Saturday Sounds: Heiskell with Wayne Bledsoe on Six O’Clock Swerve

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

I’d not had the chance to check out Wayne Bledsoe’s new WDVX show Six O’Clock Swerve until this week and it’s as good as I imagined it would be. It’s a combination that’s hard to beat: A venue with great lighting, no smoking and beautifully decorated and made for easily making good photographs, Knoxville’s most excellent artists and Wayne Bledsoe, Knoxville’s finest music critic and all-around decent guy.

None of the elements disappointed – and I didn’t even mention the excellent sound – making for a fun, fast-paced hour of good music and comfortable conversation. The format is set to bounce between the two, alternating music with a couple of brief conversations. Wayne, Jeff Heiskell and the drummer even sang/read the weather for the live radio audience. It was that kind of fun evening.

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Jeff Heiskell, former lead sing of one of Knoxville’s most successful 90s bands, the Judybats fronts the band Heiskell with a sound very consistent with the Judybats, but with a lyric sense that comes with age and experience. While Judybats songs featured lyrics like, “Don’t drop the baby, cause she might cry/Don’t touch my soft spot cause I might die,” Jeff’s current lyrics, on “Arriving,” his most recent album, plum the depths of human relationships.

Often focused on love lost, missed or otherwise not sustained, the lyrics are often profound while full of slippery word-play. In “Goodbye” he sings, “I won’t castigate your expiration date/Dyin’s easy – just another day/You won’t ever see me cry/You got here just in time to say, ‘goodbye.'” In the similarly themed “Just Can’t Say,” he talks to his lover, “I just can’t say ‘I love you’/Even though I really do/Victim of semantics, regrets/Failed romantic out of all context/Verbal viral verily I vexed/Don’t be another faded letter.”

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Still, it’s more than just the lyrics. It’s danceable, fun music even with the underlying tones of relationships in jeopardy. It’s hard not to sing along with the pop-infused melodies of “Faded Letter” or “Deep Appreciation.” If the melodies don’t grab you – and they will – the harmonies and call-and-response vocal overlays will.

I’ve likened his vocals and sardonic attitude to that of Colin Meloy of the Decembrists and that holds true on a number of the songs. The second half of the album shifts to longer songs – longer on sonic and lyrical experimentation as  well as actual minutes consumed. He includes a near-ballad in “Fireflies,” and comes close to a country sound in “Half Full.”

Invoking David Bowie with the chorus of “Would You Even Know Me Now?,” the album ends with the tender “Cry,” in which he pleads, “I’m at the airport watching your plane/What if it crashes? Am I goin’ all insane/You say you’re needin’ to think about this/Ah, don’t think too long, don’t be gone,/you’re doin’ me wrong/I’m punchin’ these walls with my fist/You make a grown man cry.” By the time the last sound fades, the album has taken the listener on a complete emotional journey. It’s very much worth the trip.

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Wayne, of course, as the News Sentinel music critic for over thirty years knows all the local musicians and has a personal relationship with them. It shows in the comfortable rapport on display in the interviews. Jeff, of his life with a major music label, said each album was “supposed to have two singles that made drunk college students jump around.” Of being “trapped in a tour bus with twelve people,” he said the first tour was fun, the second was work, the third was difficult and the fourth made him quit the band. He said many audiences assumed they were British.

He indicated videos might be forth coming, but didn’t evince a passion about the idea, saying when videos showed up on line of the Judybats he was, “mortified.” The decision to play live was also more or less forced on him, but he seems comfortable in the role and I hope we see a lot more of him in the coming months.

Heiskell on Six O'Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

Heiskell on Six O’Clock Swerve with Wayne Bledsoe, Scruffy City Hall, Knoxville, February 2016

As for Six O’Clock Swerve, please come out and support it every Thursday night. It’s a great venue, Wayne is selecting the finest local artists for the slots and it’s a lot of fun for only $5. If you can’t make it in, listen live on WDVX. Next up is Jank, one of my absolute favorites from the recent rendition of Waynestock. If you love that surf guitar sound, this band’s for you. I’ll leave you with a little sample of the great music on Heiskell’s “Arriving” album. It’s available at the Disk Exchange and on itunes.

Thanks to Dave Gorman, here’s a sample of the show the other night. Sound quality isn’t as great as is deserved, but it gives you the idea.

K Brew Opens Its Downtown Location Today

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

The second location of K Brew coffee opens today at 800 Market Street in the federal building (or the Whittle Building for people who remember the 80s). It’s at the very end of Market, just under the arch of the passageway into the courtyard. It marks the first expansion of the business and the continued expansion of coffee houses in and around downtown.

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

The space looks remarkably different than when Hot Bagel Company operated the shop. Smee Busby Architects developed the design and the entire orientation of the storefront has shifted. Wooden accents warm the space and include some very cool features: A slice of a 50-year-old elm serves as counter space, large wooden panels face the door and hold the menu, logo and bagged coffee for sale.

The most interesting feature to me was the map behind the counter, made by David Harmon of  Native Maps, it’s a Knoxville map divided into the various neighborhoods or parts of town. He’s got them for other cities, as well. What makes this one so cool is that it’s mounted on the same-styled wood panels that face the door. Prints of the map are for sale in the store as are K Brew t-shirts.

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

The shop also has cold drinks for sale and will have healthy snacks mentioned in the previous article, though co-owner Pierce LaMacchia tells me they may also have some guilty pleasure sorts of sweets, as well, for those who want them. The photograph behind the cold drinks was made at Abbey Fields and shows the Standard Knitting Mill in the background. Pierce said it speaks to him of the old and the new in the city.

Pierce LaMacchia, K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

Pierce LaMacchia, K Brew, 800 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

They open at 7:00 AM this morning (or opened, if you are reading this later in the morning or day) and will close at 6:00 PM. Those will be their regular hours each day, though they may adjust them in response to demand. The shop will be open Monday through Friday, but closed on federal holidays – such as this Monday, President’s Day. Stop in and welcome them to the neighborhood and pick up a fine cup of coffee.

One final word: This makes the third retail opening downtown just this week, along with the Old City Wine Bar and Balter Brewing. We’ve just seen the opening of The Daniel and Makers Donuts and that comes at the same time our pharmacy moved into its permanent space. These are amazing times to experience downtown Knoxville. Tune in. This is probably a period never to be replicated in our city. It’s special.

GEO Hair Lab is Open and Rocking Fifth Avenue

GEO Hair Lab, 300 W. Fifth Ave., Knoxville, February 2016

Last September I told you about Jeremy Wann's intention to open GEO Hair Lab. Opening a salon isn't that unusual, but opening one on Fifth Avenue would not have seemed possible just a short time ago. Only a concept at that point, the concept has … [Continue reading]

The Lunchbox Reopens Under New Ownership

Bradford and Rex Jones, New Owners of The Lunchbox, 607 Market Street, Knoxville, February 2016

It was just a few weeks ago that Karen Sproles announced the closure of both locations of The Lunchbox. I'd written about the downtown location when they moved from the First Tennessee Plaza to Market Street in 2011. At that time Karen and her … [Continue reading]

People of Mardi Gras, Mobile 2016

Joe Cain Parade and More, Mardi Gras, Mobile Alabama, February 7, 2016

Just as the title suggests, here are a few of my favorite people shots from the second day. The Joe Cain Parade is deliberately more of a "people's parade" and the floats are less spectacular. That said, the day is absolutely fantastic for people … [Continue reading]