Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Southern Word of the Week - Comeapart

A comeapart is almost like a nervous breakdown but usually not quite as severe.

(n.) It started raining on her weddin' day and I thought she was gonna have a comeapart.

It's one of those words that you can understand by the context its used in. I used it sometime in the past year but after it came out of my mouth it surprised me since few people I come in contact with ever use the phrase. I do like how it sounds though. 

Thanks to my virtual friend Jamie for using this in a Facebook post and reminding me of this term.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Telling Stories through song

Story telling is a pastime in the South as it is in many places around the world. In this modern world with social media and busy lives it has taken a backseat but you'll always hear a few among family and friends at social gatherings, weddings and holidays. Nowadays many story tellers are songwriters and the South has their fair share of some really great ones.

Former Drive By Truckers member Jason Isbell is one of these Southern songwriters. He wrote some tunes for the Truckers but he had some songs that didn't fit with their style so he decided to record them for himself which turned into his solo career. You may know him from the song Alabama Pines, released on his album Here We Rest.

He played a special acoustic solo concert this past Saturday at the Alys Stephens Center. Just him, his guitar, his girlfriend Amanda Shires and her fiddle. I didn't know as many songs as would have liked but I knew he was doing something real and not just writing songs for radio play or selling beer. 

It was an intimate show with seating for just over 100 on stage, which meant we would play in the opposite direction from what is usual in the Jemison Concert Hall. There were about twice as many seats above in the choral balcony but I'm sure there was not a bad seat in the whole house.

Earlier that day Jason did a small songwriting clinic where he explained how he began to play music and what his songwriting process was. He also suggested two or three books on the subject and for the second half of the one hour clinic he took questions from the audience. It was enlightening but I really enjoy hearing about the creative process of others whether they be musicians, authors or some other type of artist. 

Before we left he explained that he had to go to the bus station to pick up his lady friend who would play fiddle with him that evening. I was excited because I follow both Jason and his lady friend, Amanda Shires, on Twitter and her appearance was previously unannounced. 

Jason Isbell at the songwriting clinic sponsored by ArtPlay

[Sidebar: Amanda Shires is a fiddle player and songwriter who has been mentioned in national publications. She has played on national television with Jason and has also played internationally with him and other contemporary Americana artists. She plays music for a living and his highly regarded in her field but she took a bus, which I do not see as a glamorous mode of trasnport, from Nashville (I assume) to Birmingham. Musicians will understand this but non-musicians often see these people as leading a Robin Leach type lifestyle which is often not the case]

As I get there I find a seat on stage and notice that Mary Colurso has picked a seat just behind me and I strike up a conversation as I have read her articles in the Birmingham News for years. After I introduced myself she said that she recognized my name and knew I was a musician. That was my almost-famous moment for the evening.

The show was pretty amazing. I think the sound was not as grand as if it had been a full concert but that concert hall was not built for sound to be projected in the opposite direction. Jason and Amanda were great. His banter was spot on. Her fiddle was the perfect compliment to his songs and the short bursts of banter she provided were hilarious and the perfect addition at just the right times. She seemed timid at first and it was hard to hear her vocal harmonies but got dialed in just before intermission.

As many of you know I'm a sideman. I play harmonica in more than one band and I appreciate a good side man (or side woman in this case). Someone who doesn't steal the show with showmanship, but steals the show with how well they punctuate the musical passages and compliment the main act. Her violin could sound sweet, gritty or full on hoedown but whatever style she picked was ideal. I hope to see more from her.

If you need a suggestion on new music I suggest you go check out Mr. Isbell (which, for the record, is pronounced is-BULL). 

Mark your calendars for August 17th at WorkPlay
UPDATE: Monday, June 25th
The Alabama Music Office recently posted this video from the songwriting clinic.

Who have you recently seen or discovered recently that you believe to be a good storyteller? Let us know in the comments.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

The International Blues Challenge 2012

Sorry I've been absent but living has taken over my life a bit. Last year I switched jobs and now work extremely close to home and have significantly less stress which allowed me to play quite a bit of music. That is probably the main reason for my absence; I traded one creative outlet for another. One band I play with, The Lefty Collins Band, was entered in to the 2012 International Blues Challenge this past February in Memphis, Tennessee.  Please allow me to recap that for you.

Members of the Lefty Collins Band and 2Blu (the duo winners
from B'ham) on historic Beale Street.

In July of 2011 The Lefty Collins Band wins the Magic City Blues Society's Battle of the Blues Bands. It was Lefty's second time to win but he brought on a new bass player and and new sideman on harmonica (Me) so it was basically a new band. Our main prize was for the MCBS to sponsor our trip to the IBC's. It was an easy trip straight up the future I-22 corridor for me and we made it in about 4 hours from the extreme west side of Jefferson County, Alabama.

When we arrived on a Tuesday I was surprised at the size of historic Beale Street. Not that it was bigger than I had expected but smaller! I had a Bourbon Street sized image pictured in my minds eye. Lots of BBQ joints though and plenty of music. After we ate at one of the IBC venues, The Pig on Beale, I asked our drummer David if it was just me or did we have better BBQ in Alabama. He assured me that it was definitely not the best pork he'd had, so I knew I wasn't being a snob. The bun was so soft it didn't make it through 4 or 5 bites and the meat was ordinary but good. I guess I just expected all Memphis BBQ to blow me away.

The Orpheum Theatre from dress circle.
The next day we had a small orientation and got our venue assignment and times for Wednesday (that evening) and Thursday which are both quarter final days. We were at Wet Willie's with 2 bands from Canada and one from South Africa! All the bands were really good but only a few made it to the semi-final round on Friday and The Lefty Collins Band was one of them. The Magic City represented! Now we just had to play our best again to see who would go on to the finals at the Orpheum Theatre on Saturday.

Friday we went to lunch at Charles Vergo's Rendezvous. It was the BBQ we had waited for. I had seen it featured on the Food Network and had heard so much from others that I hoped that it lived up to the hype. So we got seated right away downstairs and they started us on complementary red beans and rice (which I hear was unusual). I opted for a small order of ribs ($14.95) which comes with beans and slaw. Let me tell you: it. was. awe. some. Totally lived up to the hype and I really can't wait to go back. If you go to Memphis and don't go to the Rendezvous you're doing yourself an injustice.

Backstage at the Orpheum.
Then it came time to play the semi-final round with other bands we'd played with all week and one new band from South Florida. The talent in that room was unbelievable, but only one band in Wet Willie's could make it through. That one band was your hometown boys, The Lefty Collins Band! The band is made up of Lefty Collins (Gadsden, AL) on lead vocals, guitar and songwriting duties; David Green (Jacksonville, AL) on drums and backing vocals; Barry Wasserman (Helena, AL) on bass and backing vocals; and yours truly Andrew Brasfield (Dora, AL) on harmonica and backing vocals. The Orpheum was amazing. It was similar to the Alabama Theatre but I'd say it's a bit more plush. We finished somewhere between 4th and 9th though we like to tell everyone we came in 4th.

Here are a few band's that I met along the way and I think you should consider buying their music or at least giving them a try.

24th Street Wailers (Toronto)

2 Blu (Birmingham)

Mikey Junior and the Stone Cold Blues Band (Northeast US)

You can also find The Lefty Collins Band on CD Baby or Amazon for physical or digital copies and iTunes, of course.

Here's a video of us in the semi-final round:
Special thanks to David Brunswick for the video!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's in a (nick)Name?

So nicknames happen all over, but the South seems to have a lot of nicknames.  How many Bubbas do you know?  I've known more than a few and I actually have one of my church friends that calls me Bubber and that's not my only nickname.  Over the years I've been called:

Nub or Nubbie (I cut part of my thumb in a freak fruit basket assembly line accident)
Jew (Rhymes with Drew)
Harmonica Guy
Harmonica Man (not a nickname but a character on a Catholic Children's show.  Yes, really.)

I'm sure there are more, a few one off names that are funny for a few hours, but that is a lot for one man of 30ish years.  The best part about all of them is that they were spontaneous.  I'm not a fan of meeting someone and then saying, "I'm Patrick but everyone calls me  JB."  If everyone calls you JB introduce yourself as such.  I introduce myself as Andrew but if somebody says, "yeah, but we all call him Drew" that's fine, I just feel weird calling myself that but I will answer to it without cringing or thinking twice. For some reason I've always rejected Andy...but Andy-B (a Church youth group nickname) is somehow ok.

What's worse is when someone nicknames themselves then tells everyone that is what they want to be called. I know you've met at least one of these people. It's awkward and they always end up looking foolish.

Do you guys have any weird nicknames in your family? Let me know in the comments.

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