This past Tuesday, February 21, the Bluebird Café in Nashville, TN, opened its doors to four of the most talented songwriters in bluegrass music. Steve Gulley, Dale Ann Bradley, Kim Fox, and Larry Cordle were on hand for Bluegrass in the Bluebird, part of a new quarterly songwriter concert series at this Music City landmark.
The event came together with the help of the IBMA’s songwriter committee, IBMA liaison, Nancy Cardwell, and Margaret Coleman of the Bluebird. In attendance were numerous bluegrass songwriters like Jennifer Strickland, Jon Weisberger, and Jeremy Garrett, as well as outgoing IBMA director, Dan Hayes.
Bluegrass in the Bluebird committee chair Louisa Branscomb said that she had submitted a proposal to the IBMA Bluegrass Songwriter committee last year, which culminated in an initial show at the Bluebird showcasing songwriters that were nominated for IBMA’s Song of the Year award. Louisa said her goal was to “Bring good bluegrass songwriters to the community at large.”
She also stressed that future shows will feature the best of the best in professional writers, and though each writer has had success in bluegrass, it is hard to categorize their writing into a certain genre. Louisa said the committee will seek to combine writers that have a musical history, and that have either written together, performed together, or have recorded each other’s songs. Louisa hopes that this will give the audience a very special performance and interesting artistic combinations, that you won’t see at your typical bluegrass festival.
“People come to the Bluebird to hear the songs, they hang on every word…you can hear a pin drop,” Branscomb added. That was certainly the case Tuesday night.
Larry Cordle kicked off the show with Lonesome Standard Time, a popular song, band namesake for Cord, and a hit record for country singer Kathy Mattea.
Next up was singer/songwriter/guitarist, Kim Fox, who blamed Cordle for getting her to move to Nashville. She performed A Short Walk to the Moon, backed by the lovely harmony vocals of Steve Gulley and Dale Ann Bradley.
Bradley sang next, performing Somewhere South of Crazy, the title cut of her latest project. It’s a song that she and country singer Pam Tillis, had co-written.
To finish up the first round, Steve Gulley channeled some George Jones for his could-be classic country original, You’re Right I’m Wrong.
It was a great to see each artist contribute to the others’ tunes, providing harmony vocals, or even lead guitar in the case of Dale Ann, and Larry. They took turns doing about 5 songs each, with Cordle finishing up the night with his hit Murder on Music Row, which he originally debuted at the Bluebird several years back.
Louisa said that the performers have donated their time, with the proceeds going to benefit the Bluegrass Trust Fund. Last Tuesday’s show was a free event, so Louisa literally passed the hat, collecting nearly $300 to help out their fellow bluegrass folks.
The IBMA Bluegrass in the Bluebird committee has three more writer’s nights lined up for 2012, full evenings featuring eight writers each night. The next will be Tuesday May 15, with two shows. An early show at 6:00 pm will feature Craig Market, with Johnny and Jeanette Williams. Jerry Salley, Jim Lauderdale, and Donna Ulisse will be on the later show at 8:00 p.m. A few other writers are in the works at press time.
Other writers that will be featured in events later this year include Donna Hughes, John Pennell, Chris Stuart, Brink Brinkman, Becky Buller, Lisa Aschman, Claire Lynch, Larry Shell, and Tim Stafford. If you get a chance, come out to the top songwriter destination in the world, and spend a few hours with the cream of the crop of bluegrass tunesmiths.
Check out IBMA.org or bluebirdcafe.com for more information.