I'm not a big fan of ballet, although I support it vicariously through my daughter. And so, when free tickets to Nashville Ballet's "Pop & Awaiting Redemption & This Heart" slipped under the door, it seemed natural that I would see the performance with my daughter Tracy. I expected a fun night on the town with Tracy and her friend Taryn. I was in for more than one surprise.
I was settled in to relax and drift absent-mindedly through the show when the curtain roseâ€¦.
Pop -- Jonell Mosser and Enough Rope
What a terrific blend of Rock and Blues. Jonell had a touch of a cold, but that wouldn't hold her back. Her strong, clear voice reminds me of Bonnie Raitt (but a little stronger) and Janis Joplin (but a little smoother). The music was tight and the songs "Slaying Dragons", "Parasite", " Even If you Go", "(Donâ€™t Miss Your) Water", "Ordinary Splendor", and " What You Did to Me Last Night" flowed uninterrupted across the stage. My next shopping trip will be to the music store for her new album "Enough Rope".
At the end of the first set I thought that that had been great. The rest will be OK. Time for what I do well: drifting absent-mindedlyâ€¦
Awaiting Redemption -- Hal Ketchum and Steve Sheehan
I at least knew the name and the face, Hal Ketchum, that is. Country, probably. This part began with the simplest and most straightforward methods of performance: A singer at the microphone accompanied by a single flat top guitar. This would be honest and clean. But when Steve Sheehan touched that flat top I was pulled out of my absent-minded drifting as quickly as Dorothy and her house were swept away to Kansas. I have to say the Steve Sheehan delivered the most complete mastery of six strings that I have ever witnessed. And I do not cut guitar players any slack. He was absolutely awesome. And Hal Ketchum's strong and wide ranging vocal meshed perfectly. Again the songs flowed as a single river: "Awaiting Redemption", You Can't Go Back", "She Is", "Five O'Clock World", " That's How Much You Mean To Me", "Lonely Old Me", "Long Day Comin", "Awaiting Redemption". Country, Pop, Modern Ballad; I'm not sure, but it all worked perfectly.
By now I knew that I would have to postpone my absent-minded drifting for another place and time.
This Heart -- Nanci Griffith and The Blue Moon Orchestra
Nanci took one step and I knew that she knew what a barnyard was and how to walk across it. I knew immediately that we had things in common. But more than that. Her songs were from the heart and soul, from places beyond simple locations in the past. "These Days In An Open Book", "Always Will", "Outbound", "Nobody's Angel", "The Wing And The Wheel", "This Heart" were delivered with beautiful accompaniment of strings, guitars, â€¦ more instruments than I could count. They were delivered with heart, feeling and insight. Not just a county girl strolling through the landscape. No, Nanci sees everything and understands.
And there were the dancers of the Nashville Ballet, but I have no credible knowledge or insight into the dance portion. I know they are excellent and accomplished in their craft. But it would have been more than I could have absorbed anyway.
I have seen a few incredible performances in my time and I don't rank them except to say "The Best". This was one of them.
Andy Derryberry -- Nashville