The Cinder & Smoke Fest is our baby here at Capture Kentucky. It was an idea that was born as an opportunity to showcase some of the great artists that we feature here. A way to bring our articles to life, if you will. Last year, it was held in Lexington at Proud Mary BBQ. We had a great first year and we loved the location, the people, the food and everything about Proud Mary. The decision to move Cinder & Smoke was made to allow us the freedom to move to a ticketed event, as Proud Mary BBQ prefers to simply have an open door policy.
Enter Shawn & Crystal Hatcher. They were the gracious hosts for the 2019 version of the Cinder & Smoke Fest. They own Thatcher’s Downtown, a very cool restaurant in Jackson, Kentucky. Thatcher’s isn’t your normal little hometown restaurant. They serve breakfast, often have doughnuts, coffee, beer and barbeque. They also host live music and have been very supportive in providing a venue and wanting to grow their restaurant, as well as a music scene in their hometown. So the decision to move Cinder & Smoke to Jackson was made much easier.
Now about that barbeque…Shawn prides himself on his beef brisket, so trust me when I say you’re well advised to give that a shot when you visit. In all honesty, everything they have is delicious, but the brisket is top-notch. Plus, they have Cheerwine in the cooler. I totally judge an eating establishment on the availability of Cheerwine. In fact, show me a bad restaurant with Cheerwine. I bet ya can’t!
From the get-go, Shawn, Crystal and I wanted to put together a musical lineup that we believed in. A quality lineup that was stacked from top to bottom. We felt we did that and based on the feedback, the patrons felt the same. So that is a definite win and one of our more prideful points.
Saturday started out dark and rainy, but the music gods soon blessed us with a wonderful day of weather. Outdoor shows are always a crap shoot, but Saturday turned out fantastic. Outside of one cloudburst that lasted roughly five minutes, the skies were clear and the music was magnificent!
Shawn sang the praises of T.A. Clayton & The Soulminers and was insistent he be included, and I’m certainly glad that he did. The five-piece band brought their own unique brand of Southern-fried outlaw vibe Country. I walked away thoroughly impressed with their set and particularly guitarist Cody Meece. I enjoyed watching him use swells and a slide to mimic a steel guitar. That young man can play!
T.A. has a very strong voice, he writes great songs and the band was really tight as you can see for yourself with their performance of “Take A Look At Yourself” below:
Last year, I took a chance on a young band called Sour Cream. The patrons were impressed and they went on to win the “Rock Album Of The Year” at the Lexington Music Awards.
This year, I chose Rhyan Sinclair for their spot. Rhyan is a young lady that I am a very big fan of personally. She has the tone of Dolly Parton blended with the sense of melody of say Alison Krauss. Rhyan recently turned 18 and I feel that she has one of the brightest musical futures that our state has to offer. The sky is the limit for Rhyan!
Her performance was the most anticipated of the day, given her talent and youth and I’m happy to say that she absolutely nailed it and I couldn’t be happier for her. Rhyan treated us to a brand new song in “Should’ve Been Prepared”, a classic in “Those Memories Of You” and my personal favorite Rhyan originals in “From Here” and “Retrograde.”
Next up was Mr. Eric Bolander and Those A$$holes. Eric just returned from a tour out to Missouri and Kansas, so we were lucky to have him back to perform for us on Saturday.
Eric began with my personal favorite track, “The Wind.” It’s a song that I feel fully utilizes the stripped-down idea of an acoustic, a cello and drums. It allows each instrument the room and opportunities to compliment each other. Which is why I feel the crowd responded so well after that performance. Suddenly they just knew what to expect and they could relax and enjoy.
As Eric’s set continued, the trio picked up another member. Matthew Polashek joined them for two songs on saxophone. If you’ve never heard Matthew on the sax, he bad! He real bad, in a real good way! Eric performed his version of the Prince classic, “Purple Rain,” before switching gears to perform a song from his rock band Alcatraz Shakedown. The crowd seemingly enjoyed the change of pace as they paid tribute to blues legends in “Begging For Some Change.”
Eric Bolander is one of the most creative individuals I know and we’re so glad he was a part of this year’s Cinder & Smoke Fest and we hope to have him back again someday.
Chelsea Nolan made her way to the stage next. She was the lone acoustic act on the day. Chelsea is a young lady that is way more talented than she even realizes, but her humility is part of what makes her such a special talent.
In a stripped down form in a pretty intimate setting, Chelsea shines like few can. Giving her the chance to give us insight, like a VH1 Storyteller show, is a pure delight. You get all her silliness, her inspirations, her heart. It’s like you’re hanging out on the front porch with her and you feel like you gained a friend after her set.
Chelsea gave us several new songs like my new favorite, “That Way”, and “Camel Wide Blues”, but it was her story and debut of “Yard Sale Yolanda” that had ’em rolling in the aisles. She wrapped it all up with a pretty bow by closing out with “Build A Fire.” That song will be in her set for a very long time.
Chelsea didn’t have to go far when she was finished. She also happens to sing backing vocals and plays the tambourine for Short & Company.
Short & Company is led by Jackson native, Jeremy Short. Playing at home to a good crowd was an obvious thrill, but to make it an even more special day, Jeremy recruited Ryan Allen who is also a Jackson native. Ryan plays many instruments in many projects, but on this day he filled in as a rhythm guitarist. That decision may be one that Jeremy wants to consider going forward. Because having Ryan allowed Jeremy to be unleashed like I have never seen him before.
That man was absolutely ON FIRE!! Hell, the entire band was on fire!! I would have to say that their performance was the liveliest performance on the day and I can not tell you how proud that makes me for him and Ryan to shine in their hometown. It was absolutely awesome!!
They tore through many songs like “Fast Eddie”, my favorite “Ain’t That Working”, “Full Bodied Redhead”, and “Bartender” before handing over the reins to the one and only Laid Back Country Picker.
Before we get into the next performance, I have to give a little context to the article title and what took place. Here in Kentucky, our music community is a family. It’s not a scene. The fans are just as big of a part of what makes this place as special as the artists are. This is where we have to tell you about the #PepperSprout. Rhonda Williams is a big supporter of local music, as is her daughter Erin Coffey. Erin has a son, who is named Jackson, so pulling a line from the classic Johnny and June Carter Cash hit “Jackson”, the nickname of Pepper Sprout was born.
Jackson has loved music since he was in utero and his love for music has grown since his introduction to the world. Just check him out kicking and punching in his stroller while Short & Company were jamming, it’s absolutely adorable!!
As you can see, Pepper Sprout had just about as big of a following as the folks onstage did!
So having said that, let’s get back to the show.
The Laid Back Country Picker has a simple mantra. He just wants to treat people right and play folks some good Country Music and as always, he did just that.
Laid Back Country Picker is a true Kentucky treasure. He is a talented performer with a great sense of humor, a huge personality and is just a joy to be around. Any day that you get to be in the presence of Laid Back and his Honey, is a darn good day.
Pepper Sprout can now attest to that as Honey stepped up to perform with Laid Back to honor Jackson’s first time in Jackson by performing…you guessed it, “Jackson.” If that ain’t cool, you ain’t payin attention!
Laid Back Country Picker is part guitarist, part storyteller, part comedian, and you always get your money’s worth with songs like “Party Line”, “Truck Stop Sam”, “David Bowie” and of course “Magoffin County Cadillac”, but for me, it was the southern fried, countrified version of the Loverboy classic “Working For The Weekend” that’s stole the show. That may be the best, most fun cover I’ve ever witnessed.
I have made no secret about my love for Magnolia Boulevard. I believe in these folks with all my heart. Their music feels timeless. It feels as if it simply connects at a deeper level than many others.
This was one of the bands first performances back after a short break. I was definitely anticipating a great show, but daaaaaaannnngg. Their energy was high and their delivery was top-notch. I think part of the fire was that this was also a homecoming for Mr. Ryan Allen. Ryan is the keyboardist in the band and as I mentioned is a Jackson native.
I heard that vocalist Maggie Noëlle had quit smoking, so I was curious to see if it had affected her voice at all. With a raspy vocal, that can sometimes go either way. With Maggie, it seemingly unleashed her voice. She was holding notes, extending her runs and sounded like the powerhouse that I knew she could be. Shew! Good on you, Maggie! Good on you!
After tearing through the fan favorite, “The River”, the band took a moment and invited a very special guest vocalist to share the stage. Maggie has known Miss Vivian Leigh since she was a 9-year-old. Maggie brought the now 15-year-old onstage, promised us that Vivian was going to knock our socks off and then handed her the reigns to the band.
Maggie isn’t a liar. Once Vivian settled in and got comfortable, she did indeed knock our socks off. This young lady has soul, tone and power for days! Remember that name, Miss Vivian Leigh. She has a very bright future ahead of her.
Then came a moment that I never, ever expected. Magnolia Boulevard dedicated a song to me. I’ve expressed how much I love “Call On Me” in the past, but I really didn’t know how to act having it dedicated to me. Lol I kinda felt like Ricky Bobby when he didn’t know what to do with his hands. So I just closed my eyes and enjoyed as “Call On Me” flowed seamlessly into the John Prine penned “Angel From Montgomery.”
I do what I do for the artists out of love, but that’s a moment that really drove home that what I do here is just as important to the artists as it is me. It’s a memory that I’ll lean on for inspiration for a very long time.
I would not be doing my job if I didn’t mention the new song from Magnolia Boulevard. A song so new that it doesn’t even have a name yet. Oh and don’t even get me started on how ridiculously good guitarist Gregg Erwin sounds playing his new Paul Reed Smith rig. Lawdy!
Closing out the night was Arlo McKinley and the Lonesome Sound. If you’re not familiar with Arlo, you truly need to remedy that. Especially if you enjoy real, sad, beautiful country songs. And when I say country, I mean George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. Not whatever radio tries to call country these days.
So listen, it is really hard to explain an Arlo show. There’s just something about Arlo’s voice, his tone, his cadence, it’s just entirely unique. No one else sounds like Arlo McKinley. Every single lyric, every single note seems to find a different heart string to tug on and the damnedest thing about it is, they shift their attack angles around and you never even see them coming. You can be smiling and singing along and then in the blink of an eye, you’re crying in your beer. It’s not only incredible, it’s absolutely uncanny. People say, so-and-so gives me all the chills…No they don’t, but that’s an entirely true statement when speaking about Arlo McKinley.
Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound must be experienced in a live setting. You’ll see the concentration. You’ll feel the emotions. You’ll live the vivid stories alongside Arlo. That is his it. I have no idea what an it is or where it comes from, but Arlo oozes it. Just incredible.
Then you step back and realize the world-class band that’s creating this separate attacking undercurrent of emotion and you finally just have to succumb to the raw, earthy, and even tragic pain being poured over your soul. And it’s at that moment, you become an Arlo fan for life. It’s not fair. You have no choice. Your heart will break right alongside every other heart in attendance.
Then it gets ugly. The band takes a break while Arlo and pianist David Faul remain onstage. They break it down to just an acoustic guitar, a piano and that damn haunting voice. You can not look away. You can not tune it out. I would imagine that this is exactly how the sailors in Ancient Greece felt as the sirens drew them into the rocky shores with their beautiful voices.
Look, if you can stand there and not get emotional during “Bag Of Pills” or “A Song Is Born”, you’re a stronger person than I am.
Arlo was very appreciative on this night. Earlier, he had a private moment with the Pepper Sprout (who has been a fan since he was in his Momma’s belly) where he got to hold him and sing softly in his ear. Like we needed another reason to love the guy! He saw the hard work that had been put into making the show what it was. He saw the fans singing back to him and he stood there almost in tears himself. It was beautiful. So beautiful, that he brought the band back out after their set and they did two songs as an encore, which included the biggest sing-a-long of the night in “I’ve Got Her.” Does it get anymore perfect than that? I don’t think it does.
So there you have it. Our recap of the 2nd annual Cinder & Smoke Fest. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, we’ll see you back in Jackson again next year.