Gary Nicholson, John Cowan Dig Their Music City Roots
Loveless Cafe, home of the best southern biscuits and friend chicken in the south, has now morphed into Loveless Barn, home of some of the best music in the south. The new Nashville music venue is home to Music City Roots, where every Wednesday some of the best in bluegrass, Americana and country meet jazz, swing and the blues.
Last Wednesday was a first for the music series, in that all the performers were tied to each other in a way that can only happen in Music City. Gary Nicholson -- songwriter, singer and musician extraordinaire, seemed to be the key to the connections. Gary has co-written a number of classic hits including 'One More Last Chance' for Vince Gill, 'She Couldn't Change Me' for Montgomery Gentryand 'Workin' Without a Net' for Waylon Jennings. He also wrote 'Fallin' and Flyin,'' which is featured in the Academy award-winning film, 'Crazy Heart.' Gary is also a producer, and of late has been working with blues and jazz artist Seth Walker, a recent arrival in Nashville via Austin from his home state of North Carolina.
"My uncle was a jazz bassist and I grew up as a classical cellist," Seth tells The Boot. "I moved to Austin to submerge myself in Texas blues. My move to Nashville was a little scary, but it was good to get out of my comfort zone."
"When Seth showed up [in Nashville] I felt like I had found my fifth son," Gary says of his new protégé. "It was simpatico."
Speaking of sons, Gary's youngest son, Luke, was featured in the Roots Emerging Artist Showcase segment, performing music from an upcoming EP release.
Jon Randall Stewart and Jessi Alexanderare the two main components of 18 South, a new band featuring these two great singer/songwriters. Both are frequent musical collaborators and performers with Gary. Individually, Jon co-wrote 'Whiskey Lullaby' for Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, and Jessi wrote 'The Climb' for Miley Cyrus.
"My parents played music and my dad wrote songs, so from the very beginning I was trying to write songs," Jon recalls. "Tonight is all about having our family of musicians on stage."
Jon produced Dierks Bentley's new bluegrass-tinged album, 'Up on the Ridge.' Explaining his approach to the project, he says, "I just followed his vision. He wanted to make a bluegrass-infused record and I grew up on bluegrass. I've seen where you can take acoustic music and that's what I tried to do, combining that with Dierks' vision for the record."
As for Jessi, she says, "[18 South] allows me to do what I want to do, which is make a living making music with people I love."
John Cowan and Gary have rossed paths numerous times, both in the studio and onstage. The two have worked on multiple albums together, including Jon's 'Walking Among the Living' and Delbert McClinton's 'Nothing Personal.'
"My dad sang in church and barbershop quartets, but it was [musician] Dave Grisman who took me to a record shop and introduced me to Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers," John told the Music City Roots audience. "I'm gonna do one of his tunes now."
Jon, Gary and Jessi joined John onstage for a rousing performance of 'Jesus Gave Me Water.' This was just one of the many collaborations throughout the evening, as this group of friends showed the packed Loveless Barn audience that artists of all influences and backgrounds can come together to share their common love for music. The surprise guest of the evening was Del McCoury, who joined John on the Bill Monroeclassic 'Can't You Hear Me,' which is on John's latest album 'The Massenberg Sessions.'
Jessi joined Seth for a gospel number while Seth came onstage during Gary's set to sing the title cut, 'Leap of Faith,' from his new record. The evening ended with all the performers returning to the stage to leave the audience with one final tune, a rousing rendition of the Allen Toussainttune 'Yes We Can.' The band encored as people began heading for the door and home, taking with them a shared appreciation of music without boundaries.