The Rusty Rocket Corp. was established in memory of singer-songwriter James JD Drown, a founding member of The Blend, who passed away from cancer in 2002. The non-profit organization gets musical instruments into the hands of kids and schools with the help of fundraising activities such as annual concert events and as of this summer, sales of a new tribute CD, Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 1. Don recorded one of JD’s tunes, Down the Road, for the CD and performed it at the 10th annual Tribute to JD concert on Saturday, June 23rd at Portland’s Asylum venue. The day Don finished working on this track, he stepped outside of his Nashville studio for some fresh air and a huge rainbow appeared in the sky. This is one of my favorite all-time Don Campbell vocal performances; I think JD might have approved too. Learn more at www.rustyrocket.com
Summer In Maine. Don and I returned to our home State last week and are already filling ourselves up with the things we love about this time of year; ocean and salt air, gardens, friends and family!
On May 19th, Don, my band mates and I loaded up the van and trailer and headed south from Maine to Mamaroneck NY and the historic Winged Foot Golf Club. We had been hired to perform at a special wedding event and I don’t think the weather could have been any better for the setting and evening of fun, family, friends and celebration. A huge personal bonus was that I got to spend a little time with my brother, Peter and sister-in-law, Gina. They live in NYC and were guests at the wedding. This photo - a rare snap of both siblings dressed up! - was taken by Jay Ackerman.
Pick Me! Don’t Pick Me!
The other day, we were in Murfreesboro, TN leaving a restaurant when all these colorful, caged-up personalities stopped Don in his tracks. It was one of those machines you put quarters in for a chance to calibrate and drop a claw on a stuffed animal. I’ve walked by them a hundred times, but Don saw more than me and snapped this photo (you can see us in the mirror using an iPhone).
I was sifting through Don’s phone just now, came upon the photo, and was brought back to a scene (scenes, actually) from childhood. Do you remember standing around waiting for teams to be picked in sports at school and/or your neighborhood? There were always the confident kids, eager to be picked first and usually picked first (ducky!) and then there were other kids who sort of hid in line, avoiding eye contact and the inevitable leftover default assignment to a team that didn’t want them. That’s how I usually felt, be it kickball, soccer, baseball, or the Fenway Road “kick the can” game. (See little brown bear looking down). I was no prize, or so I thought.
I think differently now. We’re all prizes. We don’t always feel like it. But we are. So are all these little stuffed, colorful critters. Thanks for not walking by, Don.
HELLLOOOOOOOO! An April 22nd, 2012 Earth Day close-up at 31 floors-up!
This photo was taken atop the Viridian building located at 415 Church St. in Nashville, overlooking LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. Thanks to the producers of the Nashville Downtown Home Tour for the access and to Don Campbell for a nice snap!
A Very Special Screening on my Third Day at the Nashville Film Festival:
Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage
Wow. Charlie Louvin was a legendary country music artist who passed away not long ago at the age of 84. He left a legacy of music and enduring life lessons, illustrated wonderfully by filmmakers Blake Judd and Keith Neltner and crew. This was the Tennessee Premiere of the film, and my film festival mates and I sat in the second row, surprisingly, right behind Charlie’s family – his wife Betty, son Sonny and grandson, among others. A powerful place and context for viewing this man’s past on the big screen.
Charlie’s professional music career started alongside his brother Ira, and in the 1950’s/early 1960’s, the Louvin Brothers wrote, recorded, toured and developed fame and a following for their “blood harmonies” and songs. Charlie and Ira had split up when Ira was killed in a car accident in 1965. Incredibly, Charlie toured infrequently for almost 40 years until 2008 when he did 200 shows in two years; only stopping when pancreatic cancer forced him to stop. His last show was held December 3rd, 2010 in Nashville. The following day, the filmmakers interviewed Charlie for this documentary. In addition to the poignant interview footage with Charlie, the filmmakers also spoke with Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, John McCrea of Cake, George Jones and Marty Stuart and utilized archive video, photos, documents and a wide assortment of music from the catalog.
Following the showing of this film there was a panel discussion with Blake and Keith, Rodney Crowell, Jim Lauderdale and Bret Steele (Charlie’s manager at the end of his career), moderated by Peter Cooper. They talked about how meaningful the songs of Charlie Louvin and the Louvin Brothers were to them and what it meant to know Charlie and his incredible talent, character, and work ethic.
I was fortunate (probably because I was in the second row) to be the first audience member to ask a question of the panel and I addressed it to them all, asking what their favorite Charlie Louvin/Louvin Brothers song was and why it was special to them. I noticed that a writer for theBoot.com must have been in the room and reported Rodney’s and Jim’s answers to my question in a story about the documentary screening. Check it out at http://www.theboot.com/2012/04/23/charlie-louvin-documentary/
Experiencing this screening, in the company of the filmmakers, the selfless panel and Charlie’s family, was something I will never forget. I highly recommend you visit www.louvinfilm.com for more information. It’s well worth the time.
Photo credit: Susan Raftice
Day Two at the Nashville Film Festival
The Evolution of Women Behind the Camera panel with Nicole Kidman, Famke Janssen, Beth Grant and Carrie Preston. Saturday afternoon, I had the privilege of attending a session that featured a very open and refreshingly honest dialogue about working in the film industry from the context of the panelists’ varied roles as actors, producers and directors. Beth Grant described the experience of moving from in front of the camera (as an actor) to behind the camera (as a director) and I thoroughly enjoyed that her husband was not only in attendance with her at the festival, but was actively distributing post card flyers for Beth’s short film, The Perfect Fit! Carrie and Famke also had films being shown at the Festival (That’s What She Said and Bringing Up Bobby) and Nicole offered advice and commentary on finding mentors and striking a balance with family and work obligations, among other questions from the audience. It was an SRO room and my film fest mates and I were seated in the back row, but it was an intimate session starring four extremely hard-working and talented women and a very inspiring afternoon.
Hollywood to Dollywood:
Saturday evening, I enjoyed the Tennessee Premiere of John Lavin’s film about Gary and Larry Lane, gay twin brothers and lifelong Dolly Parton fans who decide to drive an RV named Jolene from Hollywood, CA to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN to try to hand-deliver a script to their idol. Along the journey, they share experiences about growing up gay in NC, about coming out to their parents and coming west at age 25; and about what this trip, Dolly and family means to them, 10 years later.
Ahead of the screening, Dolly Parton accepted a Career Achievement Award from the Nashville Film Festival via video, instantly lighting up the whole theatre with her huge personality and smile. Following the film, director John Lavin and co-star Larry Lane, answered questions from the audience, and were excited to announce that just this week, they had worked out a music licensing deal with Dolly Parton’s office in Nashville, allowing the film to go on sale on DVD and blu-ray.
A few more Nashville Film Festival reports to follow this week!
Friday, April 20, 2012 - thoughts on my first and second films of this year’s festival
I arrived at the Festival just before 5 pm and it was 75 degrees and sunny as I hit the red carpet – no, the paparazzi didn’t swarm me, except for the two guys with a free photo booth, staged in an outhouse across from the VIP tent. (Not kidding!) I opted for the free Brambleberry Crisp ice cream sample from the folks at Jenis over the free outhouse photo shoot, though never say never…today is a new day at the festival!
My first film was a World Premiere called Brick and Mortar and Love. Fittingly, as it’s Record Store Day weekend around the country and beyond, this film follows the story of an independent record store in Louisville, KY called “ear X-tacy”. The store had been in existence, owned and operated by John Timmons, for nearly 25 years when the story picks up in late 2009/early 2010.
Without giving away the end, the documentary by C. Scott Shuffitt does a nice job of showing the important role that independent locally owned record stores have in their communities. He does this by following the experiences of ear X-tacy employees and customers and by demonstrating the relationship between local and touring musicians and the store. Additional perspective was given through many interviews with other record store owners from around the country.
Personally, I felt a renewed call to action to buy local and enjoy the multiple products and services that independent record stores have to offer (they’re often not just for music anymore!). Will I still buy music from carriers like iTunes (and of course from the artists themselves!)? Certainly, yes. But there sure is a great feeling from discovering new music or reacquainting yourself with music you used to love the “old-fashioned” tactile way of combing through music bins, sometimes with the help of a kindred music-loving spirit who owns or works at the store.
Fitting for Earth Day weekend, I attended a free screening of Last Call at the Oasis at Lipscomb University on Friday evening, an off-site event offered by the Nashville Film Festival. Last Call at the Oasis is a documentary that explores the global water supply and condition, directed by Jessica Yu and produced by the same folks who did Food, Inc., (another eye-opening doc I first saw at the True False Film Festival three years ago). The film presented interviews and forums with scientists, activists and citizens including Erin Brockovich and also starred water treatment facilities, the bottled water industry and the EPA. From communities in California, Texas, Michigan, Australia and Las Vegas facing immediate and specific water quantity and quality issues to water management approaches in Singapore and the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian borders, I felt like I left the screening with a much better understanding of clean water access issues as well as hope that a common agenda can result in new ideas and progress.
As the filmmakers presented water quality and pollution issues, I was startled to hear that the daily waste of 6000 cows = the daily waste of 140,000 people. All that cow poo has to go somewhere, and in industrial farm settings it’s often dropped by the cows in the structures they live, cleaned out, transported and stored in manure “lagoons”. Some lagoons are managed well, and others are not, thereby affecting local water quality.
Towards the end of the film, there was a segment starring Jack Black as a spokesman for a fictional product called “Porcelain Springs”, a bottled water offering made from reclaimed water, i.e. recycled wastewater. While the technology in water filtration already exists to create this product, the question of whether people could get past drinking something they associate with former sewage was what my film-watching mates and I walked out of the theatre discussing, certainly with our heightened awareness of a very central issue.
It’s a van…down by the river! Our van, parked right next to the Cumberland River in Nashville last week - on two occasions - as we had the pleasure of performing aboard a Blount Small Ship Adventure vessel, the Grand Caribe, on April 2nd and 6th. This ship explores the Mississippi and connecting rivers this time of year and we met some wonderful passengers from all over the USA and beyond. We will look forward to seeing the Grand Caribe in Portland, Maine later this summer, as it is scheduled for some Boston to Bay of Fundy cruises in August. Hope those nights will be as beautiful as these were; Friday’s Full Moon made for an especially pretty night in Nashville.
A great surprise! On Thursday, March 15th, Don and I had just started a show at Joshua’s Tavern in Brunswick, Maine when one of Don’s favorite singer-songwriters and biggest musical influences, Jonathan Edwards, walked in to join some mutual friends. He thrilled everyone - especially us - when he came up to perform a few of his own tunes as well as joining us for some of ours. A class act and an extremely creative and hard-working artist, he’s released a couple of new CDs in the last year and tours extensively. This night was a real treat.