If you follow a vehicle with Delaware tags into Estill County, you know you’re in for a great time. Why? Because the tiny Appalachian town of Irvine is the heart and soul of our currently burgeoning musical community.
Sure larger cities host larger crowds and more famous bands, but Irvine is special and the folks from Delaware punctuate my point perfectly. Those folks drove to Irvine for one thing and one thing only, the music. I’ve said it a hundred times by now, but Kentucky is leading the charge in producing raw, genuine down-home, humble artists that forge bonds like the Grateful Dead did in San Francisco before taking on the world.
When you look for the spark that changed music as we know it in a few years, find a map and find Irvine. It’s tiny. It’s inspiring and it’s the incubator of future greatness.
Here at Capture Kentucky, I’ve set a few rules that are unconventional, but I truly hope to see others follow. One of the biggest ideas, is that every single show we put together will always feature at least one female artist. Like it or not, female artists do not get nearly the same amount of opportunities as the fellas do. I hope to help change that.
Having said that, I’ve personally been bouncing around the idea of developing an all female show for quite some time and hopefully I can develop that soon. Thankfully though, someone has beaten me to the punch. That someone is Senora May and I can not think of a more perfect host than her.
Senora is an artist that is rapidly becoming a favorite around these parts. She released an album in late 2018 and her career has seen her foot on the gas ever since.
Some folks like to speak of Senora’s husband when they speak of her. I choose not to do so, simply because I feel it is incredibly rude and rather disrespectful. I did so myself once, in my coverage of Kickin’ It On The Creek, but that was to give context to a unique event and folks expectations. Senora is an artist in every sense of the word. Poet? ✔ Painter? ✔ Songwriter? ✔ So let’s rid ourselves of that and appreciate her as an artist. Also if this comes off a bit preachy, my apologies. I just want this young lady to receive her just due.
For the Sweet Thing Jamboree, Senora handpicked every artist on the bill. Some were friends, others were respected colleagues, but each of them were loved and those that gathered for this inspiring event were set to experience an intimate event that won’t be soon forgotten.
The lineup for what hopefully becomes an annual event, consisted of Jeri Katherine Howell, Anna Kline of Grits and Soul, Chloe Edmonstone, Melody Youngblood, Jen Shouse, Laura Gregory of the Handshake Deals, Luna and the Mountain Jets, Kelsey Waldon, Slut Pill and Senora to top it off. Unfortunately, Tiffany Williams was unable to attend.
In attendance were many local musicians that were there to fill in if needed, but mainly to support their colleagues. Folks like Aaron Boyd, CJ Cain from The Wooks, John R. Miller, John Clay, John Looney, Grayson Jenkins, Geno Seale and several others were in attendance. We were even graced with the presence of the King of Estill County, Mr. Byron Roberts. Byron and his family are responsible for the incredible Kickin’ It On The Creek, which is literally a music Festival held in their front yard. A day with Byron in it is always a great day.
And to answer your burning question, for about 8 hours or so, Steam Engine Pizza Pub is where the hell Jeff Cox was. Now ya know!
Now realistically, I could write a book about the performances that we witnessed on Saturday, but I will try not to ramble on. I do have a tendency to do that. Lol Ah hell, y’all know I can’t do that! Buckle up, this one is a doozy!
The show began with Jeri Katherine Howell. She is one of three artists that I chose not to research beforehand. I try and do that with any show. I see a ton of music, but just like you, I enjoy getting lost in a moment. And holy crap did I get lost in Jeri Katherine’s performance. She’s a young lady that wears her heart on her sleeve and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
An early favorite for stealing the show went to Anna Kline. Accompanied by John Looney and the last few songs with Chloe Edmonstone, Anna nearly burned the whole damn place down.
Originally from Mississippi, Anna possesses an incredible range and much to the delight of the crowd, myself included, she ain’t afraid to use it. Her control is unparalleled and the power behind it aughta be considered a deadly weapon. I never, ever thought I’d use this phrase for country music, but Anna melted every face in that room.
Since Anna and John are members of Don Rogers band, he just jumped to the top of my must see Kentucky acts.
So how on earth do you follow that? I’ll tell ya how, give the stage to Chloe Edmonstone. I’ve labeled Chloe as the secret weapon of our scene. Her playing is incredibly tasteful and while she possesses the skill to quite literally melt the strings off of her fiddle, she chooses not to and there is something absolutely enchanting about her playing.
I first saw Chloe perform some time ago with John R. Miller. I was instantly hooked by her playing, but her harmonies sealed the deal. So seeing John R, John Clay and John Looney backing Chloe was unforgettable. The term songbird gets used a lot, but I’m not sure that fits anyone better than Chloe Edmonstone. Chloe truly is our secret weapon.
As the light peeking through from outside faded, Melody Youngblood took the stage. She is the second of the three artists that I decided to not research. She stepped on stage with one cute little fella playing along. Her son River “plugged up” and played alongside his Momma. The spotlight may have been on Melody and her stunning voice, but River having to go pee mid-set stole the show. Thankfully Melody was okay playing “second fiddle” with River and delighted all those in attendance.
Now trust me when I say the Berea native delivered an amazing set. So much so, that many folks were stomping their feet in unison during her version of the classic “Pretty Polly.” She then did a little acoustic tune her and River wrote about driving away folks in the fracking business. Essentially we were treated to the chorus of “Leave My Water Alone” and the crowd once again joined in as drummers.
If you’re unaware, here in Kentucky, Martin County has been without clean water since 2000 and there are rumors that such a tragedy could very well happen in Berea. Thankfully folks like Tyler Childers are using their fame to draw attention to the ongoing project and have really gotten the ball rolling for a fix. With that, many folks from this area have joined in to help with that fight. So, the crowd was SUPER enthusiastic when we all joined in to help her sing the remainder of “Leave My Water Alone.”
You can donate to the Martin County crisis by calling LeSage Natural Water at 1-844-4Lesage (453-7243).
Life has a way of coming around full circle and on this night, the circle came around to Jen Shouse. I first became aware of Jen late last Summer. As I was researching for my Kickin’ It On The Creek coverage, I found a video of Jen and her husband Chris performing on the very stage that she played last night. The video was a cover of the Michael Jackson classic, “Billie Jean.”
Normally I prefer to share folks original music, but for this occasion, I’ll share the video I mentioned.
I am a huge fan of Jen on a personal level and if I’m honest, I could write 10,000 words and not describe Jen any better than Senora did when she introduced her. Senora stated, “Jen is a whole lot of power in a really tiny body.” I couldn’t agree more. If Jen or Jen and Chris are playing near you, go see ’em. I’ll bet ya like ’em!
Singing all by her lonesome with only her accordion was Laura Gregory. Yep, an accordion. And it was wonderful. She’s quirky and delivers her vocals almost like a spoken word poet. Now that may sound Strange, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I was so wrapped up that I totally forgot to snap any shots before she took to the drums.
I never could have dreamed that I’d type these next few sentences. “I thoroughly enjoyed a young lady playing accordion in Irvine at a pizza pub. She sang waltzes and performed a song about her dog that died on Inauguration Day.” Now I’ve been known to write some crazy $hit before, but that takes the cake and I could not be happier about that.
Laura was later joined by her bandmates in The Hand Shake Deals and the country polka dance party was on. Sometimes ya just gotta live and experience things, so thanks to Laura and The Hand Shake Deals for allowing me to share in their joy.
If you witnessed their set, then I’ll let ya enjoy this leftover laugh, “It’s the tip of the nipple!”
Next up was a band called Slut Pill. I suppose it’s fairly safe to say that there isn’t a proper label to attach to Slut Pill, so I’ll just create my own. Let’s go with a politically charged rock ‘n’ roll band that leans towards punk and surf rock with plenty to talk about. That oughta do it or just use their description, “Contraceptive Rock.”
Slut Pill are from my neck of the woods in Letcher County. I grew up in Perry and Letcher County. These young folks ooze talent and bend genres to fit their message. Being from that area, I really enjoyed the surf punk instrumental in “Carrs Fork Beach.”
Then it happened. The moment Slut Pill won me over. I have always been a huge fan of what is often referred to as Stoner Rock. Bands like Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, Leafhound and even former Kentuckian Dave Angstrom who played in Supafuzz, Hermano and now Luna Sol in Colorado all have a particular tone that is sometimes called desert rock. I have no clue the name of the instrumental that they played, but when guitarist Mitchella Phipps hit the first chords with that tone, I was sold.
Now I know a lot of folks don’t care for politics in their music, but Slut Pill is a very strong voice for what is undoubtedly a tough life in Eastern Kentucky. They’re leading the way for the LGBT community. I grew up there, and if Kentucky is part of the Bible Belt, then Whitesburg is the buckle. I have zero doubts that these folks face scrutiny, side eyes, eye rolls and disgusted looks from many in that area.
So put your politics aside and listen to the message of their struggles. Labels are divisive and words can hurt worse than a punch, so just love folks and stop applying labels so freely. We only need one label and that label is human. *steps off soapbox*
These young folks have also created Girls Rock Whitesburg and you can find more information about their mission here.
If you’re a reader of this site, you likely saw our coverage of Kentucky’s Kelsey Waldon when she played the benefit show that was hosted in West Virginia. That show benefited the charity called Hope In The Hills. The day was filled with music, with several Kentucky artists to boot, and it raised a lot of money to help fight the opioid crisis. Healing Appalachia is in a great position to become an annual event and help those of us in need.
Since seeing Kelsey the first time, I’ve really been drawn to her authenticity. Especially in her lyrical approach. She has a bit of Loretta Lynn in her. She’s spunky, she’s honest and she’s not afraid to stand in front of a roomful of people and spill her heart out.
Having said that, obviously Kelsey has a heart of gold, and it shines like a diamond with every phrase turned. Her humility and kindness were not taken lightly by those in attendance, as you could have easily heard a pin drop during her performance. It was nothing short of magical.
I’ll be honest here, Kelsey on stage with just her guitar is my personal favorite set by anyone in a very long time. Seeing every single person there clinging to every word Kelsey spoke, filled my heart like no other performance. A Western Kentuckian that had never set foot in Irvine felt right at home and that is the perfect example of the wonderful folks that make up our musical community.
Few folks in said musical community are as beloved David and Teresa Prince. Collectively they form Luna and The Mountain Jets and it was their time to shine. Playing to a roomful of fans that they have in common with several other acts on the bill. A lot of these folks also attend the aforementioned Kickin’ It On The Creek. So we may have been sweating in the room a bit, but at least we knew the folks sweating on us for a change.
Luna is always such a joy to watch. Their songs have helped pave the way for many of the folks that performed on Saturday. Without them, the current crop of talent that’s being harvested in Kentucky would be small pickings without David and Teresa. I’ll put it this way, if the musical community had parents, it would be Teresa and Chico.
Sorry if that’s mushy, but someone needed to say it. So with all that said, their performance was as good as it’s ever been and the respect in that room did not go unnoticed. Their stripped down set allowed them both to shine. Teresa with her voice and Chico with his playing. Oh, and bonus points for playing my favorite Luna tune in “Pepsi Girl.”
It was now time for Senora to take the stage and feel the love for putting this event together. It’s safe to say that the crowd was warmed up and ready as they sang along for the soundcheck! That’s a first in my book, but it’s also a testament to this young lady and the wonderful music she has produced.
She sang her heart out and struggled to not giggle with glee many times and that is the memory that I will always cherish from Saturday.
Senora stood on that stage knowing her husband was in attendance and as she sang her sometimes intimate and personal lyrics, she would glance in his direction and smile a little more mischievous. It was absolutely adorable and in my opinion, the sweet side that Senora possesses will be the key to taking her career to the next level.
Senora performed mainly by herself, but she did have Chloe Edmonstone join her for a couple. See, even Senora knows that Chloe is the secret weapon!
Special thanks to the wonderful Michelle Sawyers for capturing this video:
Senora performed most of the songs on her album, but she threw in a new one or two and then ended the night by performing a classic Stanley Brothers tune that was the inspiration in naming the event. Senora, Kelsey, Anna, Teresa, Chloe and Chico finished off the night with “Sweet Thing.”
Some of my favorite tunes included “Elusive”, “Flowers Wilt”, “Big Ole Bag”, “Intertwined”, and my personal favorite in “Milk & Honey.” Seeing this event be a true success has warmed my heart and I’m so happy for all involved.
To wrap this up, I want to commend the staff and owners of Steam Engine. Saturday was incredibly busy. So busy that they ran out of clean glasses and had to start serving beers in red solo cups. There was a party, a UK game and eleven performers playing on Saturday. Those folks worked their asses off and I can honestly say that I never heard a bad word. I saw some frustration, but it was great seeing folks be cordial about it.
I want to also commend them for having the vision to create a separate room that is entirely used for music. Regular business can happen seamlessly and separately from the music. And truth be told, their saying on the wall was enough for me to fall in love with the place. It states “Please take loud voices and conversations to the bar during musical performances.” That’s a nicer way of saying what my Capture Kentucky shirt says and that’s simply, “Shut Up And Enjoy The Damn music.” Needless to say, I felt right at home and I’ll bet you will too.
Go give Steam Engine Pizza in Irvine a shot. They’re located at 206 Main Street in Irvine. Tell ’em Capture Kentucky sent ya!