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Hopefully, Lemmy is having a celestial beer somewhere... RIP
DISCLAIMER: For one of the first times (if not the first times) in E2TG history, I actually composed part of this post in advance. Over the long holiday weekend, I took time to go over the "Earies" and tried to figure out a game plan for my last three posts of the year (two "Earies" and Artist of the Year). When I figured out what I wanted to do for today's final "Earie" before the AofTY, I knew it was going to be time consuming and so I wrote the next bit in advance.
FURTHER DISCLAIMER: Both yesterday's and today's shuffles produced head smacking moments of remembering artist deserving of "Earies". I can only beg forgiveness for any and all omissions. Despite how it may appear, I do most of #E2TG posts by the seat of my pants. *I know shocking* and to boot, I often have a very disorganized mind. It's part of my charm... Anyway, let's jump right into the last "Earie" before the "Golden Earie"....
(this next bit was written on Sunday and editing since then)
Now, we have reached the penultimate E2TG 2015 Award. Tomorrow, I will unveil the 2015 Artist of the Year. As I frequently write and say, I find it very fortuitous that through a series of unfortunate events that I would have never volunarily chosen to end up in the place I am at the moment I arrived. Arrived without travelling… sure, but it has been a journey. Finding myself smack in the middle of the East Nashville music community in the middle part of the second decade of the 21st Century, I am keenly aware of what a moment I am experiencing. You might think I would be jaded or disillusioned by now, and you would be partially correct. I have been jaded and disillusioned many times, and certainly if you look for them or focus on them, there are plenty of reasons to be jaded and disillusioned by the state of music. But, there are causes for hope. The obvious examples that people will mention - Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson… sure but it goes way deeper and way beyond that. The level of excellence here is incredible. Songwriters, guitar players, bassists, drummers, pedal steel players, photographers, music writers, bookers…. the list goes on,
Now, do not get me wrong East Nashville (or maybe more precisely the other side of Nashville) is not a perfect situation. I have made off-hand (kind of) joking comments about the Nashville Conundrum - referring to the sheer volume of incredible volume of awesome live music and the impossible choices this creates. Choices between two or more shows going on at the same time, choices between going out or staying in to get my own work done or to rest and recover. For a music fan, it is an excellent problem to have - for musicians - not always. It is, I think, a pretty well known fact that some of our community’s best spend a significant amount of time on the road because that is where there is money to be made. Nashville/East Nashville is home base and the spirit of collaboration and community keeps them coming back, but shows that would be events in another city are easily overlooked or passed over here in Nashville.
I do not propose or make any claim to a solution to the monetary issues facing the musicians these days. It seems to me to be a complicated equation. The amount of artistic freedom and autonomy made possible by advancements in technology vs. the increasing difficulty of getting music fans to spend money on independent music. Honestly, it can be discouraging even for someone not directly impacted by it. But, for me it just drives me harder to spread the word about music of substance that needs to be heard more widely and supported.
All that wordiness to say, I am giving the final “Earie” before Artist of the Year to the community of artists who have become a part of my life over the last year and a half. I am going to call out a few people by name, and ommissions are inevitable. In a hypothetic sense, this last “Earie” will be represented by a giant sized “Ear” right smack dab in the middle of 5 Points. You know, that weird intersection of 11th and Woodlawn and those other streets.
1. Aaron Lee Tasjan - I had to single out Aaron Lee for reasons which should become obvious if they are are not already. I had heard about Aaron Lee Tasjan before I actually heard him. The first time I heard him play guitar was on the same day that I met Darrin Bradbury. He was backing up Tim Easton at The 5 Spot. Later, he did a residency at that bar, and I finally got to hear him do his own songs. To say, I was blown away would be an understatement. In fact, I think it took me some time to fully grasp how amazing he was as a songwriter. His mixture of humor, cultural references, and emotional resonance is incomparable. Over time, I learned more about his history and got to meet him and found him to be a really nice guy. The other thing he is - which to me typifies this community, is generous. In 2015, as he began to garner more and more (well deserved) attention, ALT (as he is known) seemed to work even harder at lifting up his fellow musicians and writers. His album, In the Blazes, was one of my most highly anticipated releases and yet it still managed to surprise me. It is a rock and roll record, it is a alt-folk record, it is a alt-country record - it shows off his abilities as a songwriter and as a guitarist.
2. Tim Easton - the mentor and a driving force behind the Campfire Propaganda movement. His experience and wisdom has helped to push these younger songwriters forward, and their influence seems to have revitalized this long-time East Nashville presence. The celebrate his 100th published song, Easton began posting a song a day for 100 days. He is at the tail end of this marathon project.
3. Zach Schmidt - One of the brightest lights in the East Nashville community. Schmidt has an album in the can that will be released in 2016. He has all the attributes of a classic male country music star, and his songs manage to deftly walk the line between tradition and innovation. Watch for Zach Schmidt in 2016.
4. Nellie Marie Clay - Originally from Oklahoma, Clay made her way to Nashville after spending a few years in the far reaches of Alaska. Like Zach Schmidt, she brings a new energy to traditional sounding roots music. Her distinctive drawl and the twanginess of her music made her a force to be reckoned with. Her new album I Never Did What I Shoulda Done is excellent,
5. Megan Palmer - Besides being a go to side musician for the likes of Darrin Bradbury, Tim Easton and others, Palmer is an excellent songwriter in her own right. Her performace of one her best songs, “Knife Twister” backed by an all-star backing chorus that included Julie Christensen, Nellie Marie Clay and others was a highlight of the year. She has a new album ready to go in 2016. It will be worth your while to check it out.
6. Brian Wright - Probably a half dozen of my favorite musical moments of 2015 involve Brian Wright. A powerhouse guitar player, an unequaled songwriter, and a supporter of his fellow musicians. If you ever get the chance to see Brian Wright live - in any configuration, do not miss out!
7. Carl Anderson - Anderson came to Nashville by way of Charlottesville, VA. His album, Risk of Loss, is one of the best of 2015. Such amazing songs.
8. Other songwriters: Andrew Leheay, Lilly Hiatt, Tim Carroll, Tommy Womack, Kiely Schlessinger, Luella Wood, Bob Lewis, Allen Thompson, Russell Thompson, Amelia White, Adrian+Meredith Krygowski, Dave Coleman, Ariel Bui, Yosi Mesbah and so many more. Covering music that can be described as country, alt-country, folk-country, not country, roots rock, alt-folk, rock, blues-rock, jam band….etc. I tend to shy away from putting labels on music (though I understand that for artists it is a necessity sometimes). I think of it as excellent music. Traditionally, Nashville has been known as a town of songwriters, and even though the quality of writing on “the Row” can be called into the question - that tradition lives on around campfires, on porches, and in clubs around the city but concentrated in East Nashville. (And by reference, I include some of the amazing writers who have already won “Earie” Awards)
9. The musicians - once you have a song, the next step is to bring that song to life. And, although that can be done by just the writer and an acoustic guitar, when the song is developed and augemented by the help of some of the best musicians in the world, the results can be amazing. Many of the writers I mentioned are also amazing musicians who frequently back up other writers (Brian Wright, Megan Palmer, and ALT stand out). When you go out and hear music in Nashville, one thing you begin to notice is some of the same faces showing up again and again playing behind a very diverse mix of musical styles. Justin Amaral, Aaron Shafer-Haiss, Steve Ebe, Raun Shultz, David Strayer, Daniel Seymour, Cameron Carrus, Adam Kurtz, and many many more. Some of the above named front their own projects and some do not, but they are all part of the lifeblood that makes this new Music City what it is.
10. The non-musicians - Musicians and songwriters are the reason this scene exists but it would not run if it were for the photographers, managers, bookers, writers, publicists. and behind the scenes folks. I want to call out Stacie Huckaba, Mary Sack, Terry Rickards, Sue Havlish, Karen Leipziger (who is also a songwriter and musician as I recently learned), John McCollum. Skip Anderson, Heather Lose, Randy Fox, and many more.
11. Bands - I should probably mentioned some of the amazing bands who call Nashville home. Covering an incredible diverse range of syles and sounds, Year of October, Dogs of Oz, Turbo Fruits, Blackfoot Gypsies, Humming House, Benchmarks, Fendrick and Peck, and many more.
2016 is going to be an amazing year, and the “Earies” will be back for their second season. But, I’m not quite done with 2015. The Artist of the Year for 2015 will be revealed tomorrow. Stay tuned.
back to live posting
Now for the penultimate regularly scheduled shuffle of 2015!
"Heaven's Gonna Have a Honky Tonk" by Dale Watson
I'm gonna dedicate this one to Lemmy. I think heaven's gonna have a pretty bitchin' rock show... I'll just bet Lemmy and the Ramones are playing "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." right about now.
This is an older Dale Watson song which was included on his latest album, Call Me Insane which is definitely one of the best albums of the year and one of my favorire
"Windows Fogged Up in Your Pickup Truck" by The Paisley Fields
The Paisley Fields are a alt-country band from Brooklyn that boasts two opera trained singer and a prolific songwriter who happens to be gay. They have an EP that was released this year, but this is an older song of theirs.
"Tread Carefully" by The British IBM
Man, I have really been digging Psychopaths Dream in Black and White. This is really British Indie music the way it was meant to be. Catchy as hell with just enough of an edge.
"The Frame" by Jon Latham
One of the most powerful songs on Real Bad News. Jon will be playing as part of Aaron Lee Tasjan's killer band opening for Chris Knight at the Exit/In on New Year's Eve. Boom 2015!
"Only the Young" by Indigenous Engines
From the Werewolves EP, by Indigenous Engines aka "Earie" award winner Andrew Adkins. A new Andrew Adkins is on tap for 2016!
"The Old Testament" by Man Named Pearl
Yeah, Man of Pearl should have won an "Earie". Can I give them a special award now? It is my blog... ug... whatever.... seriously, Man Named Pearl is the nom de plume of Jesse Turits and part of the fantastic collective/thing called Mama Coco's Funky Kitchen. This is from -Quietus Make- which I highly and forcefully recommend.