For Leah's Sake 

On Nov. 27, Leah Thornhill, a Nashville mother of two, was critically injured in an automobile accident when a pickup truck allegedly ran a stop sign and crashed into her vehicle. Since the accident, Thornhill has remained in a coma at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and her family lacks insurance to cover her rapidly mounting medical expenses.

Help is on its way, however, in the unlikely form of a commando unit made up of Nashville’s raunchiest, grungiest metal bands. UMI recording artists Vahalla, one of Nashville’s most popular metal units, and fellow groove slammers Medicine Mann have joined forces for a special 18-and-over benefit show for Thornhill’s family on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 328 Performance Hall.

“She’s just a real nice person,” says Rick Brave-Lion, guitarist for Medicine Mann, who used to work with Thornhill at the shop where she works as a hairdresser. “She’s one of those people who always has a kind word for everyone. We just wanted to do something to help her out.” Brave-Lion says that, according to Thornhill’s sister, Thornhill had opened her eyes slightly and remembered a relative’s name—an encouraging sign. But she still has a long way to go, and her family needs help.

Also appearing on Saturday night’s bill are Carina Kids and Venus Drive. The first band takes the stage at 8 p.m., and tickets are $6 at the door. All proceeds from the show go to Thornton’s family, as will proceeds from T-shirts specially printed for the event. If loud music hurts your ears, you can still send a contribution to the Leah Thornhill Recovery Fund, First American National Bank, 5236 Hickory Hollow Pkwy., Antioch, TN 37013.

Mark this name on your calendar for Saturday night: Mr. Quintron, an act from New Orleans making its Nashville debut at Lucy’s Record Shop at 8 p.m. Mr. Quintron consists of one man with a portable theater organ, an answering machine, an electronic kazoo, disco lights and a theremin; we are assured that he will play originals along with songs by, you guessed it, Tito Puente.

But that’s not all, dear reader. In addition, for a measly $5 cover, you get Mr. Quintron’s accompanying puppet show, which features Little Saucy and the Unicorns, pyrotechnics, the Fabulous Brain Machine, original soundtracks with backward masking, and “Snickle Fritz, the guitar-playing turtle.”

Is that everything? Hell, no! Splitting the bill with Mr. Quintron are the only groups rugged enough to share the stage with Snickle Fritz: the punky Frothy Shakes, and an act called Cruel Oval Brown Stomachs (or COBS) that has created quite a buzz. Led by David Cloud, the COBS distill classic rock ’n’ roll songs ranging from “Because the Night” to “Peppermint Twist” down to elemental pop dementia. It should be a memorable show.

Maura O’Connell traveled to Ireland recently with plans to perform on a television program. As it turned out, her homeland trip lasted two weeks and included a special performance for President Bill Clinton, as well as a high-profile appearance on The Show, England’s most popular late-night TV series.

O’Connell, a big star in her native Ireland, made the trip to appear on The Pat Kenney Show, an Irish program on which she has been a regular guest. O’Connell took advantage of the trip by spending a day walking along Ireland’s western coast. “I was having a calm, mind-altering experience,” she says. “And when I got back, there was a flurry of phone calls and faxes and all this excitement.”

The excitement concerned an invitation from Jean Kennedy Smith, the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, to perform in a concert being arranged for Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. O’Connell had performed at the wedding of Smith’s brother, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, and the ambassador wanted her to display her talents to the visiting president and first lady. O’Connell performed “The Water Is Wide” for Clinton and more than 80,000 Irish supporters who attended the fete.

“[Clinton] went over remarkably well in Ireland,” O’Connell says, adding with a laugh, “I think the Irish people would elect him president of their country if they could. I think it’s the biggest welcome any president has gotten since Kennedy.”

After her performance, O’Connell was ushered to the special box where Clinton and his wife were seated. “I think the poor man was tired by the time we got to meet him,” she says. She did, however, engage Mrs. Clinton in a conversation about Arkansas, the home state of O’Connell’s husband, film producer Mac Bennett.

As if that wasn’t enough, another surprise invitation came from musician Jools Holland, a former member of the rock band Squeeze, who hosts a nightly BBC program, The Show. O’Connell joined Van Morrison, Tori Amos and Paul Brady as a guest star one evening. After performing a duet with Paul Brady on “Stories,” the title song from O’Connell’s recent album, she was asked by Holland to perform an impromptu song with him. He chose “This Town Can’t Get Over You,” a Henry Hipken song that O’Connell has recorded. She sang it to Holland’s solo accompaniment on piano.

Meanwhile, O’Connell’s Stories is in its 11th week in the Top Ten of the Americana charts. It currently sits at No. 2 after spending two weeks at No. 1. Now back in her Green Hills home, O’Connell performs Saturday at Station Inn. Considering that she’s in her sixth month of pregnancy, she says her hometown appearance will be “the final, final, final, final thing we do until next summer. If I were to do any more shows now, I’d have to make the audience do breathing exercises with me.”

Dave Pomeroy’s ninth annual Blue Christmas celebration will be held at the Exit/In Friday, Dec. 15. Past shows have brought out such holiday revelers as Trisha Yearwood, Jonell Mosser, and Raul Malo of the Mavericks, and the lineup thus far includes the Blue Christmas Band, which consists of Johnny Neel, Larry Chaney, Russ Pahl, John Gardner and Sam Bacco. The Blue Christmas Band has a four-song cassette available at Tower for $5, and the proceeds go to Room at the Inn, a coalition of local churches that houses homeless Nashvillians during the winter months.

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