Did I Mention the Blue Plate Special?

Not as much as I should.

Knoxville is and will always likely be a small city. We’ll never have a Chinatown or a Little Italy. We’ll never have the tallest buildings or the most bustling streets. We’ll have art, but not in the volume and of the stature of other cities. There will never be direct Knoxville to Paris flights and no one from Europe is likely to make a stop in our town the centerpiece of their North American vacation.

Yet, there are many great things about Knoxville. Some of those are very unique even when held alongside our larger sisters. (That doesn’t make them sound so good after all, does it: “She’s our larger sister, but we still love her.”) One of the unique features of our little town is the musical heritage along Gay Street. Is there a street in America that has seen more live music broadcast over the radio?

Starting with WNOX in the 1930’s, live music broadcast over the radio has become part of our heritage. Though it died out for a few lost decades, it has returned in recent years in the form of radio station WDVX. The brainchild of Tony Lawson, with humble beginnings in a travel trailer, WDVX is now located on the corner of Gay Street and Summit Hill in the same space as the Knoxville Visitor Center. Daily concerts are broadcast at live at noon each weekday (and recently on Saturdays) in the form of the Blue Plate Special.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be a WDVX listener since the first weekend they were on air. I’ve also been able to attend many Blue Plate Specials over the years, though not nearly as many as I would like because of that little inconvenience called, “making a living,” which keeps me away most days. If you haven’t listened to them, do. The mornings are bluegrass heavy, while the afternoons are more Americana and the rest of the time is a mix of those and classic country (AKA real country music). It’s a good station that will serve up Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. And did I mention commercial free? It’s at FM 89.9 outside the city and 102.9 downtown. It’s always waiting at http://www.wdvx.com/.

Brothers Burn Mountain, WDVX, Knoxville, November 2010

So, I recently saw a Blue Plate Special featuring The Brother’s Burn Mountain and Kevin Gordon. It’s always interesting and often it’s an entry point to music you will grow to love. Whether the artists are nationally known singer/songwriters or artists with whom you are unfamiliar, something good is likely waiting. I’d never heard of either of these artists and they provided me with a reminder that looks are so often deceptive. As you can see, the brothers in Brother’s Burn Mountain look pretty cool. They look like the kind of guys I’m nervous talking to at parties because I know they’ll quickly figure out I’m not cool enough to hang with them. I figured if they were that cool, I’d probably like their music.

Brothers Burn Mountain, WDVX, Knoxville, November 2010

Why do I continue to think irrationally after a few million experiences that should teach me better? I won’t say they aren’t good – I’ll link and let you judge. I’ll just say that for me there was a melodic sameness that challenged my capacity to stay upright in my chair. The most fascinating, strange, bizarre, weird and therefore entertaining quality of the brothers was watching the facial contortions of the drumming brother. I won’t even try to describe it. It defies my small ability to manipulate words. Just watch the video. You may like their music. I’m sure many people do.

Kevin Gordon, WDVX, Knoxville, November 2010

The second artist was a gentleman named Kevin Gordon. He was in town to do a show at Cafe Four. And, I have to say he didn’t look nearly as cool as those guys. In fact, he looked like the kind of guy I’d wind up talking to at that party. Of course, I irrationally made the assumption that this must be some sort of sympathy gig. He just couldn’t be that good. Naturally, he was. His songs are carefully crafted lyrically and melodically, his voice is strong and sure and he’s an artist who deserves an audience. Check him out and see what you think. You can listen to or buy his most recent studio release O Come Look at the Burning or check out his new live disc at his website (linked above).

Here’s a video of Brothers Burn Mountain:

Here’s a video of Kevin Gordon: