It’s one of the best musical series going in a city that has many excellent musical series ranging from daily to weekly, monthly and annually. Tennessee Shines in its first incarnation offered a monthly show in the Bijou Theatre with host Jim Lauderdale. While it was a critical success – and I personally found a number of artists with whom I fell in love – it struggled financially and ultimately ended, only to re-emerge on a smaller, though weekly stage, at 7:00 PM each Monday evening.
A typical show features one or two musical artists and a reading from a local author, generally poet Susan O’Dell Underwood, playwright Jayne Morgan or poet and singer/songwriter RB Morris. This spring RB has read from his most recent, and excellent book The Mockingbird Poems. The musical artist or artists are interviewed briefly and they play an hour for the radio audience, while the performance is extended for another half hour for the studio audience.
The artists are sometimes local, but more often come from other parts of the country and are often quite well known singer/songwriters. Those you see pictured with this article are among my favorites from the fall and spring. I particularly have enjoyed the most recent CDs from Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnnie Irion, both of whom have an interesting heritage. She is Woody Gutrie’s granddaughter and Arlo’s daughter. He is John Steinbeck’s grand nephew. More than just an interesting sideshow of familial connections, however, they make beautiful music.
King Super is local, of course, but I have to say that their Halloween show totally slammed the place. I’ve never seen them better and the audience seemed to agree. Norwegian Wood joined them for that show and did their usual excellent job. Songwriter Jim Lauderdale, the former host of the show when it was monthly, performed a fine set and was joined by east Tennessee’s own Alex Leach. It’s been fun to see him grow into a man from the little boy who joined WDVX all those years ago.
Two Nashville singer/songwriters turned in impressive performances in the last few weeks. David Olney and Amelia White craft some of the finest songs you’ll want to hear. Each of their performances featured guitarist extraordinaire Sergio Webb who literally played until his finger bled the week he joined Amelia. Blood covered his guitars and clothes by the end of the show. That’s giving your all for your art. I’ve enjoyed Amelia’s new album “Old Postcard” quite a bit. It’s definitely one you should check out. Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line also turned in a very good set.
Tonight is your final chance to see Tennessee Shines for a while as they take the month of July to rest and gear up for the next round of great shows which resume August 18. And they are going out with a bang as Scott Miller returns to Knoxville, which many of us still consider his musical home if not his current city of residence, for what promises to be a special show. Join the crowd at 7:00 PM tonight at the WDVX Studio/Knoxville Visitor Center, or better yet, be early for what promises to be a standing-room-only show. At only $10, it’s a steal.
If you’d like to see more photographs from these shows, I hope to have them posted to the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page by noon, which will give you a chance to enjoy the photographs and “like” the Facebook Page if you haven’t done so already.