Friday, March 27, 2015

Douglas Corner Shows Touch Hearts on 'Tin Pan South's' Second Night


Day Two: March 25 (Wednesday)

         For these two MCAU writers, the quality of day two measured up to the first night, but in a different way. The shows we attended on Wednesday were beautiful, eloquent and less produced, offering a living room-like acoustic feel with playful camaraderie. Douglas Corner is perfect for these kinds of shows with songwriters (most of them good friends) facing each other as they perform in a square-shaped pattern. The give-and-take is warm, friendly and down-to-earth... a pleasant treat for the music lovers and fans who surround them.

Rachel Thibodeau and Blessing Offer Celebrate after their
"Tin Pan South" show at Douglas Corner on March 25

First Show (Early Show at Douglas Corner):  

         The first show featured Rob Crosby, Allen Shamblin, Angela Kaset, and Brett Jones.

         Angela Kaset kicked this round off with her Lorrie Morgan hit, “Something in Red”.  Why does this song always make me cry?  What a slice of life, so honest and true.  She reflected over her life with the tender “Jesus with the Light Brown Hair”, later joking it was inspired by the Stephen Foster song “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”.  Kasset said writing was therapy as she introduced “Sunshine Through the Pain”, which was inspired by the losses the Nashville Music Community has suffered this past year.  She caused a little controversy when she sang a line from the tongue-in-cheek tune "More For Me": "Give up what you've got and they'll be more for me”. Crosby interrupted, saying, "It’s a song about Republicans!" He later confessed, “My father would say it’s a song about Democrats. I guess you could look at it from both sides.”

         Brett Jones (I mistakenly thought I was going to see Brett James but was not disappointed!) had us all rockin’ on His Jason Aldean hit “Crazy Town” (inspired by all of the changes that have taken place in Nashville over the 25 years that Jones has lived here).  I was a little insulted, but smiled, when Brett said don’t look for any country boys in New Jersey as he related an experience he had there while introducing “That’s How Country Boys Grow”.  But I got over it and enjoyed his 2009 cut by Billy Currington.  I hope Brett gets over it too!  Everyone listened intently as he told us that his brother’s name is on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. He then segued into “If Heaven Wasn’t so Far Away”, a tribute to his brother.  He had us belly laughing and shaking our heads on “Monkey with a Blue Tail”, an upbeat cut from his “Cowboy Sailor” album.  The inspiration from this one came one Sunday when his wife dragged him to church to hear a boring preacher. His eyes were on the 4-year-old in front of him coloring a monkey with a blue tail!

         Any bill that has Allen Shamblin on it is going to be great. I love everything he writes and no one puts more heart into his songs than he does. I remember having tears in my eyes the first time I heard co-writer Marc Beeson perform "What I'm For" several years ago. It was just as moving when Shamblin sang the line, “You don't have to guess what I'm against if you know what I'm for”.  Can it get any better?  By the way... Pat Green cut this song.  We all related to “The House That Built Me”, which won a Grammy for Miranda Lambert.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his first publishing deal, Allen decided to write a children’s song “I Like Frogs” with the line, “Just like me they hate biology!"  Six months after he signed his deal, he was told his option was coming up and he would be dropped if he couldn’t produce a song that was a potential cut.  At an all-time low and thinking of returning home, he turned on the TV and a preacher was pointing his finger at him saying, “There is someone willing to give up on their dream... the last stretch of the race is always the hardest.” Allen took heart and wrote his first number one, “He Walked on Water”, a song we all hope to hear Randy Travis sing again.  Allen closed by saying, shortly after moving to Nashville on Dec. 31, 1987, he had no money, no job, no friends, and he prayed “God help me”.  He then said “God has answered my prayer” as he closed with “I Can’t Make You Love Me”.

         I first started listening to Country Music in 1991. One of the first albums I bought was Rob Crosby’s “Solid Ground”.  I’ve been a fan ever since. Rob’s first song was the Trace Adkins' cut “Till The Last Shot’s Fired”. It begins with the Civil War Battle of Nashville, moves to World War II, and ends with Vietnam and Afghanistan. “No we can’t come home till the last shot’s fired." Everyone clapped and sang along on the chorus of “I Want to be Your Friday Night" (cut by Lady Antebellum and Eric Paslay). You could hear a pin drop when he played “Concrete Angel”, a song about child abuse that Martina McBride brought to number five.  Rob closed with a song he wrote with Carl Perkins and Dottie Moore, the energetic “Mile out of Memphis”, a duet by Paul Simon and Carl Perkins (a song that stayed in my head all night).

-- Wil Comstock, MCAU Contributing Writer

 Second Show (Late Show at Douglas Corner):

         I arrived at Douglas Corner in a rather anxious mood. The night before, I was thrilled by the big-show mix of beautiful voices, guitars and percussion at 3rd and Lindsley. But now my thoughts were on the whirlwind of the day's events. The lovely J.Karen Thomas (who died Thursday) was in her last days of battling a serious illness, and various busy personal challenges cluttered my mind. I needed to be touched and encouraged... moved by messages of love, hope, togetherness and friendship. The evening of heartfelt performances by Jamie Floyd, Blessing Offor, Mark D. Sanders, and Rachel Thibodeau did just that... with "a little bit of country, a little bit of rock 'n' roll, and insatiable accents of R&B, jazz and pop."

         Stevie Wonder is one my favorite artists, so hearing the multi-talented Blessing Offor soulfully sing about love and togetherness was a true blessing. He began his set with a jazzy number called "Star Gazing", delighting the audience with his souring, wandering vocals and expert guitar riffs. His funkiest number, "Bad", was playful and fun... accented with masterful "dobro'n" by Josh Matheny. Tender moments came after he moved to piano. The sultry and romantic "Grow Together" encouraged us to "put (our) roots down", and the gospel-like ballad "This Is Life" (with lovely dobro accents) revealed how a loving relationship can "keep you going in the dark". The song that resonates with me the most though is "Fingers". The gentle tune included the memorable lines, "My fingers are always looking for yours... Tell me what your fingers know." Of course, wise-cracker Mark D. Sanders had to "ruin" the performance afterwards (and prompt a few laughs) by saying he was going to write a song about his wife giving him "the finger". Oh well... Not everyone is a quiet romantic like me.

Blessing Offor
         I loved every song that Jamie Floyd performed. The clarity and power of her vocals came through immediately on the bluesy, knock-out number "Casino". I was deeply touched by "The People You Knew", a song co-written with Bostonian Lori McKenna. How do you feel when you "can't call someone anymore... not (knowing) what we're missing." As I listened, I thought about potential friendships that never happened, romances that never materialized, and the deaths of friends and family members who touched my life. Her background vocalist boyfriend, Dave (sitting to her left), joined Jamie on the delightful "Trouble Get Me Off Your Mind", a song featured in the Dolly Parton movie, "A Country Christmas Story". She closed her set with "The Blade" a tune co-written with Marc Beeson and Allen Shamblin. I can still hear her singing the stinging words, "You caught it by the handle... I caught it by the blade". Unfortunately, we all get hurt sometimes. What can we learn from it?

Josh Matheny's dobro
playing was outstanding
         Piano writer Rachel Thibodeau was very apologetic when she walked in late... seeming to have just stepped out of the shower. She has an exuberant, happy-go-lucky personally (with humility) that works well in a Douglas Corner "living room" environment. "I haven't performed in a year, so I'm very nervous," she told her songwriting friends and the crowd. Her charm made an occasional flub refreshing... encouraging songwriters like me to stop worrying about every note and to just have fun. Her gentle rendition of "Where Do We Go From Here" came to life with the aching cry of Josh's dobro. She introduced "I Give It To You" by thanking Martina McBride. "I was at a crossroads when I wrote it," she told the crowd. "I didn't know that Martina had the song. She told me she had been listening to a rough, taped version for three years." Rachel held her 5-year-old daughter on her knee briefly before performing the Billy Currington hit "Directions", the song that "bought" her house.

Rachel Thibodeau cuts up with Blessing Offor
         I've seen Mark D. Sanders many times over the years, and every one of his performances seems better than the last. Mark is a class act... a humble guy who loves family along with an easy-going life of fishing and shooting the bull. He's an excellent storyteller and "jokemeister" who can get away with saying things someone like me would get slapped for (i.e. "My wife gave me the finger.") The audience was treated to hits like "Blue Clear Sky", "(This Ain't) No Thinkin' Thing", and "Heads Carolina, Tails California". The audience especially appreciated it when he was joined by his daughter, Sophie, on a new song they co-wrote called "Sailing On". "I love my children... all five of them," Mark noted with a smile. "My daughter asked me to write with her after she returned from the Peace Corps." The poignant lyric includes the lines, "It's hard to leave, but you go because you have to... Love can be a distant island." I was glad Mark left one of his best songs for last (one I definitely needed to hear that night). "I Hope You Dance" remains one of my favorite country songs. How many times have we shyly sat on a chair while others danced around us?

Like family... Great music and good times

         In retrospect, hanging out at Douglas Corner was the perfect thing to do on the second night of "Tin Pan South". I feel encouraged... looking forward to hearing more talented artists and writing more songs.
-- Chuck Whiting, MCAU Editor

All photos by Chuck Whiting.

See photos from the TPS Opening Party at the Roundabout at

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