Mark Wayne Glasmire pays tribute to Nashville, city of writers; also roundups of new blues and jazz releases 

He grew up in Pennsylvania and has spent many years in Texas, but Saturday night singer/songwriter Mark Wayne Glasmire returns to a Music City locale he loves and reveres, the Bluebird Cafe. Though no longer a Nashville resident, Glasmire fondly recalls participating in past writers' nights where he forged his sound and developed his skills at the Bluebird and other area spots like the Exit/In and 3rd and Lindsley.

"More than anything else Nashville truly is a writer's town," Glasmire said. "It's a place where you learn about storytelling, discover what works and also fails in terms of structure, lyrics, message and tone. The Bluebird respects the writer more than any place I can remember and those nights were always special when you were working and singing alongside and with other people who also loved the written word, playing for people who appreciated and understood and would react to what you were trying to do and say."

Glasmire's latest CD Life Goes On (Traceway) showcases the appealing mix of country and folk influences reflected in his writing, playing and singing. "I guess if you want to try and characterize my music I'd say the story is at the center of things, and the way I present it has equal parts folk and country flavor," he says. "The people I admire and the music that I grew up with always emphasized telling a simple, honest and straightforward story, and that's what I think I really became even better at doing during my time in Nashville."

Examples of that resonate in topical/social material like "Everything Is Gonna Be Alright," a song about resilience and struggle in the wake of economic setbacks, and "Our Love Remains," a celebration of true love's ability to overcome all obstacles. Indeed, persistence is a theme Glasmire frequently revisits, with other tunes such as "Life Goes On," "Shelter From The Storm," and "This Must Be Love" also sagas about triumph or recovery over formidable odds and tough problems.

He's the 21st century equivalent of troubadours from earlier eras, singer/songwriters whose songs were forged out of their reflections about what they saw on the road, the people they met and their experiences moving from place to place. Glasmire's background also includes a stint as a construction manager, and his perspective on changes in the business, radio airplay and the emergence of the Americana format indicate someone more interested in the art rather than the business structure of music.

"For people like me sure it's good to have some type of way to place what I do," Glasmire says. "I don't really do what fits into some definitions of country and I'm not really doing what might be viewed as traditional folk, so Americana is a format that's home to performers who kind of straddle or bridge categories.

"But I'd prefer to just think of myself as a storyteller, someone who would appeal to people interested in hearing songs that have a universal and timeless appeal. That's the quality of the people I admire and the best traits of a lot of the fine songwriters I worked with during the '90s. That's what you learn when you play music in Nashville, that a great song is relevant in any era and will always be relevant, no matter what else might be played and whatever else is hot or the trend of the day."

Mark Wayne Glasmire appears Saturday night at the Bluebird Cafe along with Lucs P. Gravell, Tom Guardino and Tirk Wilder at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Local benefit

Jason Eskridge's daughter became a student at East Academy last August, and over the last few months he's become involved in helping raise funds for the school. On Friday night, March 26, his latest endeavor on their behalf provides local fans an opportunity to hear several popular local performers in concert. The fundraiser features performances by Tommy Sims, Darnell Levine, Drew Ramsey, Boot Hill & Paramount Shop and Eskridge. Things get underway 8:30 p.m. at Douglas Corner Cafe, 2106 8th Ave. S. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door.

Jazzy blues roundup #1

Luther Allison, Songs From The Road (Ruf) Bombastic singer and flamboyant guitarist Luther Allison's brillance is framed on this set from the 1997 Montreal jazz festival, which also sadly predated the final month of his life. But the vocals display no weary qualities, and the guitar work, especially on slide, has bite and fury. From his signature tune "Serious" to a blistering cover of "It Hurts Me Too" and indignant "Move From The Hood," Allison delivers emphatic, majestic confessions and updates on the blues life buttressed by a fine companion DVD.

James Carter, Heaven On Earth (Half Note) The mercurial Carter crafts gorgeous tributes to Leo Parker on baritone and Lucky Thompson on tenor. His assembled quintet includes rhythm section aces bassist Christian McBride and drummer Joey Baron, while guitarist Adam Rogers and organist John Medeski zip in and out of arrangements that explore soul jazz, hard bop, funk and occasionally even avant-garde. A smoking live date cut at NYC's Blue Note, it's the ideal vehicle for Carter to show his facility doesn't come at the cost of soul or energy.

The Holmes Brothers, Feed My Soul (Alligator) Wendell and Sherman Holmes along with Popsy Dixon are rousing vocalists who excel at everything. Whether it's their originals (Wendell's "Feed My Soul" and "Edge Of The Ledge," Sherman's "Dark Cloud" and "I Saw Your Face") , contemporary compositions (Paul Kahn's "Take Me Away," John Ellison's "Something Is Missing,") or smashing remakes ("Pledging My Love," Lennon/McCartney's "I'll Be Back") they blend frenzied leads with tart harmonies, smoothly fusing secular and spiritual influences into an engaging group sound. Special guests (producer/vocalist Joan Osborne, Catherine Russell, Glenn Patscha, Roman Klun, Matt Munisteri and Andy Breslau) also nicely move things along.

Lionel Loueke, Mwaliko (Blue Note) Guitarist Lionel Loueke's new CD draws band members and inspiration from African tunes, European and Latin beats, plus funk and hip-hop. Angelique Kidjo's sweltering, joyful voice zips through "Ami O" and the traditional Benin number "Vi Ma Yon," while Loueke displays more conventional jazz chops on Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti." He simultaneously propels and complements a strong crew that includes bassists/vocalists Esperanza Spaulding and Richard Bona and drummers Ference Nemeth or Marcus Gilmore.

David Murray, The Devil Tried To Kill Me (Justin Time) Formidable saxophonist and bandleader Murray's latest release again pairs him with Guadeloupe's famed Gwo Ka Masters, plus fellow idiomatic traveler Taj Mahal. Mahal's gritty and venerable voice sparkle on "Southern Skies" and the title track, which also boasts wondrous duet partner Sista Kee. Murray's splintering, furious tenor sax and bass clarinet forays and solos are the fulcrum balancing a jazz vibe with Ka music's jubilant, shifting rhythmic patterns. The disc's selections highlight everything from the Obama win to African solidarity on this splendid session.

Henry Threadgill, This Brings Us To, Volume 1 (PI Recordings) Henry Threadgill's latest marks his return to a small combo setting (quintet). Employing a typically unorthodox configuration sans piano, Threadgill's tunes vary from slow, layered pieces to surging numbers where his alto sets the pace while Liberty Ellman (guitar) and Jose Davila (trombone/tuba) rotate between section work and upfront statements, and bass/drum team Stomu Takeishi and Elliott Humbereto Kavee stomp and glide either behind, with or alongside the frontline.

Bonus shorts

Tom Harrell, Roman Nights (High Note) Sensitive, sensual and sentimental quintet work from a trumpeter who flourishes on melodic exposition, but can also rage and wail.

Frank Sinatra, Strangers In The Night (Concord) The Chairman of the Board's final chart topping work was also his last collaboration with arranging giant Nelson Riddle.

Guitar Shorty, Bare Knuckle (Alligator) Guitar Shorty moves from pungent social commentary ("Please Mr. President") to vivid heartache/love laments ("Too Hard To Love You," "Too Late") while superbly mixing elements of Texas, Louisiana and Chicago blues.

Tail Dragger, Live At Rooster's Lounge (Delmark) Tail Dragger's blues aren't flowery or sophisticated. This is animated, rough stuff, sung with fervor and expertly mining the shared territory between soul and blues.

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