Midwinterfest 2020 - Day 2: Songwriters Round - Steve Black, Jefferson Ross, Sarah Yeo & Thomm Jutz
The traditional starter to Day 2 at Midwinterfest is the lunchtime Songwriters Round curated by Steve Black. This meant a swift reappearance for Jefferson Ross & Thomm Jutz from Day 1 and the arrival of Sarah Yeo to take up the remaining seat on the stage.
Round 1 was kicked off by Thomm Jutz, who started with an upbeat tune detailing a downbeat tale "Emancipation Blues", saw Thomm managing to extract the most intricate of sounds from his guitar with seemingly little finger effort. The counterpoint between tune and lyric is key to the success of this song - It is about a freed slave who then realises things have not changed that much, he's still "up again before the rooster" or "loading up the cotton" Jefferson's contribution to Round One, was set at a childhood Christmas in 1974 and the arrival of a polaroid camera for his Dad. The song then painted the scene of a family photograph being taken, it was about his family but in truth it could be anyones, such was the universal appeal of "Take The Picture". Jefferson then shifts the song years forward looking back to the time when it was taken, "We'll never have this back again", - "brilliant" came the cry from the audience as the last note was hit. This was our first sighting of Sarah Yeo, which seems odd given the quality her singing. As introductions go "No Baggage On Me" was mightily impressive, a personal New Year wiping of the slate, nicely paying off the line about baggage with being at the carousel waiting to be found. To close the first round Steve continued the Christmas theme, that Jefferson had started introduced a new as yet untitled song, (which he later baptized to be the "The Christmas Song"), performed with the words on a piece of paper handily placed on his lap - and with Thomm adding some additional guitar lines seemingly by just looking across and checking the chords that Steve was playing .
Round 2 started with Thomm fulfilling a request for Alan by singing a song about John Hartford who wrote "Gentle On My Mind". As ever with Thomm there was a wonderful engaging introduction which was a delight in itself, and the song "Riverboat Captains Friend" was made all the more vivid for it, a gentle tune with a delightful chorus this was truly wonderful stuff. Jefferson also honoured an audience request with "Family Drama", detailing the various trials and tribulations of family life, of course with Jefferson the devil is in the detail of the lyrics and this was a classic including among other things the Siamese twins who no longer speak since one voted Republican!
Sarah likes to write about places and her next song drew its inspiration from being in Spain, with an almost Karen Carpenter style of phrasing on "Back Home Again", a song that perfectly captured the final days of a holiday "the last Sangria", "Saying goodbye to new friends!"
For Steve it was another of his 2019 songs, "He Still Sends Her Roses" and we were given an insight into how Steve's songwriting mind works as he detailed pulling together 2 separate ideas to weave one coherent idea. Thomm by adding an almost Mexican guitar sound, set the song off perfectly , with Thomm noting at the end that the song would "Bring a tear to a glass eye",
Round 3 started with Thomm and a natural disaster song detailing the Nashville floods of 10 years ago, in "The Flood Of 2010" from ""To Live In Two Worlds Vol 2" due for release later in the year. It detailed not just the factual events of the deluge and the financial and personal losses for the local populace but also of the stories of people helping each other "the spirit of the city", and how something bright came from its darkest day. All of this wrapped up in 3 minutes with a hell of a catchy tune was some achievement! Jefferson is also an artist, and one of his paint heroes is a retired preacher Howard Finster a man who did what he thought God wanted him to do. With Thomm once again adding additional guitar lines and providing backing vocals "Howard Had a Vision" was a blend of actual events to bizarre to detail but included Johnny Carson, REM & thousands of paintings. This was fantastic songwriting and storytelling of the absolute highest order. Sarah had the unenviable job of following and did so with a song from her latest release, "Roadie Tonight" upbeat with some expressive guitar playing name checking Eagles tunes as it progressed. Steve then played a song that was well known to the audience "Highway Of My Heart" and took time to explain the meaning behind his particular choice of words that gave in insight as to how much thought goes into his songwriting. It also gave Thomm a chance to reprise his guitar line from the original recording and to play an intricate solo.
As ever the final round seemed to come around within the blinking of an eye - Thomm's final song was a number one Bluegrass tune for Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, "I'm a Wanderer" showed he was able to knock out a relatively straight forward country song on his own terms, Our final glimpse of Jefferson was fulfilling another request for a reprise form last year of the song about a Voodoo woman, "77 Lime Green Cadillac Hearse" is a song rich in so many details that it will be easier for you to download it than for us to describe it - needless to say you will not be disappointed. Sarah's her final song was built on people saying she should go to Nashville . "Next Year It's Nashville" was full of wonderfully self observed details on what would be enough for her in terms of success, like to "just to play the Bluebird to a crowd" or see "the lady in the front row wipe(s) a tear from her eye" and that touch of humility made it all the more poignant.
For Steve the final song was always going to be the usual closer of "Jack London / Daisy", it was as preordained as the equally traditional crowd singalong that accompanies it - Midwinterfest as we always say "is all about the music" and never has it been more true than at this session.