My Interview With Mary-Elaine Jenkins

It’s finally here! My first ever audio interview! & with the venerable Mary-Elaine Jenkins, no less!

She recently released her debut album “Hold Still”, which I wholeheartedly recommend that you get your very own copy. Her music is also available at all these places to stream or download.

20181018_195742MEJ was generous enough to let me into her home for this. So, over tea & under the eye of Elvis (an overseer who I imagine would let a great deal slide under his watch) we spoke of album making, our respective deals with the South, & what’s next for Mary-Elaine as she proves to the world she can leap & bound as good as any.

Enjoy!

B&B’s Lastest Song of Their Lastest Show Ever!

As you know, Barefoot & Bankside had their last show ever, what with Jamey “Brother” Hamm leaving for Alabama and all. I recorded their closing song with my phone and futzed with it in some editing software as a learning project, and decided to show off my rudimentary skillz. So, please enjoy the very last performance of fan favorite “Make Me Stay” by Barefoot & Bankside.

Y’all have a good’n!

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So Long, Jamey Hamm

Empty Stage_edited 2

It seems an apt tune as I reboot this little blog o’ mine. And, so, my apologies to the two or three of you that read this. Since the last time I wrote in these pages, Brooklyn has lost some good folks. It began with Matt “Cracked” Frye who’s down North Carolina way now. Then ol’ Alex Mallett wandered west to Kansas City. Trisha Ivy went on back to Tennessee. Now it’s Jamey “Brother” Hamm’s turn. He, his wife, and their brood have pulled up stakes, and as of this writing they are currently ‘Bama bound. Everybody’s going home, it feels like.

Jamey2_edited 3

Jamey “Brother” Hamm

While these folks were making their exits, I was working a lot at the shitty day job, keeping up with a nice gal, and trying to write a book. The blog fell to the side. There wasn’t any time for checking out bands, then writing, then editing, then putting together a multimedia post. Then the nice gal fell by the side. We hired new help at the day job, and I’m working less. So, now I’m in danger of having too much time on my hands. In the interim, I was sad to watch these musicians go. And, yeah, sad about the nice gal, too. It felt like the life I had built myself through TRS was dissipating. I suppose in actuality it was. I accept it, though. Not just because I have to, but because I understand it. The people of your life, they are a river. It’s like when ol’ Vonnegut wrote those three little words that sum up the whole of our personal experience in this world. You remember. He wrote, “So it goes.”

 

Gypsy & Gang_edited

Celebratin’ Brother Hamm

I’ll miss the music of those fine singers and players. And the conversation. But Jamey’s going home is a big one. His band Barefoot & Bankside got this blog started. On May 29th, a Sunday, he had himself a farewell show at Littlefield in Gowanus. It was, like most solidifying moments, bittersweet. Brother Hamm had been here for almost a decade, and in that time had made a substantial mark on the Brooklyn Americana music scene. Literally everyone I’ve written about in these pages can be traced back to having met Jamey “Brother” Hamm at his coffee shop, Roots Café, in South Slope, which he made a nexus of southern/Americana culture in Brooklyn.

 

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His farewell show was itself a musical history of Brother Hamm’s Brooklyn tenure. Beginning with a gospel duo he had started upon first moving here, he went on to fill the stage a la Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense” with many of the performers he’d worked with through the years. It was, in short, a kickass night. A good way to see him off, as he’d picked the most appropriate way to see us off. I’ll miss him. I’ll miss all of them. So it goes.

Amanda of Barefoot & Bankside, and soon to be Amanda of just Amanda (She’s playing Threes Brewing June 22nd in a solo capacity.), now owns Roots Café with her husband. It’s where I do most of my writing, and I get to watch her welcome new folks to the neighborhood, to Brooklyn, to NYC. She makes them feel welcome. That’s a thing that doesn’t really happen to most of those fresh off the bus.

PBPJ 2

Possessed By Paul James

And wouldn’t you know it, as I was wondering if I should restart this blog, a friend let me know that Possessed By Paul James is in town. I found this musical entity when I first started this blog and fell in love with his album “There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely.” He’s out of Texas. And he don’t get much out of the Texas area, but for one night he was in Brooklyn. And I went to go to see him. And once again I was happy to see and hear an artist representing the absolute best of the South. I found myself back on that road home, that road that is home. It’s like when ol’ Robert Frost said those three little words that sum up the whole of human life. He said, “It goes on.”

Y’all have a good’n!

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Jalopy

Jalopy Store Front_edited

Jalopy Theatre. It’s also a bar. And a music school. I feel like a music school should have a bar.

Back in the first days of NYC I wasn’t aware of any country culture going on. I suppose if someone asked I’d have to have said, sure, there’s country/Americana/Appalachian music happening in NYC, because, well, everything is happening here. It wasn’t real to me. It was just a hypothesis that had an extremely high likelihood of being correct.

When I lived in Flatbush I’d have to change trains at Atlantic station. And one day while hustling from the B/Q line to the 4 train there they were. A moonshine-jug and shoestring band. They were busking below the platforms. All in overalls and beards. Actual jug being played. Actual washboard being raked across. Actual makeshift git-fiddle. Them boys in that outfit were singing songs from the blue hills. Their cardboard plaque requesting donations read that they were from Georgia. I listened for a minute, then dropped a couple bucks in their bucket. The damnedest thing, they were. I wish I had taken a picture.

Jalopy Bar 1I like what makes it up here to NYC from my sordid digs of home. The music. That one good thing. The racism left behind, the classism cast aside, that insipid conservatism slaked off to fester. (Conservatism. To conserve. To set in amber the status quo. Not even the present status quo, but revert to the old status quo. They are not conservationists, but reversionists. They want to go back. Back to what? Any time before now was pretty shitty for women, minorities, gays, children, and times aren’t really the greatest for them now. So, fuck the conservatives and the fundamentalists for their literally backwards aspirations. Fuck ‘em where they breathe. I thank you kindly for indulging this aside.).

Jalopy Bar 2So, yeah, Jalopy. If the moonshine-jug and shoe string band I caught busking in the subway was a sign, then Jalopy is the destination of my pilgrimage. I didn’t come to NYC looking for home, nor have I been so homesick as to wish something from the South would come to claim me. I’ve never been one to long for the days of yore. In fact, it has been my motto that “fuck the days of yore.” Go ahead and quote me on that. Jalopy with its dive-bar-chic barroom replete with an upright piano reminds me of secondhand music shops that are kept like junk stores in the south and my favorite bar, Freddy’s.

You can find it in Red Hook at the corner of Columbia and Hamilton. The music featured is primarily folk, bluegrass, and country. So, if you’re like me and embarrassed of the news that makes its way from your country home, and frustrated because you know those stubborn and curmudgeonly states are capable of so much more, so much better, then come to Jalopy and sit among the church pews of her theater and hear that new song from the old country.Jalopy Pews_edited

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Especially if you have shows coming up! We’d love to post your dates!

Ivy, Beck & Neill and The Alex Mallett Band To Release Live Albums–This Freakin’ Saturday!

As I’ve written before Andreea and I have been privy to the process of Ivy, Beck & Neill’s putting together a live concert recording. Early in the year Trisha Ivy idly asked me if I thought a live recording was possible. To which I said, “Probably, or maybe not. I don’t know, but, yeah, sure, I guess.” Because I’m dumb, folks! I don’t know how such a thing works and anyways she wasn’t asking for my wisdom, nor cared. She was just thinking out loud. A couple months later, she, Mike Beck, and Amanda Neill recorded a live album at Rockwood Music Hall—that’s in New York City, y’all! And now we’re super pleased to announce:

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Alex6In conjunction The Alex Mallett Band will be releasing their own album, and you know TRS loves those guys! If you’re in Brooklyn, come out to Red Hook, and get rocked in the face by these country/americana singers and pickers.Eyes Wide Open

The album release show is this Saturday at Jalopy Theatre! Doors open at 7:30. Get advanced tickets as every performer is beloved, and as such their show is likely to sell out.

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The Kentucky Girl

Hit play on this song. Turn it up. All the way.

I have said that my first living experience in Brooklyn was a lonely little room on the east side of Bushwick among the prostitutes and the drug dealers. It was just me making a solitary go at existing in NYC. When I left my home in Georgia, I was broken, emptied, and too numb to be desperate. That girl that I loved best had recently died. That’s how I came to Brooklyn.

Alex6The hard, early times were, indeed, hard. But the numbness helped to mediate how shitty being a newcomer to NY can be. It’s like trying to bully a kid who already couldn’t give a fuck. People here resent the grind. Yet, it was the grind that got me through those early years. The grind is a river. You have to not fight it. You have let go of the bank, get in the flow. I lost a lot of weight in those days. It’s a lot of exercise to be in this city with no car, daily hustling to find work, to keep work. There were times when I couldn’t afford to put any money on my MTA card. I had to eat less. I had to choose wisely what I did eat. Trying not to subsist on just Ramen noodles, I went through a lot of beans and rice.

B&B Pre 1When I finally found a decent job at a fancy-ish patisserie in Cobble Hill, where I first met Amanda Neill, I didn’t feel fit, or “in shape.” I felt wind sheared. I’m not a particularly prideful person, but I know I earned my place in NYC. With the comfort of the new decent job, and the constant worry about money, rent, and food abating, the loneliness set in. Not that I didn’t have friends. It was that I didn’t have her, I didn’t have that. I finally began to grieve. Depression set in. I felt that I had drifted too far out from people. I felt like I was perceiving every friendly soul as though there was a partition of glass between us. I didn’t know how to connect anymore.

Mary Elaine Jenkins

This is the talented Mary Elaine Jenkins. NOT the Kentucky girl.

Enter the Kentucky girl for her part in the story. A tall, young girl who came to work at the patisserie with me and Amanda. She was nice, smart, with an appropriate amount of weirdness, but naïve. I happened to overhear her giving life advice to another young employee. I listened in to be amused by some homespun platitudes and/or Facebook inspirational quotes. The girl from Kentucky told her friend matter-of-factly, “Get out, and go do.” She said just leave the apartment, and pick a direction. The Kentucky girl said, “this is New York City.”

You're My FriendA couple years from then, the comfort and ease of the solitary life had outlasted its usefulness. I had heard Amanda sing, and had been following that voice, and encouraging others to join me. Intrepid photog Andreea was one. She heard what I heard in Amanda’s voice, and in time she and I heard the songs of other voices singing from their southern souls. With the words of the Kentucky girl ringing in my head, and knowing of no way to be a part of this Brooklyn Country community, I started The Road Southern as my way back to the world. That first post was one year ago today.

The Road Southern's Intrepid Photo

The Road Southern’s Intrepid Photo

It has awarded me the friendship of Andreea whose encouragement and contributions to the blog are immeasurable, and I am indebted to her. Through the blog and Amanda, I have made many new friends, I have eaten insanely good food, and heard music the likes of which brings me back to when I was a teenager; ecstatic, giddy, and touched to the core by the newness and the wonder.

This happened because I went out and I did. I left my apartment and picked a heading. And a year later, I am happy. I’m not just surviving or getting by. I’m living in this city. I walk out of my apartment now, and I have many places to go. I owe Andreea. I owe Amanda. I owe every brilliant, talented artist in these pages. That debt is what keeps me on that road, and smiling.

We even shot a music video for some folks!

We even shot a music video for some folks! Click to watch AND listen!

There’s even a girl now. She’s from Memphis. I met her on that first night I heard Amanda sing. Amanda and the Memphis girl were sitting on a stoop after the very first Barefoot & Bankside show. Amanda said to me, “Jody, you have to meet the most wonderful and amazing person ever in the world!” I nodded to the Memphis girl, she nodded back. I moved on. Amanda says that shit about everybody.

But, goddamn it if she don’t turn out to be right every time.

My deepest thanks to all of you Road Southern readers.

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Especially if you have shows coming up! We’d love to post your dates!

Bursting The Banks

Christ, I think it was almost two years ago! Two years since I first heard Amanda Neill let loose that voice on a hot as all hell night in July. Two years since it thundered but did not rain. That makes this blog o’ mine almost a year old. Christ.

Anyway.

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CD release party at Threes Brewing

Barefoot & Bankside has released a live record. When I first heard them they were doing an open mic at Bar 4. It’s gone now, long gone. B&B, however, has been marching on. They’re getting better, louder, and, Jeebus help us, wilder. I am glad. Having seen Jamey “Brother” Hamm and Amanda stomp and holler in humble beginnings at open mics and then a couple months ago record a live album to a sold-out crowd at Rockwood Music Hall has been a pleasure. It tells me I’m right for hitching my wagon to these folk. You’d be doing yourself a favor, too, for giving them a listen. If’n it’s a review you want, you can go here. But, really, just listen.

I have two codes to download the album. Whoever the first two are to hit me up at theroadsouthern@gmail.com, will get to have ’em as I’m not picky at all about who the two of you might be.

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We Missed Y’all!

Believe it or not, this is NY City. There are worlds here.

Believe it or not, this is NY City. There are worlds here.

Brooklyn WinterThat winter, right? Am I right? It was cold and I hated it. Intrepid photog Andreea and I wanted very much to go to shows and be good bloggers for the people, but that shit was too cold and miserable. We are thawed now. A little sneezy, but we are warmed by the rays of the sun and these southern winds. We are heartened, god damn it, and we want to hear some new music and make new friends! And on June 21st we’ll be getting both. The Road Southern will sojourn on Governors Island for the second annual Porch Stomp! This is a daylong festival of bluegrass, old-time, traditional folk, roots, and country music including a number of workshops and masterclasses, shapenote singing, flatfooting and square dancing! Performances by over 40 new and returning acts from the greater NYC area. Some of them you’ve read about here in the sacred-as-all-get-out pages of The Road Southern.

We will be posting updates to this event as they are meted out to us by the event’s orchestrator Nick Horner who also runs Make Music New York. You can click that link for a look at what went on last year. I can sum up my expectations in two words. Hoot and holler!

Your fearless blogger.

Your fearless blogger.

But, you guys! This Spring, though! Riight!?

HEY!:

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Sometimes A Great Notion

IB&N Black & WhiteA couple of months back I got a text from Trisha Ivy. She was asking me if I thought a live album recording by March 7th at Rockwood Music Hall was doable, if it could be sold out and whatnot. I said, of course. Not because I in anyway know the logistics and plausibility of such things, but because I knew it would happen—because she had decided it was going to happen.

Ivy was a solo act when I first encountered her, and remained so for a bit less than a year since this blog o’ mine started. I’ve gotten to know the sometimes cool, sometimes chill, oft times nine pound hammer of a lady. I’ve learned enough of her to know that what she wills becomes. I’m reminded of the adage “He who knocks will be let in.” But Trisha she don’t always knock, she’s running on her own little clock.

In recent-ish days she’s joined up with Amanda Neill (of B&B) and music virtuoso Mike Beck to form Ivy Beck and Neill. When I first glimpsed what Trisha can will was back in December. She wanted the new band to play in Nashville at the storied Basement venue on a whim, and so it was.IB&N @ Basement

"It's a metaphor."

“It’s a metaphor.”

So, yeah, somewhere in January she idly texted me if a sold out show/live album recording was a feasible feat, but she was really just idly thinking aloud. And what was I gonna say, no? Between then and March 7th I got to see something come from nothing. Not nothing-nothing, they had some songs, they’re all of them consummate performers. I got to see a notion, an inkling of an idea germinate. I was privy to witness or hear accounts of creating songs to fill out the set list as they wanted only Ivy Beck and Neill collaborations for the record. I was at a couple of band meetings where I watched them bicker and fuss over songs. Ivy asked me where to get a five-foot chain to be used as an instrument. Amanda work shopped lyrics for a song of hers, then smartly did away with my input. But still, I found a giddy feeling to be even marginally associated with the band and their endeavor. They were testing out new songs at Strong Place in Cobble Hill. A fight broke out. The band instantly jumped into an impromptu song now called Strong Place Brawl. It’s become a show closing favorite.

IBN & CrowdOn March 7th after hearing how unready, excited, and tired everyone felt, they played a sold-out show at Rockwood Music Hall, and recorded a live album–and crushed it. They did so, because they were always going to.

My being around from start to finish on the project let me feel something for a show that I hadn’t been able to before. These southern/country/Americana folk have always impressed me, and as some of them have become friends I have felt honored. But at Rockwood that night I was proud. They’re all good, hardworking people with day jobs, and personal lives all a flux as any of us. And they barrel forward.

For my part in that journey, and as this blogger who set out on this music scene having no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing, it’s been an inspiration. So, I, too, now forward barrel. And to all of you music makers and artists, maybe bypass the knocking on doors.

HEY!:

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