My Top Five - Soup to Nuts Live!
WHQR’s webmaster John Mortara has asked me to list some of my favorite “Soup to Nuts Live” performances of the past year, but I thought it best to just recall highlights from all eight of our 2011 musical performers.
“Soup to Nuts Live,” for those of you who haven’t made it down to our MC Erny Gallery and enjoyed a show, is intended to be a showcase for local and regional musicians. I act as a radio host and talk with the performers in between sets as we record the show for later broadcast on WHQR. The musicians perform gratis before an audience which is really there to hear the music. We collect a small donation at the door to benefit WHQR. The series has been a virtual sell-out for the 60-odd seats in our gallery space for its 3 ½ year run. Hope to see you in the audience soon.
Last year’s Soup-Live series began in February with our first double-bill show. Hometown bluegrass band The Hewlett's Creek Boys and harmony string-band trio Masonboro Sound shared the hour and were both real crowd-pleasers. Masonboro’s vocal harmony on Steely Dan’s “My Old School” was a high point and The Hewlett’s Creek Boys stuck around after the hour-long show to do a few encores for their fans.
In early April we hosted the folk-rock duo Beta Radio. Ben Mabry and Brent Holloman brought in an energetic quintet to perform spirited live versions of original songs from their debut CD “Seven Sisters.” They also tossed in a bouncy version of Paul Simon’s “59th Street Bridge Song” to acknowledge some of their songwriting influences. Beta Radio has since re-issued an updated “Seven Sisters” to include two songs that they wrote for the television series “Heart of the South.” The boys are on their way!
Another artist with a bright future is country-folk singer/songwriter Jeanne Jolly (from Raleigh!). I had heard her a year earlier in a lightly-attended show at Front Street Brewery where she was second-bill. Could not forget her voice. It turned out she had had voice training at Western Carolina and the New England Conservatory. Last May she brought her guitar, an impeccable pedal steel player named Allyn Love and that voice to Soup Live. When she sang her original country ballads, Jeanne had our audience in the palm of her hand (when they weren’t crying in their beer.) Watch for her to come back to our area this year and don’t miss the chance to see Jeanne Jolly.
In June of 2011 we hosted the Wilmington string band Out on the Ocean who have been playing energetic rhythms for contra dances for a few years now. Led by Deb Ross’s Cape Breton-Style fiddling and Rick Pridemore’s rhythm guitar, Out on the Ocean had lots of toes tapping. But there wasn’t enough room to contra dance at their sell-out show.
July brought some Chicago-style blues with Ten Dollar Thrill. Greg Mitchell’s vocals and blues harp meshed nicely with Jake Horton’s dirty-yet-clean guitar riffs during a fine set of electric Chicago blues. Dan Cronin under-played his drum kit to fit our small room and Lan Nichols stepped out from behind our recording set-up to play bass. Thanks to Tim “Papa T” Tyson for help with the sound that night.
At a couple of our 2011 Soup-Live shows, I had noticed a guy in the crowd wearing an old, beat-up cowboy hat and a distinctive handlebar mustache. After one of the shows Matt Bowlin approached us and explained that he was a young country music singer from Oklahoma who spent his summer working and playing on Topsail Island. Matt is an ex-Marine who lived off-base on Topsail for a few years and fell in love with the place. We were impressed with his deep bass-baritone voice and his self-produced CD. He brought in a guitar-playing friend from Lubbock, Texas (Buddy Holly’s hometown) and played us an earnest and energetic set on a hot August night. Watch for him playing around the area this summer.
When I first heard Susan Savia sing, she was doing some down-home blues and playing harmonica too. Sounded good. Then, the next time I heard her, she lifted into a high, clear and ethereal soprano. “Wow,” I thought. “This woman has some range!” We were very pleased to have her perform a solo show in our MC Erny gallery. Things got a little tense when she came down with a severe cold about a week before the Soup-Live date. But after an additional week of home remedies and a doctor visit, she felt well enough to perform and gave us an eclectic show of original tunes and seldom-heard vocal classics from as far back as the nineteenth century. Plus some dancing steps in red cowboy boots!
Our final Soup-Live of the year was the string band from Ocracoke Island, Molasses Creek. They are veteran performers who actually played on A Prairie Home Companion about ten years ago as contestants for Garrision Keillor’s “Talent From Towns Under Two Thousand” contest. (They came in second to a VERY cute little girl.) Molasses Creek’s current lineup with singer Marcy Brenner and guitarist Lou Castro gives them an even stronger vocal and instrumental sound. Lou Castro and Fiddler Dave Tweedie combine nicely in a Django Reinhardt / Stephane Grappelli string swing direction. Lead singer Gary Mitchell still reminds me very much of Gordon Lightfoot at times with his mellow voice. Thanks to John Golden for helping to bring this very talented band in for Soup-Live back in November.
Our latest recording of Wilmington singer-songwriter Kyle Lindley is scheduled for WHQR’s air on Friday February 3rd and Saturday February 4th. Both days at 9 pm. Do tune in for it at 91.3 FM. Kyle is a very talented young artist writing and performing some very good original songs. Try and catch him live as he plays out around the area.
The next Soup to Nuts Live session is coming up on Thursday February 23rd. The young Wilmington string band No Dollar Shoes will be heating up our MC Erny Gallery that evening starting at about 7:30. Call us here at WHQR for reservations and then come on down and enjoy the show. We’ll save you a seat.