When music club The Well closed last Monday night it marked the end of a short but sweet era in Knoxville music. The basement location at 4620 Kingston Pike was once home to the short-lived jazz club 4620.
Reopened two years ago as The Well, the location became a non-downtown destination that featured live music or comedy almost every night. In that time, I’ve seen some amazing shows at the club. Some were packed and others were nearly empty.
The sound was generally good and the atmosphere was friendly. It was a venue that treated bands with respect and appreciation. Such was the appreciation for musicians that when it became apparent that the venue was not going to be able to make it, club operator Gina Truitt set about finding other venues for shows she already had booked for the Well. I’ve talked with so many artists who traveled to a town to only then find out a club had been closed that I know how rare that kind of consideration is.
Truitt said the club simply couldn’t make ends meet.
“It made less money than it needed and it took more money than we had,” said Truitt. “We were always a day late and a dollar short. And I was just tired. I was working 100 hours a week and I just couldn’t keep doing that.”
Running a club is difficult, especially in a place where nothing else is happening at night. But it was nice to have a non-downtown venue where the audiences were primarily there for the music.
Knoxville is lucky to have several clubs that care about how musicians are treated, including Preservation Pub, Pilot Light, Barley’s, Boyd’s Jig and Reel and the Square Room, but The Well will be missed. Truitt said she has plans in the works for the future, but the plans do not include running another music club:
“We gave it a good run — two years and four months. We had a lot of really good shows, so many different types of things. Big shows and little shows. I liked having the ability to give them a stage.”
Let’s hope other clubs in town help fill up the hole The Well’s closing leaves.
“Undefeated,” Bobby Bare Jr. (Bloodshot)
The biggest asset that Bobby Bare Jr. inherited from his dad, who is a country music icon, is an off-center sense of humor. In the time that Bare Jr. has been releasing albums, his forte has been uncomfortable truths delivered with lines that make you chuckle and hurt a little at the same time. Bare’s latest album, “Undefeated,” is full of those moments.
The light-hearted loungey sound of “If She Cared” and the almost dismissive sentiment “If she cared what I did then we wouldn’t be doing what we’re about to do” almost masks that it’s a cheating song with an edge.
Even more clever and funny is “My Baby Took My Baby Away,” which addresses the plight of the father who is displaced by his own child in the eyes of his wife. You’d laugh at the toddler being described like he’s a staggering drunken lout, but it’s so common of an occurrence that it can’t help but sting a little, too. That’s followed up by the bouncy “Blame Everybody (But Yourself)” ... well, let’s just say it isn’t a happy song.
Bare has a great style. He’s in the same camp as Loudon Wainwright III, Randy Newman and his one-time mentor Shel Silverstein as a songwriter. His sound is more rock than Americana. And his voice, like his lyrics, is uncomfortable but likeable.
Bare may never quite figure out how to find the audience he deserves, but “Undefeated” is a good indication he’s not giving up the fight.
“All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman,” Various Artists
On January 10 of this year Gregg Allman’s friends gathered at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta to celebrate the music of Gregg Allman. The artists performed songs that Allman had written or simply recorded. The gathered were a combination of older greats, including John Hiatt, Dr. John, Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo, Sam Moore, Widespread Panic, Pat Monahan (of Train), country stars, including Eric Church, Trace Adkins, Vince Gill, Zac Brown, Martina McBride and Brantly Gilbert, and the Allman Brothers Band and current or one-time members Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. Along with that is a group of all-star instrumentalists put together by Don Was.
All-star efforts like this can turn out to be lackluster, but this three-disc set (2 CDs, 1 DVD) sounds like a celebration. While it’s always a little more fun when artists tackle songs in a drastically different manner than the originals, the artists assembled here stick as strictly as possible to Allman’s style. And Allman himself performs several songs. While some of the highlights can be expected (Taj Mahal and Allman duet on “Statesboro Blues,” Browne and Allman together on two songs), but others, including Monahan’s delivery of “Queen of Hearts” and Martina McBride on “All My Friends,” are real surprises.
The country artists seem to relish the chance to sing good songs and the show builds well. And, of course, the show had to conclude with Allman Brothers’ 10-minute-plus jams on “Dreams” and “Whipping Post” and everybody getting together for “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
On disc, the show isn’t exactly magic, but it’s a fine tribute to an artist who can still deliver the goods when he has to.
“Jigsaw Heart,” Eden Brent (Yellow Dog)
Mississippi-born pianist/vocalist Eden Brent has a background in jazz, blues and boogie-woogie and utilizes them all on her new album, “Jigsaw Heart.” She plays and sings with soul and style. The uptempo tracks are a lot of fun, but Brent really shines on the torchier numbers, including the fine title track, and the easygoing songs, including her casual and lovable “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” The latter includes some cool piano and slide guitar interplay that’s truly sweet. Brent knows how to deliver a song with solid chops and no showboating and over-emoting. It’s good to hear and this is a fine release.
© 2014, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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