After some family time in the morning, along with covering some other events which I’ll get to later, I walked to the Old City for the second round of music. I talked to Chyna Brackeen, who put the festival together, about the location and we agreed it worked exceptionally well. She noted the compact area contributed to a feeling of community the festival had missed when it was spread all over downtown.
She also told me the story of Andy and Jen Clifford, a couple from Ontario who, on seeing several of their favorite artists post they were playing the festival, decided they would have a destination wedding. And so they did: They got married in Knoxville just before the beginning of the festival and the opening VIP reception was their wedding reception. They’d never been to Knoxville and had no ties to the city. Pretty cool. Best wishes to them.
I started my day with Willie Watson at The Standard. Willie Watson, as I learned from a friend before the show, is a former member of Old Crow Medicine Show. He dresses as if he’d just walked out of the great depression and Woody Guthrie would likely be comfortable with his song choices. Always hot and cold with Old Crow, I realized that he likely sang many of the songs I liked the best. His album, “Folksinger, Volume One,” will be released next month.
The capacity crowd listened carefully to each song in a way that American Aquarium might have appreciated the night before. The Standard filled for that show and pretty much remained filled for the duration of the day and night. I would really love to see live music in this venue on a regular basis whether it’s the return of the monthly “Scruffy City Ramble” or a weekly series. How about “Knoxville Saturday Nights at The Standard?” You heard it here first.
Born in Knoxville, a graduate of Farragut, Logan Brill is a now a Nashville singer/songwriter. She attended Belmont College in Nashville and, after majoring in music for two years changed her major. Because what could possibly make a young girl who looks like this more attractive? Speaking in French, of course. So that became her major. Now graduated, she released her first album, “Walking Wires,” last fall to considerable acclaim. She’s had her music used on various television shows and seems poised for a long career.
I saw her talking to Holly Williams later that night and Holly’s career might be a good pattern for her to follow. They each performed “Angel from Montgomery” at their respective concerts and each of them brought great power to that stunning song. Logan travels that folk/indie/country line, but tends more toward country and I could see a possible career for her there. I just hope I never hear her with the over-produced pop sound of today’s country music. And did I mention she’s a little bit cute? Yes, I did.
I’d heard about Shovels and Rope so much since last year that I didn’t even bother to listen to their songs before putting them on my dance card. I heard a portion of their show on the big stage under the viaduct before cutting out for another performer, knowing I would hear them again later at The Standard. They drew massive crowds to both shows.
Their music is real and a bit raw, definitely a throw-back to another era. At times female vocalist Cary Ann Hearst could easily be channeling Dolly Parton. Sometimes when partner Michael Trent joins in with harmonies on the quieter songs, there’s a glimpse of the civil wars. For the most part they strike an older chord and they mention influences from the 1940’s and before which sounds about right. It’s easy to imagine them huddled up to a single microphone just down Gay Street in the early years of the past century singing on the Mid-Day Merry-go-round.
Their audience is an intense bunch of dancing, twenty-somethings spinning, gyrating and generally having a great time. Large numbers of them sang along and fed off the high energy duo. It may be hard to imagine a duo rocking out, but they do. It’s wort noting that they list the Cramps alongside Woody Guthrie as influences.
I walked back to The Standard for a series of shows starting with Holly Williams. Though she was raised by her mother, she acknowledges her roots in her father Hank Williams, Jr.’s family going back to her grandfather, Hank Williams, Sr. She has a soulful voice that isn’t reminiscent of either of them as far as I can tell. She’s country enough to be country, but she’s a stripped down folkier version of country music. She’s toured extensively in Europe, headlining pretty much all over the continent.
Her album, “The Highway,” made many best of lists last year and with good reason. The song writing is solid, emotion-filled and well-suited to her road-weary voice. At the show she was accompanied by her husband, Chris Coleman of The Kings of Leon who flew in that morning from a show with the band in Canada in order to join her. They co-wrote three of the songs on the latest album and seemed to really enjoy playing together. It was the second album of the weekend I was convinced to purchase.
Next up at The Standard was Ben Sollee who is a cello player, which is a bit like saying Jimi Hendrix was a guitar player. It doesn’t begin to cover the subject. Unsuspecting listeners would not recognize the instrument in his hands. He chords it, bows it, plucks it and hits it. He gets seemingly impossible sounds from the instrument to accompany his soulful songs. Sometimes R&B, sometimes more folk, it’s just good music. I’ve played him to death in my ipod.
Some of his songs are topical and, typically, take an environmental tone like “Bury Me with My Car” or his songs about mountain top removal. He sometimes does bicycle tours during which he bikes to shows with his cello and luggage strapped to the bicycle’s sides. He invited the audience to bike with him from Market Square the next morning to the Botanical Gardens for his set there and, I later learned, a number of them did just that.
I ended my night with Caleb Hawley, who got his start on American Idol, at the Pilot Light. If I had low expectations to start my day with Willie Watson, which turned out to be misguided, I had high expectations for the final show of the night. And for me to stay out for a show that started at 12:45 AM, I needed to believe it would be good. It started out a bit shaky, with a small audience and an artist who seemed impacted by that in a negative way.
As the set progressed, however, the crowd grew and the energy in the room did the same. By the time it ended he had the group of thirty or so young folks lying on the floor, then springing up again, thrusting their hands in the air and singing call-and-response like a tent revival. He possesses an awesome set of vocal cords and, at his best, he’s an updated sixties soul singer. The song in the video below is an awesome example of what he can do.
It was another great day of music. Once again I’ve included videos below so you can listen to one or more, if you’d like. I’ll also post many more photographs later to the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page in the “Rhythm and Blooms 2014” album. Tomorrow I’ll bring it to a close with the great Sunday shows.