Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 22, 2014
 Nothin' Fancy
The Collins Theatre
Paragould, AR
Jesse Smathers, Tony Shorter at rear, Mike Andes, Chris Sexton at rear, and Mitchell Davis
Nothin' Fancy rolled into Paragould, AR, on September 22, 2014, in a big, bright-yellow bus. They parked beside the Collins Theatre. People naturally noticed. A bus like that is a pretty big deal in Paragould. Actually, that bus is about as far as the 'fancy' label goes. They're not a fancy band, but their music is pure magic! The band has a yellow busload of honors from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) and the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). Frankly, it was difficult to hold this band down in their native spot in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. As leader Mike Andes said, "Somebody should write a song with those four words." [Shenandoah Valley of Virginia]  Too late, Mike. Somebody did! Nothin' Fancy is
out there entertaining everywhere they go--from coast to coast and across the pond. You are going to want to hear Nothin' Fancy--for the first time or again many times!
Mike Andes, the self-taught professional singer and mandolinist, is a founding member of Nothin' Fancy, the band which began to take shape in 1994. Prior to that, Mike formed the East Coast Bluegrass Band. He describes his appearance as sort of leftover-hippy. Don't let that fool you for one minute! There is a big voice on this guy, along with his expert mandolin artistry. His inspiration for the band's music is Charlie Waller and the Country Gentlemen, with a lot of the Seldom Scene thrown in for good measure. This affable instrument builder (mandolins and fiddles, even a 5-string fiddle) and performer is also a proud grandfather  of three.
Mitchell Davis plays banjo in the group. He also can handle vocals, the guitar and fiddle. He was smitten with Earl Scruggs and Don Reno at a young age. Mitch also comes out of the East Coast Bluegrass Band. His early mentors were also the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene. Nothin' Fancy has three self-released albums to their credit, and Mitch was the main producer of those albums.
Chris Sexton. . .the very mention of the name of this talented fiddle player should have other fiddlers practicing a lot harder. Chris was, and still is, known as a successful violinist. He has performed with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, the Roanoke Symphony, and the Loudoun Symphony. He even has a master's degree in violin pedagogy [teaching violin in private lessons]. Chris also performed with the East Coast Bluegrass Band. Wait! There's more! There is Chris' violin work that could be heard in recent years on the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, PBS, and the National Geographic Channel. He is a sought-after session musician and a natural performer who is fun to watch and who fits in perfectly with Nothin' Fancy. Chris handles vocal assignments as well.
Tony Shorter is one of several Nothin' Fancy band members who was influenced heavily in the early years by family members. He grew up listening to his father and uncle's bluegrass band. While in college, Tony helped to start the Virginia Tech Bluegrass Association. While he started out on mandolin, he began playing bass and guitar in college. He managed to play bass with five bands at one point. Regardless of the many styles of music Tony enjoys, he found his way back to bluegrass in 1994 to help with the startup of Nothin' Fancy, including his vocal work in the band's tight harmony. Even though his last name says 'Shorter,' for the record, this fine bass player is actually the tallest member of the band.
Jesse Smathers is the guitar player and tenor singer in Nothin' Fancy. Jesse also has a deep background of family musicians. His grandfather and great uncle received honors for their contributions to North Carolina Folk Music. Jesse started touring, playing mandolin and singing tenor and high baritone with the James King Band. Another band that Jesse played with, High Voltage, won top honors for bluegrass band at the Galax Old Time Fiddler's Convention. He is right at home holding down the guitar and tenor vocals with Nothin' Fancy.
The Collins Theatre in Paragould, AR is a renovated beauty of an old-fashioned theatre which seats about 500 fans. The first floor and the balcony were nearly full for the concert by Nothin' Fancy. Fans gave the band an enthusiastic welcome. The crowd loved the band from start to finish.
Terry's Café, at 201 South Pruett, Paragould, serves a wonderful catfish buffet on "Bluegrass Mondays," starting at 4:30p. The restaurant is a short walk from the Collins Theatre. 
In case you weren't there for Nothin' Fancy, here is what you missed: SET ONE: Angels Are Hard to Forget, Circuit Rider, Rose in a Spanish Garden (Last Letter Home), Two Different Worlds, Salt Creek (instrumental by Jesse Smathers), Together Again, We'll Meet Again Sweetheart, Keep Your Hands to Yourself, Another Night, House of Gold, and Uncle Pen. SET TWO: Soldier's Letter, Love and Wealth, I Remember the Touch of Your Hand, The Girl from the North Country, My Granddad Chases Women at the Local Retirement Home, Darkness and Dirt, You Don't Know My Mind, Darby's Castle, I Met My Baby in the Port-A-John Line, Wait a Minute, Orange Blossom Special, In the Garden, and the encore was More to be Pitied than Scolded.
Jesse Smathers, Tony Shorter, Mike Andes, Chris Sexton, Mitchell Davis

The one...the only...Chris Sexton
For additional information:
KASU with Marty Scarbrough in Jonesboro, AR, will replay the Nothin' Fancy show from the Collins Theatre on radio Sunday, September 28, 2014, at 12:30 PM CDT. ( Catch the show on radio or online!
The Collins Theatre: 120 W. Emerson St., Paragould, AR
Terry's Café: 201 South Pruett, Paragould, AR. Delicious Catfish Buffet served on "Bluegrass Mondays" - opens 4:30p and serving 'til close at 6:45p
Bluegrass Monday on Facebook
Nothin' Fancy website:  The band returns to Bluegrass Monday on February 23, 2015!
Pick away!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 19, 2014
Memphis Dulcimer Gathering
and Folk Festival
Instructors Concert
       The Memphis Dulcimer Gathering and Folk Festival has become a tradition focused on...well...traditional music. Larkin Bryant began the festival with Dennis Batson in about 1988 at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Midtown Memphis. It featured experienced professionals who came in from around the country to perform and teach. Lee Cagle is now carrying the festival forward in fine style. Together, they have more than 20 years of experience presenting the festival in Memphis. There are two days of instruction and jamming with some of the best in the mountain dulcimer and hammered dulcimer world. Vendors come in to sell dulcimers and the various supplies which go along with this traditional music.
         A highlight of the festival is the concert by the artists who come in to teach. If I can be permitted to drop a few names, I will share some who performed at the September 19 concert at Second Baptist Church, 4680 Walnut Grove Road in Memphis. They are: Lee Cagle, Larkin Bryant, Thomasina Levy, Rick Thum, Jess Dickinson, Agene Parsons, and Mike Anderson. Songcatchers Daniel Fleck and Hilary Scheel also participated in the concert. We spotted artist Ilace Mears in the crowd but we did not hear her perform.
       Below are a few photos from the instructor concert. That's Lee Cagle in the background enjoying the guest artists. We hope you enjoy seeing them. If you missed the event, check with Lee Cagle at her e-mail address or website. She can fill you in on upcoming events and the festival for next year. and
Larkin Bryant, mountain dulcimer

Larkin Bryant, autoharp

Thomasina Levy, mountain dulcimer and vocals

Thomasina Levy, mountain dulcimer and vocals, with Rick Thum, hammered dulcimer and vocals

Thomasina Levy, mountain dulcimer and vocals, with Rick Thum, hammered dulcimer and vocals

Jess Dickinson, hammered dulcimer, with Rick Thum, guitar

Jess Dickinson, hammered dulcimer

Lee Cagle, mountain dulcimer and vocals

Hilary Scheel, mandolin and vocals, Lee Cagle, mountain dulcimer and vocals, Daniel Fleck, guitar and vocals

Hilary Scheel, mandolin and vocals, Lee Cagle, mountain dulcimer and vocals, Daniel Fleck, guitar and vocals

Hilary Scheel, mandolin and vocals, Lee Cagle, mountain dulcimer and vocals, Daniel Fleck, guitar and vocals

Agene Parsons, hammered dulcimer and vocals, with Rick Thum, guitar and vocals

Rick Thum, hammered dulcimer and vocals

Mike Anderson, mountain dulcimer and vocals

Mike Anderson, mountain dulcimer and vocals

Mike Anderson, mountain dulcimer and vocals

Rick Thum, Lee Cagle, Agene Parsons, Mike Anderson, Thomasina Levy, Jess Dickinson, Larkin Bryant