Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Americana Fest: Songs From Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us

By Wil Comstock
MCAU Contributing Writer

Mercyland Concert, 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22 at Downtown Presbyterian Church:

         I am so glad I attended this show. I enjoyed talking to people as we sat on the front steps of Downtown Presbyterian waiting for the doors to open. We shared our church backgrounds, or lack of…  What a treat once we were inside. The 1850s-era church was designed in the Egyptian revival style.

John Paul White and Emmylou Harris

         Phil Madeira, on guitar, hosted the show backed by the Red Dirt Boys, Emmylou Harris’ former band (Will Kimbrough, guitar; Chris Donohue, bass; and Bryan Owings, drums).

         Madeira is the man behind the CD “Mercyland. For this show, he rounded up some of the best and heartfelt musicians in town to join him. Among the guests were The McCrary Sisters, The Wood Brothers, John Paul White (The Civil Wars), Sarah Potenza (an alto like none other you have ever heard), and Emmylou Harris.

         To quote audience member Jake Burkhalter, “It's a joy and a rare treat in my otherwise humdrum life to be lifted up and reminded through song of the sublime beauty, sorrow, sacrifice, love and redemption that the world has to offer. Thank you!”  That sure sums it up for me. What a show!

Americana Fest: Dwight Yoakam Delights Crowd at Mercy Lounge

By Wil Comstock
MCAU Contributing Writer

Dwight Yoakam, 11 p.m. Sept. 21 at Mercy Lounge

            By the time this show started, I had stood for five hours. Four hours at the AMA’s closed  circuit viewing at The Family Wash and one hour during Green River Ordinance’s performance. It was worth it!  It was my birthday, and staying up late and seeing Dwight was my present to myself!   

            Yoakam grew up listening to Bluegrass. "Being born in Pikeville, Kentucky, it's been inevitable from the beginning of my career - from the beginning of my life - that I would end up making a bluegrass record" he told Billboard magazine.  Dwight recently recorded eleven of his deep catalog songs with bluegrass arrangements for his new album “Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars...” a reference to the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. Producers Gary Paczosa and Jon Randall rounded up some of the best pickers in town for this project.  Bryan Sutton on guitar, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Barry Bales on bass, Adam Steffey on mandolin, and banjo player Scott Vestal. These are the players, plus Jon Randall, that came out to back Dwight for this show! Chris Lord Alge, who mixed the album, insisted on coming out to do sound!  

            They played through the whole album, delighting the crowd and giving me goose bumps on numbers like “What I Don’t Know”,  “These Arms”, Two Doors Down”, “Guitars, Cadillacs” and  “Please, Please Baby”. These songs were made for Bluegrass! The delivery was impeccable. Dwight joked that he was the only one on stage making mistakes. Yoakam finished with the tender “Gone (That’ll Be Me)”. Coming  back for an encore, on a somber note, Yoakam said that while they were recording, they got word one morning that Prince had died.  Dwight explained that the love of music crosses all genres. He asked the band that morning if they could play a Prince song. While the tape was rolling, they went into “Purple Rain”, never intending for it to end up on the album. This is the song they closed with and the last song on Yoakam’s new album.   


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Americana Fest Kicks off on Sept. 20 with Parties, Shows and Camaraderie

          NASHVILLE - The Americana Music Fest kicked off on Sept. 20 with parties and live music. Here are a few "casual" photos from some of the shows. Americana Fest draws musicians and fans from all over the world. To learn more about the festival, visit (Photos by Chuck Whiting, MCAU editor)

The Suffers perform at the BMI Kickoff Party overlooking downtown Nashville.

The BMI Kickoff Party was sponsored by Dickel.
Downtown Nashville from the roof of BMI headquarters on Music Row.

Tim O'Brien performs at City Winery.

Paul Burch & WPA Ballclub perform at City Winery.

Colvin & Earle perform at City Winery.
Colvin & Earle perform at City Winery.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Alison Krauss and Steve Earle to Headline Honors and Awards Show at Americana Music Fest

         NASHVILLE — Legendary artists Alison Krauss, Bob Weir, Steve Earle and Joe Henry will open the Americana Music Association’s 15th Annual Honors & Awards show on Sept. 21 with a musical presentation to honor the legacies of Guy Clark, Merle Haggard, Dr. Ralph Stanley and Allen Toussaint – giants of Americana and the American musical landscape.

         The tribute will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. on the stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium. Known for promoting the next generation of stars, including Jason Isbell, Margo Price and The Lumineers, the Americana Music Association has always revered and paid tribute to the legacy and artistic history of its tightly knit community. In keeping with tradition, the Honors & Awards show will close in celebration of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who marks its 50th anniversary this year. The band will be joined by several artists in an unforgettable performance of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken".

         "We encourage attendees to the program to be in their seats by 6:15 p.m. Central Time," the organization said in a special announcement to festival-goers.

         The 17th Annual Americana Music Festival & Conference takes place in Nashville from Sept. 20-25. For more information about the Honors & Awards show, AmericanaFest, the Americana Music Conference, and membership to the Americana Music Association, visit

         Festival wristbands are priced at $60 for the week and are available at or in person at all participating nighttime venues, Grimey's New & Pre-Loved Music and The Groove in East Nashville. Conference registrations are still available at the walk up rate of $475 at Americana Headquarters in the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel at 623 Union St. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

'The Ryman Diaries' to Return for Captain Tom Ryman's 175th Birthday

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. (September 2016) – Actor/playwrights Tom Dolan and Debbie Mathis Watts will help celebrate the 175th birthday of Music City legend Captain Tom Ryman by staging their multi-media musical stage play "The Ryman Diaries" at Miss Jeanne's Mystery Dinner Theatre. 

            Theatre-goers can enjoy the show with dinner on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 16. Showtimes are 7 p.m. (dinner) and 8 p.m. (show only) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. (brunch) and 2:30 p.m. (show only) on Sunday. There will be a special school matinee at 2 p.m. Oct. 7 (Friday). Admission is $38 (show with dinner) and $18 (show only). 

            Captain Ryman was born on Oct. 12, 1841. Described as a 19th Century love story, "The Ryman Diaries" is a historical drama that depicts the life and times of Cumberland riverboat Captain Tom Ryman as told through the eyes of his wife, Bettie Baugh Ryman. The story covers 70 years of the couple's lives through film media, stage acting, and original musical numbers. It tells of their unlikely romance, marriage, entrepreneurship, raising children on a riverboat, ultimate success, Christian conversion at a tent meeting, and the building of the Union Gospel Tabernacle (later named the Ryman Auditorium).

            The play, which is based on Watts' book, was formatted to the stage and directed by Dolan. The actors penned seven original songs for the production. Film clips feature flashbacks of young Bettie and historical stills provided by the Metro Archives. 

          "We are thrilled to offer a show with dinner on Captain Ryman's 175th birthday," said Watts, a former producer for various shows on TNN: The Nashville Network. "He and his wife Bettie were true romantics who laid the musical foundation for Middle Tennessee." 

            A veteran educator, professional pianist-vocalist, and author, Watts' theatrical roles include Mollie in "Mousetrap" and Agnes in "I Do, I Do". 

            Dolan has received national acclaim starring as Elwood P. Dowd in "Harvey", Dr. Albert Schweitzer in "Memoirs from Africa", and Sam Clemens in "Mark Twain Live". He first portrayed Ryman for Gaylord Entertainment and considers it "a deep honor to revive this portrayal of the Nashville icon." 

            Miss Jeanne's Mystery Dinner Theatre is located at 2416 Music Valley Drive. To buy tickets for "The Ryman Diaries", call (615) 902-9566 or visit For more information about the play, send an e-mail inquiry to or visit

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Folk-Bluegrass-Americana Artist Mary Beth Cross to Celebrate Top-10 Album With Denver Concert

            DENVER (September 2016) – Award-winning folk-bluegrass-Americana artist Mary Beth Cross will celebrate her Top-10 hit bluegrass-Americana EP, "Feels Like Home", with a concert at 8 p.m. Oct. 15 (Saturday) at Swallow Hill Music, 71 E. Yale Ave. in Denver. 

            Admission is $12 in advance and $14 day of show. To buy tickets, visit The artist will be joined by the Denver-based bluegrass band Meadow Mountain Music.

Mary Beth Cross performs with Meadow Mountain Music

            Cross's latest project celebrates the importance of home in the lives of average, everyday Americans. The eight-song EP climbed to number nine on Roots Music Report's Alternative Folk Albums Chart. It features originals, as well as classics written and/or performed by legendary artists such as Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Garry White, Van Morrison, George Gershwin, and Dubose Heyward. The EP is dedicated to her late nephew, Christopher Chmiel, who died unexpectedly in 2015. 

            "My latest project includes cover songs that are part of the tapestry of my upbringing in Wisconsin, as well as originals that reflect my current home in Colorado," said Cross, whose last project, "Beyond Good and Evil", was named "2014 Folk-Country CD of the Year" by the National Traditional Country Music Association. 

            Among the covers is "Kathy's Song", a classic written and recorded by folk-pop legend Paul Simon. To download selections from the EP, visit You can learn more about Mary Beth Cross at

Award-Winning Artist/Instructor Gail McDaniel to Teach Watercolor Painting Course Near Atlanta

            ATLANTA (September 2016) -- Gail McDaniel, an acclaimed watercolorist who, by invitation, has served as an associate member and demonstrating artist/instructor for the prestigious Winsor & Newton Creative Artist Network of London, will lead an eight-week watercolor painting course this fall near Atlanta.

            The course will be offered to beginning, intermediate and advanced artists on selected Wednesday afternoons starting Oct. 5 at Griffin First United Methodist Church, 1401 Maple Drive in Griffin, Georgia. Sessions will occur from 1-4 p.m. on Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26; and Nov. 2, 9, 16 and 30. The class will not meet on Nov. 23.

            The artist/instructor will provide insights on composition, perspective, value, color theory and application. She also will demonstrate some of the techniques that have helped make her an award-winning artist, including abstract under paintings, disappearing purples, painting on Masa Paper, white on white, monotype paintings, let it flow, texturize your paintings, portraits, reflective surfaces, and wax-resist Batik. The course is structured to serve artists at all skill levels, from the very raw beginner to the most advanced. McDaniel will close each session with individual critiques.

            Because space is limited for the classes, reservations are required. Tuition is $165 for all eight-class sessions. For more information or to register, contact the artist by phone at (678) 603-1502 or send an inquiry to Individuals can learn more about the artist/instructor and view her artwork at

            Before moving to Georgia, McDaniel spent more than 20 years working as a professional watercolorist and art instructor in Nashville and Brentwood, Tenn. During that time, she taught more than 1,300 students in classes and workshops around the world. A number of her former students have developed into professional artists with exhibitions and commissions.

            "Some people come to find out if they can paint in watercolor," said the artist, who painted the invitation cover for "A Little Night of Music" starring country superstar LeAnn Rimes. "Like me, others love the look of watercolor paintings and want to learn the medium. Many come for the change of pace and the new, wonderful, relaxing challenge it brings. The intermediate and advanced students come to me to grow in the medium."

            Over the years, McDaniel has seen the positive change that comes over many people when they spend three hours with her creatively thinking from the right side of their brain.

            "It's truly a night-and-day change, not to mention the fun they have," McDaniel added. "Many who come to me with no art background find they really have a true talent for painting. Some of them never had the slightest notion they had any talent. It's such an outstanding reward for them and a source of real pleasure for me."

            A good example is Phyllis Tatum, a watercolorist who studied with McDaniel for 14 years in Middle Tennessee. She and her fellow students were thrilled when she won four blue ribbons and a red ribbon at the Tennessee State Fair. Her crowing achievement came later when she won the fair's "Best of Show", a rare occurrence in watercolor circles.

            McDaniel fondly remembers receiving a thank you note from former student Suzy Foy of Estes Park, Colo., who wrote, "My whole life I have dreamt about being an artist... I never believed I could live that dream, one painting at a time. Because of my workshops, mentoring and support (from McDaniel), it is happening."

            "One of the obvious results of classes is the togetherness that comes upon the group," McDaniel noted. "Friendships develop, and with that interest in each other's lives and the happenings and events in their world. The group watches children grow up, grandchildren being born, and members die. The group celebrates the joys together, as well as the sad times, giving special support. Sometimes, our paintings reflect those experiences."

            The classes near Atlanta should be no exception. McDaniel will demonstrate the techniques, shortcuts and concepts that she has developed or learned by doing, reading or studying with others. She plans to show her students everything she knows, holding nothing back. Her goal is to inspire them without making them feel overwhelmed.

            During her career, McDaniel has trained artists from 36 different states (including Alaska and Hawaii), the District of Columbia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea. She has taught 11 workshops at historic Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, a landmark where the late Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted. She also served as a member of the arts faculty of Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art.

            In 2002, she and her husband, Ken, launched the "Students and Friends of Gail McDaniel Awards", raising almost $90,000 for the visual arts in Middle Tennessee public schools. The fundraising effort earned Gail and Ken a nomination in the "volunteer innovator" category of the 2009 Mary Catherine Strobel Award. In 2012, the artist was named the PENCIL Foundation's "Volunteer of the Year".

            Before leaving Tennessee, she received an award for "Excellence in Community Service" from the Travelers Rest Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was inducted into the Cave City, Ky., Hall of Fame and named (as an eighth generation Kentuckian) to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels as one of  "Kentucky's ambassadors of good will and fellowship around the world."

            In 2001, she was invited by directors of the "Art in Provence" program to conduct an eight-day watercolor workshop in Dieulefit, France. She studied under 38 noted art instructors to help build her reputation as one of the South's top artists/instructors. -- even accepting a commission to paint a family landmark for former Kentucky Gov. Louie B. Nunn.

            For more information about Gail McDaniel or to see her work, visit

Author Odie Lindsey to Lead Panel Discussion at Americana Music Fest on Sept. 22

         NASHVILLE -- Author/professor/veteran of both the Iraq war and the music business Odie Lindsey has been tapped to lead a panel discussion titled "Songwriters and Scribes: Storytelling in Song and Fiction" at Americana Fest in Nashville at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Sheraton Nashville.  
         Lindsey's startling debut short story collection published by W.W. Norton, "We Come To Our Senses," was inspired by a Willie Nelson song, and he is uniquely suited to guide fellow writers Bonnie Bishop, Billy Bragg, Mary Gauthier, and Alice Randall in a discussion on the intersection of literature and song.
         Lindsey is a Gulf War combat veteran and former hardcore kid who teaches literature at Vanderbilt University. "We Come To Our Senses" has earned praise everywhere from The Nashville Scene (“voice for a generation”) to The New York Times (“The book captures our culture now, its pop references flaring, familiar and embarrassing: a counterpunch to every ad you watch.”).
         Lindsey’s writing explores facets of the American veteran experience that stories like "American Sniper" or "The Hurt Locker" don’t touch. "We Come To Our Senses" shines a light on individuals already marginalized by society – often female and/or LGBT – who must come to grips with returning home from far-off war zones, into situations that often seem just as bad.
         For more information on this year's AmericanaFest, visit
         For more information on Odie Lindsey, visit