Nashville Tennessee

We arrived late on a Sunday night, stepping out of the van at the hotel, into a zephyr wind and an equally warm reception. I was taken by the "time has no meaning" pace of the Tennessee drawl from the hotel desk clerk. The impression that, for you, she had all the time in the world. It was a reassuring introduction to Music City and a far cry from my own expectations. On the wall above the coffee machine were the publicity picture testimonials of the famous and nearly famous, every one a link in the chain that runs through this city. The industry here is music, short and simple.

We walked downtown the next day headed for Broadway, the long, wide main street with its clubs and music shops, churches and souvenir shops.

The bars are famous in and of themselves, legendary for the people who have played there, been discovered, returned in triumph or slid from the bar stool into obscurity. Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Rippys and Wolfies. Earnest Tubbs Record Store and the Gruhn guitar store. At the foot of Broadway the Cumberland glides by, turgid and muddy and wide, through the town and past John Hartford Point, named after the musician and riverboat pilot who's home overlooked the river itself.

The club scene is a kaleidoscope of talent playing nightly in all sorts of configurations, the elements of various bands forming and reforming nightly, and everyone an amazing player. It is impossible to take it all in on any given evening, to decide who to see where. Chances are wherever you end up you made the right choice. The country music fans are evident, standing outside the Ryman Auditorium with the air of the Chosen about to walk through the Pearly Gates. The respect for the musical past is palpable and prevalent in the acknowledgement of those who have gone before. It seems that dues and respect are paid in full. From the Louvin Brothers to the Everly Brothers to the O'Kanes, the chain continues, seamless and unending, the past and the present in good hands.

Music Row, with its publishing houses, recording studios, agents and record labels is certainly unique, and the Country Music Hall of Fame would no doubt have been impressive had we gone, but I think the heart of the city and the industry is best reflected in the players themselves.

I was very fortunate indeed, in that I was invited down to play with good musical friends in a club that is nothing short of legendary. Kieren Kane and Kevin Welsh let me sit in on a songwriters circle at the Bluebird Cafe, a packed house with a healthy contingent of Canadians present and a history of music that surrounds you the moment you walk through the door. I had a lot of friends in the audience, and I made a few more afterwards. For me the music was the highlight, to hear my songs played and sung as they never have been before, groove laden and driven. We were joined by Fats Kaplin, a multi-instrumentalist of staggering talent who is about to set off on a world tour with the Mark Knoffler Band, but who dropped by to play. That penchant for support of other musicians seems to flow through the community of players and writers I had the pleasure to meet. Each one is a major talent on his or her own. I've admired Kieran and Kevin's music for years and man, can they play the lights out. They took my songs on an exciting and unexpected ride. Thrilling to hear.

One thing that will remain with me from this trip is the continuity of the music that has run through and continues to run through this city. I got to speak with Ronnie McCoury, from the Del McCoury Band, a man who started playing in his fathers band at 14 years old. His stories got me thinking about those links in the musical chain, how Ronnie and Keiran and Kevin have all benefited from those who went before, and how the next generation will benefit in turn from their own accomplishments. To be included among that number in even a peripheral way is an honour. That being said, the image that stays with me was a poingent one to me. It was of a singer seen through the window of Tootsies Orchid Lounge, perched on a stool, all hat and belt-buckle silver, singing under a blue spotlight, on the main street of Music City, USA.

back home

David at the end of Broadway

The Ryman Auditorium

David at the Bluebird

Kieran Kane

Kieran and Kevin Welch

Kevin and Fats Kaplin