At the end of a busy first day at the National Preservation Conference in Nashville, I took off to the Grand Ole Opry House with about 20 close friends for the taping of a PBS special celebrating 40 Years of Rounder Records. (Look for the show on March 10, 2010.) While it started late and ended even later, it was an amazing evening of music.
Here’s just a few highlights:
- Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas playing that great accordion-driven dance music from Louisiana, where the “crawfish got soul and the alligators got the blues.” My accordion-playing friend Jim Harrington would have loved it. As my colleague and seatmate Caroline Barker said, “If I could move my feet like Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas I’d be a dancer instead of a preservationist (perhaps).”
- Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn singing and playing Keys to the Kingdom. I heard them do the tune at Merlefest, but it was even better in the controlled setting of the Opry House. Then Bela and Jerry Douglas played a duet just to prove they are two of the best musicians on the planet.
- Mary Chapin Carpenter, a relative newcomer to Rounder, singing a great song, Grand Central Station, written just after 9/11. As my friend and colleague Dolores said, she’s a preservationist.
- Alison Krauss + Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglas (longest band name ever) were just perfect. Perfect. The harmony between Alison and Dan Tyminski is a wonderful thing to hear, and then Jerry Douglas just adds another voice with that heavenly Dobro. Alison also has the wackiest stage humor ever, which was egged on last night by hostess Minnie Driver.
I knew all those performers and had seen all by Nathan Williams live. The singer I didn’t know was New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas. What a set of pipes! What a stage presence! What a band! If you don’t believe me, just take a listen to the video below where she sings her first big hit (which closed out her show last night) You Can Take My Husband, But Please Don’t Mess With My Man.
Keys to the Kingdom indeed!
More to come…