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Songwriter Sesh

Posted on Mar 01, 2018 in 30A Songwriters Festival , Central Square Records , Annual Music Festival , March-April 2018

Songwriters hold a jam session in Central Square Records during the 2018 30A Songwriters Festival.

The 2018 30A Songwriters Festival at Central Square Records featured crowd-pleasing artistry by Edward Jack

The 2018 30A Songwriters Festival concluded another successful run this past January. And Central Square Records had an amazing experience as a participating venue this year. The festival boasted some impressive headlining performers, including The Zombies, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Lee Ann Womack and Ann Wilson of Heart.

The array and spectrum of talent was immense, with a staggering lineup of 185 performers. It’s always a pleasure to host some of the most talented songwriters of the day in our beloved back room, and the artists seem to dig playing in a record store, a space dedicated to their artistry and the music of their icons.

Friday kicked it off with the stellar storytelling of Gulf Coaster Grayson Capps, who was joined by producer/vocalist (not to mention three-time Grammy winner) Trina Shoemaker. Grayson has a knack of weaving stories and songs, vibrant characters, and musical intensity into one amazing performance, and he did not disappoint this year.

Chris Stills took the stage next, delivering another dynamic performance this year, from introspective songs about his life as musician and father, to intense, guitar-driven moments, like his Jeff Buckley-tinged cover of “Eleanor Rigby.”

Our good friends the Tall Pines returned from New York and fired up the crowd with their, as I call it, ‘cool revival style.’ Stills laid the foundation with his haunting, bluesy delivery, while Connie Lynn Petruk’s voice soared in time with her signature suitcase kick drum. It is always a highlight when we get to host them, and their crowd always shows up to witness the magic.

David Berkeley ended the night, with poignant and hilarious stories of his life as a troubadour poet/musician/dad, tempered with deeply personal songs, in his charmingly melancholy style. His effortless humor and textured vocals always engage the crowd till the very end.

Saturday kicked off with a hoot, with Dan Bern, lyrical craftsman and storyteller, who also managed to do impressions of most of the modern songwriters, from Dylan to Neil Young, in one song. David Ryan Harris, founder of Atlanta-based Funk-Rap group Follow For Now, as well as current touring guitarist with John Mayer, packed the house, as he does each year. Harris delivered a powerful set, consistently flexing his well-honed vocal and guitar skills. Harris floored the crowd, ending his set with the emotional “Still Be Loving You,” a song dedicated to his mother.

Daphne Willis followed, bringing a boundless energy to her performance, blending pop, R&B, and hip-hop throughout her set, to the sheer delight of her audience. Her songs seem to speak to everyone, and cover much of the emotional spectrum, but her newly penned “Somebody’s Someone” dealing with themes of mental illness and isolation, was especially poignant.

The inimitable Mary Gauthier, whose own life story rivals even her most moving songs, returned in full force to support her latest release, “Rifles & Rosary Beads,” a project comprised of songs co-written with war veterans about their experiences dealing with combat and its lasting mental effects. Accompanied by guitarist/vocalist David Robert King, Gauthier performed songs spanning her career, and from the recent veteran project, most notably, “Bullet Holes in the Sky,” written with Desert Storm veteran, Jamie Trent.

Left: Michelle Malone and Trish Land. Right: Daphne Willis. Photos by Edward Jack

Airpark, a newly-formed group from Nashville, featuring brothers Michael and Ben Ford, delivered a great set, culling new tunes from their recent double EP, as well as some penned with their former group, Apache Relay. The Ford brothers and band members’ stage presence coupled with well-crafted melodies made for a wonderful end to our Saturday performances.

Super Woman Sunday was our theme for the final day of performances, as we hosted some of the most talented female performers currently on the scene. Bassist/Vocalist/Songwriter Amy Lavere started us up Sunday morning with her Memphis-based band, and got everyone back in the swing of things. While waltzing with her upright bass on stage, Lavere delivers a cool, bluesy vocal style, and her band follows close behind, with incredible guitar lines from husband Will Sexton and David Cousar, hemmed in by the precision of drummer Shawn Zorn.

Up and coming Nashville-based artist Elise Davis followed, showcasing songs from her latest release “The Token” her breakout album of last year. Witnessing her career ascend over the years has been a pleasure for us, and she definitely brought a crowd this year. Singing about relationships found and lost, Davis’s simple yet poignant lyrics are delivered with an impeccable voice.

Michelle Malone brought her blues fury to the stage again this year, accompanied by her partner and vocalist Trish Land. Malone’s fiery slide guitar coupled with her powerful vocals packed a punch, and brought the crowd to their feet with her window rattling “Feather In A Hurricane.” After hearing a great deal of buzz surrounding her performance last year, we landed Adron for a performance, and were glad we did. Atlanta-based Adron, exhibits a bossa-nova style in both her guitar playing and vocal phrasing, and also manages to pull out some very impressive vocal tricks, including mouth trumpet, and a charming, ear-bending whistling style.

Even country star Deana Carter stopped by to check out her show. The Haraway Brothers rounded out the weekend with a high-energy set, as brothers Will and Lee (also on lap steel) sang songs written together over the years. Having hosted them years before as their other band, the Sundogs, we felt this was a perfect fit to end our festival performances. The band even closed it out with an audience-driven (we’re talking lots of ‘air drumming’) version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.”

To say we had another amazing set of performances for the 30A Songwriters Festival would certainly be an understatement, and we are so fortunate to host such an incredible array of talent. It always reinforces our commitment to support these artists, and it is great to witness the inspiration and appreciation from both artists and fans alike. We look forward to being a participating venue of the 30A Songwriters Festival next year, but until then, we’ll keep the music playing.