this monday at the hideout + station inn
Good grief, this is last-minute, but Greg Cahill joins me tonight, and the two of us will play guitar-banjo and banjo-banjo music. Rumor has it that Ollie O'Shea, the heroic fiddler, trad-country expert, drug lord, multiple shooting victim, fez champion, and certifiable lunatic will be dropping by to play. The usual "Warning: Traditional Bluegrass Music Will Be Played During Tonight's Performance" signs will be posted in the Hideout foyer.
Last Saturday's show at the Station Inn in Nashville was one of the most memorable of my life. Thanks to all who came to watch -- a nice big crowd, and generous as well. I was on a cloud for most of the day: the four of us, Shad Cobb, Chris Scruggs, Aaron Till and I, met at 11:00 that morning at Chris's house to go over the set. We started strumming through and stacking vocals on "Georgia Hard," and I thought, Jesus Lord, this is really something else, playing with these guys. Then Shad started fiddling and it got better yet. And then Noam Pikelny walked through the front door with his fucking banjo, and somehow it got even better; the rhythm feel just started to float. To be honest, the rehearsal was better than the show (though that's no complaint).
As I mentioned during the set, I first played the venerable and irreplaceable Station Inn (which was formerly a black R&B joint, a venue for the likes of T-Bone Walker and Howlin' Wolf, according to Aaron Till, an interesting tidbit that was news to me) in the late 1980s with Special Consensus. It was always a non-relaxed situation, because it was where the best guys in your field played, and of course in the world's most competitive (and knowledgeably watchful, you could feel the eyes, and ears too, every note heard) town for country-style instrumentalists. Also, in those days, you tended to cultivate more best-behavior delicacy walking into a Southern bluegrass venue, especially if you were a non-first-tier group from Yankeeland. If you didn't know the people running the joint very well and they were over 50, you treaded with care and kept it about music. The specter of conflicting visions on things like politics, race, the American military, and the Bible hung, sometimes dimly but usually palpably, in those places. Not nearly so much anymore, not in modern-day Nashville anyhow.
Well, I didn't know the guys running the Station very intimately then and still don't, but all the same, playing there Saturday felt a little like returning to a high school where you spent four mainly successful but marginally traumatic years of your young life, and burning down the gym. Afterward, I felt relaxed enough to walk up to the lady at bar and ask with a smile, "Who do I have to blow to get a can of beer around here?" Soon as the words left my mouth, I thought, Uh-oh, am I getting a tad too relaxed? She responded by pointing to the pretty young lady mopping the floor. "If you get your stuff off the stage in the next five minutes, she'll give you a blow job," she said cheerily. "Okay!" I said. "No, I won't," the young lady said, a little gloomily. Once this train of though started, I couldn't get off it, I guess because I was so happy from the show. "Who do I have to blow to get a blow job around here?" I yelled.
On a more grown-up note, the performance had moments that, as I said, I'll never forget: Shad's brilliantly drifting dyads on "The Buck Starts Here," Aaron's straight-over-dotted-eight Monroe banging on "Sometimes the Grass Is Really Greener," Chris's groovy slapping on "That's What I Like About the South," Noam's insane algebra on any of a dozen solos. Then the guests -- Ron Spears bringing down the house (salting the burned remains of the gym) with his screaming high B's on "Today Has Been A Lonesome Day" and Gail Davies harmonizing with me on the Everlys' "Problems" and Webb Pierce's great "Tupelo County Jail." What a blast! My villainous plan is to make the night stand less prominent in my mind, by doing some more shows like that, with players like that -- those players, fingers crossed! -- in the years to come. My musical world is wider than bluegrass, but when I've written some and want to play it with others, there's nothing quite like bluegrass gods for the job. Much love and thanks to the quartet, Lin and Robin at the Station, Ben Surratt and Missy Raines, Gail Davies and Rob Price, Ron Spears, David and Sharon Wykoff, and Lorne Rall. And it was great getting to meet and hang at the after-party with Roland White and Kathy Chiavola.