Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 Nashville Unlimited

My view of homeless folks was permanently altered for the better about 12 years ago. I always had a sympathetic view of the homeless. But conflicting feelings would collide if I saw someone in need of help - give 'em some cash? offer them suggestions for where to go? avoid them and head to the other side of the street? label them as bums? pause a moment for a conversation? Other than giving a dollar or two here and there and wondering what I should do, "inaction" was probably the best word to describe my view.

Upon being introduced to Nashville's Room in the Inn program, however, my level of involvement changed from inaction to participation. Each night from November 1 through March 31, approximately 200 folks (primarily men) are sent to local churches for a warm, safe place to sleep, a couple of meals, some basic amenities, and genuine hospitality. About 160 churches participate on varying nights during this time.

During the day, Room in the Inn's campus is bustling with activity - an art room, GED and job training, a place to make a phone call, a post office, showers, etc. The ministry truly is a blessing to the homeless of the Nashville and all of those who participate in its programs. I've spent the night with these guys, driven vans, cooked meals, run mail call, distributed clothing, played checkers (got my arrrse whipped most of the time!), shared dinner and a cup of coffee, and laughed with folks I otherwise would never have met.

For the last 10 years, one of Nashville's most prominent musicians, bassist Dave Pomeroy, has organized and emceed Nashville Unlimited. The show's duality of simplicity and diversity represent its charm. The simplicity is this: recruit from a seemingly unlimited pool of singers/bands to perform, play at a church, sell no tickets, use word of mouth promotion, ask for donations to listen, and building gets full = doors close. That's it (at least outwardly - there is far more controlled chaos behind the scenes than I likely care to know).

The diversity is in the music. Dave books three solid hours of music with the only breaks being minor stage changes from band to band, microphone adjustments, and an update or witness about Room in the Inn itself. Some performers are book-its - they've been there every year. Some are announced in advance. And many are "surprise guests". This year's surprises included Emmylou Harris and John Prine.

This year's show was this past Wednesday, and the performances may be as varied as I've seen before. Here ya go with the set list and of course some commentary along the way.
  1. Dave Pomeroy - Stargazing - He said the writing of this song was influenced by the three wise men - bass solo with bass #1
  2. Dave again - Not Forgotten - Dave said it was written years ago, but it finally became relevant to him in 2009 because of a year of personal losses - bass #2 used
  3. Don Henry - My Favorite Things
  4. Lori Ann Patera with Henry and Pomeroy (on bass #3) - Pretty Ribbons
  5. Will Smith - medley of Christmas songs on an autoharp
  6. Joey & Rory - apparently they were on CMT's Can You Duet show and have been featured on commercials - can't say for sure because I haven't seen either - but their Christmas song got a lot of applause so Dave asked them to play a 2nd one
  7. So they did...a song about the hardships of the long-gone folks who built their 1870s-era house where they currently
  8. Coral Bay Steel Drum Trio - Frosty the Snowman on steel drums... I can honestly say I've never heard Frosty quite that way.
  9. They continued with a reggae version of Go Tell It on the Mountain
  10. They capped off their three-song list with Silent Night
  11. 18 South - Santa Claus is Back in Town - a bluesy number
  12. 18 South again with a gospel number - it jammed but I have no clue about the title
  13. Emmylou Harris - Beautiful Star of Bethlehem - holy cow, is it even possible Emmylou is 60?
  14. Emmylou - Home Sweet Home
  15. Riders in the Sky - Christmas Time Is Coming
  16. RITS - Let It Snow
  17. RITS - Give Thanks
  18. RITS - I'll Be Home for Christmas
  19. Music City Baroque - a Handel composition - We got our culture on!
  20. MCBE - More Handel - Rejoice
  21. Steve Wariner - Christmas in Your Arms
  22. SW - Let It Snow
Steve then told a great story about the photo shoot for a Christmas album he released in the early 1990s. He had the grand idea to involve his young kids, a sleigh, a horse, some fake snow, and a dog. However, during the shoot his kids wouldn't cooperate much, and the dog hated the horse. As the shutter snapped, the dalmatian constantly growled grrrrr as he kept his eyes trained on the horse.
  1. SW - Christmas Morning
  2. SW - Our Savior Is Born

As Wariner finished and Pomeroy walked him off the stage, Dave returned chuckling, shaking his head, and said something to the effect of "Well, you never know about these surprise guests. This next singer-songwriter has just surprised me by being here. Here he is - perhaps the best singer-songwriter around." With that, he introduced John Prine.
  1. John Prine - Crazy As A Loon. After he finished, Prine quipped "well, the only thing Christmasy about that song was I didn't even say Christmas in it."
  2. JP - Hello In There (vid link for those who've never heard this haunting classic)
  3. Nashville Mandolin Ensemble - Carol of the Bells (MP3) from their out-of-print Gifts CD. Get it used if you can!
  4. NME - Christmas in County Kerry (vid link)
  5. NME - Dance of the Mirlitons from the Nutcracker Suite
  6. NME with John Cowan singing - Ava Maria
  7. Sweethearts of the Rodeo - Get Together (yes, that Get Together)
Two additional humorous moments:

Before the show: Because seating is based on first-come-first-served, a line started forming on the sidewalk out side the church several minutes before the doors opened. As I stood their...outside a church...waiting to hear a multi-hour music support the cause of the homeless. Yet a handful of folks near me wearing nice fur-lined coats started bitching about having to stand on the sidewalk in the cold. Oh the irony...

After the show: I heard one guy explain to another: "No, it was Henry, Don Henry - not Don Henley. (Speaking to others) He thought he was going to hear and see Don Henley from The Eagles."


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