Tres Chicas – The Universe is a Beautiful Place

go site 1L2A9877I’ll remember April 24th 2015  for two reasons:  It was the 25th anniversary of the launching of the Hubble telescope and Six String Presents brought Tres Chicas to an intimate 185 seat theater in Cary, NC.   The Hubble is an amazing creation.  Launched with the goal of  peering deep into time, hoping to unlock the secrets of the Big Bang.  Important stuff in the quest for knowledge.  But to quote Bernie Taupin, “all this science, I don’t  understand.”    For me the most important thing the Hubble has revealed is that our piece of the universe is a beautiful place.  You’ve seen the images.  Spectacular!  Even as we pound down into the minutia of existence, discovering muons and Higgs Boson  particles, the Hubble lets us step back and see the bigger, more beautiful picture.  What better way to celebrate its birthday than a performance by Tres Chicas!

go site Tres Chicas.  Those two words sum it all up.  If you know me, you know that I think there’s nothing more beautiful than the female voice and there’s no better voice than Tres Chicas.  Tonya Lamm, Caitlin Cary and Lynn Blakey treated a full house to a rare and precious show.  They opened with “Shade Trees In Bloom”  from their Red, Bloom and The Ordinary Girl album and finished the set with “Sweetwater” from their debut cd.  Their 17 song set was aural nectar filled with captivating harmonies as they covered songs form both their albums and more.  Backed by Jesse Huebner and FJ Venture they played Chicas classics “In A While,” “Drop Me Down” and the aforementioned “Sweetwater” (my favorite) as well as a few new (to me) tunes, notably “Lloyd’s Mom.”  Praise the Lord!   For the final encore they invited opening band Mary Johnson Rockers and The Spark onstage for an amazing version of Fairport Convention’s “Sloth.”  Perfect! Maybe someday across the far arc of  existence an alien scanning his piece of the cosmos  will pick up a few refrains from Friday’s show and think “Man, the universe is a beautiful place.”   Thanks Chicas, for adding to the beauty!

dating agency cyrano 03 vostfr Link to Tres Chicas Photos Tres Chicas.  They sing as one. They’re my superlative. Dave Brainard, Grassicana

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“Repast” Danny Gotham’s Latest!

IMG_0876It’s 6:15 on a weekday morning.  I’m just about to begin my standard molar grind of a commute from Raleigh to the Research Triangle Park.  The usual suspects are in play – tailgaters, left lane lollygaggers and Tony Stewart wannabes – all vying for a position under my skin.  As I venture down the on ramp I take a gulp of coffee and slip Disc 1 of Danny Gotham’s latest album “Repast” into the cd player.  I’m ready to enter the fray!  Just as I crest the hill at mile marker 287, overlooking a sea of brake lights, The Delmore Brothers’ classic “Blues Stay Away From Me” starts to play.  How perfect!  I make a “note to self” to look up who owns those beautiful vocals.  It’s then that I realize I’m not grinding my teeth.   I’m not swearing,  I’m not tense . . . I’m LAUGHING!  The commute ain’t so bad today.  Hmmmm, maybe music CAN soothe the savage beast . .

In addition to being a cure for the common commute, “Repast” is a marvelous collection. It begins and ends with Gotham playing a solo guitar track.  In between are Woody Guthrie’s “Do-Re-Mi,” Steve Goodman’s “Old Smoothies,” and  a Newgrass arrangement of The BeeGee’s “To Love Somebody.”  Perhaps my favorite (today, anyway) is a Gotham original, “Brother Ray,” a smooth bluesy shuffle.  The musicianship throughout is exquisite – recital perfect.  The recording and engineering are flawless. The song selection covers Bach, The Beatles, Jazz, Blues, Traditional and originals.  It’s old tunes done new ways and new tunes done old ways and it’s so much more.  It’s smooth, it’s spiritual, soulful and joyful.  It’s a 32 track diary of Gotham’s life with each entry a musical experience and influence.  It’s a celebration of who Danny Gotham is and it’s beautiful.

When you buy your copy, (and you should!) make note of the cast of celebrants that came to Danny’s party.  Listen to it during your evening meal.  Listen to it late at night with your headphones on. Read the liner notes and enjoy the photos and yes, DO listen to it while you drive!  Get to know Danny Gotham – you’ll be glad you did.

Fab Four at Fifty

Dave Brainard – Grassicana

Get out and see it live

Miscellaneous Musings:  I don’t know Danny personally but I get the feeling his favorite Beatle was George Harrison.

Danny Gotham is the only person other than Steve Goodman I’ve ever heard sing “Old Smoothies.”  Hat’s off to both of you!

How do you pare a musical career down to 31 tracks?  I’d love to hear some “Bonus Track!”

It’s nice to see an album with real liner notes!  Great Job sir!





The Black Lillies

1L2A4004    Once again I was late to a party.  I’d been keeping track of The Black Lillies for a couple of years via You Tube and Facebook and such, but I had never seen them.  So on a moonless, rainy November night I ventured to Carrboro’s legendary Cat’s Cradle to rectify the situation.  As I made the 45 minute drive I contemplated what the evening might bring.   I like their music and the videos, but often these don’t relay the true measure of a band.   I wondered if the evening’s gloom and rain would keep the crowd away.   I needn’t have worried about either.  When I arrived their fans were already in the house.  Avid fans!  I met Jason, who drove 2 hours in the rain from Eastern North Carolina to be there.  He’s seen them “more than 14 times” and has been as far west as Knoxsville to do so.   I talked to Beth and Sloane who have seen them multiple times as far north as Vermont. The more people I talked to, the more it seemed I was the only “first timer” in the room!
The Cradle soon  filled and after a notable set by opening Asheville band River Whyless,   The Black Lillies took the stage.  As they assumed their positions they greeted and waved to familiar faces in the audience.  It became clear that this band has more than fans – they fave a devoted  following.  When they kicked off their set it became apparent why.  Cruz Contreras proved to be the consummate front man.  He has the looks, the moves, the voice and the talent.   Trisha Gene Brady’s vocals are a perfect compliment.   It’s hard to believe they haven’t been singing together all their lives.  Tom Pryor is a rock solid guitar play and is tremendous on the pedal steel!  Bassist Robert Richard and drummer Bowman Townsend round out the band with a good solid foundation.
They opened the set with upbeat versions of  “Midnight” and “Ramblin Boy,”   mixed in some new tunes from an upcoming album and soared through their video hits “Two Hearts Down” and “Smokestack Lady.”  It seemed though, that every song was a fan favorite.  They finished strong with covers of “Shape I’m In” and a surprising (to me, anyway) version of “Love Train” with Trisha Gene leading a train of dancers through the audience!
I don’t know if this was a typical Black Lillies performance or not, but it sure was a good one.   They played upwards of 20 songs and it was hard to believe that it was after midnight when they finished.  Time flies, you know?  Anyway, I’ve got some Black Lillies music to buy and some catching up to do.  I think they’ll fit nicely in my playlist!

Link to The Black Lillies Photos

All photos courtesy of Dave Brainard – Grassicana

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Billy Joe Shaver – Southland Ballroom (Raleigh, October 13, 2014)

1L2A1552A lot of singers mellow as they wind down the years, relying on past hits and covers to fill any new album that may come along.  Not so Billy Joe Shaver.  At 75 he’s doing what he’s always done best – writing, touring and singing good Country Music.  His tour supporting his latest album, Long In The Tooth, stopped at Raleigh’s Southland Ballroom last night, courtesy of Marianne Taylor Music.  For over two non-stop hours Shaver showed a packed house how it’s done.  He did a little dancin’ and a bit of shadow boxing while giving a kick ass performance.

I made the choice not to listen to his new album, Long In The Tooth prior to last night’s show.  I wanted to hear him perform the songs along side his hits.  I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed.  New tunes like “It’s Hard To Be an Outlaw”, “I’ll Love You as Much as I Can” and “Last Call for Alcohol” stand right up with “Old Five and Dimers” and “Honky Tonk Heros.”  Shaver mixed new in with old, reaching into his vast catalog to keep the crowd on its feet the entire night.  At 75 years young,  Billy Joe Shaver may be Long In The Tooth bit he’s definitely  not short on talent.  That old lump of coal just may have turned to diamond!

Billy Joe Shaver Photo Gallery

Dave Brainard, Grassicana

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The Doug Prescott Band “Brings da Groove!”

IMG_0758The Doug Prescott Band kicks off their latest album “Karma and the Big Caboose” asking “Did You Bring Da Groove?”  Don’t worry if you didn’t, Prescott’s got a train load of it and he’s bringin’ it on down the line!  The 10 track excursion leaves the depot with a full head of steam and doesn’t spare the coal until it reaches the terminal with a strong cover of “Sailin’ Shoes.”

Along the route are stops which highlight Prescott’s versatility as a songwriter.  “Coffee Shop Girl,” is about a girl he sees every morning. In true Walter Mitty fashion, he has a recurring daydream about her being a Russian spy.  A fun, well written song for sure.   “Invisible Man” is a Dad’s lament about being his teenagers’ “un-cool” father and “Black Bone Snake,” has a cool, jazzy, bebop groove.  There’s even a country song (“A Month In Texas”) about how time drags when he’s alone and on the road.  Tying it all together is an underlying groove reminiscent of Little Feat and Rare Earth.  To me, it all comes together on “The Hard Line.”  Prescott’s growling vocals, a kick-ass horn section and some great backing vocals make this the jewel of the album.  Add in some screaming guitar work by Tommy Hartley and Willie Painter and you’ve got a crank it up – roll the windows down – damn the speed limit rocker!

Karma & The Big Caboose is a well written, well played and well engineered album.  It has a lot of good hooks, some fantastic piano rolls, great horns and I love me those deep gutteral vocals.  As good as it is, I get the feeling this band really comes to life on stage.  I can’t help thinking that when The Doug Prescott Band rolls into the station there’s a full house and a packed dance floor close by.  I’m just gong to have to book a ride and find out.  Hope to see you there!

Dave Brainard, Grassicana

Get Out and See It Live!

Miscellaneous Musings:  “The Hard Line” is worth the price of the album
“Coffee Shop Girl” would make a good video
“Thinkin For Yourself” reminds me of Maria Muldaur (and that’s a compliment)
Coolest cover art of the year!  Props to Ray Troll

Jack White “Plays” Farm Aid


Photo Not Allowed

rencontre nocturne pdf If you want people to want something, tell them they can’t have it.

From the moment I arrived Saturday morning, the buzz among the photographers was that Jack White
wasn’t going to allow photography during his set. Never mind the message and purpose of Farm Aid or
the other musicians on the bill, “The Story” seemed to be Jack White.   Certain photogs were issued
blue wristbands at check-in, but not told why. This only served to add fuel to the rumor mill.  It all seemed too orchestrated.  If it smells like a fish . . ..  Turned out the blue banded photographers would be the chosen few (there were 8 of us) allowed to shoot.  Funny, I felt more manipulated than special.  Call me cynical. If you want to be noticed, stand apart from the crowd.

As soon as they started setting up his stage, it was clear that appearance plays big with Jack White.
He had his road crew dressed in slacks, button down light blue oxford shirts and white fedoras with light
blue hatbands.  They looked like they stepped off the chorus line of the musical “Chicago.” His set was lit
with blue lights and accented with fog machines, not just on stage, but in the audience areas as well.  Jack himself looked good too.  He was well dressed in blue and had all the right moves.  He held his pale blue Telecaster in all the right ways.  He struck all the right poses at just all right times and he had all the proper rock & roll grimaces. Lots of blue.  Lots of posturing.  Don’t get me wrong, he played a high energy set and played it well.  It was definitely a fresh change from the traditional “Farm Aid Four” and he truly stood apart from the crowd.  In the end though, if you ignore the hype and strip away the theatrical lighting, you’re left with a pretty good guitarist who writes pretty good songs – nothing special, really.  All in all I thought it was like watching a “Smurf Bonamassa” show – but the crowd went wild and the press extolled his genius.

So there you have it.  The opinion of a cynical old man.  All in all Farm Aid 2014 was a great day.  Plenty of fantastic acts and musicians that truly care about what’s going on around them.  I guess I kind of feel like Jack White “played” Farm Aid,  using the event for personal publicity instead of promoting the Farm Aid cause.  You may notice that there are no photos of Jack in this blog post.  We were advised by Farm Aid’s publicist that Jack White’s people would be on the lookout for unauthorized publication of photos of him at Farm Aid 2014. Even though I was one of the “lucky few” photographers, Grassicana isn’t an authorized outlet and I will respect their wishes.  You will, however, be able to  see my photos at Blurt Online (the fine folks I was shooting for).  Please check them out as well as their Sister enterprise, Schoolkids Records.   Other photos from the day can be seen here:  Link to Farm Aid 2014 Photos

Dave Brainard

Get Out and See it Live!


Lynda and Pattie – Living Up To Traditions!


Lynda and Pattie are having a busy summer.  They spent a week in June teaching fiddle and songwriting to a lucky group of students at PineCone’s Bluegrass Camp, they’ve been to Nashville, played festivals as far north as Pennsylvania, appeared on radio and various club and theater dates to support their album Traditional Duets – and their beat goes on . . .. There’s a reason they’re in high demand – these ladies can sing.  Oh how they sing!  Friday night a near capacity crowd in Carrboro Artscenter’s  Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater were treated to a beautiful performance filled with tight, tight soulful harmonies.   Lynda and Pattie truly captured and conveyed the the essence of the traditional music they played.  We felt the heartbreak as they sang  “Dark as the Night, Blue as the Day,”  we lived the sorrow of  “Your Lone Journey.”  They sang with the familiarity of best friends who grew up singing in the church choir together, wanting to sound their best for each other.  As wonderful as their vocals are, Lynda and Pattie are more than just a pretty voice.  Lynda Dawson’s bluegrassy, folk-strummin’, hard driving guitar underneath Pattie Hopkins’ exquisite 5 string fiddling produce a rich full sound that fills a room.

Friday night they mixed the traditional with some originals and finished their set with Lynda clogging to Pattie’s lively rendition of  “Bonaparte’s Retreat.”  They capped off the evening by joining The Gravy Boys onstage for “Tear My Stillhouse Down” and “The Weight.”  A perfect end!

Lynda and Pattie will continue to be busy.  They’re booked through the end of November and I have all confidence that they’ll be the darlings of the upcoming IBMA Showcases.  See them soon – see them often – you’ll be glad you did! Lynda and Pattie Gallery

Dave Brainard

Get Out And See It Live!



Jump Startin’ September at Lorraine’s . . .

Carolina Road

Last year on September 27th, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road kicked off the IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival here in Raleigh.  They were the very 1st band to play in what has become a legendary event.   This year Lorraine is kicking things off again, but in a different way.  With  Hopscotch and the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass bookending  Raleigh’s M.A.I.N. Event, and Farm Aid coming to town, the eyes of the world will be on Raleigh in September.  The world should, however, take a peek just South of town.  While Raleigh is in a frenzy getting ready for September, Lorraine Jordan has quietly put together a series of shows at her newly opened Lorraine’s Coffee House.  Several hundred thousand people will converge on Raleigh, but 10 minutes down the road in Garner, over Labor Day Weekend, 90 people will see some of the best that Bluegrass has to offer.   The lineup includes The Grascals, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice and Marty Raybon & Full Circle as well as some of the finest local bands around. Just in case you didn’t know,  that’s the 2014  SPBGMA Bluegrass Band of the year, the  current IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year and the singer of the current IBMA Gospel Performance of the year, all in one weekend in a coffee shop in Garner. So, while the rest of the world is finalizing their travel plans to Raleigh, I think I’ll just mozie on down the road and join 89  friends for some coffee and great pickin’ at Lorraine’s.  Come on down!

Dave Brainard

Get Out And See It Live!


Corolla Ponies in the Snow – Jefferson Hart and the Ghosts of the Old North State

20140627_071119[1] Caution:  Listening to this album may cause  Earworms,  Daydreams and other pleasantly distracting side effects!

In my opinion, this is Jefferson Hart’s best release to date.  He and the Ghosts of the Old North State have put together what is truly an Americana classic.  The album has a groove to it – the hooks are infectious and Hart brings emotions to life like never before.  Bookended by solid country tunes ”Marigold” and “Marigold Again,” “Corolla Ponies” is like driving the back roads to the beach.  It’s your heart pounding in your chest as you take the first step past heartache - the first kiss of a new love.  It’s “kids on bikes and baseball cleats” and a longing to help someone learn to love again.  The images created are spectacular!

I’ve listened to this a lot since it arrived in the mail and I’ve read the reviews (all deservedly favorable).   Hart is being compared to Neil Young, Gram Parsons and even Tom Petty.  High praise and I can’t deny that they’ve influenced his music.  You can also hear the influences of The Beatles and Brian Wilson,  but every track on “Corolla Ponies in the Snow” is unmistakably Jefferson Hart.  With this album, he and the Ghosts of the Old North State have stepped out of the shadows of the Youngs and Parsons and are standing tall on their own.  The Muse of Americana Music has blessed us!

“Corolla Ponies in the Snow”  is getting airplay on Calvin Powers Americana Music Show, it’s available in all the finest record stores, Amazon, cdbaby,  Reverbnation   and I-Tunes.   Get it! Miscellaneous Musings:  

  1. The cover photo is worth the price of the CD (as a photographer, this is the kind of photograph I dream of taking).
  2. At the 2:45 mark of “Marigold Again,” Nathan Golub’s pedal steel is just magic!
  3. Neil Young couldn’t write songs like “Swinging on a Scar” or “Sleeping ‘Neath a Lucky Star.”
  4. I’d like to hear Gordon Lightfoot sing the title track . . ..
  5. I see a video in my head every time I hear “Tale of a Love Gone South.”

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Dave Brainard – Grassicana