Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Americana Fest: Tim O'Brien, Paul Burch, Shawn Colvin, and Steve Earle Create Lasting Memories
By Wil Comstock
Music City Arts Contributing Writer
Tuesday, September 20th at City Winery:
I decided to stay put for the first night of Americana Music Fest. I wanted to save my strength for the late nights that lie before me. This evening turned out to have some pleasant surprises.
Tim O’Brien, 8 p.m.
I was excited to see Tim O’Brien having enjoyed his solo efforts over the years. Tim did not disappoint. Tim kicked off with the toe tapping “Working” displaying his fiery finger work moving across the strings. I loved the personal “Family History” and “Not Afraid of Dying” a song about his 96-year-old father, who had recently passed on. I enjoyed the crowd-pleaser “Chicken and Eggs” and the touching “The Water is Wise”. Tim sang the eternal “Go Down To the Water” off of Billy Bragg’s Mermaid Avenue, lyrics by Woody Guthrie with music by Bragg. He ended his set with James Brown’s “Get Up Off of That Thing” to the delight of the hand clapping, foot stomping crowd.
Paul Burch, 9 p.m.
This was the surprise show of the night... I loved it! Paul played through his latest album “Meridian Rising”, which tells the story of his hero Jimmy Rodgers. This is an imagined musical autobiography. Sounds a little crazy but Burch really pulled this off. When Rodgers was growing up, Meridian was a railroad crossroads. He was exposed to all of the current music of his day. Burch takes these rhythms that the rails brought to Meridian and incorporates them into this project. Burch’s vintage 1940 Gibson L-48 Sunburst was the perfect vehicle for these songs. The blues of “Meridian” and “Cadillacin” had me shaking my head in agreement. “Black Lady Blues” was reminiscent of Django Reinhart. The dirty wail of the alto sax and clarinet on “Gunter Hotel Blues” reminded me of vaudeville on a hot steamy night. Surprise guest Billy Bragg joined in on “If I Could Only Catch My Breath”, supported by a soaring clarinet. This is a show I will not easily forget.
Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle, 10 p.m.
I was a little skeptical how this pairing might work. But they turned out to share the same magic that worked vocally for Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, silk and sandpaper. From the first chorus of their co-write “Come What May”, I was hooked. Then they nailed one of my all time favorite songs, We Fives’ “You Were on My Mind”. Okay, I’m in heaven... it can’t get any better… then Shawn introduced the Emmylou Harris-penned “Raise the Dead”. I’ve got a big smile listening to this one. Next I hear the familiar words, “She would never say where she came from." Shawn and Steve sounded like “Ruby Tuesday” was written just for them... they owned it! Steve delivered “Burnin’ It Down”, and Shawn countered with her hit “Sonny” as Earle backed her up on the bouzouki . Earle explained that he started to write “Tell Moses” when he was in Israel several years ago. It is a song about heroes, first Moses, then Martin Luther King, and since there isn’t a hero in the forefront now, it’s about the people raising up and making their voice heard. A great catchy spiritual song. They closed the evening with a song producer Buddy Miller’s wife Julie started and handed over to Shawn who added a verse and gave it to Earle who wrote the chorus. Shawn did not know the first verse was about Julie’s father’s death when she wrote the second verse about her dad’s passing. Earle knew none of this when he wrote the chorus to “You’re Still Gone”. These tender and heartfelt vocals almost had me crying.
Sam Bush, 11 p.m.
It was time to go home... couldn’t find the waitress so I could pay the bill. I ended up leaving to the driving bluegrass of mandolin virtuoso Sam Bush. What an unforgettable night!