FolkWorld #59 03/2016
© Walkin' T:-)M

German Book Reviews

T:-)M's Night Shift

Brian T. Atkinson and Jenni Finlay, Kent Finlay, Dreamer: The Musical Legacy Behind Cheatham Street Warehouse. Texas A&M University Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1-62349-378- 3, pp280, US$25.95

Nyckelharpa Tabulatures Nyckelharpa Tabulatures gives a hand to anyone who is interested in playing the Scandinavian keyed fiddle and making the most of its keyboard, which allows to play chords. Tabulature is the most efficient tool to grasp the nyckelharpa's polyphonic potential. Marco Suppo's tutorial in both the English and Italian language for the chromatic nyckelharpa with European tuning (three rows and a drone) features a collection of tabulatures and exercises for the most frequent chords.
Marco Suppo, Nyckelharpa Tabulatures. Verlag der Spielleute, 2015, ISBN 978-3-943060-08-9, pp200, €29,90

          Marco Suppo

The Free Brontosaurus Acoustic Americana singer-songwriter David Berkeley has written a wary narrative, comprising ten interweaving short stories. The common theme is isolation and disconnection, still its characters find beauty and redemption in surprising places. The Free Brontosaurus comes with a soundtrack, Cardboard Boat, one song per story, loosely written from the perspective of the respective main character. The music is available separately on harddisc, the book includes a free download.
Artist Video David Berkeley, The Free Brontosaurus. Rare Bird Books, 2015, ISBN 978-1-9402-0798-8, pp240, €13,32.
David Berkeley, Cardboard Boat. Straw Man, 2015

          David Berkeley

          David Berkeley @ FolkWorld: FW#54

»The Finlays came from Scotland. They first settled in Bee Cave and worked cutting railroad ties by hand out of cedar. The Bradleys and Finlays saved enough money and bought that whole end of the county. My great-grandmother nominated “Fife,” the name of the Scottish town they came from, as the name for the post office and town name.«

Kent Finlay, born 1938, recalls his family history who crossed the Western Ocean from Scotland and made a new home in Texas, the second largest state in the United States of America.

My mother’s brother, Uncle T. J., and mother’s cousins had a band they called the Short Brothers Band, and they would play house dances around ... Lohn Valley. A house dance is where someone takes all of the furniture out of the living room so everyone could dance in there. They’d set the fiddle and guitar players up in the corner. ... Uncle Jim’s son, Clarence Short—his professional name was Sleepy—was in the band. Sleepy was an incredible fiddle player. ... He was in the Texas Top Hands, a great band based out of San Antonio. ... It was a serious band, and they were one of the top Bob Wills–like bands of the time. Most bands were doing a lot of western swing at the time, Texas music people dance to. ... Sleepy was definitely one of my heroes. Watching him play was something else. He would sit back and close his eyes and play from his heart. He could do double stops and harmonies with himself and play all those songs from “Julida Polka” to “The Lone Star Rag” and “Beaumont Rag” and “Orange Blossom Special” and all those great tunes.

Kent Finlay began a teaching career, but also wrote songs and played at weekends himself. In 1974, he leased an old warehouse along the railroad tracks in San Marcos and converted it into a honky tonk, a type of bar that provides country music for entertainment.

We opened Cheatham Street Warehouse in June 1974. I had been wanting to open a music venue for some time. I was teaching and playing on weekends in Austin, but San Marcos didn’t have a music venue. There wasn’t such a thing. There was no live music.

Looking back four decades later, it has turned out that Kent's creation has shaped the country movement in Central Texas and has launched the careers of many an aspiring artist.

At the very beginning, we did mostly country acts: Joe Ely, Asleep at the Wheel, and, of course, George Strait and Joe Bob’s Bar and Grill. It was Gram Parsons country, not necessarily Nashville country.

Country music icon George Strait played his first 50 gigs with the Ace in the Hole Band at Cheatham Street. Kent drove him to Nashville for his first recording session. George Strait went on to become one of the most successful recording artists in the history of country music, earning the nickname King of Country.

Ray Wylie Hubbard, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Ernest Tubb and dozens more regularly stepped on the Cheatham stage.

Townes Van Zandt

Artist Video Townes Van Zandt @ FW:
FW#23, #26, #34, #48

Another most memorable night was when Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark played. It was Townes’s gig, and Guy and [his wife] Susanna were in town and came out. In a few minutes, Guy was up there, and they were swapping songs and everything. This is back when we had a twelve o’clock closing time. It came closing time that night. Nobody wanted to leave, so we just made a deal with everybody. I told them if everybody chug-a-lugs, they could drink Cokes and coffee or whatever they’d want. They just couldn’t have any alcohol. So everybody did, and we just stayed and stayed and stayed and stayed there nearly all night. It was just incredible. It was one of the most magical nights of all time, even though Townes never drew a crowd. Maybe there were forty people. That’s okay, you know. The best crowds for a songwriter night are small.

Kent Finlay pushed the career of blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan as well as punk rockers The Skunks, but most importantly of Texan singer-songwriters such as Adam Carroll (a tribute album to Adam Carroll is currently produced by Eight 30 Records to be launched later this year).

I heard Adam Carroll on the radio. I had to turn it up it was so good. ... Adam’s voice had a quality that just draws you in, and the way it was produced was so wonderful. It kept you interested in everything. ... His Live at Cheatham Street is one of my favorite records still. It was such a great performance of “Red Bandana Blues.” The harmonica is phenomenal. It was like he was just playing off of the top of his head and making it up as he was going. Everyone’s heart reaches out to him when he’s on stage. He’s got that magic thing. I can’t describe it, but he’s definitely got it. He’s so genuine.

Especially, Kent hosted an open mike every Wednesday night to provide songwriters with a chance to showcase their original songs.

Back in the seventies, we started songwriters’ night. Songwriters just didn’t get any recognition at all. There wasn’t any place to go and be a songwriter. You just had to write songs and maybe play them in the band like they were cover songs. ... We just started off sitting around the woodstove, like it was a campfire. That woodstove was a centerpiece. We would have the warmth of the stove and the magic of the stove, the wood fire, and we would just pass the guitar around and around and do all original songs. Then it got a little bigger. We started meeting to bring in a little PA and setting up a couple speakers and a couple mikes. Eventually, really important writers started coming out of there, and it began to get a good reputation.

The Class of 1987 was really a good group. The regulars in ’87 were Terri Hendrix, James McMurtry, Tish Hinojosa, Hal Ketchum, John Arthur Martinez, Al Barlow, Aaron Allen, Ike Eikenberg, Todd Snider, me, and a couple others. ... They say greatness inspires greatness, and I think that’s true.

Terri Hendrix used the Cheatham Street stage as a springboard for an internationally acclaimed career.

Terri Hendrix is the hardest-working songwriter I’ve ever met. She works so hard at everything she does. She’s very deliberate. When she decides that something is going to happen, she makes it happen. She decided—back when she had that little Applause guitar and she was first getting started—that she was going to make it as a songwriter. She did. She said, “Okay, this is what I’m going to do.” She made the jump and made it happen. Absolutely. She was not going to be denied. No one could stop her. That’s just the way she is.

Terri slowly developed the unique style she has now. It was fun to watch that happen. She was always an intentional songwriter and did everything purposefully. I think she was always intent on learning. Honing her skills. ... She was always coming up with sweet, fun songs that just made people feel good. It’s what she specializes in, making people feel good. ... My favorite quote: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” That’s the way it works in the music business. She’s one of the luckiest people I know.

Kent Finlay

If he were doing it for money
He’d be doing something else
All he wants from life
Is a chance to give himself
To some future generation
Who’ll be touched when they’ve heard     
His rhymes and his rhythms
And the wisdom of his words

Artist Video

Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay

Additionally, Eight 30 Records has released the accompanying Dreamer album, featuring more than a dozen Kent Finlay disciples and their takes on his original songs.
• Terri Hendrix
• Walt Wilkins
• James McMurtry
• Brennen Leigh and 
  Noel McKay • William Clark Green • Adam Carroll • Randy Rogers and
  Sunny Sweeney • Steve Poltz • HalleyAnna • Owen Temple • Jon Dee Graham • Slaid Cleaves • Matt Harlan • Jamie Wilson & the
  Hill Country Choir
Various Artists, Dreamer: A Tribute to Kent Finlay. Eight 30 Records, 2016

To honor the important role that she believes Cheatham Street has played, Terri Hendrix recorded her "Live in San Marcos" here in 2001. She recorded all of her classic songs so far, produced by Lloyd Maines (father of Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks).

People knew that I had majored in music at Hardin-Simmons University, and they knew that I wrote songs. Somewhere along the line, someone said, “You should go to the songwriter night at Cheatham Street Warehouse.” I did. People would sit around this [wood]stove and play songs. I was really nervous [my first time]. I had a hard time getting through my songs and was definitely not performing out at that time. ... Kent knew I was nervous and just getting started. I said one day, “You know, I really want to do this.” Kent said, “Well, you have to be really hungry for it, and you have to be able to not do anything else.” It took me a long time to realize what he really meant, but it’s true. In order to want this career, you do have to be hungry and really work. That was really great advice for me.

We did that Live in San Marcos record in 2001 I had been playing for a long time and had a fan base built up to warrant two sold-out nights to record it. I wanted to give people who had been following my career a chance to be in on a recording. I picked Cheatham Street because it was in my hometown, and Kent has been really important about supporting songwriters. It felt like the perfect home to sing my songs and record them.

Kent’s never booked artists based on their beer sales, and that’s always been really appealing to me. He really cares about the people who come into his building as long as they respect the songwriter. ... When people talk about San Marcos, people talk about the outlet mall and the river and the university and Cheatham Street. Sometimes Cheatham Street comes in first before the outlet mall. I could see a statue of Kent Finlay in bronze by it.

Finlay Kent kicked off every songwriter night with his "I'll Sing You a Story, I'll Tell You a Song." It has often been overlooked that he was not merely a club owner but a formidable songwriter in his own right. His finest songs (such as "They Call It the Hill Country") can stand their ground against the writer's he's championed. He also has co-written songs with artists including Todd Snider, Walt Wilkins and Slaid Cleaves.

[Slaid Cleaves is] a likable, talented person. He is very careful and thoughtful about what he writes. He doesn’t just jot down the next line that comes through his head. He’s very deliberate. He’s no craftsman. He likes a little humor, you know. He likes it to have a nice twist. He likes the melody and the lyrics to jive. ... I was looking for someone else to work with. I’ve always been a teacher, schoolteacher, and that kind of carries on into everything else like songwriting. You know, I was trying to help somebody get the next notch up the ladder. I thought Slaid probably needed someone to get in there with him, and I wanted to do it. ... Slaid’s really turned into one of the leading songwriters of the world.

Kent Finlay passed away on March 2, 2015, aged 77. To mark the one-year anniversary, his daughter Jenni Finlay (of Jenni Finlay Promotions) and Brian T. Atkinson (author of "I'll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt")[48] tell the story behind Texas' most celebrated honky tonk and its iconic venue owner in Kent Finlay, Dreamer: The Musical Legacy Behind Cheatham Street Warehouse .

Jenni had thoroughly interviewed her father about his life and his music, whereas Brian questioned some forty songwriters about the influence and inspiration that Cheatham Street Warehouse has had. The title Dreamer refers to Kent's habit of daydreaming about music, songs he's writing or songs someone else wrote.

I sometimes daydream about what Cheatham Street will be like in fifty years. I want it to be sitting there looking just as it does but have a good roof on it. I see it, for one thing, partly as a museum, partly a place to develop songwriters with songwriter concerts. I also see it as a place to develop steel guitar players and guitar players and also to have concerts for all kinds of Texas music, from Texas swing to down-home country to blues and any serious music. Pretty much what we’ve always been doing.

Slaid Cleaves

Artist Video Slaid Cleaves @ FolkWorld:

Terri Hendrix

Artist Video Terri Hendrix @ FolkWorld:
FW#34, #43, #59

Adam Carroll

Artist Video Adam Carroll @ FolkWorld:

Matt Harlan

Artist Video Matt Harlan @ FolkWorld:

Photo Credits: (1ff) Book/CD Covers, (5) Marco Suppo, (6) David Berkeley, (7) Townes Van Zandt, (8) Kent Finlay, (9) Slaid Cleaves, (10) Terri Hendrix, (11) Adam Carroll, (12) Matt Harlan (from website/author/publishers).

Previous Book Reviews
Next Book Reviews
FolkWorld Homepage German Content English Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Children Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld Info & Contact

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld