DISClaimer: Nashville’s Sounds Of Classical, Jazz, Neo-Soul, Rock

Muddy Magnolias

Today’s survey of Nashville’s non-country scene spans both generations and styles.

Classical works by Cristina Spinei and The Nashville Symphony sit alongside jazz by Bryan Cumming, electronic music by Lambchop and rock by The Cold Stares. Buzz Cason dates from the dawn of Music City rock in the 1950s. Olivia Newton-John won her Nashville music awards in the 1970s. Ed Fitzgerald endures from the city’s new-wave scene of the 1980s.

This week’s DisCovery Award goes to the neo soul duo Muddy Magnolias. The Disc of the Day is Liv On, by Beth Nielsen Chapman, Olivia Newton-John & Amy Sky.

Writers: J.E. Fitzgerald; Producers: Gary Laney/Ed Fitzgerald; Publishers: Muzzy Lake, ASCAP; Telephone (track)
– With his band Civic Duty, Fitzgerald was a mainstay of Nashville’s new-wave rock scene of the ‘80s. His new music has an evocative, spaghetti-western vibe. As always, his electric guitar work is exemplary and his lyrics haunt. On this lonesome-sounding CD title tune, Judi Fitzgerald takes the lead vocal. These tracks belong on cool movie soundtracks.

Writer: Beth Nielsen Chapman; Producers: Olivia Newton-John, Beth Nielsen Chapman & Amy Sky; Publishers: BNC, ASCAP; OBA/UMG
– Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Beth Nielsen Chapman has written one of the best meditations on mortality of all time. On the CD Liv On, she performs it with Canadian star Amy Sky and international icon Olivia Newton-John. The three also collaborate on 10 other songs of healing and grieving on the collection. This record is essential.

Writers: Chris Tapp/The Cold Stares; Producers: Tres Sasser/The Cold Stares; Publishers: none listed; TCS (track)
– Like the enormously popular Black Keys and White Stripes, Nashville’s The Cold Stares are a guitar-drums rock duo. You won’t believe how much sound they can coax out of just two instruments. This pile-driving track from their CD A Cold Wet Night and a Howling Wind has almost frightening fire, grit and passion. This sucker grabs you by the throat and squeezes hard.

BRYAN CUMMING/Come Out Swinging
Writers: Bryan Cumming; Producer: Bryan Cumming; Publishers: none listed; BC (track)
– The title tune of Cumming’s CD does just what its title promises. It’s a finger-snapping, jazzy hipster tune with the whole combo delivering the goods. Kelli Cox tickles the ivories. Adam Mormolstein taps the skins. John Vogt thumps the bass. Cumming sings and plays just about anything he chooses. In addition to his original tunes, the CD has versions of ditties by Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Nat King Cole, Isham Jones and other classic-era swingers.

Writers: DeMeyer/Kimbrough;Producer: Sean Sullivan; Publishers: none listed; BDM (track)
– If there is one man in Music City’s pop pantheon who can do no wrong, it is Will Kimbrough. His latest venture is a spare duet CD with fellow Nashvillian Brigitte DeMeyer. Its title tune combines her soulful, sultry, sandpapery, bluesy lead vocals with his tasty guitar licks and hushed harmony singing. There is not one false note on this entire collection, because these two are audio perfection.

Writers: Buzz Cason; Producer: Buzz Cason; Publisher: Buzz Cason, ASCAP; ArenA (track)
– Sixty years ago, Buzz Cason was a member of The Casuals, Nashville’s first rock ‘n’ roll band. In the decades since, he’s collaborated with Jimmy Buffett, sung hits as “Garry Miles,” been a background vocalist for dozens of stars, owned a hit-making studio and co-written “Everlasting Love,” “Love’s the Only House,” “Soldier of Love” and more. He’s still bopping right along, as this toe-tapping title tune to his latest CD attests.

THE NASHVILLE SYMPHONY/Metropolitan Symphony: V. Red Cape Tango
Writer: Daugherty; Producer: Blanton Alspaugh; Publisher: peermusic Classical, BMI; Naxos
– The organization just hauled in three Grammy Awards for its 2016 CD of Michael Daugherty’s “Tales of Hemingway” (It now has 11 Grammys in all). So how fitting to have a Best Of album that includes more Daugherty composing gems, plus a pair of selections by Stephen Paulus (with whom it has also been Grammy awarded) and pieces by Piazzolla, Sierra and Danielpour. Put it on, turn it up and fill your house with the sound of our very biggest band.

Writers: Cristina Spinel; Producer: Cristina Spinel; Publisher: none listed; Toccata Classics
-Cristina Spinei is a Nashville-based classical composer/producer whose works are characterized by minimal, yet highly rhythmic notes. Her Music For Dance CD includes this chiming, ear tickling delight that features vibes by Colleen Phelps and cello by Sari De Leon Reist, both of whom are also Music City residents. The Toccata Classics imprint is distributed by the Nashville based Naxos label.

MUDDY MAGNOLIAS/Brother, What Happened?
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Third Generation
– This female duo (Jessy Wilson & Kallie North) stirs a pot of simmering neo soul on its new Broken People CD. The single/video is an uplifting call for love and peace. Righteous sounding.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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