Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's Bluegrass Music
Whether It's in a Palace or in a Hole in the Ground

       Yes indeedy! sometimes the stars line up just right and there's a big bunch of bluegrass music all coming at you at once. Such a week was this!

       Thanks to Stephanie White of the Memphis Public Library; Dr. Jack Cooper of the University of Memphis; Jim Oliver, bluegrass music fan; and John Gay, fine bluegrass singer and mandolin player, for this one!

       The Pink Palace (Memphis home of Clarence Saunders, the late founder of the Piggly Wiggly grocery stores) recently hosted a bluegrass event! Remarkable, you say? For sure! The event involved excerpts from the movie "High Lonesome" followed by a performance by the Memphis bluegrass band, Cypress Creek. Professor Jack Cooper of the University of Memphis narrated the event. Cypress Creek performers talked about the songs in their selection, and we surely hope that there are many more similar events to come.

       That Hole in the Ground? It's Cumberland Caverns at McMinnville, in southern Middle Tennessee near Nashville. For several years, the concept of Bluegrass Underground (literally!) has gained wider and wider (or deeper and deeper) recognition. Bluegrass music stars whos names you would easily recognize have performed there in the perfect acoustic setting. There's even a crystal chandelier in the cave!

       Thanks to Bob Cherry of Cybergrass and Ken Irwin of Rounder Records for some great information and links to YouTube videos about Bluegrass Underground. As with other YouTube subjects, there are many related videos listed to the side of your screen for your listening and viewing enjoyment. Thanks, Bob and Ken! See links below.

Pick away!

*Bluegrass Underground Episodes Begin Airing on PBS This Week

*Bluegrass Underground on NBC News Nightly News with Kevin Tibbles from Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, TN


Monday, October 7, 2013


Danny Gotham, Maura O'Connell, and Don Johnson at BPACC in Bartlett, TN

Maura O'Connell is still weaving her magic and singing for the fans wherever she goes. She warmly invites an audience to come with her as she reflects on her youth in Ireland and now as a US citizen. This renowned singer from Ennis, County Clare, recently stopped at Bartlett Performing Arts & Conference Center (BPACC) to cast her spell upon the locals, who fell right in with the plan and even sang along at Maura's invitation.

A real artist at what she does, Maura has a legacy of singing first with her family, later with a group of well-known Celts called De Dannan, and more recently as a soloist with a supporting cast of real heavyweights in music such as Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer, and Russ Barenberg. On this particular night, Maura was accompanied by guitarist Danny Gotham, and Don Johnson, who worked vocal harmony and bass for the evening. 

Jumping right into the program, Maura began her first set with Paul Brady's "To Be the One," followed by "Spinning Wheel" and "A Far Cry," from her Walls & Windows album. The audience did a little group participation in learning the name Declan O'Rourke, as we had to repeat it several times. O'Rourke's "No Place to Hide" was next, followed by "Blue Train" and "Summer Fly" by the popular singer-songwriter, Cheryl Wheeler. Did I mention that she rocks and sways and dances and even renders a sort of curtsey on occasion? Yes, she does all of that and it all works!

"Love You in the Middle" is the perfect expression for a loving relationship, whether it be with another adult or with your child or children. Maura explained that one might love somebody at the beginning and even at the end; the tougher place might be 'in the middle'. Jenny Ornstein at Vanderbilt University Children's Hospital introduced Maura to that song, and she does a fine job with it.

Part of the magic I mentioned earlier is Maura's rendition of  fellow Irish singer-songwriter Gerry O'Beirne's song, "The Isle of Malachy," which Maura recorded with legendary Dobro(r) player, Jerry Douglas. The first set concluded with "A Poor Man's House" and "Trip Around the Sun".

Returning to the stage after a break, Maura continued a cappella with her captivating and mysterious song "Hay Una Mujer Deseparacida," by the late Laura Nyro, who wrote many songs recognizable by a generation 'of a certain age' (mine). Social consciousness songs make serious statements, and "Hay Una Mujer Deseparacida" dealt with the unpleasant facts of women who have gone missing in Central and South America. Joan Armatrading's "The Weakness in Me" and "I Know My Love," by Mary Black, were delivered with the same deep, throaty passion for which Maura is known.

Maura also performed John Gorka's pool room number, "Blue Chalk," William Butler Yeats' poem "Down by the Salley Gardens," Michael Russell's "The Shades of Gloria," Mary Chapin Carpenter's "It Don't Bring You," and a very current topic in "Trouble in the Fields," Nanci Griffith's song about making it through the tough times. Declan O'Rourke's beautiful "Galileo" was given special treatment, and Maura concluded her performance with Nashville songwriter, Jonell Mosser's "Blessing". Want to hear her sing it again? Here she is at the Station Inn in Nashville, TN, as recorded on YouTube:

You don't want to miss Maura's appearances wherever they may be! Watch her website for more information:

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