th year in a row, Memorial Day weekend hosts ChippyFest, otherwise known as Concert For The Troops. This year, one difference is that it has moved to the Denison, Texas, area. One similarity is that it is still free to anyone with a military ID card, whether the holder has active or veteran status.
Chip Campbell, the organizer, is himself a U.S. military veteran, as are many of the performers and volunteers who make this comfortable concert a success.
It’s outdoors, it’s casual with no frills (except there are showers available for the campers, if one considers those a ‘frill’), and it’s live music presented by a bevy of songwriters and singers with hearts as big as the state it’s held in.
The ChippyFest line-up has a no-star billing philosophy, but some of the performers are better known than others in Texas and Oklahoma: Bob Livingston, Kevin Deal, Brian Burns, Tommy Alverson, White & Spears, and Jerrod Medulla. And the others, though with more local followings, are included because of their finely-tuned songwriting and performance skills, honed to perfection. In all, there’s more than 40 singer/songwriter/bands included, all involved because they want to honor the troops.
ChippyFest runs from Friday-Sunday, (May 24-26), with a special Memorial Day service, presented by military for military, on Monday morning, (May 27). Those wanting to can come Thursday and set up their campsite (primitive camping only). A few rules: No pets, no glass containers, and no stress allowed. If anyone has stress, let a volunteer know how he or she can help solve the stressful situation, and then enjoy the event stress-free.
There will be food vendors on the grounds, (ice chests are allowed), also a chili cook-off, a horseshoe tournament, volleyball games, cool cars and bikes, a Miss ChippyFest contest, and several other games and contests.
Ticket prices are minimal, $15 for one-day tickets or $35 for the entire event, and of course free to those with military IDs, and that includes camping.
ChippyFest is being held at the North 40 Ranch, 7555 Dripping Springs Road, Denison.
For more information, call 903-815-9185.
Some months ago, a friend of mine suggested to me that we should hitch our wagon to a pursuit that he termed “house concerts.” Being intrigued by any possibility for a gig, I inquired, “What the hell is a house concert?” Logic led me to assume that it was certainly playing music at someone’s house, but the term smacked of a loosely planned, glorified jam-session. This friend began to explain to my bumpkin self that house concerts were a mode of putting on shows that take place in someone’s home whereby people pay an admission to come and hear songwriters perform their songs. What a concept. I mean, we’ve all had impromptu jam sessions at a friend’s house – “pickin’ parties” as we refer to them in Texas – but what we’re addressing here is a carefully planned evening of live performance, staged by event planners, and is, by all definition, a concert which takes place at someone’s home or property.
I was invited to attend one of these house concerts by Grady Yates, who being a fine singer/songwriter himself, is a homebuilder (read: mansion builder) and he, Byron Dowd, and Jennifer Wulf are the “three“ behind 3 Moons House Concerts. The building in which this concert would take place is a model home that Grady’s company built, a spectacular, breath-taking structure. More spectacular to me is the fact that the headliner for this particular night was the magnificent Kevin Welch.
The evening began for me when Grady introduced me to Kevin, who graciously stood and spoke with me about both our careers, past and present (the only relevance my past career held was being employed for 17 years at a CD replication plant that manufactured a few of Kevin’s CDs), record labels, finger-picking techniques, Nashville, old band mates, current projects, and this wonderful thing known as house concerts. Welch said that this particular night was the fourth such show in about as many weeks, adding that while this one is being held in a house of mansion proportion, others he’s done are in very modest blue-collar homes (and I’d guess every kind of place in between, too). He said to me, “These things have changed the game for the small guys like me.” (Yes…I suppressed the urge to correct him for his reference to himself as “small guy.” I was compelled to wave my arms in the air and say “Dude, you’re Kevin Welch!” But then, he doesn’t need my guidance in knowing who he is.)
The economics of the house concert concept are purely in favor of the artist, something none of us are quite used to, but I would imagine that could be gotten used to quickly enough. I’m now a bonafide supporter of house concerts. I want to talk about the music I was treated to Saturday night, which was stellar, but a bit more about this method of presenting shows.
There is one thing a songwriter wants the most, I honestly believe: To be heard. To have someone to listen, to not just music, but to the lyrics, the words wrenched and wrestled from mind, heart, and soul. Being so ecstatic about coming upon such a listening experience for writer and enthusiast alike, I began to do some research into the subject for any precedent that might have given rise to such a thing. I found that it is no new thing at all. In fact, the term “chamber music” comes to us from the sixteenth-century, the Renaissance period, during which most, if not all, public performances of secular music took place in someone’s home. It was usually a private event, attended by those who had been sent invitations and would feature the leading musicians of the day. This means of staging a show continued into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and was quite popular during the developmental years of the Blues surgence.
It was a time when the few prominent blues and jazz venues in a given city couldn’t facilitate the number of performers, most of which were black, reducing their possibilities even further. These minstrels knew people in their travels and circuits, which stemmed from Mississippi to Chicago to New York, and would set up performances in private homes, barns, back lots and anywhere else with ample space. A problem arose in some towns when illicit activity of a sexually-oriented nature would be discovered here and there, being advertised to the public as in-home musical or theatrical performances, bringing an element of danger, illegality, and sin to the public mind. The Twenties were indeed pretty roaring. Evidently, the original idea for this kind of concert wasn’t forgotten and is being employed and enjoyed all over the place again.
It seems that every genre of music employs in-home performance now, but none would benefit from it as bountifully as the singer/songwriter scene, in my estimation. Playing in bars and nightclub venues will likely never go away, but when one is a songwriter, penning and playing songs that are possessed of literary and poetic merit, loud, chaotic bars are not conducive to absorbing that art. Even where one might want very much to just listen, it is virtually impossible. Hence, in the case of Saturday night, the beauty of a method by which all comers are there of one mind and one accord to take in the wonders of the songs of Grady Yates, Byron Dowd, and Kevin Welch becomes evident.
Grady, as primary host, greeted the audience and launched easily into four of his own compositions, at least a couple of which are from his new release “A Thousand Horses.” The beautiful “Sanctuary” and an old turn-of-the-century western gunslinger tale called “Long Road Back To You” were delivered in that velvety voice that is the earmark of the ol’ boy’s sensibilities. The room was pin-drop quiet. Not a sound except for the voice of a friend telling me stories and the perfect cadence of acoustic guitars rendered by Grady Yates and Brady Mosher. And then something happened that gave me goose bumps: an appreciative and attentive audience erupted in applause and whistles that were as refreshing as a cool drink of water in the Palo Duro Canyon.
Byron Dowd was up next. He opened with “Six Feet Above,” a song as somber as the title might suggest. Lyrics like “Champagne that tastes like dirt, drink it down for what it’s worth” and the admonition that we grasp the notion that being “six feet above” is far better than the alternative. Then he moved on to “Raindrop,” then a song that came with a cool story about a rare guitar no longer in his possession “The Millertone,” and wrapped up with what is arguably his best song (depending on who you talk to?), “Footsteps.” Byron’s new release has spent some considerable time on the Americana Music chart and, considering it’s his debut release, there is much in that to be very, very proud of. You will be hearing more from and of Byron Dowd.
Next came the moment Grady, Byron, and I and everyone else were waiting for. Kevin Welch is the Troubadour’s Troubadour. He sat down on the stool with his trademark tobacco sunburst Gibson acoustic and the magic began. Welch caresses his guitar like a true love of many lifetimes. He and the instrument know each other intimately. When he addressed the mic the voice was pure and true, possessing a finesse that is immediately soothing but enough grit to make Sweet Baby James envious. Kevin writes songs…no, I’m not so content to say it just that way. He writes poetry. Condense Steinbeck or Faulkner to 4 minutes and set it to wonderful chords and melody and you have a fair estimation of the songs of Kevin Welch.
At one point, he asked if there was anything in particular we wanted to hear and one gentleman asked for Troublesome Times, from his ‘95 release “Life Down Here On Earth,” and Welch obliged. It’s a song about assessment:
“Troublesome times comes to your front door
Troublesome times comes sneakin in the back
You usually get the kind of trouble you ask for
I can live with that…”
“I look at that sunshine way out yonder
Looks like a brand new day
I’m gonna hang on a little bit longer
Cause it might be headed my way.”
The themes of lives lived, past and present are paramount in the lyrics. “A New Widow’s Dream” conveys the anguish of a young
woman whose love has died but the attic of subconscious brings him to her bedside at night where “His lips they move but do not speak, His eyes are sad but do not weep, His heart is full but does not beat.” Lives, from point of view of the empathetic poet, are the point of origin for all art. Other songs performed were “Highland Mary,” “Early Summer Rain,” “Great Emancipation” (one of my new personal favorites), “Millionaire,” and a brand new one, “A Flower,” not on an album yet.
He gave us a tune that he humorously dedicated to Honey Boo-Boo, eliciting chuckles from the audience. It’s a reflection of the cult of personality so prevalent today in the entertainment world in which people who are possessed of no actual talent are elevated to celebrity status by the mass media (which is a sad statement about society in general). “Come A Rain” runs through a list of the notorious, the great, the rascals, and the genius in history and, in a word, summarizes what gave them that status. Righteously mentioned:
“Jesus was a pagan, Woody was a punk, Gandhi was a soldier, Hendrix was a monk…
Marley was a preacher, Columbus was a dope, Houdini was a rascal, Hank Williams was a ghost.”
He offered that the song came as a result of his son, Dustin, saying that “If Woody Guthrie were alive today, he’d be a punk.” A spot-on observation. After finishing the song, he stated, “Ya gotta at least DO something.” Put THAT in Entertainment Weekly.
Speaking of Dustin, Kevin’s son (of whom he is very rightfully proud), I was reminded of a song from Welch’s 1990 Warner Reprise self-titled debut. It’s the last track on the album and it’s called “A Letter To Dustin“, and the reason I bring that up is that it gives definition to the song “Too Old To Die Young,” co-written by Kevin with John Hadley and Scott Dooley. Welch performed the song beautifully and for the last refrain, he stopped playing the guitar and a touched audience joined in unison and sang it back to him. It’s a song that “poignant” doesn’t really do justice. It is the desperate hope any parent would express – that their time on Earth would afford the longevity to watch their children grow “to see what they become. Oh Lord don’t let that cold wind blow till I’m too old to die young.” Hearing this father speak so proudly of his boy, who happens to be an incredible artist in his own right, and who accompanies his dad on many stages, one sees the bridge between “Letter To Dustin” in 1990 and the heart and voice of that father sitting in our midst in 2013 singing
“So if I could have one wish today And I know it would be done, I’d say everyone could stay ’til they’re too old too die young.”
Brother Troubadour, you’ve been graced to have been that guy. And I, for one, am very happy about that.
After the music was done, a gentleman, last name o’ Pringle, walked up to me and said, “I’d pay double the price to come and see a show like this over going to a bar any day,” and as folks were milling about preparing to go home, or wherever else they might be headed, I thought to myself, “Mr. Pringle, I couldn’t agree more.”
There are folks out there living lives. Some are fraught with contentment, seasoned with romance, sprinkled with disaster, anguish, or loss, and blessed with love. These people respond to these circumstances in different ways – some succumb, some overcome. But they are all lives, from the earliest and most primitive of times until now. The human experience will be conveyed by everyone from historians to psychoanalysts. Thank God songwriters are a part of that equation. They are the most empathetic of all…and they put their take on it to music, which is the sweetest spoonful of sugar to swallow the medicine with. Kevin Welch is one such embodiment of empathy. He has the uncanny ability to place himself, not merely in the shoes, but in the heart and soul of the fellow folk he shares the earth with. Turn off Honey Boo-Boo and listen to any title in the Kevin Welch catalogue. Find out what “enrichment” means. Get in the Hudson…there’s room and we got gas. Let’s go.
“Come on, Virginia, I hear you calling me.” The plea of singer/songerwriter Mike Aiken, and ‘Virginia’ in the romantic song could be either a favorite woman or his favorite state. It’s that emotional. Turns out, Aiken wrote it for his home state.
The 12 songs on Aiken’s new CD, “Captains and Cowboys,” are all reflections of the influences in his life, whether those were developed when he raised quarter horses or later, after he became a licensed sea captain.
“I grew up very rural and spent a lot of time raising horses and around rodeos,” Aiken said recently. Then, he moved from the farm to a boat on the ocean, and has lived on it for the past two decades.
“It’s the same type of spirit and person,” Aiken, said, comparing the two lifestyles. “Not quite a loner, but somebody who doesn’t need the rest of the world to tell them they are OK to be OK.”
There’s a gross similarity between these two types of individuals, Aiken said, talking about the captains and the cowboys.
“Night Riders Lament” is one of only three cover songs on this CD. “Probably the first I heard it was Jerry Jeff (Walker), his version, and it spoke to me about that type of person, the cowboy, who could be on the boat as well. I played with changing a couple of lines to put him on a boat, but I just couldn’t improve the song.” It was important for Aiken, a prolific songwriter himself, to include this and the others enhancing the mood of the CD.
Aiken said it took a couple of years to put the CD together. He’s cut other CD projects in the past, but as he moved through this one, he realized this was different, that there was a theme involving, and that theme needed to be honored and developed.
“I wanted this to take some time so I could do a better product,” Aiken said. He cut some songs in July, and went back in September to lay down some more. That’s when he realized “this CD is taking life and going in a direction. So I waited and went back in January this year. I thought it was ready last summer, and we started (in January) vetoing some of it and re-writing. We let it grow as it went, giving it a chance to take on a life of its own.”
On the “sea” side of this conceptualized project, is “Save The Whales,” and Aiken said it’s a reflection of his very early influence by the late Stan Rogers and the many sea chanties Rogers created. “’Hooray, up she rises,’ is the traditional chant of old-time whalers. When they would see the whale, the man on top was to point, and they would drop the small boats. The sea and whaling, that’s ’a real part of Americana.” He explained he has spent a lot of time sailing up to Nova Scotia and back, “that’s the slice of life we used to have in this country.”
One song, “Your Memory Wins,” is a true country song, co-written by Austin Cunningham. Aiken’s voice haunts, “when the whiskey wears off, you’re still gone.” Brad Davis, from Celeste, Texas, and Aiken co-wrote the title song, “Captains & Cowboys,” with a bit of Texas mixed with life on the sea, bringing the two lifestyles into plain view… “With the captains and the cowboys is where I fit in.” And they wrote it the modern way… using computers, back and forth, from their respective homes.
Another powerhouse song on this project is “Get Down River,” a song Aiken said he dedicated basically to those affected by Hurricane Katrina, which backed up the Mississippi River, but it could just easily apply to the James River floods he witnessed in Norfolk. “The city of Norfolk is actually an island surrounded by the sea and two rivers. You have to take bridges or go in tunnels to get to the city. I’ve seen those tunnels full of water. It came in so hard and so fast. I can relate on a personal level.”
Aiken takes his music out sometimes with a trio and sometimes a full band. “Toby Keith’s bass player, and my wife on harmony and percussion, and me. Then sometimes adding Nashville steel and mandolin.”
This man with a lifestyle some others envy sings of aging sailors, of youth, of rodeo idols, of the shrinking Appalachian Mountains and the disappearance of the magnificent whale, of the romance of life.
“Captains & Cowboys” is available at Best Buy stores, through Birdland Records, and by downloading it from iTunes, CDBaby, and other favorite internet sites.
Choctaw CenterStage (Durant, Okla.) rocked Friday night, first with Joe Diffie and his band followed by Clint Black, who is on an acoustic tour with three long-time members of his band. Both men have strings of hits over the past several decades, and are keeping country music alive and well. Both men displayed good senses of humor that connected them with the audience.
Joe Diffie, who was raised a Texan in the Houston area, brought with him a steel player, a keyboard player, lead and bass guitarists, and drummer, to back up his acoustic guitar. There were times when they also backed up his vocals. Much of Joe’s family, including his parents, are from Oklahoma, and were at the concert. His dad, the original Joe Diffie, performed a classic Johnny Cash song with him, and then an aunt sang”Bobbi McGee” both to the audience delight. The audience also rose to its feet when Joe sang in tribute “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the George Jones classic so much on everyone’s mind because of his recent death.
After a change of band equipment, Clint Black, also originally a Texan, sang many of his hits, and, as he said, some we may not have heard before. The standing ovation came after his last song… actually, after he got everyone to rise during the last song.
The quote of the night was from a female voice in the back, as Clint was talking on stage — “You are yummy, Clint!” He smiled, the dimples digging deeper, and answered back, “This is a yummy audience.” And everyone had fun.
On May 18, The Time Jumpers will be coming to CenterStage. This band consists of many musicians, and plays a mix of western swing, bluegrass, country, old-time cowboy, and no telling what other genres of music.
Nashville, Tenn. – Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry member, and Kennedy Center Honoree George Glenn Jones died Friday, April 26, 2013 ,at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He was hospitalized April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.
Jones began his farewell tour in late 2012, which was to have concluded with an already-sold-out, star-packed show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 22. Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Sam Moore, The Oak Ridge Boys and many others were set to perform at Jones’ Bridgestone show.
That Grand Tour included a recent performance at the Greenville (Texas) Municipal Auditorium, and a future performance in November at Choctaw Casinos in Oklahoma.
At 81 years of age, Jones is regarded among the most important and influential singers in American popular music history. He was the singer of enduring country music hits including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Grand Tour,” “Walk Through This World With Me,” “Tender Years,” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the latter of which is often at the top of industry lists of the greatest country music singles of all time.
In all, the native Texan remained at the top during all three generations of Nashville’s country music: original, classic, and today’s country. Blake Shelton led the Tweet parade, saying, “We’ve lost a country music legend. And I’ve lost a hero and a friend. Goodbye George Jones.” Brad Paisley called him “the greatest singer of all time,” and country music icon Alan Jackson said, “Heaven better get ready for George Jones. He will always be the greatest singer of real country music.”
“A singer who can soar from a deep growl to dizzying heights, he is the undisputed successor of earlier natural geniuses such as Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell,” wrote Bob Allen in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Encyclopedia of Country Music.”
Jones was born on Sept. 12, 1931, in Saratoga, Texas, and he played on the streets of Beaumont for tips as a teenager. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning to Texas and recording for the Starday label in Houston. In 1955, his “Why Baby Why” became his first Top 10 country single, peaking at number four and beginning a remarkable commercial string. Jones would ultimately record more than 160 charting singles, more than any other artist in any format in the history of popular music.
Jones’ first number one hit came in 1959 with “White Lightning,” a Mercury Records single that topped Billboard country charts for five weeks. He moved on to United Artists and then to Musicor, notching hits including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “The Race Is On,” “A Good Year for the Roses,” and “Walk Through This World With Me.”
Jones signed with Epic Records in 1971 and worked with producer Billy Sherrill to craft a sound at once elegant and rooted, scoring with “The Grand Tour,” “Bartenders Blues,” and many more. Sherrill also produced duets between Jones and his then-wife Tammy Wynette, and in the 1970s they scored top-charting hits including “We’re Gonna Hold On,” “Golden Ring,” and “Near You.”
By the time “Golden Ring” and “Near You” hit in 1976, Jones and Wynette were divorced, and Jones was battling personal demons. His solo career cooled until 1980, when he recorded “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” a ballad penned by Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock that helped Jones win Country Music Association prizes for best male vocal and top single. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” revived a flagging career, and Jones won the CMA’s top male vocalist award in 1980 and 1981. He also earned a Grammy for best male country vocal performance.
Nashville artists poured out their hearts, their regrets, and their respects, some on Twitter.
In 1983, Jones married the former Nancy Ford Sepulvado. The union, he repeatedly said, began his rehabilitation from drugs and alcohol and prolonged his life. He signed with MCA Records in 1990 and began a successful run, and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. His guest vocal on Patty Loveless’ “You Don’t Seem To Miss Me” won a CMA award for top vocal event in 1998, and it became his final Top 20 country hit.
In 1999, Jones nearly died in a car wreck, but he recovered and resumed touring and recording. He remained a force in music until his death, playing hundreds of shows in the new century and collecting the nation’s highest arts award, the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement, in 2008.
Jones is survived by his loving wife of 30 years Nancy Jones, his sister Helen Scroggins, and by his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.