A weekly peek into what makes the Knoxville music scene phenomenal. We’ll be bringing you album + concert reviews from the Knoxville area and interviews with local musicians + people behind the scenes.
Blue Mother Tupelo is band that’s been on the edge for a while now. Around here, they’re well known and well respected – as they deserve to be. But nationally they seem to be on the precipice, one hit song from truly breaking big. Which… let’s just say it’s odd to say the least. I mean, the three albums that are out in the ether are all chocked full of potential megahits. Why it hasn’t come for them is befuddling to this very writer.
Saying Blue Mother Tupelo is soulful would be about like saying grass is green, the sky is blue and that birds fly. It’s just a stone cold fact. The husband and wife [Ricky and Micol Davis, respectively] duo have soul radiating from deep down in their bones. Take the aptly titled “Wandering Soul.” On record it’s an astounding achievement in lush beauty. In person, it’s even better. The dynamic between Ricky and Micol is breathtaking. Add onto that the fact that he [Ricky] was somehow able to get a steel guitar sound out of an acoustic guitar and you have something truly amazing. Micol’s piano accompaniment really added to the songs’ make-up. The final factor, their overlaying vocal performances, echoed of Kim Richey’s “Why Can’t I Say Goodnight.”
But it’s not all somber, sad and forlorn. “Give It Away” brought to light the oft overlooked use of dueling tambourines. Its not often you see dual instruments without either puckering the ol’ bunghole* or laughing your bollocks off**. This go ’round, many in the crowd squirmed, wiggled and shook their proverbial asses. That is another aspect that really drives Blue Mother Tupelo, their ability to slip easily between the heartbreaking and the booty-shaking.
Having only heard Mindy Smith on CD, I wasn’t really sure what to expect with the live performance. Her vocals are so particular, I was curious whether or not she’d be able to replicate that performance live and in person. Would she be in tune and on time? Well, let me tell you, it was far from a let down. Her vocals shone like a beacon in the night. In addition to Smith’s performance, she had culled together a tremendous backing band, which included a badass, bearded, bald bassist who attempted to remain stoic, but Mindy made him crack up every once in a blue moon.
That was another great aspect of her live show. Smith was able to take time out between songs and tell stories, some of which had the audience rolling in the aisles [for you young whipper-snappers out there in the never-never, that’d be “LOL”, “ROFL” and “OMGTPISFINPMAITIPAL”]. This is good, because some of her songs are truly sorrowful. Her mixture of humor of comments and pathos of lyrics made the night a wonderful, balanced evening.
Speaking of balanced. I typically go into concerts wanting to hear a short list of songs from that particular musician. Sometimes I leave ecstatic, others disappointed – like leaving the Smashing Pumpkins concert wholly disappointed. Billy Corgan barely performed any of the songs that got him to where he is, let alone the few obtuse cuts I wanted to hear. With Mindy Smith my list was but one song, “Tennessee.” On record it’s a soft, acoustic song, with minimal backing. Live it was performed with merely a mandolin, atmospheric guitar and steady bass drum. None of those elements took away from her strong vocal presence, in addition to it being a nice change of pace from what appears on the album.
Going back to the pathos part earlier, a good example is the story Mindy told before the title track of her first album, “One Moment More.” As it turns out, the song is a tribute to her mom who died of breast cancer. It was sad, yet happy that she was able to pay tribute to what sounded like a wonderful human being. For that, I’m sure her mother would be proud.
* see Deliverance
** see Winger / Poison / any 80s hair band that rocked the conjoined guitar, yo.
*** oh my god this person is so funny I nearly peed myself and I think I pooed a little