Ben Potter and his Nashville Road Show were a great success last night at the Station Coffee Bar & Bistro. For two hours an appreciative audience was delighted by the sequential performances by Adam Bruno, Renee Wahl and Lewis County’s own Ben Potter. This was an all original music concert featuring great melodies and lyrical content from tracks on each of their albums. Ben Potter’s latest CD, The Wait is just being released today but Ben and wife Barbara Potter handed out download cards for a free song to everyone in attendance.
Each writer gifted us with several great selections and every one was truly from the heart as they poured out their souls and left no questions on the table. Renee Wahl is a very strong presence the likes of Brandy Clark, Kacey Musgraves and Martina McBride who are all lovely women with amazing voices and the knack for writing better songs than typical Nashville staff writers could ever hope to do. Her amazing song called “ Temptation “ was a haunting yet romantic in a dark sort of way ballad that totally engaged me, making me realize that she is a lyrical powerhouse! Setting her own course, polished and ready, I found that Renee Wahl didn’t just “play “the guitar, she lived it. Every beat and rhythm was acted out with her shoulders, hips and legs. She is totally involved with her music and I like that!
Adam Bruno is in a league of his own though at times he reminded me of singer Daughtry; passionate and clean but with an edgy rasp in his voice at times. Each song he played for us was good but there was this one – “ Home Again “ which really pointed out all the things in life which really matter such as family, friends and familiar places. Adam has been having some rising margins of success and I expect that very soon he will be nudging a few of the more established singer-songwriter acts right out of his way in Country Music radio. Humble and polite with a great smile, even his jeans without knees were a perfect fit to his persona. He is who he is and we will be hearing more from him soon.
And finally Ben Potter, my friend and music associate for many years I believed delivered his best performance to date. Ben has been writing songs and performing for over thirty years and he just keeps getting better. Though his “ Peace Of Mind “ with its catching and memorable melody in the chorus line is one of my all time favorites, it was his “ I Get A Little Bit Of Rhythm From Your Sun “ which really won me over as a listener. Ben has a way of talking about real things, real life and love moments that we sometimes may otherwise take for granted. He brings a special light to every stage and this was a grand example of what a true leader and entertainer Ben Potter has always been. He takes a few seconds to set up, tell you about the song and also gave the audience insights into Nashville – first by asking how many had ever been to Music City with a show of hands. He explained about the two distinctive “sides “of Nashville which are Music Row, which is of course fun and always happening – where the tourists all go, but then the “other “Nashville which is the peripherals of the city where there are hundreds of establishments, Coffee houses and little cafes’ who promote the songwriters and give them a chance to be in front of people so they might better hone their writing and performance skills. Ben Potter’s new album hits the world August 13th and you may find out more about Ben and where to buy his records at www.benpottermusic.com .
Ben Potter’s Nashville Road Show was as good as it gets, as good as the Nashville Unplugged shows I’ve been frequenting in Vegas in recent years. It put the listener and music fan literally up close and personal and gave some of us a sense of connection to the hearts and minds of real people from Middle America where handshakes, church, love and laughter still have value in this chaotic and me-mine world and where the reflections of simplicity through poetry and the melodies of passion will last beyond the charge of any lithium powered device here, inside our heads.
Bruce J Maier
When I first began playing the guitar there would come and go many icons and so-called gods of the instrument but none would have such a profound and enduring impression nor influence on my playing as BB King. It would be until my late fifties when I would actually get to see him play three different times in Las Vegas. I, like millions of others will always remember him for his passion, commitment, soul and incredible guitar playing. That inimitable style which, with but a single note, could touch me deeply on a spiritual level. Travel far, play well my friend.
Bruce J Maier / editor
In an era of overhyped, overhyphenated musical miscegenation, Stubborn Son plays it straight, digging into rock n’ roll so earthy it’s almost elemental. Birthright, the young Seattle trio’s debut album, recalls Little Richard’s quote “Rhythm and blues had a baby and somebody named it rock n’ roll.”Indeed, the Architect of Rock n’ Roll is part of Stubborn Son’s DNA. So are Led Zeppelin and Cream, the Black Keys and the White Stripes. Sensing a theme here?Coming together in early 2014, singer/guitarist Garrett Lamp, bassist Andrew Knapp and drummer Blair Daly discovered that their mutual musical interests led to the very core of rock. Knapp and Daly had known each other since they were kids in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue; Lamp, a Spokane native, fell in more recently with Knapp via Seattle’s fertile live music scene. Each musician’s slew of influences meshed like greased gears in Stubborn Son. In the winter of 2014, they convened at Jupiter Studios with producer Martin Feveyear (Kings of Leon, Mudhoney, Mark Lanegan), to record Birthright over an intense two-week span. The album’s ten songs rev so high because the fuel they run on is pure. Birthright is a testament to honest and passionate expression—turned up to 11.Take album opener “The Broken Heart Proof.” As the rhythm section kickstarts a martial backbeat, Lamp lays into his guitar like it’s a rocket heading to heaven and he’s hanging on for dear life. (And not just any guitar—along with “Thick as Blood” and “All Saints,” “Proof” is one of three tracks on Birthright where Lamp trades his Gibson for an acoustic slide resonator and all the righteous, silvery tone it imparts.) He sings about resilience: Just because you loved and lost doesn’t mean you’ll never love again. This, friends, is the Broken Heart Proof.From affirmation to accusation: Driven by Lamp’s hard-grinding riff and Knapp’s echoing background vocals, second song “Make Believe” points a finger at hypocrites and egotists. Later on, “Vixen” tells an archetypal tale of its titular character, eliciting the kind of full-body lust that’s as dangerous as it is magnetic. With its languid, sultry simmer, album closer “Make Your Heart Stop” warns of a similar sort of tenuous romance before erupting into a raucous finale.
Each of these tunes is explosive but concise, Lamp balancing soulful vocals with aggressive guitar melodies while Knapp and Daly provide a thick-as-thunder rhythmic foundation. At nearly six minutes long, “Voices” is the album’s exceptional centerpiece, an epic of soul-searching and personal reckoning set to a ferocious rock n’ roll backdrop. Here the band blasts deep into instrumental territory, unraveling a slow-building groove that soundtracks a modern-day parable reminiscent of Robert Johnson’s meeting at the crossroads. “It’s time to go hunting for the devil…” Lamp intones, singing not of a biblical bad guy but the cynicism and self-doubt that haunt every one of us.The guys of Stubborn Son are after meaningful good times—the kind generated from going through a trying experience and coming out the other end better for it. Doing it together—meticulously in the studio or sweat-drenched and howling from the stage of a packed club—forces emotional honesty. Dedicated to delivering truth to their audience, Stubborn Son arrives at the place they were meant to be, Birthright in hand.
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What is it about music that compels man / woman to want to play an instrument or lift up their voices and sing? Yet why is it that not everyone is compelled? Why do some humans become good carpenters and others get paid to play a four-hundred year old song on a piano? Is it possible that there is an invisible force that calls us to our station in life?
I imagine back to the dawn of man and my senses are overloaded with bad smells and grunting noises and it makes me wonder if the cave people mimicked birds singing, as a way to formulate melodies or did a change in voice pitch rapidly occur as a wild animal was devouring his leg? Figuring out drum sounds by means of a tree branch being struck onto a fallen log as a method to get varmints and other food sources to come out into the open makes perfect sense to me. In fact I know many working drummers today who essentially are doing the same thing- beating on a drum making noises , getting paid and then in turn running down to Trader Joes for some organic meats and veggies!
All kidding aside I have always been curious how it is that some of us turn out to be astronauts, teachers, carpenters or code writers and relatively few become music artists who actually make a living at their craft. I think percentage wise more musicians simply give up their dreams of making it big one day than technology or science minded individuals. And there are several factors which might lead up to throwing in the towel and putting the amp up for sale.
It’s immensely frustrating trying to get people to be so interested in your music that they are willing to buy it. But the artist who has another good paying job or is rich to begin with probably doesn’t feel so many of these frustrations because he/she is not hungry. Sometimes people who are not hungry don’t have a dire motivation to succeed to the , what we call “ big time “ level of the industry because they already have most of their hierarchy of needs met or exceeded without fame or income streams from the performances of their music. In either scenario it may or may not work for person A or B, and in some ways one wants what the other has – peace and quiet, anonymity or the opposite – crazy life full of fast people, parties, planes and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Let’s not push aside the value of having an edge of resources. Many incredible talents came from wealth which never affected them personally. In some cases they would even rebel or cast aside the security of money simply to pursue their art and live the dream, come what may.
And in conclusion a folk, this business is no bed of roses. One may need to see it first hand to realize that legitimately working oneself up the ladder, paying the dues – is not fun a lot of the time. Traveling around in a crappy old van with no heater in the winter time, getting screwed out of pay and being mishandled but the wrong management, in addition to being away from loved ones for extended periods can really suck. Still, we do it and why? Having been a performer since the age of seven I can only relate through my experiences that there is nothing on earth like performing, showing your art and feeling the gratitude or the applause of an audience who likes you for who you are and for how you interpret the dance or the music. It’s how you make them feel, and it comes back to you from them and you feel like you’re really doing something good – something that in a small way contributes to making this life and this planet just a little more tolerable. Of course, this is one writers’ opinion but I think yes – it is something you can’t quite see or define, but it’s something we feel or perceive, and the feeling is worth sharing and talking about .Maybe someone else will become inspired just by telling your story or singing your song. Works for me! Until next time,
Bruce J Maier
Editor / owner
Spoon-fed, silver-platter baby or did you work for it?
Bruce J Maier
I know that seems to be a bit bold of me since I’m always so passive, never wanting to upset anyone with my own opinions on politics, religion and sexual orientation. And I’ve remained that way happily for years and this magazine continues to grow just by being good conductors, not leveraging ourselves into the carnage of gladiator journalism. That said, I’ve decided to open up a discussion if you will, on the merits of those who have become so incredibly popular and wealthy in the music industry. Hopefully it will shed some light on where you, the Indie artist must chose your own path and build your future upon.
Picking on the Beatles for example, Sir Paul McCartney might have wound up working at the foundry just like his father did. He even tried it for a while when the future fab returned from Germany and the eight hour sets without a break, disillusioned and saddened by George being forced to leave for being underage in the clubs. But the music the boys were creating was so powerful as was their friendship that they never gave up. Instead they loaded up their crude amps and PA into old trucks and cars, cabs or whatever and went and played every possible gig they could find. Eventually rehearsed and sharpened by the keen fashion eye of Brian Epstein, the group pressed a few demos which would later become the fuel of genius for Sir George Martin. They made history before they ever really saw cash in their hands but they worked hard for every penny (Lane) they ever made! Years later Paul, upon quitting the Beatles set out once again to build a whole new band, Wings, with his wife Linda. While starting up they bought an old delivery van and once again moved all their own amps and drums while keeping it ever so stealth that it was he, Paul McCartney who the schools, colleges and pubs had booked in. Sure he had the dough and could have hired people to move the gear but the band wanted to actually go out and earn their money and see real Pounds for a change. Could have taken the easy was out but this I believe is some of what makes Sir McCartney the most recorded and distributed songwriter in the history of modern music and publishing.
Elvis Presley was a poor young man who had to drive a truck every day to help his mom and dad pay the bills and keep food on the table. Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, BB King – the list and the stories go on forever about being humble and one day making it to the top. Modern acts like One Republic’s Ryan Tedder worked as a waiter and at the pottery barn while honing his skills and securing a position with DreamWorks SKG in Nashville. As a producer of demo records he was able to earn a living but knew that all his efforts even since he was seven years old – singing at least two hours every day and practicing the piano would help him to get to that place he now occupies and deserves. Nobody gave him a record or publishing deal, Tedder earned his place and by now you may have surmised where I’m going with this.
Nashville and Los Angeles are magical places and dreams really do come true there. But much of it is fabricated and paid for, bartered and even blackmailed when necessary. It’s the only explanation when some young hunk or gorgeous little gal with mediocre karaoke competition talent suddenly has a top ten single on Billboard. And it’s not genre specific either. All types of music from Hip Hop to Country seem to be coming out of the vending machine and digitally being spun on the Big Heart network. And so we ask, “I thought payola died in the nineteen fifties “! No it hasn’t and it’s not exclusive to the music industry either. It’s rampant in the sports world and movie production. Ask any of the independent producers and directors at Sundance Film Festival how hard they have worked, how many barriers were placed in the way to keep their films from being seen and noticed. And were it not for these types of outlets for film makers, and the Independent music festivals all over the world there would be less hope for a writer, artist or band than there is today.
Now rather than me starting to sound like a Rant against the recent iHeart music awards and it’s plethora of no-talent cupie-doll cutout kids….( I know, I said I wouldn’t go there ) that was so much like all the other ho-hum awards shows, I think you’re all adults here reading this and you know in your heart of hearts what is good, what is real and what is fabrication. So lest we be judges and stone throwers, let us be creators and developers who can right what is wrong and correct the imbalance so that every little boy or girl throughout the world will have an equal opportunity. One that says no matter your language, religion, color or belief – no matter if you are a serious poet-rapper with a message to tell, or a Strat-slinging hard rocker or a real life country artist from the farm or the projects, your voice will be heard and your story listened to.
In conclusion I have to also admit that it’s not the fault
of the rich privileged kids who do have plenty of talent but have had favors
granted because of daddy’s connections. They deserve a chance just like the
rest of us, but let’s not be making up tales about our rough childhood and how
much mommy didn’t love me and that’s why I had the Blues every day laying around
the pool eating hors d’ oeuvres with our
morning champagne. Work for it, stay humble and inspire others!
Bruce J Maier