasco, led by front woman Lindsey Stamey. That was for a show at The Square Room in downtown Knoxville, the same venue to which the band returns at 9 p.m. Saturday, May 7, for a CD release show featuring fellow bands Sugar Glyder and Skytown Riot. Admission is $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

The self-titled album comes out on the band’s own independent label, Fiasco entertainment, and they’re all over the radio this week as well. Next week (May 11-13, to be exact), Stamey and the boys will film the video for the first single off the record, “Stand In Lover.”

Stamey talked to us about working on the record back in February, when she described how producer Travis Wyrick would occasionally leave her in tears because he pushed her to dig so deep for emotions and passion. But as good as the record may sound, it won’t compare to the live experience, which is why you should be there.

“We’ve built our careers out of playing live, and we want to change every time,” she told us then. “We need to be different enough to be a very distinguishable live show. We want to change everything — the stage gimmicks, the outfits, the songs. We have fun on stage, and you can tell we’re excited to be there. We just need to get in front of people.”

Written by wildsmith

May 3rd, 2011 at 7:39 am

Rhythm N’ Blooms 2011 wrap-up …

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RNBlogoDogs, toddlers, blankets, beer, barbecue, baseball … the only sign that Sunday afternoon at the Knoxville Botanical Garden was something other than a family reunion was the stage.

As Rhythm N’ Blooms 2011 came to a close, the conditions were ideal — warm weather and a backdrop of flowering trees and green grass rolling away to the east behind a bandstand where some incredible music was made. Whether it was the one-man powerhouse that was Joe Pug or the bombast of The Whigs or the refined honky tonk of Diamond Doves, the sounds that brought the festival to a close were sublime. And that doesn’t even take into account the crowds or the final act of the night,  The Felice Brothers.

That crowd … man, that crowd. Everywhere I went throughout the weekend was an occasion to stop and talk for a minute with friends old and new. Sometimes, it was just a greeting, like when Scott Miller took a break from his soundcheck to shout a friendly profanity my way. Other times, it was the opportunity to stand side by side with Benny Smith of WUTK-FM and Rusty Odom of Blank Newspaper and drink in what we were seeing and hearing unfold before us.

On Sunday, from our vantage point at stage right, beside a friendly pit bull pup named Babycakes and a shaggy Golden Retriever who was keen to bury her snout in an impromptu run to Chandler’s, I was struck once again by how much I love this job that I do and the people with whom I work in the local music community. On a blanket near the back, local songbird Jill Andrews played with her son, who toddled up to doggies and friends wearing an oversized pair of blue noise-blocking headphones to protect his delicate eardrums from the amplified sounds of musical celebration.

I watched him and wondered if he’ll ever fully appreciate, the way that her fans do, what a local treasure his mother is. Her set on Friday night at The Square Room was a remarkable thing of beauty, a glimpse at a career that goes deeper into the emotional and spiritual ponderings of her own heart to mine those depths for the rest of us. As good as her and her work with the everybodyfields and her self-titled EP were, her forthcoming full-length — “The Mirror,” due June 7 — is a work of unrestrained boldness. The expression “singing her heart out” comes to mind, because such a cliche is the only thing that works. Watching her sing those songs, the cords in her neck pushing against her skin from the effort, you could see … could hear … that those songs were coming from a place of pain and life and everything that goes along with it.

It was certainly a highlight of the festival, but not the only one. Immediately following, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside threw down an Americana hurting by way of Portland, Ore. With her perky little feet-shuffling and bobbed haircut and Buddy Holly glasses, you’d expect a voice that sounds chirping and sweet and high-pitched … and you’d be wrong. Ford belts out jazz-inflected rockabilly with the swagger of Wanda Jackson or Rosie Flores, and she makes it seem effortless. Tearing through her set like a musical tornado, she would have been a hard act to follow — had the next act not been the whimsical and charming Erin McKeown, who held her own as a girl with a guitar, some great stories and a stage presence that demanded attention.

Across Market Square, the men (and woman) of Valley Young got the music started in Black Market Square before running into a technical snafu, but they quickly got back on track, and the harmonies of Annabelle LaFoy and Artemus James called to mind the rootsy feel of Fleet Foxes. LaFoy, in particular, was stunning to behold — her voice resonates with power, yet she executes with the deftness of a lifelong professional who knows not to blow her bandmates off the stage. With James in the driver’s seat and some songs that caressed the emotions of beauty and melancholy in equal measure, it was a great way to end night one.

Saturday began at John Black Studio with a performance by local three-piece Kelsey’s Woods, where singer/guitarist Dave Kennedy confirms he’s one of the most underrated songwriters in East Tennessee. The gritty murder told on “Santa Fe,” the Civil War ballad “Union Wine” … in a town known for its prodigious songwriting talent, Kennedy deserves to be ranked up there with them all, and when fiddler Shawna Cypher joined in on harmony vocals for the last song, I was once again struck by how many beautiful female singers there are in this area as well. (And seriously, how cool is upright bass player Russ Torbett? Not only can he slap with the best of them, his easy camaraderie with Kennedy makes the between-song banter even more entertaining.)

A struggle to find food delayed our attendance at another show until checking out North Carolina-based Big Daddy Love at Latitude 35. They describe what they do as “Appalachian rock”; it reminded me of Donna the Buffalo with a Southern bent instead of a zydeco one. Electric and acoustic guitar, bass, drums, banjo and the ability to home in on a groove, lock it in and sustain it throughout the course of a song that might or might not incorporate some extended jams — these guys know how to entertain, as the dancers who got down front can attest. It was one of the few shows of the weekend where, after the last song, I found myself wishing it could have lasted longer.

Moving back to Black Market Square led to an unexpected discovery — Light Pilot, an act managed by Knoxville expatriate Lenore Kinder (who at one time shepherded Dixie Dirt). Four young guys who look like they should be playing emo — and in fact sound like it at times, but given the bluegrass/Americana bent to the music, those plaintive harmonies make what they do all the more engaging, different and very, very good.

Which leads me back to Sunday, and the festival itself. So many fantastic discoveries like Big Daddy Love and Light Pilot exemplify what Rhythm N’ Blooms wants to accomplish — introduce music fans to hard-working, great-sounding bands that they may not otherwise get a chance to see or hear. Even for a guy like myself who gets paid to do this, I don’t know when I would have made time to see out a Kelsey’s Woods or a Valley Young show, even though they’re worthy additions to the local music scene. Putting them on the bill for Rhythm N’ Blooms made sense sonically, but it also added to the treasure trove of talent that was scattered throughout the area this weekend for visitors and locals alike to discover. All it took was a few bucks, a little effort and an adventurous spirit.

Because by the time The Felice Brothers took the stage … a few minutes before the beer truck switched off its neon lights and allowed the shadows to swallow up the edges of the Sunday festival grounds … it was a time of reflection on so much seen and enjoyed, so much absorbed and appreciated. By that time, Jill had left to get the little one home … Cruz Contreras, who sat in with Sallie Ford and performed with Robinella and the CCstringband on Saturday, had vanished into the crowd … Jonathan Sexton of Jonathan Sexton and the Big Love Choir, currently sidelined by a case of shingles, was nowhere to be seen … Sam Quinn, previously seen backstage hanging with some of the Felice boys, had moved on.

Most of the crowd pressed to the front, swaying as a unit to familiar songs like “The Big Surprise” and losing their collective minds as a new song like “Ponzi” swirled to a crescendo of man-played and electronically generated percussion, the guys wailing on their instruments and scream-singing the refrain with glorious abandon. Lying in the cooling grass, my head in my wife’s lap, I stared up at the stars instead of the stage, but that’s OK. I could hear it all … and more importantly, I could feel it — the band serenading this year’s festival to sleep, and all of the beauty that had gone on before.

Jill Andrews full-length lands June 7

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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

Out with John Cowan … in with ROBINELLA AND THE CCSTRINGBAND

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So … New Grass Revival alum John Cowan was supposed to be at The Square Room, 4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville, on Thursday for a holiday installment of the venue’s “Dinner and a Concert Series,” right? But then he cancelled the December leg of his tour unexpectedly. Which left venue organizers scrambling to fill the slot. Which brings a one-time reunion of one of East Tennessee’s most beloved bands!

The original lineup of Robinella and the CC Stringband hasn’t been together since Robin Ella Tipton Bailey and Cruz Contreras divorced five years ago. They’ve remained friends (and parents of a great little kid, Cash), but both have moved on to other things — Robin solo, Cruz with his band, The Black Lillies. But for one night only, Robin, Cruz, fiddler Billy Contreras (currently on tour with George Jones) and bass player Taylor Coker will reunite.

The doors open at 6:30 p.m.; tickets are $52 to $68 and include a four-course meal. In addition to Robinella and the CC Stringband originals, they’ll do some holiday songs as well.

This is monumental. GO.

Written by wildsmith

November 30th, 2010 at 9:53 am

Maggie Longmire presents ‘Granddaughters’

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Back in 2008, we interviewed local singer-songwriter Maggie Longmire, a k a “The Lily of LaFollette,” about a work that’s extremely personal to her — “Granddaughters: An Americana Opera.”

About it, she told us “it’s been full of a lot of appreciation for family members, and perhaps some regret that I didn’t spend more time with some of them before they weren’t available anymore. To know their stories and some of their struggles, it makes you say, ‘Wow — I wish I’d had more time with them.’ It’s just funny how little things will mean something particularly profound to you.

“It gives you an appreciation for their personalities — how they did what they did, how they lived their lives. The way we live now, older generations seem to be separated from their children and grandchildren; something in our culture has developed in more modern times that folks seem to lose, especially the stories that the older generation has to tell. There’s nothing like having stories told from the person who lived them.

“It teaches you to look over your shoulder to where you came from, and it gives you an appreciation for those who loved us and brought us into this world and gave us our creative talent,” she added. “Discovering that someone in my family loved to write … that my grandfather loved to play guitar … discovering something I didn’t know but got passed down, all of those are new things to have gratitude for.”

Longmire’s musical roots may go back to the skills handed down by her ancestors, but she’s been making a name for herself since the late 1970s, when her long-time band, the Lonesome Coyotes, took the East Tennessee music scene by storm. As one of the Western swing/country-rock outfit’s singers and guitarists, she helped craft songs and played music that defined a generation of Knoxvillians’ entry to adulthood. With the Coyotes, she rocked the Budweiser pavilion all summer long during the 1982 World’s Fair and performed with the band on national television, during a guest slot on the soap opera “One Life to Live.”

After a 17-year hiatus from playing music after the Coyotes disbanded shortly after the World’s Fair, Longmire found herself returning to music. A chance meeting with one of her old bandmates prompted the Coyotes to reunite in 2002, and Longmire pursued other projects on the side. Her 2003 album, “Teachers and Travelers,” earned her the Best Writer award in the Knoxville alternative newspaper’s 2003 readers’ poll, and when her brother John asked for her musical assistance for a project he was working on, “Granddaughters” was born.

Now, “Granddaughters” will see the light of day on a Knoxville stage (again; it’s been performed once at The Laurel Theater in Knoxville’s Fort Sanders neighborhood). It takes place at 8 p.m. Nov. 20 at The Square Room, 4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville; tickets are $17 (you can purchase them here). About the show, she writes: “We have a great cast of musicians and singers. R.B. Morris will be on board to tell the story through both story and song. The music will be performed by the mighty acoustic orchestra Free Soil Farm, which includes: Jay Manneschmidt, Doug Klein, Cecilia Miller, Peggy Hambright, Charles Manneschmidt, Don Cassell, Danny Gammon, J.P. Reddick, Kate Reddick, Jenna Longmire, R.B. Morris and me.” Given the East Tennessee musical pedigrees of all of those players, it should be an amazing night.

Written by wildsmith

October 6th, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Catching up with Scott Miller

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Needing your Scott Miller fix? It’s been a while since the old boy played East Tennessee — back in April, when he performed at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson — but he’ll remedy that on Friday, when he does a little solo acoustic show at 8 p.m. at The Square Room, 4 Market Square in downtown Knoxville. He’ll no doubt draw on a few choice tracks from his time with local Americana rock band The V-Roys, as well as his most excellent solo albums — from “Thus Always to Tyrants” to last year’s “For Crying Out Loud.” We checked in with him this week, and he told us he’s been holed up in Fountain City, working on songs for his next studio album, and if he deems one of the new songs worthy, he might debut it on Friday. Other than that — well, he tells us he grew his beard back, and he’s getting advances of his new Christmas EP this week. We feel a holiday concert may be in the works — although, given Miller’s quirky nature, it probably won’t be the traditional kind. Check him out in the meantime on Friday; tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.

Written by wildsmith

August 25th, 2010 at 8:27 am

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