[Artists Performing Regularly in Nashville:
Reviewed by Anna Doherty]
My answer to the question "Is it the club
itself or the artist which attracts you to a particular place?"
is "Yes." There is so much talent in this town and so
many great places to hear it. Here's a list of mostly local artists
of varying degrees of fame and success whom I would try to see
in almost any club in town.
Most of the artists in this list are singer/songwriters
of various types.
Pat Alger: Known for more than a few notable hits, particularly for Nanci Griffith and Garth Brooks, but many of his little gems have been recorded only by him.
Matraca Berg: Also known for writing many hits. Why her singing career didn't take off is one of life's great mysteries.
Guy Clark: A true journeyman and poet, a very comfortable and homey distance from the mainstream.
Vassar Clements: Fiddle player
extraordinaire. I have seen him play his trademark "hillbilly
jazz" with the greats and the unknowns. He's featured on
the now-legendary "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" album.
In the past several weeks he's played with an unknown bluegrass
band at the Station Inn, with a couple of fellow-legends at the
Ryman, and with the alternative country set at the Exit/In. I
hear that he hangs out at one of the Belmont area coffee shops
some mornings or afternoons and just plays.
Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time:
Traditional country sound.Made some major industry noise with "Murder on Music Row" during the past year or so.
Paul Craft: Inventive and entertaining.
Danny Flowers: Famous for writing
"Tulsa Time," but he has so much more up his sleeve.
I did attempt the Bluebird for him, but couldn't get in.
Jimbeau Hinson: Great songwriter with more than a few major hits to his credit. Genuinely nice guy.
Pat McLaughlin: Rockingly energetic
writer/singer/ guitar and mandolin player. From quirkily funny
to more genuinely soulful than I ever dreamed a mid-western white
boy with a mandolin in his hands could ever get, this is masterful
musicianship and just all-around great stuff.
The Del McCoury Band: Dad, sons and friends make wonderful bluegrass music. They have won many major awards, but are just as "down-home" as the day they started out.
Tracy Nelson: Delicious bluesy
singer. Had some major notice as a kid and is still at it, full-tilt,
Tim and/or Molly O'Brien: Folk-ish
acoustic brother and sister duo. I think she is now based in Colorado.
Tim is no slouch on his own, but together they are phenomenal.
Maura O'Connell: This powerful
folk/pop singer hails from Ireland, although she now calls Music
City home. She still really enjoys playing small clubs from time
to time, even though she's a major international act.
Pierce Pettis: Not local, but
plays and writes here with predictable regularity. Intriguing
voice which has not changed much over his many years as another
real journeyman and poet. Cerebral songwriting.
Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch: They do several styles of music together, but are at their best with authentically Appalachian-sounding songs which they have written themselves. Each also performs solo.
Wooten Brothers: An incredibly talented group of literal and figurative brothers, whom I would go to see in any configuration. Two play with Bela Fleck and the others play with other artists or have solo careers, but Wednesday nights at Third and Lindsley are traditionally Wooten and there is no telling how many will show up to jam with each other. I don't even know how many there are, but it's more than three, and theirs must have been an amazing house to have grown up in.
These are some equally good folks to hear, in no particular order, who fit into more specialized niches:
Blues and Such
Blues U Can Use: House band at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. Great sounding blues and many times some blues legend passing through town will sit in for a set or two. The last time I witnessed this, an ancient man was helped to the stage and it took him nearly ten minutes to put his guitar strap on. But when his fingers finally touched those strings, magic happened.
Anthony Gomes: Also blues. Great voice. Performs across Printers Alley from Bourbon Street at Bourbon Street's new sister club, Congo Square, a cavernous "Disneylandish" replica of New Orleans architecture, hanging moss and stuff.
Clarence Dobbins and band: Very high energy rhythm and blues and other Motown-type sounds. Clarence is a powerful vocalist and an engaging showman. It is difficult not to dance to this band, but they are so popular, there often isn't enough room. They seem to have a steady gig at the Bunganut Pig in Franklin, but occasionally play a Nashville venue like The Boardwalk.
Ceili Rain: Very energetic Celtic rock band fronted by Bob Halligan whose "Love Travels" allowed Kathy Mattea to introduce Celtic pop-rock to the general public in a big way. Bagpipes, penny whistle, fiddle and foot-stompin' rhythms.
Moore and Broaders: Jimmy Moore and Pat Broaders are based in Chicago but appear every six to eight weeks at Mulligan's Pub, sometimes more frequently. They are the genuine article, straight from Ireland, and play Irish music from traditional to popular with great skill. They also write. Jimmy Moore's heartbreaker "I Still Can't Say Goodbye" was a trademark song for the late Chet Atkins and Garrison Keillor mentioned it in his eulogy of Chet at the Ryman. Both are top-notch and versatile musicians as well as vocalists, and Pat plays the most haunting uilleann pipes this side of the Atlantic.
Sportin' Paddy with Sean McNamara: This trio holds forth most weekends from Thursday to Saturday at Mulligan's Pub, and here is where I confess to shameless self-promotion. My husband is one of the two owners who round out the trio. A nice mix of old and contemporary Irish songs, sprinkled generously with swing -your-pint-and- bang-your-ashtray- on-the-table singalongs.
Parcel of Rogues: Larger, mostly traditional Irish musical group which is very entertaining and musically versatile. More instrumental than vocal.They play most often at the Sherlock Holmes Pub.
Billy Block's Western Beat Show: Every Tuesday at the Exit/In, Billy Block hosts a variety of independent artists who do not fit the commercial country profile. Music Row got hip to how popular this show was awhile back, and representatives from the major labels not only scatter sample demos of their up-and-comers on all the tables but are themselves are quite a visable part of the audience. (They're the ones in the suits.)
If you get there early, you get a table and all the goodies they leave on it. The show starts at 7 and usually goes on until 12, so it's still somewhat doable on a worknight. There is usually one or more recognizable headliner and eight or so other acts. Quite a loud bang for five bucks.
More BlueShoe Music:
Nashville Music Clubs by Anna Doherty.
Doherty is a Nashville writer whose husband plays
in the trio Sportin' Paddy and is one of the owners of Mulligan's
Pub on Second Avenue North.