Last week, I attended yet another Mountain Stage show. It’s pretty much the only local concert venue I bother going to anymore.
I’ve posted about Mountain Stage before, but for those just tuning in: it’s an international radio concert series that is taped live in front of an audience in Charleston, WV. Information for artists (or their managers) interested in being booked on the show will be provided at the end of this post.
This time the performers were Jessi Colter, Diana Jones, Paul Thorn, The Del McCoury Band, and Martina McBride. Though many in the audience loved the bluegrass stylings of Diana Jones and especially The Del McCoury Band, neither were really my cup of coffee. So I’ll focus on the artists I was really excited to see….
Jessi Colter opened the show. There have only been a very few times at a concert, all of which were at Mountain Stage, when I felt I was in the presence of a legend. Vic Chesnutt, Odetta, Joan Baez, and possibly Bruce Cockburn are the only ones that immediately spring to mind. And now I’ll add Jessi Colter to that list.
Colter is the widow of Country legend Waylon Jennings, and the mother of Shooter Jennings (who portrayed his father in the film Walk The Line). A descendent of a member of Jesse James’ infamous gang, Jessi Colter was a part of the “Outlaw” movement in country music along with her husband Waylon and his fellow Highwaymen Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash.
At the concert, she sang a few of her classics like “I’m Not Lisa”, along with new songs from her new album Out of the Ashes. It’s her first solo album in over 20 years. Her performance of the title track from the album was especially moving.
You can stream the entire Out of the Ashes album at CMT.
Paul Thorn was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, also the hometown of Elvis. He’s toured with Sting, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, and Marianne Faithfull among other big name acts.
He’s one of those guitar playin’ singer-songwriter types, with a comedic twist. His voice is deep and rich, much like Peter Mulvey, but his lyrics are sometimes closer to Heywood Banks.
He’s the funniest, sexiest son of a Pentecostal preacher man that I’ve ever seen. You can’t really tell it from the satirical songs he sings now, but he actually began his music career singing at church revivals. He also had a successful career as a boxer in the late 80s.
Mp3 samples, tour dates, blog entries, and various other goodies are available at his site.
Finally, Martina McBride took the stage. This was the second time that I had seen her perform live. The first was back in early 1999 with Diamond Rio. I must admit that I haven’t been a big fan of hers in recent years. She’s one of those singers that sounds best when she belts it out and her last few albums haven’t had much belt to ’em. But I loved her first four albums, and she’s still amazing in concert.
I’ve been to a lot of live shows, and no one that I’ve seen can rival McBride when it comes to shaking the building with the sheer power of her voice. She doesn’t need a microphone, in fact most of the time it seems to get in the way. She kept having to step back away from the mic when she’d hit the high notes.
She mostly sang songs from her new album, Timeless, which is a collection of classic country covers. But then for the last third of her set, she sang her own songs. The only single she did was “Independence Day”, which damn near blew the roof off of the concert hall. She also did one of my personal favourites of hers, “Whatever You Say”, during which her vocals were inhumanly powerful and loud, and I loved it. Whether you like her music or any country music at all, I’d still recommend seeing her in concert if you ever have the opportunity. She definitely gives your money’s worth with her singing.
Each Mountain Stage show usually features five or six musical acts from various genres (Celtic, folk, rock, indie, country, jazz, funk, etc.). The concerts are broadcast on NPR in the U.S., Voice of America in Europe, and XM Satellite Radio. Selected performances are also videotaped for the television version of Mountain Stage that airs weekly on PBS in the U.S.
In the 20 years since Mountain Stage began, many famous artists have played there (usually right before they become famous). I’ve had the priviledge of seeing and even meeting a few of them there.
Some examples are: Jeff Buckley, Joan Baez, Odetta, Ani Difranco, Tori Amos, Sarah Mclachlan, Ryan Adams, Norah Jones, Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows, REM, Natalie Merchant, Vic Chesnutt, David Gray, Rusted Root, Grant Lee Buffalo, Joan Armatrading, Elvis Costello, Shivaree, Lucinda Williams, The Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, Vienna Teng, Nellie McKay, Jamie Cullum, Laura Nyro, Cowboy Junkies, Julianna Hatfield, Over The Rhine, Alexi Murdoch, Violent Femmes, Melissa Ferrick, Michael Penn, Loreena McKennitt, Wilco, Altan, Luka Bloom, Bruce Cockburn, Warren Zevon, Gordon Lightfoot, and Allen Ginsberg. And that’s just to name a few!
Before they can be booked on the show, artists must submit material to the producers of Mountain Stage. If you’re an artist and would like to play, send your cds, tapes, videos or other related promo materials to:
600 Capitol Street
Charleston, WV 25301
If you get booked on the show, let me know so I can attend.