As I sit in our hotel room on a hot Saturday afternoon in what was once the Union Station railroad terminal that opened in 1900, I have images of Jim McGuire’s Nashville Portraits series running through my mind, fresh from viewing them an hour ago. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, where the Nashville Portraits are on display, is just next door, making it a rather convenient situation. Housed inside an historic 1930’s art deco building built originally as Nashville’s main post office, our love of this periods architecture was also quenched.
Below is one of the images from the exhibit, taken in 1975, of a young Guy and Susanna Clark. To get an even better feel for these two classic characters, indulge yourself with the amazing film about Townes Van Zandt, entitled Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt.
Friday night in Nashville brought me a bit of Dinosaur Jr. and The Black Keys (from Akron, Oh…Go Zips!) at City Hall, which accentuated the same show seen Thursday night in Atlanta. The Black Keys ripped it, ever fine-tuning the possibility of damn good two-person bands.
In between sets, David and I wandered over to The Station Inn across the street, sometimes touted as the worlds most popular bluegrass club. We caught a couple of short sets by Blind Corn Liquor Pickers from Kentucky. While their picking was wonderful, I am sad to report that they might opt for an alternate lead singer, in lieu of their newest member, Beth Walker. I don’t want to be mean here, but it was literally painful to listen to her at times. I applaud people following their dreams, and it takes courage to even get on stage, so props to Ms. Walker for that. Still, the vocals were ill-suited to the incredible sounding music behind them.
Saturday evening brought us to Opryland, which is exactly what you think it to be if your image includes families of church-goin’ Americans, sandals with socks, and cheese fries. It was Jim Lauderdale, one of our favorites, that brought us there, though. Unfortunately, there seemed to be some mixed information as to when he was going to play, so he only played one song. We decided against waiting over two more hours in the oppressive heat to catch his next set, but am sure we’ll see Jim again.
Which creates a perfect segueway to our Saturday night show at the Douglas Corner Cafe. The night started with the kindness of a stranger, Shannon Cain, who offered us a seat at his AWESOME table (all the seats were taken, with not much room to stand anywhere, so this was, indeed, an appreciated gesture, and we gladly accepted.) Unbeknownst to us, Chris Masterson (of Son Volt fame) opened, accompanied by the incredibly talented and beautiful Eleanor Whitmore on violin, mandolin, and vocals. Truly amazing and mesmorizing. Next up was Bruce Robison, another incredible singer/songwriter, also accompanied by Ms. Whitmore.
Interestingly, I just learned that Jim Lauderdale “discovered” Bruce, connecting Bruce to his publisher, helping to kick-start Robsion’s ability to sell his songs to Nashville. It seems this is a path many take, including Lauderdale himself. While Bruce’s sister-in-law, Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks, helped to make his song “Travelin’ Soldier” a hit, many other Nashville artists are eating up his writing, helping to provide a lucrative career for the talented Robison. And I love it when great musicians get paid.
All three of the nights performers hail from the incredibly musical state of Texas, and I am sure make routine rounds in the cojointly musical state of Tennesee. Although Nashville is better known for its cheese covered popular country, it is fully oozing with amazing music of all types, sans the cheese, and offered us an incredibly musical weekend.