Fallsburg, Kentucky. A place that I had never set foot in before Saturday. Situated along Highway 23, near Louisa, Fallsburg has taken a major step forward in improving its tourism. As the Fallsburg Summer Stage was finally living up to its’ name by hosting a two-day music festival with some of the best musical talent around, but there was so much more to this little gem. Nestled in a beautiful valley, smack dab in the middle of an RV park, Fallsburg shined like the gem it is. Lots of space for parking and camping, but it was the music that brought on the smiles. There were wine tours and tastings with a shuttle. Several vendors on-site, including the always delicious Hillbilly Hibachi, the Bent Strings Beard Company, and the art of Jimbo Valentine. You could even attend their Haunted House once the music was finished. They gave you a lot of options and if you didn’t have a good time, that’s on you!
I was unable to attend on Friday night, but I was able to make it on Saturday and thankful to be able to bring y’all along with me. Friday was headlined by Cincinnati’s Buffalo Wabs & the Price Hill Hustle, along with Sean Whiting, and Nolan Taylor. While Saturday featured Cincinnati’s Arlo McKinley, Huntington’s El Dorodo, and Ashland’s Cole Chaney.
Cole Chaney was up first with an acoustic performance. You may have seen my article where I reviewed Chaney’s ‘Mercy’, his debut album. If not, you can read that here. Cole is one of the brightest young stars that Kentucky has to offer. His journey may have just begun, but rest assured it’s gonna be one heckuva ride, and on Saturday, he came to make a statement. Because he knew the enormous amount of talent to follow.
Armed with only his guitar, Cole stepped onto the stage and owned it from his very first note to his last. Displaying the comfort needed to entertain, but also the poise to deliver. That’s a balance that only the greats master. With Cole’s performance on Saturday, I assure his path is headed in that very direction. Mr. Arlo McKinley, who watched most of Cole’s set from the side of the stage, would agree. Cole took the time between almost every song to give a back story on the songs meaning or inspiration. Which were welcome moments for the crowd that were more and more impressed with each song. Giving us insight into songs like “Another Day In The Life”, “Silver Run”, “The Flood” and an unreleased song titled “Charlene.” Which is the story of his Grandparents’ love and their journey to a long marriage.
I really hate bundling artists into a pigeonhole comparison of another artist, but the reality is, many folks see a similar path for Cole, as they saw for Tyler Childers. Let Cole be Cole and let Tyler be Tyler I say, BUT having seen Tyler’s journey, his “Whitehouse Road” can serve as the blueprint to Chaney’s”Ill Will Creek” for the fans. As the crowd gave Cole his biggest round of applause of the day during his early set on Saturday. That familiarity will ultimately open many doors for Cole Chaney.
I enjoyed every song, but of the unreleased songs, “On Deaf Ears” was the one that blew me away the most. Cole commented that this one was his Grandfather’s favorite song. Outside of those written about him, of course. There’s a lot of church in that song, a lot of pain, a lot of life. It may be years before we get a recorded version, but you can bet your bottom dollar that this one will be a set staple for a very, very long time.
After performing several tracks from his debut ‘Mercy’, Cole performed the song that sold me on him from YouTube, that would be “Coalshooter.” As I mentioned in my review of ‘Mercy’ (You can read that here), the story within this song holds a special place in my heart and it was one of my favorite performances from Cole. This young man has “it” in spades, so you better see him on a small stage while you still can.
Next up was El Dorodo. I came into this showing only knowing the players, but pretty clueless on the songs and what to expect. To say that I was pleasantly surprised would likely be the understatement of 2021 so far. El Dorodo is comprised of Rod Taylor, D. Ford Twitty, Thomas Jefferson “Tommy” Hawk, and Witchita R. Kansas. They hail from New Mexico…or so they say. If you know, well, you know. These guys are an absolute blast and they’re some damn fine musicians to boot. Their set was comprised of several songs that will be on an upcoming release, covers of some of the coolest songs around, and Dad jokes. Sounds like the perfect recipe for a heckuva Saturday night party to me!
They kicked things off with “Stop The World.” A song that has been recorded many times over the years, but their version related most to the Waylon Jennings version. Which is arguably the most famous version out there. As the band progressed, they took turns on vocals, and even instruments at one point. Performing covers of songs like “Cathy’s Clown,” which was an early favorite on the night. Their harmonies were wonderful! Some of my favorites were “Lonesome Fugitive,” Craig, errrr, Tommy Hawk’s vocals on “Bed Of Roses,” a delightful version of “I’m The Only Hell (My Momma Ever Raised), and “Cowgirls Like Cowboys.”
I do want to mention one more cover song. Don Williams is my favorite artist of all-time, and no one is even close honestly. Since his passing, I haven’t enjoyed anyone covering one of his songs. I suppose it just conjures up his loss, but having said that, El Dorodo delivered a version of Don’s classic “Tulsa Time”, that was flat-out EPIC. The joy in their performance became mine and my night was truly made. It’s funny how music helps heals almost all wounds.
By the way, we were graced with a fantastic sunset during El Dorodo’s set.
I’ll end this section with this, El Dorodo possesses three distinct vocals, a Colgate smile, the best mullet since Keith Whitley, and one of the baddest folks around on the guitar. So I’ll make you a promise. Head into an El Dorodo show with an open mind, possibly an open container, and an empty heart. You’ll leave with wobbly legs and a heart full of joy. It’s contagious!!
Ps. Conway Twitty would have definitely approved of El Dorodo’s version of “It’s Only Make Believe.” That was a mic drop of a performance.
There’s not a lot left for me to say about Arlo McKinley. I’ve been a proud, and very loud supporter of this young man and his incredible band since Capture Kentucky became a thing. His songwriting has only gotten better with time and his band has grown exponentially alongside him. That doesn’t mean I’m not gonna fill y’all in, but it’s more so a testament to the heights that these folks have reached.
After paying tribute to a fallen friend, Arlo kicked off the night with “We Were Alright.” He stepped in front of the mics on two occasions. The first was to rally the crowd and set the tone for the night. The last was to lead the crowd into singing the last refrain of the song together. At that moment, I knew Arlo came to entertain and enjoy some time with a few hundred of his best friends. Let’s just say the challenge was met with open arms by those in attendance.
The set was littered with favorites like, “This Damn Town,” “I Should Have Known,” “Whatever You Want,” “She’s Always Around,” “Walking Shoes,” “Bag Of Pills,” “Love Once Again,” “Long Time Gone,” “I’ve Got Her” and so many more. We were also blessed with”Wild Horses!”
I do want say that “Die Midwestern” was by far the most energetic performance that I have witnessed from Arlo and the Lonesome Sound. Drummer Aaron Cordell was beating the living crap out of his drums and the rest of the band soaked up his energy like a Tudor’s biscuit soaks up gravy. There was headbanging! Headbanging at an Arlo show! That. Was. Incredible!
One of Arlo’s most streamed songs, “This Damn Town”, was up next and it garnered one of the loudest sing-a-longs of the night. That’s something that will never get old. Seeing a friend realize their dreams is beyond words, honestly. We were even treated to my favorite Arlo song in, “Time In Bars.”
Have you ever experienced pain second-hand? I thought that I had, but Arlo proved me wrong. As he performed two covers that completely changed my mind. “September” by Ryan Adams and Blaze Foley’s “If I Could Only Fly” were both incredible moments. Blaze and Arlo’s songs and careers are pretty similar, so it’s only fitting that “If I Could Only Fly” is a regular in the ole setlist.
Arlo has carved out his own niche in a world of noise. His voice is as honest and as vulnerable as you’ll ever hear, and it was those traits that caught the attention of Mr. John Prine. Arlo signed to the late (that hurts to type) John Prine’s label, Oh Boy Records last year. So when the band paid homage to Mr. Prine by performing his classic “Storm Windows,” I was incredibly moved.
For good measure, Arlo threw out a song that was written several years ago that will be released on a 7″ vinyl by Oh Boy very soon. “You’ve Got Me Where You Want Me” was gold and it will resonate with the fanbase very, very well.
At one point, Arlo took a brief moment between songs and summed up Saturday perfectly. He said, “F*ck. I needed this. Thank you all so much.” You kind sir, were and are not alone. I healed more on Saturday night than the previous 12-15 months combined. Music is medicine and you will never change my mind about that. Having seen Arlo perform several times over the last few years, I can say this with all my heart, Saturday was one of the best performances of his life. Their first show in seven months, the release of the worry, the pain, the uncertainty, coupled with the longing to perform culminated in a very special night.
I do want to touch upon something important, Arlo vocalized what I’ve been feeling and saying for a while now. He spoke of how Tyler Childers and Arlo crossed paths a few short years ago. How the scene has grown so much and how happy he is that there are some very talented young folks carrying their torch right behind them. As only Arlo can, he made folks put on their thinking caps and set the table perfectly for him handing the stage to one of those young men he mentioned in Logan Halstead.
This was my first time seeing Logan on the stage. Just like everyone else, I’ve watched many videos of the young man on YouTube and he was on my list of folks to see in 2021. Rarely will I write about an artist until I’ve seen them perform myself. In the case of Logan Halstead, one song is all I needed to know I need to move this young man up the list. He’s a special young man.
Logan performed one of his newer songs for us, and I do apologize for not catching the title, but I was focused on making sure that I had photos for the article when he told us. EDIT: ()It really doesn’t matter though, it was great. As was Logan. So put this young fella on your list of artists to see if you haven’t already.
Taking the stage to officially end the night, the band performed “Dark Side Of The Street” and brought back the headbanging. CAN WE DO THIS AT EVERY ARLO SHOW GOING FORWARD?! I’m begging y’all! Lol
So there ya have it. An incredible night that brought every emotion possible and gave you no way of escaping them. Saturday was captivating and I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to bear witness to such a monumental performance.