Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Laura McGhee

A couple of nights ago I went down to Douglas Corner Cafe to check out a set from Nashville's rising Scottish songstress Laura McGhee. I saw her about a year ago, and I was excited to see how far she's come since then. I knew there had to be some progress, as I have seen her name more and more around town.

First off, I really like Douglas Corner. It reminds me a lot of The Pond in Franklin, with the exact same layout, only with a more Nashville-y feel and a greater sense of history. I also couldn't help but notice the hundreds of rolls worth of duct tape in its natural habitat, wrapped around the ducts. That made me smile.

Laura's set was rife with new material. Her songs ranged from country-pop, to Americana ballads, to traditional Scottish instrumentals, all of which showed a level of improvement that only a year in Nashville with your nose to the turntable could produce. The piece that stood out to me most was a snippet from the arrangement that McGhee herself composed chronicling the history of Scotland. It was a beautiful violin/guitar pairing that, upon closing my eyes, put me right back next to a loch in the bonnie land. Her accompanist, whose name I never caught, did a super job of pairing a handful of different instruments with Laura's guitar and fiddle. He added harmonica, some guitar of his own, and even some penny whistle, which in this case, was exactly the right whistle for its time and place.

While I was standing around chit-chatting, the next act started and immediately grabbed my attention. The best I could do to describe these folks would be like an off lower Broadway honky-tonk, chicken pickin' version of the White Stripes at about age 50. Boomer Castleman and the "fabulous" Lois Hess tore through a set of high speed country numbers, complete with "I wrote this song with (drop name here) intros. There was also some mention of Boomer winning some type of "fastest lick" award, which wasn't hard to believe with the way his fingers ran up and down that fretboard. And Lois, wow Lois. At first glance you might think ol' Boomer picked her up straight from her gig teaching glee club at the local middle school, but she could actually play. Not like Bonzo or anything, but she kept up the groove and even threw in a couple of solos. It was almost like a scene out of a Cohen brothers movie. The whole thing ended with a six minute tribute song in which Boomer would sing a two line verse about a guitar player, and then play a little solo in said guitarist's style. It was cool for about the first few verses, but it just kept going and going and getting more and more out there. He covered everyone from Chet Atkins and Ernest Tubbs, to Scotty Moore and Luther Perkins, and he even did Eddie Van Halen and Chuck Berry. It was interesting to say the least. All in all, it was a good night at an old Nashville spot.

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