Posted tagged ‘country music’

Three Chords and the Truth

December 26, 2009

        Just a short post today.  My boy is a paramedic and had to work yesterday, so today is our family Christmas.  Like all of us, he has to work for a living nowadays.  It can never be like the old days with him right here at the house to hit golf balls as soon as I hit the door from work, but we still have a lot of good times.  He’s on his way.  The boy is never gone for long but when he walks through that door we’ll hug on him like the prodigal son.  

        Today I want to tell you about  a new blog I found, 3 Chords a Day.  The link is below, and I’ve added them to my blogroll.  There is an old saying in Nashville- ‘Country music is three chords and the truth.’  I try to write that way too, as I believe the truth is simple. As my daughter says, “Daddy, you’re so simple you’re complicated to people.”

        Sure, I understand about money and that we all have to make  living, and I hope to sell a few books someday.  However, I told my agent I didn’t care if I sold three thousand or three million as long as I wrote what I believe to be the truth.  (So far we are far closer to three thousand but several publishers have it under review)

       I think this fellow writes what he believes to be true about country music just as sure as I try to be the most honest physician bluegrass fiction writer I can be.  If you love classic country, and believe it and bluegrass should be back on the radio in full force, check it out. 

        KNP.  Hold to the dream and have a fine holiday.

http://3chordsaday.wordpress.com

Dr. B

Darin and Brooke Aldridge, Progressive Traditionalists

September 29, 2009

        IBMA showcase; Monday night.  We made our way to some empty seats up front. My advice to the kids was they were prepared and had no reason to be nervous.  In spite of that my heart pounded and my eyes were moist.  They were here.  Barring power failure or some such catastrophe, they were gonna stand and deliver.

          It was quiet for a moment.  Glasses clinked around the room as folks finished dinner.  Darin came out first.  He wore his Sunday best.  He took just a moment to check the mic.  Brooke was in a pastel evening dress.  Even an old bluegrass doc could see was she was elegant.  The boys were in dark pants and light shirts with ties.  The band carried a class professional persona before they struck the first note.

        Right out the gate it was perfection.  Brooke’s vocals filled the room, and Darin’s harmony matched her with every phrase and trill.  The instrument fills augmented the words with just the right touch.  

       They broke into their wonderful country duet, ‘The Sweetest Waste of Time.’  Someone dashed out of the room.  I later learned they had gone to alert Eddie Stubbs, the voice of WSM radio.  I have no way to know what they said, but I expect it was something like, “Eddie, you gotta hear these kids.”

         Not only did Mr. Stubbs hear them, but so did radio listeners everywhere.  Eddie Stubbs is the voice of WSM, the original country music radio brand, and I understand he put them on a live feed for the WSM listening audience.  He interviewed them after the show.

           The crowd packed in tight.  I noticed several moved up as close to the stage as possible.  My new friend from France, Henri Deschamps, tapped me on the shoulder.  “Hey Doc, they are good.”  It was a proud moment for North Carolina.  The Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet now belong to the world.

        The keynote speaker for the night had been Mr. Pete Fisher, the General Manger of the Grand Ole Opry.  I thought of his words as they sang.  Mr. Fisher said we need to respect tradition, and yet not have it be an anchor that weighs us down.  The man had already made good on his word when he inducted the Stanley Brothers into the Opry.  There are few groups more traditional than the Stanleys.

          At the same time Mr. Fisher is correct that to maintain and develop a commercial presence in a music world that changes faster than old Doc can type, we must push forward. We have to balance the old and the new to stay alive.

        As Darin and Brooke played, it struck me this is exactly what they do.  Darin has studied the Stanleys, and every bluegrass and country artist he can get his hands on.  He and Brooke made that heritage the foundation of their sound, and yet knew their destiny was to create their own.

        And they are unique.  From the first line the music jumps off the stage as something you’ve never heard.  Somehow though it still strikes a nostalgic chord deep inside.  You know you must have been there before, but you can’t quite recall where.  

         The closest analogy I can make it they sing in a Louvin Brothers duet style, except one voice is female and one is male.  I asked Nashville veteran Jerry Salley and he said he thought that was about right.  He went on to say in that style he felt Darin and Brooke were unrivaled in today’s country music.  Don’t take it from Doc, I’m just a music lover.  Ask Jerry; he knows the business.

        Mr. Fisher also talked about the importance of brand.  He was right again.  What brand can ever symbolize country music more than the Grand Old Opry?  When I interviewed for med school, some old Professor asked me what I knew about opra.  I pondered that a minute and said, “Sir, I don’t know too much about opra, but I can tell you all about the Grand Ole Opry.”  I got in, and I hope I’ve done okay for a country boy.  I’ve sure done my best.

        So do Darin and Brooke.  When Mr. Fisher talked about brands, I was reminded of the words of Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon.  Someone asked what he sold, and he said, “We don’t sell cosmetics, we sell hope in a bottle.”  Mr. Revson understood the importance of brand.  The rewards of brand can only come from the responsibility of quality and consistency.  As Mr. Fisher said, (paraphrased)  “You must not just meet, but exceed expectation without fail.”  

          Darin and Brooke do that.  Like Charles Revson, their brand is also hope.  They respect their elders and tradition but still push their music to new boundaries every time out.  They sell hope too.  Old guys like me who love music and rely on it to see them through the hard times know young people like Darin and Brooke are gonna keep the tradition alive.  As groups like this emerge, we can know our music will never die on the vine from failure to move forward.  At least for this music lover, that is what I look for in a brand. 

        As Mr. Fisher said, we all must strive to exceed expectations in whatever we are called to do.  Darin and Brooke do just that, and North Carolina sure is proud of them for it.

Dr. B

Kill Nashville Pop/Mr. Larry Shell

May 29, 2009

        I started a FaceBook page a couple months ago, and it has been a bunch of fun.  I’ve found old friends I used to pick with that I haven’t seen in years.  

        There have been a number of new folks, too.  One of them is a gentleman named Larry Shell.  I knew of Mr. Shell before FaceBook; he has a list of songwriter credits longer than my leg, and I’m a right lanky fellow.  I became his FaceBook friend through my young country music friend Megan Peeler.  She’s a wonderful singer who won the National Colgate Country Showdown.  Mr. Shell is introducing her to Nashville, and they have written some songs together.

          Folks, Mr. Shell is the real McCoy, and might well know more about traditional country music than anyone on the planet.  Just get on FaceBook and check out his video collection of country music performances.  It’s more fun than going to the picture show on a summer day when it’s the only place in town with air-conditioning.

        Mr. Shell started a movement called ‘Kill Nashville Pop.’  The tag line to it might well be  ‘and save real Country Music.’  He has bumper stickers with the ‘Kill Nashville Pop’ logo, and I ordered several.  I put one on my work briefcase right next to the ‘I Love my Martin Guitar’ sticker.  (Docs carry briefcases with a lot of important papers like band set lists, so it gets a lot of exposure)  One went on my banjo case, and the third one is displayed on my Calton mandolin case I carry when I travel.  It’s beside the one that says, “What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about?”

       I want you to know I have no personal animosity towards the folks who sing pop country.  It’s just to me it isn’t real country music.  A record executive once told me, (paraphrased) “Doc, you’re too hung up on this art thing.  You gotta realize the real purpose of a country song is to keep someone on the radio until the commercial comes on.”  I am sure I am hopelessly old fashioned but to me the real purpose of of country song is to touch me and help me carry my burdens.  When one of my favorite patients  turns up with some God awful cancer no one in the Tobacco Triangle can fix, sometimes all that gets me by is my God and my music.  Maybe I’m just old, but fluff doesn’t cut my gig, and a daily minefield of pain and suffering is a tough one at times. 

        I suppose one could say “Well, Doc.  That’s all nice, but what do you know about the music business?  You’re just a Doctor.”  That is true.  And I am not so naive that I don’t realize the bills have to be paid.  I ran a small Doctor’s office for many years.  Some months were tight, and I understand the phrase  ‘no margin no mission.’  I do know this though.  To me the purpose of a country song is not to satisfy the quarterly earnings report of an executive, but to satisfy the souls of folks like me in the work a day world.  To speak to me, it has to be honest words sung by honest people with real everyday human problems.  To me if it ain’t that it ain’t country.

         I’m the same way in the Doctor gig.  I am what they call a ‘low end provider,’ ie in the 25th percentile as an earner.  One time one of those hard bitten consultants said, “Doctor, your problem is you spend too much time talking to your patients.  You need to spend more time ordering tests.”  Privately he admitted if he got in jam he’d want me to try to help him out, though.  I took it as a high compliment.  Who’d want a Doc who saw his patient as a financial opportunity?  I’m prouder of my good board scores and even more of the fact I care about my patients and most of them seem to like me O.K.  Call me a Pollyanna if you want, but I say the definition of a good Doctor is one who tries to help his people, not one who wants a bonus and an award for being a ‘high end provider.’   And most of the Docs I know see it the same way.

        And a good song is one that sells well because it touches people and is a good song, and is not a good song because of careful marketing and the commercial success it shows on the balance sheet for the last quarter.  The good ones will stand the test of time and still are relevant years later, because they speak to human truths that have not changed.  That is sure true for the material Mr. Shell posts every day on FaceBook.

        One time I went to a song writer seminar and a fellow named Paul Craft was on the panel.  Someone asked him how he knew when he’d written a good song.  He said something like when he got to where he could sleep because he believed he had reached deep down inside and got the best out of himself  he could do, then he felt it was a good song.  I like that definition.  For my money, I want someone to tell me a story about Clayton Delaney.  There is a reason a legend like Tom T. Hall and his wife Dixie write bluegrass tunes these days, and I guarantee you it has nothing to do with money.

        Oh, one last thing.  Mr. Shell is working on a book.  Mine is due out in 2010.  Some old day me and Megan are gonna play a song at a book store gig and my wife and I are gonna take her out for a plate of chicken that reminds her of home.  I hope Mr. Shell will join us.  I’d love to trade books with him professional courtesy, and get him to sign his.  I believe if country music is saved, Mr. Shell will go down in the history books as one of the folks who threw out the life preserver.  I’d pass the book on down to my kids as a reminder that their people knew the cat  who helped saved it.

        Well enough preaching from old Doc.  Y’all can get preached at from the pulpit on Sunday, so I better get off my high horse and go to work.  Good luck Mr. Shell, and keep on pushing the real country music.

Dr. B

Megan Peeler: My Favorite Country Music Singer

March 6, 2009

        Johnny’s Music Store is our local music hangout.  (The old timers still call it Johnny’s Jewelry and Pawn)  It is a good place to relax.  They have a fine easy chair right next to the Martin guitars.  Sometimes I’ll take a nap there at lunch. They know my schedule and always wake me up in time to make afternoon office hours. 

        One day a new young lady bounced in.  Johnny pulled her aside.  “Hey, Megan, you need to meet Dr. B.  He’s our local music critic.  Plays mandolin with Neuse River.  He’s the gray haired one over in the easy chair by the Martins.”

        She walked over and Johnny introduced us.  “Doctor B, this is Megan Peeler.”

        “Nice to meet you sir.”   This was a country kid with a nice southern drawl.  We shook hands.

        “You need to go catch her show, Doc.”  Johnny said.

        “Where you playing, kid?”

       “Over at the college for the Poultry Association.”

        “They gonna have good food?”

        “The best.  I played it last year.”

       “O.K.  Sure.  I’ll come by.”

        When she left I turned to Johnny asked, “Can she sing?”

        “Dang right she can, Doc.  Won the Colgate  Country Showdown.”

       “The national contest?”

        “Yep.”

        “Wow.  I reckon she can.”  With those credentials, it didn’t take much for John to convince me this was a must see artist.

        Still, even with the heads up I was unprepared for the energy of her performance.  This was a cute kid, but far more than just a new girl singer.  She had a powerful voice.  The show was a mix of both country classics and her original compositions.  She played guitar and keyboards.  Not but a minute into the show I fished around for a pen and began to take notes on a program.  

         In spite of her young age, Ms. Peeler was already a skilled performer who connected with her audience right away.  Pretty soon, the old folks smiled and the young ones danced.  From a musician’s perspective it was clear she had more than than an informal background.  As it turned out she was a magna cum laude grad in Music Therapy from Appalachian State University, so she had plenty of formal music education.

        We got a chance to chat afterwards.  I was impressed this was a young lady who was not so much into the star mentality but one who loved music.  For Megan, music is a medium for human communication.  She was all about a good show, but also interested in composition, theory, harmony structure, and the power of music to heal.  I told her I played the nursing home circuit and she said she had enjoyed doing some shows like that in her journey.  She engaged her audience and addressed the crowd like she was playing a church picnic, but at the same time was a very serious artist. 

        It brought to mind Wayne Benson’s thoughts on John Cowan.  Wayne toured with Cowan a couple years and he said the man always wanted to entertain to the best of his ability. (which is considerable)  If they had a disappointing turn-out Cowan never let up.  He’d say “we can make eighty just as happy as eighty thousand.”  Megan Peeler strikes me as a pro like that too.

        It has been a while since I’d thought about Megan, but there was an article in our local paper today that she’d landed a gig on national television.  She’s gonna sing the National Anthem in Atlanta to open a NASCAR race.  Way to go Megan.  Folks, if Doc mangled the Star Spangled there’d be a revolution to change songs.  (or at least artists)  It takes a real singer to tackle that one, but Megan can do it.

        We never forgot her around here after she came through and did that Poultry Association gig.  If they tell you at Johnny’s Music a new artist is worth your time to go hear you can count on it, and Megan is all that and more.  Y’all look for her on national T.V.  One of these days if I am in Nashville on a book promo I’m gonna see if she’ll sit in with me and sing a tune at the book store.  Her venues grow bigger every year, and by then the young folks might mob the place.  But I suspect Megan Peeler is gonna stay down to earth regardless of how far her star rises.

        And by the way, if Megan Peeler says the Poultry Association can cook up some mean chicken take her word for it; it was good.

        Look for her her on the Cable Speed Channel Atlanta NASCAR race this Saturday, March 7th at 1:30.

        Her web site :   www.myspace.com/meganpeelermusic

Dr. B