I must make a vow never to bring work away with me. I have been getting to bed about 2.00am and getting up at 7.00am, having the hotel’s light breakfast (cereal, toast, coffee and occasionally boiled eggs) and trying to finish my Rhythms writing. I did an interview with Ziggy Marley the other afternoon by Skype on my laptop. It worked. Then I had to write a review of Marley, the excellent documentary about Ziggy’s father, Bob. I can thoroughly recommend it. Luckily, I saw it again on the flight over so it was fresh in my memory. Actually, I watched it twice because it is so long (2 1/2 hours) that I fell asleep the first time.
Today provided one of my all time highlights for any festival anywhere. Richard Thompson did a Q&A at the Country Music Hall of Fame. I arrived half an hour prior to the session and got what was literally the last ticket. Phew! Thompson stood centrestage in the Ford Theater and, with no moderator, performed and took questions from the reverential audience. He started with ‘Bathsheba Smiled’ and over the course of the next hour fielded questions and sang songs to illustrate the discussion. I have to say the questions were excellent. At some of these Q&As overawed fans use it as a chance to tell the artist how much they revere them or how big a fan they are. Not so here.
Thompson is also a very funny man. I hope you get to hear his Robert Plant story one day. Stairway At Hendon indeed.
“How many people here have written a song since you’ve been in the room?” he asked humorously at one point. “I thought so. That’s the Nashville way.”
One of the most interesting points was when Thompson explained his technique and actually showed how he managed to sound like two guitarists in one. “Anyone can do it,” he said. Not likely.
He played ‘Waltzing For Dreamers,’ ‘Turning Of The Tide,’ ‘Keep Your Distance,’ Persuasion’ (from Sweet Talker), ‘Galway To Graceland.’ He also did a fantastic version of ‘Matty Groves’ after explaining how The Byrds had influenced Fairport Convention to take a similar approach to Brit folk. This song alone was, I think, enough to convince everyone in the theatre that we were in the presence of genius. (I think it might be archived online because it was certainly webcast).
After a rousing standing ovation Thompson returned to play ‘Was She A Woman Or Was She A Man?’ one of those wickedly funny songs that he throws in every now and again.
Afterwards, I got to briefly meet him and he told me that his new Buddy Miller-produced album will not be out until February. “It’s been finished for months,” he added, “But you know record company schedules.” Maybe he should have taken John Hiatt’s DIY approach and had some pressed up for the Q&A. He would have sold 500 right there.
Anyway, this was one of those times on a journey when you say to yourself, that was worth the cost of the airfare right there.
From the Country Music Hall Fame it was straight to Grimey’s Records on 8th Avenue South for Americanarama.This is a great record store and escape with your wallet in tact is impossible. I only purchased 5 CDs but there were several more I wanted that had sold out. I could have bought dozens and normally I would but this trip I am on a tight budget.
You walk through the store, out the back and downstairs is The Basement club and a large carpark where there was a line of tables with boxes bulging with 1000’s of vinyl albums. The stage is set under the shade of the building and bands played all day. I caught The Mastersons, who were again great, and then got to interview Chris and Eleanor for the radio show.
That night presented a dilemma. Rodney Crowell at The Station Inn or Buddy Miller & Lee Ann Womack at The Mercy Lounge? I opted for the latter because I had spoken to some people who were going to see Crowell and said they were getting there at 6.00pm!
Not that I was disappointed in my choice. Far from it. Buddy and Lee Ann did a request show that was terrifically entertaining. But I am uncertain as to how many requests they actually fulfilled (there was a request bucket at the door). The most common line of the night was Buddy reading a request and then saying, ‘We don’t know that song but we do know this one…..’ He is also a musician with a sly sense of humour.
They did George & Melba, George & Dolly, Porter & Dolly but no Nancy & Lee. There was a very tasty version of Dan Penn’s classic ‘Dark End Of The Street.’
What a way to finish the festival! The four-night pass is, believe it or not, just $50. How long will it stay like that?