Nashville or Bust

The trip that started a longer journey

Thinking Back — Looking Forward

We never had a chance to comment on our final day in Nashville. Perhaps it was because it was so sweet, we decided to hold on to it awhile. While all the events leading to Saturday were just plain fantastic, it was the little things that happened during our “last call” so to speak that still have me buzzing with so many good feelings. I can’t help but smile when I think of that afternoon.

We decided to skip on conference activities in order to make good on our promise to see Jake Mauer and his band tear things up at Tootsie’s. Ah yes, Tootsie’s and Jake. That’s really how this whole crazy affair with Nashville got started a few years back. It was a fluke that has turned into a friendship and following over the miles. I could really get philosophical right now but I’ll save you that. Just know that we believe the circumstances that caused us to bump into Jake three years ago were intended to help us see things a bit differently…  and find focus on what really  brings out our happy. Beer not required.

Jake was playing the 2:00 to 5:30 afternoon slot and he generally has a good crowd. But when we got there at 3:00, the place was PACKED. I wasn’t sure if Dave was going to be able to make it for more than a few songs without a place to sit, but once again the bar stool gods smiled upon us. Wedged waaaay back at the ‘big table’ were two empty seats. A polite inquiry and purchase of a round and we were invited to join a haphazard party in progress. That’s Tootsie’s for you.

There was a lot of banter going on between the stage and the crowd — half of which were Georgia Bulldog fans in town for the big game at Vandy. Jake treated them kindly and in return they made sure he and the band were hydrated and rewarded. (You don’t request a song without the proper dead president attached, now hear.) Things got a bit testy when the band fired up “Rockytop.” *snicker* Just when it seemed right for a brawl to break out,  Jake’s fiddle player took command with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” People where a’whompin’ and a’stompin’. It felt good to be there taking in all the unadulterated ruckus. We chatted with our table mates and swayed with the music. We smiled up at the faded 8 x 10 images of the legends who had graced this place over the years. We realized how much we loved that quirky little bar with all its quirky memories. We got sentimental thinking about the past year, and excited plotting the years to come.

And while that was our internal feeling in the two seats waaaay in the back, it quickly became external. Jake, the incredible guy that he is, dedicated a very special toast to Dave and let everyone know that he was in town for a reason. As he put it, this was Dave’s “I kicked Cancer Tour” — and to that, all those fine people raised their beers. Not too many people get a “Holler ‘n Swaller” in their honor. In that moment, Dave took my kiss from Jim Lauderdale and raised it by 10. Booyah!

Of course, Jake and the band played “Wagon Wheel” and we realized this silly song has become an anthem of sorts. Our table mates were clinking our bottles and people patted Dave on the back. Everybody sang along (Dave took the girl part) and through the smiles and the festivity, we each let a tear hit the floor as we held on.

And that’s where I’ll let this story come to its wonderful close — cryin’ in a honky-tonk while the guitar part comes around again. Appropriate, agree?  I mean come on… this is Nashville.

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October 29, 2011 Posted by | AmericanaFest 2011, Dave | Leave a comment

Americana Music Festival and Conference, Day 3

Some days are just beautiful and some nights are just incredible. Friday was that way.

We woke up a bit slow as our clocks are working in reverse. Still reeling from the awards we decided to get out of the downtown grid for a bit and explore neighborhoods. Road trip within a road trip. Dig.

First on our list was to check out East Nashville, in particular the 5-points region. It’s a funky area filled with just about everything, including this:

Behold, the I Dream of Weenie microbus hot dog stand. We had a chance to talk with the Hot Dog man and we decided if timing works, we’re going to shoot back over for brunch on Sunday. It just proves that if you keep your concept central, really great things can emerge.

Right next to the microbus is Fanny’s House of Music. We decided to take a peek and boy were we surprised. Not only were there rooms of vintage guitars, amps and pedals but wouldn’t you know… vintage clothes, too. As I posted out on Facebook it was the perfect ‘His and Hers’ stop.

Dave couldn’t resist picking a bit on an old National. The folks who came in and out of the shop were from the neighborhood — musicians, artists, young parents. It was neat to hang out and get a different perspective of the total Nashville scene. It isn’t all rhinestone and cowboy. There is edge here, too, but its all collaborative, creating a vibrant texture we’ve yet to experience in other places.

So what do you go see after getting your hippie on? Well, you head west to the pastoral Natchez Trace in search of love. Yes folks despite the gooey pictures, we don’t have quite enough love between us. The magnet that I bought in the airport my first trip to Nashville in 2006 has been haunting us. It was time.

Destination: The Loveless Cafe. Desire: Biscuits and Country Ham. Expectations: Everything and Nothing. End Result: We don’t kiss and tell.

Even though we got there after lunch, the place was packed and Dave needed to eat. Lucky for us, we could order take-out and take advantage of the brilliant weather and handy picnic tables. It was an ideal way to soak up this landmark and treasure. We wondered who stayed in the motel 50 years ago. Honeymooners? Lonely hearts? Bank robbers? When the guitar comes back around you always need to give a nod to the bank robbers. It’s a rule.

Someday we’d like to come back and drive more of the 400+ mile loop of the Natchez Trace. Someday when we didn’t have a date night planned with our Buddy. On to music talk…

Now, I don’t know who has the bigger Buddy Miller crush… but Dave and I can’t get enough of this guy. It was a thrill and frankly, an honor, to see him accept his awards for both Instrumentalist of the Year and Artist of the Year at the awards show. We’ve seen him live two other times sharing the stage with amazing artists. We jokingly say we should ask Buddy and his wife Julie over for coffee and pie sometimes. We’d love nothing more than to just talk with him. He’s one of the most genuine and gracious people in the industry. And last night we had the chance to see him on stage with the dynamic and entertaining, Jim Lauderdale. So, while we were loving our respite we were also anxious to get ready for the Friday Night Showcase at the Cannery Ballroom.

The original line-up had a start time of 9:00 with Keb Mo. Buddy and Jim were scheduled at 10:00 and the North Mississippi All-Stars at 11:00. Not bad, right? It really was a fluke that I checked the website while we were getting ready because literally while we were noshing on biscuits, the music angels added The Secret Sisters to the line-up at 8:00. We first heard of the Secret Sisters early this year and I’ve probably spun their CD a zillion times. Theirs is one of those incredible ‘discovery’ stories and to have their first album produced by T Bone Burnett a stroke of excellent fortune. Dave and I had each voted for them as Emerging New Artist and were giddy to see them sing the previous night at the Ryman. The opportunity to catch them up-close and personal was our stroke of excellent fortune. It was great set and we loved the fact that they shared one guitar back and forth. Simple and beautiful. They previewed some of their new material as well as covered some of their favorites. Definitely ones to watch and enjoy for many, many years.

By now you know that almost every blog post is going to include one of those (in)famous ‘Dave and Jacqui Encounters.’ As the Sisters (what we call ’em) were winding up, they announced that they would be at their merchandise table to meet and great. Dave nudged me and said, “You should go say hello to the Sisters.” Why not, right? So, while he held our seats and Keb Mo was setting up, I wandered into the hall to wait and see if I could say hello and share with them our appreciation.

That’s what I was expecting to do and, while it did happen, sumptin-sumptin else happened, too. Jim Lauderdale arrived. Yeah, just like that. He was carrying his own guitar and walked right through the front door and into the lobby. I just happened to look up and see him and he was looking my way. It was bizarre as we were 5 feet from each other. I couldn’t be rude so I simply said, “Hello, Mr. Lauderdale” expecting nothing more than perhaps a nod. Boy, was I surprised when he said, “Why hello” and proceeded to thank me for coming to the show, hug me and kiss me on the cheek. (I’m still laughing as I write this because it was so … WOW.)

Laura and Lydia arrived a few minutes later. It was really nice just to let them know how much their music is enjoyed. They were sweet too and let me snap a photo. Beautiful people inside and out.

By the time I got back in the ballroom, Keb Mo was on stage with his son on drums. Dave had a funny look on his face and just shook his head. He was hoping to hear Keb play — and the drums were drowning him out. Then there was the issue with the lights… and his tuning… and the monitors. All in all, Keb was on stage for 22 minutes and they weren’t a good 22 minutes. The set was rescued when Keb saw one of his friends in the audience, Colin Linden who co-wrote “Life is Beautiful” with him. Keb invited him up to sing along and then surprisingly, handed his guitar to Colin. Zing! Without a warm-up or anything, Colin Linden smashed that song and had so much fun doing so. A big dose of sweet to counter-act the bitter. We’re glad we got to experience that otherwise it would have been a “Keb No” in our book.

A lot of people were disgruntled with the short set so they left to catch a different venue. This just made what was about to happen a bit more intimate. Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale took the stage along with the just-as-amazing Greg Leisz on pedal steel. It was an historic set because while these two have known each other for 30+ years and have shared a stage, they had never co-lined a full performance. In front of us were the Fathers of Americana doing what they do best — and if Jim Lauderdale’s kiss made me blush that hour of music had me on cloud nine. Dave, too. Buddy was just genuine and flawless. His voice can be so damned powerful and yet so sweet and gentle. Jim is just fun to watch. Their collaborations on both “Don’t Wait” and one of our favorites “Hole In My Head” had us stomping and grinning from ear to ear.

If happiness had a sound it would have been that. And we were just two giddy happy campers in the midst of it all. Sparks were flying all around. And guess what? They took last night’s opportunity to announce that after all this time, they are going to make a record together. Hot Butter Yes.

We didn’t think we had it in us to take in the crush that was inevitable with the NMAS crowd so we decided to head back home. Again our heads were spinning. Two fools lucky in love life and music. It’s always great when you can end the night on such a high note. ~Jacqui

October 15, 2011 Posted by | AmericanaFest 2011, Everyday | Leave a comment

Americana Music Festival and Conference, Day 2

My mind is still spinning from yesterday. So much so I’m not sure where to begin or what to put down.

If you want to fast forward to some good coverage of the Americana Music Awards show, click here for the official story. I still can’t believe that a.) we got to vote for all those fine awards and b.) we got to see the show itself! Some of our picks panned out, others didn’t. But all in all, an excellent time.

Yesterday found us taking in a lot of things prior to the “big show” at The Ryman. And as creatures of habit, some of our very favorite things. We took a break from lanyards and swag bags and found time for a little stroll. Impromptu stroll shot. Happy faces. Love life!

First stop, Gruhn Guitars. What a treat to stop in mid-day, mid-week when the place was somewhat empty. We made sure not to drool… too much. Dave had his eye on a Gretsch Country Gentleman before we strolled over to the acoustic section. While I have my faves, I’ve always loved the look (and sound when played by others than I) of the Gibson Hummingbird. Of course, there had to be one there with the red sides. And I had to remind Dave… don’t touch!

The stop at Gruhn was productive. Dave was able to ask the pros a few questions regarding my mom’s Martin (we learned some things about pre-1985 Martins) and I loaded up on guitar picks. We also had one of those classic ‘Dave & Jacqui’ encounters with a fellow traveler.

His name is Ben. He’s a retired Criminal Justice professor from Texas A&M… yes, as in REK & Lyle College Station. ANYWAY we bumped into Ben as he was picking up this guitar.

Now there’s quite a back story to this (and I’m sure y’all are scratching your heads as I’m leaving it at that) but I do hope that he and his wife have a grand drive through Kentucky into West Virginia. Find that jam, Ben … and then find eBay. Yours is a glorious plan.

Our wanderings took us to Hatch Show Print. All the cool cats were there (Huey & Maow) and it was fun to chat with the folks who keep this little bit of Americana in motion.


It also was great to get a bit whiff of printer’s ink. It’s better than coffee in the morning, any day. (And you know how I love my coffee.) If you aren’t familiar with Hatch then I highly recommend this great piece about its history.

As we were leaving Hatch, Dave started to ask me if I wanted to look at boots. I love it when he talks to me that way. So we started to meander once again. For grins we went into Boot Country where you can buy one pair at regular price and get two pair free. I don’t know why we go into that store because really, they will never have that dream boot of mine. By nature, the store and it’s wares a bit pedestrian and touristy, a quantity versus quality experience. It was fun to look and easy to move on.

We spied a new place across the way called Betty Boots that we wanted to check. Just by the window you could tell this WAS more the place. Unfortunately, they had a no photo policy in store and that’s a shame. So many beautiful things I wanted to capture and stash in my dream book. Beautiful boots, clothes (all with vintage inspiration and flair), satchels. Dave kept encouraging me to try on a pair but I was a bit shy. Definitely closer and perhaps there (the aqua one with the red detail from the window is the one he kept picking up) but in time.

Now, while I’ve had my thing for boots, Dave has had his thing for hats. I’m not talking cowboy hats (as we all know that’s not quite ‘him’) but something else with a bit of flair. He almost left without it. But then it called back to him. Similar to the instantaneous bond between boy and puppy, this man and this hat were made for each other. Mission success!

We were able to meet up with Jake Mauer during his acoustic set at Rippy’s. He sat with us a bit to catch up and talk about his current project. It’s funny how this long-distance connection continues to thrive and like with a lot of things, I’m not questioning, just enjoying. Sometimes, people were just destined to meet up with other people. Jake played us ‘Wagon Wheel’ for old times sake and then with our encouragement, treated us to one of his new songs. It was splendid and we both really hope this guy gets his break. Funny thing, after he sang one of his songs someone came up to him and bought one of his CDs. He looked our way and I just said, “See… what happens when you play one of yours?” We’re going to catch up with Jake and his full band later this weekend.

So, I end this one with where I started… the 10th Annual Americana Awards show. Jim Lauderdale was the host and as he said what makes this genre of music so special is the people. People who put music first. Music that represents us all. As we sat in the Ryman, the Mother Church of Music filled with ghosts, spirit and splendor, we felt so right. And that in and of itself felt so good. What a treat. What a celebration. What a journey. Not just this past year but the past twenty-one.

The show had plenty of surprises and outstanding performances, too many for me to replay. But all jumbled up in my heart and my soul it took on a magic of its own. Rarely am I spellbound but for those few hours, it was a genuine emotion. For others in attendance, it was just another awards show. But for us, that night and that music will always be simply perfect. ~Jacqui

October 14, 2011 Posted by | AmericanaFest 2011, Dave, Everyday | 1 Comment

Americana Music Festival and Conference, Day 1

We start every journey with a picture… technically. It’s a goofy thing we’ve done since college. And wouldn’t you know it… on this epic road trip, we almost forgot. So this one was shot en motion. We’re living large and dangerous this week.

Needless to say, we made it to Nashville safe and sound and in good time. The ride was a little rough on Dave’s back but I’m happy to say much less so than this time last year. I realized as I woke up this morning that our trip literally falls on the anniversary of his first chemo treatment. What a difference a year can make.

Checking-in at the conference seemed a bit surreal. You just didn’t know who you were standing next to. Musicians, festival performers, industry people I follow on Twitter… they were all there, roaming around with their lanyards and (awesome!) swag bags. After giving our names, we got our credentials, too. This is a good club to be in, for certain.

A quick dip to Rippy’s for our traditional ‘welcome home’ meal at our favorite bar stools. It was early and mid-week so we didn’t see Tom & Lyle or Jake but the duo who were on stage were all right. Later they were joined by Kari Nelson on fiddle whom we have seen playing with Jake Mauer. Familiar faces, familiar places. It was nice to just kick back and relax for a little bit. Dave took advantage of the time to make his picks for the week to come. It’s impossible to see it and hear it all. So we’ll flex and take in what we can and what we like. All good.

We opted not to sit through any seminars on Wednesday afternoon — there are plenty lined up Thursday through Saturday. Our focus was set on catching one of five nightly showcases. Strategically, we’re aiming for one place each night so we can ‘lock and load’ and maintain a seat. So for night one, it was The Mercy Lounge to see The Gourds, The Kenny Vaughn Trio, Foster & Lloyd and Hayes Carll. Four acts, four hours. Ready? Go!

The Gourds had a fun set and a good sound. I’ve heard them on WDVX but they were new to Dave. He described them as a delightful mash-up of The Grateful Dead and Phish, with a little Van Morrison thrown in the mix. They got the crowd warmed up and had a lot of fun in the process. To me, that’s a good set. We really enjoyed them.

Now a note about this crowd… the people watching is some of the best. Eclectic yet welcoming and approachable. People were drinking but it wasn’t crazy. Folks were there to listen and really share in the experience. And the fashion? Pure vintage. Pure comfort. I’m glad I brought a bucket of boots and some of my fave vintage pieces but I admit, I could have brought more. Next time.

Next up on the dance card… The Kenny Vaughn Trio. We knew nothing about him but anticipated some sort of blusey-jazz fusion based on the name and the set-up: Guitar, drums and a small organ with a full pedal board. They, by far, were the surprise of the night for us. Excellent musicianship and a great groove. We heard so many influences in Kenny’s music. Just when you think you could pin it down there was something new in the texture. We grabbed Kenny’s new cd during the break because we both agreed this is something we want to listen to through headphones, not to mention over and over. Happy ears!

Every party has that moment — you know, that awkward lull. Last night it happened to be Foster & Lloyd’s set. I had seen their new video online, read up on them and was intrigued. A duo with a 25+ year history that’s making a go of it again. Unfortunately, their guitars weren’t in tune and their sound guy just couldn’t get the mix right. (Louder doesn’t fix it.) They seemed a bit frustrated but carried on. It was a long set but the crowd was supportive and attentive. Perhaps there is more to their story that I don’t know but beyond the mix woes, their material became very vanilla very quick to us. Bummer.

Last up for the night was Texas singer/songwriter, Hayes Carll. We discovered Hayes’ music several months ago and he was the reason we picked this line-up. So earlier in the evening when he was standing right next to us during The Gourds’ set, we felt kinda special. Then again, this whole experience is. Hayes’ set was everything we had hoped it would be and more. He pert near played his entire album plus a few earlier songs. His banter on stage was genuine and funny. To get the chance to see him so close in a small venue was simply fantastic. Dave thoroughly enjoyed hearing him live. And yes, KMAGYOYO was awesome.

Speaking of, I should be saying good-bye for now. Seminars start soon. Now that we have some music in our system, it’s time to learn new things and meet new people. ~Jacqui

October 13, 2011 Posted by | AmericanaFest 2011 | Leave a comment