Likely Stories Reunion
by Emily Kaitz
When a band that never played that much to begin with performs for the first time in 10 months, do you call it a reunion? Bassist John Johnston isn’t sure, but he and mandolinist Susan Shore look forward to the Likely Stories show Friday at GoodFolk, celebrating the return of band members Phil Lancaster and Alison Moore, who moved to Texas last September.
And, when an itinerant couple who have spent part of the last several years living out of trailers leaves Arkansas, do you call it moving? Between Alison’s writer retreats, Phil’s out-of-town gigs, and the couple’s visits to folk festivals, friends and family, they often were traveling.
When Alison won the coveted Dobie/Paisano Fellowship from the University of Texas and the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters, which allowed her to spend six months writing at the J. Frank Dobie Ranch west of Austin, the couple pulled up stakes and headed to Texas.
Phil and Alison have a lot of connections in Texas; they first crossed paths at the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1997 and were married there three years later.
The couple’s connection was not only romantic. They began a creative collaboration combining history, fiction, music and photos to produce a multi-media project “Riders on the Orphan Train,” which they performed in libraries and schools in Arkansas, Texas and Arizona.
Alison had played guitar in the 1970s but hadn’t touched the instrument for 20 years until she met Phil, who inspired her to pick it up again. They began performing together occasionally. Later, when Phil and John, left the original Still on the Hill band, the two regrouped with Alison as Likely Stories. The name came from Alison, who says “I still think it’s a likely story that a fiction writer is making music.”
The trio’s repertoire consisted of offbeat originals and eclectic covers, with Alison on vocals and guitar, John on vocals and bass, and Phil on vocals, banjo, mandolin, guitar and mandocello. In 2006 Susan joined Likely Stories, adding vocals and mandolin. John describes Likely Stories’ music as “bottom-40 folk.”
John sings a bluesy lead on selections from Keb Mo, Steve Earle and Daryl Scott. An animated performer who dances with his upright bass, John is always a crowd-pleaser. Original material is supplemented with songs by John Prine, Gillian Welch, Jeff Talmadge and David Francey.
Phil has a vibrant, driving presence on stage; Alison is more subtle, but she and Phil have tight harmonies and provide a strong core to the band. Susan rounds out the group with her professional harmony singing and mandolin chops and is a seasoned singer-songwriter herself. She sings lead on a few covers and hopes to incorporate some of her new songs in the concert.
These days Phil and Alison’s main home is their largest trailer, a 42-foot 1955 Spartan Imperial Mansion, which Phil restored at an industrial park in Austin while Alison was writing 400 pages of her Orphan Train novel at the Dobie Ranch. Later they hauled the trailer to a friend’s land in Driftwood, Tex., 25 miles from Austin. Phil and Alison have a second home in far west Texas, where two small trailers are headquartered outside Terlingua, site of Alison’s novella “Truth or Terlingua” (part of her recent collection, “The Middle of Elsewhere”). Alison is currently working on a sequel to this novella.
Susan plays a custom Deluxe A-Model Nugget mandolin and recently sold her other mandolin, a 1925 Gibson F-4, through a dealer in New York to Steve Earle. The proceeds were enough for her to have her house painted and get a colorful new tattoo, which depicts a yellow warbler in cherry blossoms emerging from dark clouds, flying into the blue sky.
Come see Susan’s new tattoo, welcome Phil and Alison back to Fayetteville, and hear Likely Stories together again at GoodFolk at 8 p.m. Friday. There is a $10 cover and reservations may be made by calling 521-1812, or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer Jazz Series Opens Friday
Jazz trumpeter Terell Stafford will kick off the KUAF Summer Jazz Concert Series at 8 p.m. Friday at the University of Arkansas Fine Arts Concert Hall. The house rhythm section is made up of local artists Claudia Burson on piano, James Greeson on bass and occasionally guitar with Darren Novotny on drums. This solid core supports the guest artists.
Stafford previously appeared in Fayetteville with Bobby Watson’s group, Horizon and Matt Wilson’s Arts and Crafts. He was hailed as “one of the great trumpet players of our time” by piano legend McCoy Tyner.
Stafford has been an integral part of bands led by such venerable artists as Cedar Walton, McCoy Tyner, Sadao Watanabe, the Clayton Brothers and Herbie Mann and has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and You Bet Your Life with Bill Cosby. He has recorded four albums as a leader with his debut album in 1995 entitled “Time to Let Go” (Candid). In 1997, followed by the critically acclaimed “Centripedal Force” (Candid). His third album, the popular “Fields of Gold” (Nagel-Heyer), preceded his latest release, “New Beginnings” (MaxJazz2003). As a sideman Stafford has been heard on over 40 albums.
The season will also feature:
Vocalist Marc Pompe on July 11. A 1957 graduate of the DePaul University School of Music and will be making his first Fayetteville appearance. Chicago Jazz Magazine said of Pompe, “….he has two things that most singers don’t: his own style and good phrasing. His treatment of each song is unique without losing the tradition of singers that come before him.”
The Composer’s Showcase on July 25. carries on the Summer Concert Series tradition of spotlighting local jazz artists performing original compositions, in some cases for the first time. This year’s showcase will feature the Fayetteville Little Big Band, a nonet that will perform original compositions arranged by Ben Harris, Jim Greeson, Nathan McLeod and Rick Salonon. The frontline of the band is heavy on the horns with Al Gibson on trumpet, McLeod on alto sax, C.J. Weatherford on tenor sax, Gerry Sloan on trombone, and Salonen on baritone sax over a four piece rhythm section consisting of Darren Novotny on drums, Greeson on bass, Claudia Burson on piano, and Harris on electric guitar. The second half of the program will open the floor to composers and other NWA ensembles, including the Walter Savage Trio and other NWA jazzers.
Former Pat Metheny drummer and Grammy winner Paul Wertico, will headline the August 1 concert. Wertico is one of the most versatile and musical drummers in music today. He was voted “Fusion Drummer Of The Year” in DRUM! Magazine’s Readers Poll.
For the final concert on August 23, the Sons of Brasil will make their debut in Fayetteville. The Kansas City group will close out the concert series with a bossa nova bombshell. The Sons of Brasil is composed of well-known KC players Stan Kessler, Doug Auwarter, Danny Embrey, Greg Whitfield and Roger Wilder.
All of the concerts are at 8 p.m. on Friday nights. For tickets go to www.DigJazz.com or call 225-2306.
Blues in the Natural State set for July 19
By Liz Lottman
Don’t say you weren’t warned! If you’ve been reading my column, “About the Blues,” for the past few months, you know I’ve been yada-yada-yada-ing about the seventh annual Blues in the Natural State Festival on July 19 at George’s Majestic Lounge. We have the Arkansas Quadruple Threat lined-up to perform: Michael Burks, the Jimmy Thackery and Earl Cate Band and Oreo Blue with Brian Crowne.
A special treat this year is the all-ages Blues Guitar Workshop at 4 p.m. The workshop is alcohol-free and smoke-free, plus it’s inside with air conditioning. The workshop is hosted by Isayah Warford and is only $5. Those who pay the full ticket price to Blues in the Natural State will be able to attend the workshop and stay for the entire festival.
The rest of the line-up includes performances on the indoor stage by Isayah Warford’s All Stars and John Horton, a Delta bluesman from Mississippi. Then an a cappella gospel procession will take the crowd back to the Garden Stage, where Kory Montgomery and his band will kick off the performances.
As usual, an autographed guitar will be given away. This year’s guitar was signed by Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Tommy Castro, Deanna Bogart, Ronny Baker Brooks, Magic Dick, Homemade Jamz Band and the 2007 Blues in the Natural State Festival performers.
Tickets are $5 at the door for the guitar workshop, $12 in advance for all activities and performances and $15 day of show. Tables can be reserved by calling 527-6618. Tickets can be bought at www.georgesmajesticlounge.com. For complete line-up, performance times and artist information, go to www.ozarkbluessociety.org. So we’ll see you there, right?
Now for something completely different. If you’re a musician, you know that MySpace is a great place to set up a musician’s page and to network with artists all over the world. Several months ago I got an email on my MySpace page from a word and music poet asking about collaborating on a project. His name is Poet1 aka Tommy Culpepper, who now lives in NWA. I checked his tracks out, and turns out I really thought I could do something with him. We met to brainstorm about a project.
Poet1’s hip-hop techno tracks fit his poems to a “T”. Perhaps it’s because of his wife and daughter that his “family-friendly” tracks cover broad topics like environmental concerns (“I’ll Give You a Hand”), history (“History of Hip-Hop”), grief, messages from lost loved ones, and yes, even geography and sociology (in his work-in-progress song, “Midwest”). “I’ll Give You a Hand” has been used at Wal-Mart associates’ meetings as a theme song for their “green” mission.
He has released three studio albums since 2004, and is working at Hog Wild Studios prepping his fourth CD, “Protect the 16th Letter.” The release date is July 16 and it will be available at Hastings and through digital download at his MySpace site.
Poet1 was mentored by the late St. Louis concert promoter Robert E. Trice, owner and founder of Ready Every Time Entertainment. Trice opened Poet1’s mind to a different kind of life and gave him the opportunity to spin records and MC. He says that one of the greatest moments of his life was meeting Ice-T and his turntable partner Evil E.
“I learned I can make it out of anything,” Tommy said.
Tommy said that his Poet1 side is “rocking the forefront of my creativity” and his Tommy side is “resting in peace.” I take that to mean he’s happy in both his music and his “straight-life” worlds. Not a bad place to be, considering he started out in the Peabody Projects in St. Louis. Check out Poet1’s page at www.myspace.com/tech2021, and welcome a new artist to Northwest Arkansas.
Band of the Week: Apartment 5
Band members, instruments and day jobs: Nick Askew, vocals and guitar; JD Paul, drums; Max Glenn, bass; Joel Paul, guitar. Max works at a daycare, JD works at the Youth Center.
Type of music: Indie Pop Rock
Originals or covers: All Originals
Sounds like: A delicious musical smoothie blending The Strokes, The Beatles and Marvin Gaye
Songwriter’s muse: Sustainable agriculture.
Influences: The Crocodile Hunter, hackysacks, ripsticks, boredom, superfast Abbey, evolution, tree climbing, Zeitgeist, Bill Nye (the science guy) and music.
Accomplishments: Playing the largest local show at George’s. Writing good music that we enjoy and not killing each other after four years.
What kind of crowd do you draw: 75 percent humans, 24 percent farm animals, 1 percent imaginary creatures (Aliens, fairies, Jehpu’s). Apartment 5 attracts many.
When and where do you practice: We practice in a basement at JD’s parents house. Thanks Mom and Dad.
Any albums: We have a homemade demo that we personally color, and they are free.
Total number of tattoos and piercings: Four and a half peircings. We’re not sure yet what they did to JD. Wait is that a….no.
Back stage ritual: TIGERS PALM and BONGSAI hacky sack
Funniest or strangest thing that ever happened during a performance: The Foo Fighters showed up one time. A red balloon attacked us on stage at the Five Squirrels.
Goals: Save the honey bees, work on sustainable agriculture and make our living off music.
Plans: We are making a full-length album, touring and playing a show with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin on June 28 at George’s.