Tuesday, June 28, 2016

JUNE 27, 2016
     DR. RALPH STANLEY HAD IT, Coach Pat Summitt had it, and Coach Buddy Ryan had it! They all left us in the last 10 days. It's been quite a week for all of us in several genres. Smiles and tears everywhere! Dr. Ralph had it in bluegrass music as a member of the first generation, Pat Summitt had it in women's basketball, and Buddy Ryan surely had it in professional football. Each in his or her own way has taught us about high fidelity...top quality, the best, the tone that others strive  to achieve. *Note: Click on each photo to get a closer look!
Marquee of the Collins Theatre Welcomes High Fidelity
Now comes a band with the actual name HIGH FIDELITY. Imagine that! After performing for a short two years, this band, loaded with passion for traditional bluegrass music that takes the listener back to the 1950's and '60's, has put together an incredible sound and stage presence that many bands don't reach before 10 years or longer, if ever! This is no 'regional band' right here! The first thing the band did after getting together was to win the 2014 International Band Championship at the 40th Annual Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) in Nashville, TN. That's huge! High Fidelity's appearance at KASU FM 91.9's Bluegrass Monday at the Collins Theatre in Paragould, AR, merely whetted our appetite to hear more. Thanks to KASU, their sponsors, and the Collins Theatre for having High Fidelity to perform. Special thanks to Marty Scarbrough for his MC work at all the Bluegrass Monday (4th Monday) events!
Kurt Stephenson has a big hug for Mom during intermission
      KURT STEPHENSON is from Dyersburg, TN, and he has been working at this banjo thing for most of his young life. He hit the top in the banjo world in 2010 by winning the National Banjo Championship in Winfield, KS. Kurt is a graduate of Arkansas State University and is a radiation therapist. Fans will remember his fine work in the band Stone County Connection. Kurt also sings harmony vocals in this band. That smile on Kurt's face lights up a room...and a theatre!
     JEREMY STEPHENS comes into the band with at least 20 years' experience on guitar, old-time banjo, and lead vocals. His band credentials include the highly successful gospel group known as The Chuck Wagon Gang. His dead-pan expression and infectious ways are really appealing.
L to R: Corrina Rose Logston, Vickie Vaughn,
Jeremy Stephens, Kurt Stephenson
CORRINA ROSE LOGSTON is the fine fiddle players in High Fidelity. Her vocals are solid and spot-on! Her expressions, priceless! Her credits include outstanding groups such as Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys, David Peterson and 1946, and Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass. She is such fun to watch.
     VICKIE VAUGHN stands behind the band with her upright bass, but man, does she let her presence be known! Besides wearing out the bass, Vickie has a voice that will compete with most any female bluegrass singer who is working today. She sings lead in her own bluegrass band and she has worked with country star Patty Loveless and bluegrass vocalist Valerie Smith.
L to R: Andrea Stephenson, Corrina Rose Logston,
Vickie Vaughn, Jeremy Stephens,
Kurt Stephenson
L to R: Andrea Stephenson, Corrina Rose Logston,
Vickie Vaughn, Jeremy Stephens,
Kurt Stephenson
     High Fidelity's outstanding program is as follows, and we apologize for not catching some of the song titles.
     Set One: Another Day, It's Your Turn to Weep and Cry, I Ain't Got Time, Lost and I'll Never Find the Way (Kurt, from Stanley Bros.), Lost Indian (Corrina), Kneel at the Cross, That Glory Train, The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn, Bully of the Town (Kurt), My Empty Arms (with Andrea Stephenson on guitar, from Jim & Jesse), I Know You're Married But I Love You Still (from Reno & Smiley), Unwanted Love (from Pearl Bailey), The Cry from the Cross. 
     Set Two: Big Mon, Walking with You in My Dreams, Oh Mother Sweet Mother, I'm Happy to Know That You're Happy That Way (from the McCormick Brothers [William, Haskell, and Gerald] of Westmoreland, TN), Mountain Church, The Sunny Side of the Mountain (Vickie, from Jimmy Martin), Blame Game (Kurt, from Ralph Stanley), As Long as I Live (Corrina, from the Bailes Bros.), Feudin' Banjos (Kurt and Jeremy on banjos, the original version by Arthur Smith and Don Reno), Nobody's Love Is Like Mine (Stanley Bros.), Using My Bible for a Roadmap (from Don Reno), Lord Lead Me On (from The Chuck Wagon Gang), You Never Mentioned Him to Me, Sinner Read the Bible (from the Stewart Family of Blytheville, AR, radio fame), She Left Me Standing on the Mountain (from Jim & Jesse), Encore #1: Charlotte Breakdown (Kurt), and Encore #2: Love Please Come Home (all band members)
     As you can tell, the old saying "Everything old is new again" surely applies to High Fidelity. The entire band is focused on remembering where bluegrass originated, and they aim to keep it rolling right along. The enthusiastic, responsive audience was definitely into the instrumentation and vocals of this fine band.                                  
L to R: Corrina Rose Logston, Vickie Vaughn, Jeremy Stephens, Kurt Stephenson
     The High Fidelity performance will be repeated on Sunday, July 3, on radio at KASU-FM 91.9 and the Internet at www.kasu.org. The show is Down Home Harmonies, with Marty Scarbrough doing the MC work. The program begins at noon, and the featured band will begin at about 12:30 PM CDT. Tune in for High Fidelity this Sunday!
For more information:
KASU-FM 91.9   www.kasu.org or e-mail Marty Scarbrough at mscarbro@astate.edu
High Fidelity is on Facebook and at www.corrinacorrina.com
The Vickie Vaughn Band   www.vickievaughnband.com

Monday, June 20, 2016

JUNE 18, 2016
     NOBODY DOES IT QUITE LIKE MINTON SPARKS! YOU HEAR ME? NOBODY! She hits the stage at The Basement in Nashville, TN, or Rowan Oak (the William Faulkner home) or Off Square Books, both in Oxford, MS, or at the Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, and one begins to think, "Where am I, who is that up there, and what on Earth is she going to do?"
7 PM Minton Sparks $15
      Minton shows up in simple attire, her hair just out of those pink rollers, and she is carrying her now-famous rather ordinary-looking pocket book like your mama carried back in the 1950's.
Minton Sparks weaves a spell over the crowd at The Basement

     When she starts to spin a story, the listener is instantly drawn in, because here in the Deep South, we know these people she is talking about, or we know some like 'em. She brings along her enormously talented accompanist, John Jackson, who is at home on a guitar or two and even a banjo. His musical timing fits right into wherever Minton is in that tale she is spinning. It's a perfect match!
John Jackson warming up before the show
     Minton Sparks has been at this thing for probably 30 years now, and her stories are filled with gossipy women she knew, men who often were not very nice to their women, little children, gas station attendants, her mama's purse, an open casket at a Southern funeral, the dairy bar at the neighborhood swimming pool, and even kids on a school bus headed to a game somewhere.
Minton Sparks captivates her audience
Minton Sparks' purse, part of her wonderful stories about life
     As a Nashville native, this writer couldn't help but smile when Minton mentioned Green Hills Village and Richard Jones Road in one story. My own father walked for exercise in that area a million miles or more when we lived there. Mama even worked at Castner-Knott, when there was a Castner-Knott in Green Hills. Oooh's and aaah's erupted again when Minton mentioned Pat Summitt, retired top-tier coach of the women's basketball team at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I told you that Minton knows our story!
     Our recent trip to hear Minton yet again brought us to The Basement, a three-story firetrap kind of a building across from Reservoir Park on 8th Avenue in Nashville, Tennessee. Development in the area has left the structure behind; however, Grimey's Record Shop still sells new and gently-used music on the main floor of the building. And there's The Basement where wonderful music and entertainment happens often. So, they're still carrying on and it's all OK by us!
The Basement, bottom floor at Grimey's Record Shop
     The opener for the show was Miss Lauren Pratt. Lauren pointed out that the 'Miss' sticker on the front of her guitar had fallen off, but she would go ahead and play. Lauren performed the following songs: Down in the Valley, Days Like Tonight, Cocaine Gospel, and Things Fall Apart. Lauren writes her own music, sings extremely well, and plays that guitar with or without the missing 'Miss' sticker. We look for her to do great things in singing and songwriting.                                
Miss Lauren Pratt opening for Minton Sparks

      Minton Sparks came on with John Jackson to accompany her. We will share her song list and throw in a few notes about a story or two:
If I Needed You (from the album "Gold Digger")
Vicki Pickle's Mama (there was talk in town)
Cluck, Cackle, and Peck (family members who could gossip with the best)
Assisi (town, St. Francis County, AR, kids called a boy 'a sissy')
Where You From? (Tennessee and Pat Head Summitt)
Granny Panties (Tom Jones concert)
The Streaker (in her family)
World Where Humans End and Birds Begin
Her Purse (the one you looked through at church when you were little and bored)
Hi, Helen (seniors who wave at someone and the arm jiggles a bit)
Giddy-Up Gibson (little boy and his mama's guitar) 

Catch Minton Sparks whenever and wherever you can. She has CDs and DVDs at her website. You can learn more about this amazing performer by going to www.mintonsparks.com