Jeffrey Steele

CMA Writers Series at Joe’s Pub

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Last night was our 12th CMA Songwriters Series show at Joe’s Pub. We look forward to all of them (and buy our tickets the minute the shows are announced).

We were even more excited about last night’s show when our friend in Nashville told us that Jessi Alexander was very special. Since this is the same friend who recommended we see Jeffrey Steele live, we knew not to take her opinion lightly. 🙂

I’m going to bury the headline down below, just because I don’t want to take away from the wonderful talented people who sang their hearts out and kept us entertained all evening with their stories. So, if you want the big news, you’ll have to keep reading, or skim/skip a ways down…

Sitting left to right on the stage:

BobJesseJonMark

Bob DiPiero was left-most this time (first time that he wasn’t in the middle in all 12 of our shows!). He’s always entertaining (musically, as MC and as comedian), but he was even more on last night. I think it was a combination of a few reasons, all of them positive, but one of them would ruin my headline surprise, so I’ll leave it at that.

BobDiPiero

Jessi Alexander sang and played acoustic guitar. Jessi sings beautifully and writes superb songs. She is a co-writer on Miley Cyrus’ huge hit The Climb.

Jesse2

I confess to knowing very few of Miley’s songs. I’ve never watched Hannah Montana, etc. However, we do watch a few hours of GAC (Great American Country) TV most weekends, and catch a number of the top videos of the week. The very first time I saw Miley’s The Climb video, I fell in love with the song. When Lois came back into the room I told her how shocked I was that I reacted so strongly to it.

Ironically, Miley’s movements in the video are distracting, so there’s nothing about the video that made me like the song. In fact, overcoming her overacting to fall in love with the song is what made me realize what an excellent song it was. So, it was a very nice treat to see/hear Jessi do it last night. I still love Miley’s version sonically. 🙂

Jon Randall sang and played acoustic guitar (all forms, rhythm, flat picking, finger picking, etc.). Let’s get the bottom line out of the way first: he’s amazing!

Jon2

Jon has a great voice (absolutely star performer quality). He writes great songs (you’ve probably seen/heard Whiskey Lullaby, cut by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss). He is one of the best guitar players that we’ve seen at a CMA show.

Jon happens to be married to Jessi Alexander. That may be one of the reasons that Bob sat on an end last night instead of the middle, so that Jessi and Jon could sit near each other. Jon accompanied Jessi on every one of her songs, and they sang harmony together on both of their numbers, beautifully.

JesseJon2

Mark Sanders sang and played acoustic guitar. I couldn’t find a link to a web site or MySpace page devoted to him, so I linked his name to an old article (1997) that might give you a good background on Mark.

Mark1

He’s an incredible songwriter. Don’t take it from me, he was recently inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of fame (Bob DiPiero is an inductee as well). He has written quite a number of smash hits, including one of our all-time favorites, I Hope You Dance (cut by Lee Ann Womack).

Mark is not much of a singer, and he pointed that fact out all night (in extremely funny fashion). He praised Jon over and over, and boy, is he right about that.

None of that matters. He writes extraordinary songs, plays the guitar well enough, and delivers the emotion associated with the person who actually conceived of and wrote the song, which is precisely what we love to hear!

In fact, all of the above would be enough for us to have been thrilled to see Mark last night. But wait, there’s more! If you order now… 😉

Mark is one of the funniest, natural, spontaneous people we’ve seen (not just at a CMA show, but in general). He kept us in stitches all night. Mark has also written a lot with Bob (including some smash hits), so they know each other well.

Mark2

We believe that one of the of factors that made Bob a bit different (and better!) last night was their shared history, love of having a good time together, and knowing that Mark would make fun of anything Bob said that might sound serious. 😉

We got to hear the story behind Daddy’s Money (a song we’ve heard Bob sing more than 10 times) and it was awesome! The inspiration behind the songs is fascinating to us.

Their banter was so funny that Jessi commented that she and Jon had to sit between them to keep them separated. 🙂

BobJesseJonMark2

OK, finally, the buried headline.

About 1/2 way through the show, Bob announced that we had a superstar in the audience, and with some encouragement, he was likely to agree to come on stage. No extra prodding was necessary.

A minute later, rising from the second level was none other than Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry. He walked through the crowd and climbed on to the stage. He performed two songs (singing and playing acoustic guitar), both written by Bob DiPiero. The first was Montgomery Gentry’s first #1 hit, If You Ever Stop Loving Me. He followed that with the crowd favorite Gone (which the crowd begs Bob to sing at every show!).

Troy1

He was awesome. He commented that he hasn’t played an acoustic set in a very long time, and he was nervous, because he’s usually surrounded by the giant sound of a large electric band. Troy, no need to worry, we’ll be thrilled to welcome you back onto the small stage any time. You owned it! 🙂

Troy2Troy3

Troy6

Another great CMA night at Joe’s Pub. The next one is expected to be in March 2010, no specific date set yet. Barring an unmovable scheduling conflict (and there might indeed be one if the CMA is near March 12th), we’ll be there!

Jeffrey Steele at Joe’s Pub

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Last night we saw Jeffrey Steele (and band) at Joe’s Pub. If you’re used to Twitter, and only have patience to read one paragraph, then let me describe his show in one word: Wow!

We’ve had it on our list to catch a Jeffrey Steele show for a while now (if you read to the bottom, you’ll find out why). He was in NYC in March, but we were out of town. When I found out he was going to be back now, I jumped on the opportunity immediately.

Jeffrey Steele is one of the giants in Country Music songwriting. Many top artists have cut his songs, including Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, Montgomery Gentry, Tim McGraw, etc. I’ve written numerous times about our love for the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Pub (in fact, we have another show there tomorrow night).

We knew we’d enjoy Jeffrey Steele from that angle alone (meaning, seeing a songwriter that has written many songs that we already love), but we had no idea what kind of a show he puts on himself.

Jeffrey Steele is a great singer, and an even better guitar player (blazing electric leads, in Country style, as well as true Rock tradition). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he’s an exceptional piano player! He also played a bit of harmonica last night. I looked at the credits on one of his albums, and he plays many more instruments, I’m sure all equally well. Mind-boggling!

Jeffrey Steele Guitar

Jeffrey Steele Guitar

Jeffrey Steele Piano

Jeffrey Steele Piano

Jeffrey Steele Harmonica

Jeffrey Steele Harmonica

Stevie Cirkvencic played lead guitar. He’s incredible. Since Jeffrey Steele is himself a great guitarist, for Stevie to make the cut and take leads away from Jeffrey, says all you need to know about Jeffrey’s respect for Stevie’s play (more on that in a bit).

Stevie Cirkvencic

Stevie Cirkvencic

Stevie looked to me to be a dead ringer for Kenny Chesney (under his cowboy hat), and I was suspicious that Kenny was just sitting in with Jeffrey for a laugh. 😉

Tommy MacDonald played the bass. He too was incredible. Jeffrey Steele’s brand of music (even the slow songs) requires a ton of energy, and the bass needs to be interesting and constant, to keep up, and Tommy “Mac” is a perfect complement to Jeffrey and Stevie.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy McDonald

Tom Hambridge on the drums, was also perfect all night. He was the only one who occasionally sang harmony with Jeffrey, though for most of the evening, Jeffrey sang solo. His nickname is “The Hammer”.

Tom Hambridge

Tom Hambridge

The four of them are awesome. In addition to playing some (not enough time to make a serious dent) of Jeffrey’s big hits, they also throw in some classic rock (at times, in the middle of a Jeffrey Steele song, at other times, on it’s own). They played a little bit of Country Joe and the Fish, The Who and ZZ Top!

The point is that they are both a top Country group, and an all-out top-notch Rock group. Basically, whatever they want to be, they deliver!

Here’s the quote that Lois said as we walked out:

Steele: A force of nature with a volcanic yet spiritual soul

We’ve been to Joe’s Pub more times than I can count. For the most part, the sound is very good, though on occasion, not so much. Last night, Jeffrey Steele thanked someone named Steve on sound. I’m glad he called him out, because that guy is a genius on the sound board.

This was flat-out hard rock, and yet, while everything was plenty loud, it was perfectly balanced (you could hear every note on the guitar, piano and bass), and all at a level that made it enjoyable, rather than head-splitting. Bravo!

They were on stage for 110 minutes of bliss. That’s just about the maximum you can squeeze out at Joe’s Pub for a 7pm start, given that there is another show at 9:30pm.

Most headliners call out their band members names at some point in the show, usually toward the very end. Jeffrey Steele is an exception, willingly, happily, joyously sharing the spotlight with his band. After the second number of the evening, he introduced each band member. He repeated their names multiple times during the show, and called them out whenever they were highlighted in a song. We loved every second of it, and all three of them deserved the recognition!

The only distraction that I had during the show is that Jeffrey Steele is the doppelganger for a good friend of mine (also a famous guy in his own right), Dick Hardt. If Dick had Jeffrey’s hair, they could be twins. 😉

If Dick were a rock star, I truly believe that his style and personality on the stage would be very similar to Jeffrey’s. Of course, Dick is a rock star, just in a different industry. 😉

I started blogging purely to document our experiences (most of them wonderful) right after they happen, so that as we age, we will have easy access to these memories. I could have done that in a journal, without making it public in a blog, but others (most notably Rob Page, CEO of Zope Corporation) hounded me to keep it public.

I’m very happy I did. Mostly, because of some amazing personal connections we’ve made through this blog. One such connection is a woman who runs a management company in Nashville (I’ll update this post with her name, and a link, if she says it’s OK).

We’ve met her once IRL (in real life) already, and correspond on a semi-regular basis. During one of those exchanges, she told us that we simply had to see Jeffrey Steele live. She knew that we (Lois in particular) love to see singer/songwriters, and she knew Jeffrey would blow us away. She was right! Thanks!

We can’t wait to see Jeffrey Steele, and Stevie, Tommy and Tom, as soon as practical. Wow!