Music

Old church comes alive with spirit of music, fellowship

News-Leader, June 22, 2014. This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.
The musicians at the Northview Jam stretch across two walls of the room. Ed Peaco/For the News-Leader

The musicians at the Northview Jam stretch across two walls of the room. Ed Peaco/For the News-Leader

The network of music makers and music lovers, getting on in years, projects not only the strength but also the fragility of the music jam in Northview, an unincorporated community in Webster County about 20 miles east of Springfield, just off Interstate 44. …

After the death of a key exponent of the jam, Beulah Brashears in 2010, roughly 30 more regulars died in the ensuing year or so. Weekly attendance fell from about 100 to roughly half of that but has since rebounded, says Virginia Baker, Beulah Brashears’ daughter.

After this blow to the group, some people stopped coming because their loved ones had died, others because they felt the loss of Beulah, Virginia Baker says. “Some of them I talked to said it just wasn’t the same coming here and her being gone. I guess, after a period of time, a lot of them came back.”

Her father, Otto Brashears, at age 96 still attends the jams and played his guitar once this year. “He can still play a little bit. His rhythm isn’t quite as good as it used to be,” she says. …

Virginia Baker says she assumed some of her mother’s role at the jam, but it was hard at first. She presses on because she recognizes the importance of the jam to those who attend.

“It’s the older people. They enjoy it so much,” she says. “I don’t know how many have said, ‘This is my life.’ And it’s good, clean fun. It makes them happy; it makes me happy.”

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Band meshes old, new for timeless mystery

News-Leader, Oct. 4, 2013. This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.

clawhammer Band photo 1 11A simple old-timey banjo vamp sets a quaint feel, but a stomp rhythm steers the tune into creepy territory. A gruff voice chants a song title’s demand — “Set me free!” — and menacingly frail women’s voices echo the calls.

Moments later, a grinding whine of distortion steadily overtakes the piece, building to something like a thunderous ringing in the ears, suggesting a psychotic or fatal event may be just around the corner.

What’s going on? Should we shudder, laugh, both, other?
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For Norman Jackson, blues, life, faith are intertwined

News-Leader, Aug. 9, 2012. This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.
Norman Jackson says he enjoys playing and singing on his front porch. Ed Peaco / For the News-Leader

Norman Jackson says he enjoys playing and singing on his front porch. Ed Peaco / For the News-Leader

… Jackson said he encounters skeptics among people of faith who say he should not be singing blues and playing in clubs. However, he insisted that his music, in whatever style or venue, offers comfort and redemption:

• He said listeners have told him that after hearing him evoke the murkiest depths of misery (nobody loves me; nobody seems to care … ), they discover that their lives are not so bad, after all.

• He conveys his faith directly when, at the end of his sets, he sings Gospel songs and spirituals. He mentioned a recent performance at which he moved one listener to tears when he sang “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

“As long as my songs can minister to someone, it’s all right,” he said.

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High-spirited Kristi Merideth makes jazz fun

News-Leader, July 12, 2013. This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.

Kristi Merideth. Photo credit: Cindi KapicaKristi Merideth is giving off all kinds of cues that jazz is fun — rhythm bursting from neck and shoulders, eyes widening at a dramatic moment in a melody. She’s wrapped up in the song, enjoying herself and having a great time with her bandmates. …

She favors up-tempo tunes, and she does not expect band members to limit themselves to just supporting her. “I never wanted to be a torch singer. I rarely do ballads, even now,” she said. “That’s a cliché, a stereotype of chicks singing jazz.”
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Singing Daddy’s songs: Joyful voice extends legacy

News-Leader, Jan. 18, 2013. This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.
Johnny Mullins and his daughter Melinda Mullins, from the early 2000's. Photo supplied by Melinda Mullins

Johnny Mullins and his daughter Melinda Mullins, from the early 2000′s. Photo supplied by Melinda Mullins

[For more than a decade and gaining momentum, Melinda Mullins has been curating and sharing the songs of her father, Johnny Mullins, whose career began at the Ozark Jubilee and led to hits such as “Blue Kentucky Girl” and “Success.”]

[S]he sang in shows with her father but never felt the need to learn guitar. A key moment in her development as music curator took place on Father’s Day, 1999, two years after Johnny Mullins was diagnosed with Alzheimers. He gave her his favorite and most precious guitar.

“It was such a bittersweet day because I was so thrilled to have this beautiful old guitar that he had written so many songs on,” she said. “But when he gave it to me, he said, ‘I just don’t think I’m going to be doing this anymore.’ The magnitude of what that meant — it’s a very heartbreaking disease — was really hard.”

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St. Dallas and the Sinners has two modes: Off and full blast

News-Leader, May 11, 2012. This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.
StDallas4

Ryan Goff (bass) and Manila of St. Dallas and the Sinners. Dallas Self is depicted in the right background. Submitted Photo.

… [Dallas] Self set the tone with his raw, back-of-the-throat vocals and imposing presence.

Manila, the guitarist, glared grimly as he lurched and flailed through speedy riffs and deafening chords.

Upright bassist Ryon Groff, wearing trendy/nerdy black-rimmed glasses and a gleefully maniacal grin, slapped and straddled his bass, climbed on it and hoisted it above his head. …

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