Metro 50: Night Train to Nashville feat. Sam Bush, Del McCoury, Charles Walker & more
Catching up with some of Nashville’s finest R&B performers on a spring day is an excellent way to help celebrate Metro government’s 50th anniversary. Along with exhibits on the history of Metro over the last half-century, the afternoon festival will serve up local food, beer, crafts and an impressive slate of musical performances inspired by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s 2004-05 exhibit Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970. Nashville’s R&B and soul scene of the 1960s produced such hit-makers as Clifford Curry, who made his mark with 1967’s “She Shot a Hole in My Soul,” a pop-soul standard produced by Buzz Cason. In the same year, Robert Knight hit with “Everlasting Love,” written by Cason and Mac Gayden. They’ll all be performing, along with Charles Walker, lately the vocalist with Nashville’s The Dynamites. Also on hand will be Levert Allison, Marion James, The McCrary Sisters and The Valentines, with Jimmy Church’s band easing the way.
Nashville TN | Country
Grammy Award winning multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush doesn't seem old enough to be a musical legend. And he's not. But he is.
Alternately known as the King of Telluride and the King of Newgrass, Bush has been honored by the Americana Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association.
"It's overwhelming and humbling," Bush says of his lifetime achievement award from the AMA. "It goes along with the title cut of my new album, Circles Around Me, which basically says, how in the hell did we get this far? In my brain I'm still 17, but I look in the mirror and I'm 57."
But honors are not what drive him. "I didn't get into music to win awards," he says. "I'm just now starting to get somewhere. I love to play and the older I get the more I love it. And I love new things."
Among those new things are the growing group of mandolin players that identify Bush as their musical role model in much the same way he idolized Bill Monroe and Jethro Burns.
"If I've been cited as an influence, then I'm really flattered because I still have my influences that I look up to," Bush says. "I'm glad that I'm in there somewhere."
He's being humble, of course. Bush has helped to expand the horizons of bluegrass music, fusing it with jazz, rock, blues, funk and other styles. He's the co-founder of the genre-bending New Grass Revival and an in-demand musician who has played with everyone from Emmylou Harris and Bela Fleck to Charlie Haden, Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks.
And though Bush is best known for jaw-dropping skills on the mandolin, he is also a three time national junior fiddle champion and Grammy award winning vocalist.
"In the acoustic world, I've been pretty lucky to play with almost every one of my heroes. I've gotten to play with Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, I've been to the mountain," says Bush with a smile.
But his greatest contribution may be his impact on the future. "I'm secure with what I can do and I know what I can't do," he says. "You just have to stand there and applaud the great young talent.
"Chris Thile, Wayne Benson, Shawn Lane, Matt Flinner, Ronnie McCoury, Mike Marshall—they play in ways that I can't play," he says of today's younger generation of mandolin players. "I'm hoping to be around for is the next generation that comes along after that group. That's going to be something. The music keeps evolving.
Circles Around Me, Bush's seventh solo album and sixth with Sugar Hill, is an aurally inspiring mix of bluegrass favorites and complementary new songs. "I don't know why, but it felt right at this moment in my life to go back and revisit some things that I've loved all my life, which is bluegrass and, unapologetically, newgrass," says Bush. "After all these years of experimenting —and there's experimentation on this record too —I've come full circle."
Produced by Bush, the 14-song set includes appearances by Del McCoury, Edgar Meyer, Jerry Douglas and New Grass Revival co-founder Courtney Johnson (posthumously). The album also employs the phenomenal talent of Bush's band: Scott Vestal, Stephen Mougin, Byron House and Chris Brown.
"I get to play every show with my favorite musicians and I feel real fortunate," Bush says of his band. "I love playing with them. I feel like this group is limitless and they proved it again on this record."
The title cut, which Bush co-wrote with Jeff Black, "is about being thankful that you're still here, that you're still alive walking around," Bush explains. "Why are we the ones still here when we've had fallen comrades and loved ones?"
"The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle," which Bush co-wrote with Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson, is the haunting real-life story of the 1973 murder of Grand Ole Opry star David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife.
Bush and Courtney Johnson, who died in 1996, were reunited thanks to New Grass Revival producer Garth Fundis, who found a previously unreleased recording with Bush and Johnson's fiddle and banjo pairing on "Apple Blossom" from 1976. "It's pretty special and means a lot to me."
Meanwhile, "Souvenir Bottles" and "Whisper My Name" are fine updates of songs Bush first recorded in his New Grass Revival days. "I guess I'm proud that I can still sing it in the key that we first cut it in," Bush says of "Whisper," which was on New Grass Revival's 1972 debut album.
Del McCoury, whom Bush first met in 1970, guests on two Bill Monroe songs, "Roll On Buddy, Roll On" and "Midnight On The Stormy Deep." "Del always encouraged me to sing," Bush says. "So I wanted to do these songs with him. 'Roll On' is one of the few songs Del ever recorded with Bill."
Songs such as "Diamond Joe" and "You Left Me Alone" have roots in Bush's youth. The latter was on an album by the Country Gentlemen that Bush bought in the '60s. "It's a great 6/8 fast waltz tune and I am almost quoting John Duffey's mandolin playing note for note," he says. "It's a great tune and I've never heard anyone else do it."
The Bush-penned "Old North Woods" is a "Bill Monroe-sounding waltz," according to Bush, that features Meyer, his wife, Cornelia Heard of the Blair String Quartet, and their 16-year-old son, George, in his recording debut.
"With Emmy I learned more about singing and more about letting music breathe and I hope this CD is part of that thought," Bush says of Emmylou Harris, his former boss in the Nash Ramblers. "Through her I realized you don't have to whack people over the head with intensity on every song."
There's plenty more of course and Bush fans new and old will find lots to love.
"It's crazy to think about," Bush says of his influence on today's crop of mandolin players. "I'm proud to be part of a natural progression in music. And I hope to still be playing 30 years from now."
That said, it's not surprising that Bush still has goals. "I want to grow as a songwriter, as a song collaborator," he says. "There are still a lot of things I haven't discovered about playing mandolin. I want to be able to be secure in the styles that I know how to play well, but I also want to explore other styles that I haven't learned yet.
"I want to improve as a singer," he adds. "I have to work harder on singing than I do on playing."
"As long as I'm alive I hope I have the ability to play," says Bush, a two time cancer treatment survivor. When the ability to play is taken away, it's humbling. It teaches you a lesson: don't take it for granted."
Here's to the next 30 years.
Nashville TN | R&B/Soul
Charles Walker is a native of Nashville, Tenneesee and actually began his recording career there. R&B record collectors have long assumed him to be a New York artist since the majority of his records were recorded there and released by New York labels.
Charles or Wigg as he is known by his friends (his mother nicknamed him when he was born with a full head of hair) cut his first record in 1959 for Ted Jarretts legendary Champion labels. One cut Slave To Love was credited to Charles Walker and the Daffodils. In fact there was no such group as the Daffodils. The backup singers on the record were label mates the Kinglets and Larry Birdsong.
In 1960 Charles moved to New York City where studios and nightclub work was plentiful. 1962 found Charles recording with Chess Records out of Chicago and soon signed on as lead singer with the J.C. Davis Band. This band began touring the country opening for the greats of the era including James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Little Willie John, Otis Redding and Sam Cook and recorded some real barn- stormers like Sweet Sweet Love and The Chicken Scratch. In 1964 Charles formed his own group Little Charles and the Sidewinders. They became one of the most in demand soul bands in New York City’s nightclub scene, performing at the Apollo Theater, Small Paradise and venturing out to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. They subsequently recorded for Chess and Decca labels. The Sidewinders stayed together through the 60’s and in 1969 Charles cut some sides for Botanic Records. The Sidewinders reformed in 1973 and worked as a show band in hotels, nightclubs and casinos without the benefit of a recording contract. In 1979 Charles signed on with Motown as a staff writer.
Early in the 80’s Charles recorded in England and re-issued many of the Sidewinders classic sides. Realizing that there was a market for soul music in the U.K., he formed his own label P.R.G. and released the single See Me in Europe. Charles spent most of the 1980’s in England and Spain and worked steadily and recorded occasionally, but this wasn’t enough. In 1993 he moved back to Nashville to do some serious recording since Nashville’s Blues and R&B scene was really booming. He also released an album on the U.K. label Zane records called Number By Heart around the same time.
Charles has recently been the featured singer for a band called The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker and a record was released in June of 2007 Kaboom on Outasight Records a Sony subsidiary label. They are currently touring the states and have a European tour planned.
In 2000 he was contacted by a producer Randy Coleman who had worked with him live and some in the studio in 1994. They had lost touch with each other for about 10 years. But in 05 and 06 they decided to start cutting tracks for a solo project. Charles cut about 27 new tracks some written by Charles and the others written by Johnny Neel (formerly of the Allman Bros. Seven Turns album), Ronnie Godfrey (Formerly of The Marshall Tucker Band), Kim Morrison and various other writers.
This new solo album titled Still Finding My Way is available on CD BABY.It is a culmination of various r & b , soul ,and funk grooves from Otis Redding to Tower of Power featuring an extremely tight rhythm and horn section with strong backing vocals both male and female. There are some very strong ballads such as ’How Wrong’ and some furious funk on one cut titled Livin In A World of Hurt. The title cut is something along the feel of Dock of the Bay about Charles life in the business.
Charles is one of the few remaining original soul singers from back in the day when what is termed today, as old school r & b was brand new on the popular music scene, all around the world. There has recently been a resurgence of this style of music and it is finding a younger audience as well as rekindling memorys for the old schoolers. If you are a soul and R&B fan you’ll enjoy this solo project from Charle Wigg Walker.
The McCrary Sisters
Nashville TN | Christian & Gospel
For the McCrary Sisters, music is a birthright, a lifelong love affair, a sometimes career, an indescribable joy, and occasionally, a cross to bear.Ann, Deborah, Regina, ad Alfreda, the four daughters of the Rev. Samuel McCrary, one of the original members of the legendary gospel quartet, The Fairfield Four, were raised in harmony, singing at home, at their father's church, and for the eldest Ann on the road by the time she was 3 years old. The McCrary home was filled with music, whether it was the Fairfield Four or frequent guests that included a pantheon of gospel greats, including Shirley Caesar or James Cleveland.
By 7, Regina was also touring, a star of the BC&M Mass Choir. There her featured solo was " I Made A Vow", a performance that lives on youTube.If she'd been born in the age of America's got talent and American Idol, She'd have been a star before she was a teen-ager. For a time, the sisters sang with their brother Ricky, and some cousins in the CBS(Cousins,Brother,Sisters) band. But not all four girls pursued music as a job. For Deborah, and Alfreda it was more of a part-time thing. Deborah became a Nurse, and Alfreda until recently could be heard rarely with her sisters. The rest of the time she was doing music ministry with her husband Narcisco Lee, at the Old Happy Day Church.
Regina is the best-known McCrary Sister outside the gospel world, famous for being part of BobDylan's group throughtout his Christain music era, recording three albums with the legendary folk-rocker--Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love, and touring with him for 6 years. Along with Dylan and Elvis, she, also performed, and recorded with Stevie Wonder, and sang background along with Ann on Ray Steven classic, "Everything Is Beautiful".
Ann, meanwhile, performed with the who's who of contemporary gospel music, including The Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams,and many more. Regina, Ann, and Alfreda have all performed in musical theater as well , and recorded with country music greats like Johnny Cash, Wynona Judd, The sisters list of recording sessions, and long association with Bobby Jones TV show spans genres and generations. Most recently, they have become Americana stars, recording and touring regularly with gospel-rock powerhouse Mike Farris, winning the Emerging Artist Award at the 2008 Americana Music Awards, also winning the 2010 Dove Award for Best Traditional Gospel Album for " Shout"! Live recorded at Nashville's Station Inn.
Ann and Regina McCrary was alson featured on Universal United House of Prayer, by Buddy Miller who was called The Americana Artist of the Decade by No Depression Magazine,the Americana journal of record. More recently,they were featured vocalits on Patty Griffin's acclaimed gospel project Downtown Church, recorded at Nashville's downtown Presbyterian Church. They are also featured on the new Cumberland Saints CD released by Mike Farris.
While bloodlines and resumes are all well and good, nothing can prepare you for the experience of hearing the McCrary Sisters live, though "Our Journey" may be the next best thing. No words can decribe the power, and passion and pure soulfulness of The McCrary Sisters--Ann, Regina, Deborah, and Alfreda. Hear them once, and you will never be the same
Nashville TN |
Born and raised in Nashville, Marion James grew up in a family with a love for music. Like most great R&B singers, Marion's musical background is firmly rooted in the church. As a child, James first experience with blues music came from watching vaudeville shows, checking out local performers or listening to her mother's record collection of 78s. During the early 1960's, Marion's touring band included guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, and bassist, Billy Cox. In 1966, she recorded the top-ten hit "That's My Man" for Nashville's Excello Records. Since then, Marion has played to sold-out audiences in Europe and the Southeastern United States. Recently, she was part of the Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit "Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970" covering the rich R&B music history of Nashville