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Posts from the ‘Artists’ Category

Taylor Hicks: Daryl’s & The Flying Monkey

©2016 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved

June 16, 2016: Daryl’s House Club, Pawling, New York 


Opening his New England tour last week with stops at Daryl’s House Club in New York and The Flying Monkey Performance Center in New Hampshire, Taylor Hicks, along with Brian Less and special guests Jamie McLean and Joshua Logan, performed two memorable acoustic sets to large, enthusiastic audiences.


Brian Less

Jamie McLean got the music started with his solo performance, infusing his new music with his well known originals before joining Taylor’s headlining set.  His guitar virtuosity added depth to the headlining set especially on his ‘In The Ghetto’ solo.


Jamie McLean

What made this show different?  Taylor mixes new songs and covers with his familiar set list but it is his talking and reflecting in between songs on his life since winning Idol that enriches the experience. His story telling centers on the songwriting he has done with some of the best, most prolific and happy songwriters in the industry.

Taylor’s new travel and food show ‘State Plate’ on INSP TV has started filming around the country and with it comes a new and different litany of stories from the road. If you have ideas for an interesting food experience, Taylor said he wants to hear it. You never know. You might be part of the Story Teller Tour.


Taylor Hicks

June 17, 2016: The Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center, Plymouth, NH

The Flying Monkey is a little jewel of a theatre in historic Plymouth, New Hampshire. Taylor invited season 5 finalist Josh Logan to open. Josh’s voice is strong and his guitar playing unique. He played original music and covered soul artists, including Justin Timberlake. He said he was so glad to see Taylor, a brother in soul music, win Idol. Being a local favorite encouraged the audience and his performance made him new fans.


Josh Logan


Brian Less and Taylor Hicks

The set list came with twists and familiar turns. Songs were added on the fly. Bob Seger’s ‘Main Street’, done acoustically, was a spur of the moment addition. The music ebbed and flowed over the hour and a half Taylor and Brian were on stage with love ballads sung tenderly and road songs sung with vigor.


The ‘take ’em to church moment’ came at the encore. With Taylor singing and Brian on keyboard, the audience joined en masse to sing the chorus to Bill Withers’ ‘Lean on Me’. The duo disappeared backstage as the audience walked from their seats humming, ‘we all need somebody to lean on’ all the way to the lobby. Catch a show on the tour that extends through December. By then, the new stories will be interwoven into the music and hopefully someone, somewhere, is writing a song about the road travelled.


Next up: June 24th in Natick, MA; June 25th in Boothbay Harbor, ME; July 8 in Rutland, VT; July 9 in Old Saybrook, CT.

Taylor Hicks: Mixin’ It Up This Summer

@2016 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved


From New York to New Hampshire, Michigan to Maine, Taylor Hicks will be mixin’ it all up this summer! Between traveling across the country with pianist Brian Less and various musical special guests, filming his new TV show, ‘State Plate’, for INSP TV and dusting off and performing music from his personal vault, Taylor will be bringing his variety of skills to theaters and film sets from shore to shore.

Here is a preview of what’s currently in the mix for Taylor and his fans as he travels in June and July for seven shows on the #StoryTellerTour. And, who knows? You might get a singing chef in a town near you!

For additional info and dates, check out Taylor’s official site


Saturday, June 11*: Flat Rock Summer Blast Headliner, Flat Rock, Michigan 9:30 PM

*This is a free concert! Michigan! It’s your turn for a night of soul and country blues.

Flat Rock Summer Blast and River Fest 

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Thursday, June 16*: Daryl’s House Club, Pawling, NY with special guest Jamie McLean Band (Jamie solo at 7 pm; Jamie joins Taylor’s set approximately 8 PM)

Daryl’s House Club *General admission tickets still available at the link.

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Jamie McLean Band

Jamie McLean

©Photo by Louise Uznanski

What a musical treat it will be to see Taylor, Brian and Jamie reunited at Daryl’s House, a venue owned by musical icon Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame.


Friday, June 17*: The Flying Monkey Performance Center, Plymouth, NH, with opener Josh Logan (from The Voice) 7 PM

The Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center *Tickets still available at the link.


Opening for Taylor will be a star from season 5 of NBC’s’The Voice’,  Josh Logan.


Friday, June 24*: Center for the Arts, Natick, MA. with alt-country recording artist Sarah Borges opening at 7 PM.

Center for the Arts Natick *Orchestra tickets still available at the link.

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Sarah Borges

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Perhaps the fans will be treated to a duet with Sarah joining Taylor onstage. Her alternate rock and country vibe might blend well with the jazzy/blues renderings from the soul man.


Saturday, June 25*: The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, Maine 7 PM

To date there is no opener listed for this show.

The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor * General admission tickets available at the link.

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How long has it been since Taylor traveled  to the shores of Maine for a night of music followed by the treats of Maine? Lobster, anyone?

Friday, July 8: Taylor Hicks at Downtown Rutland, Rutland, VT. 8:30 pm 

Downtown at Rutland, VT Facebook page

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Taylor will be performing at this outdoor, free, concert in conjunction with the ‘Downtown in Rutland’ concert series.

Saturday, July 9*: The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, Old Saybrook, CT 8 PM

The Kate * Tickets still available at the link


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The beautiful performing arts center named after local movie star and theater icon Katharine Hepburn will be a perfect setting for an intimate night of music.

That’s a wrap for June and July on the Taylor Hicks #StoryTellerTour. Time to get out and mix it up on the road with Taylor this summer!


Brian Less Photo ©Louise Uznanski









Taylor Hicks: Story Teller Tour Pt.2

Photos and audio recordings by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog

©2016 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved



Please enjoy a look back at Taylor Hicks’ and Brian Less’ four night acoustic tour of the East that began on April 21st in Connecticut and ended April 24th in Pennsylvania.

From the Fairfield Theatre where Jamie McLean opened and then joined Taylor on guitar for the headlining show, to the vintage, renovated Queen Theatre at World Cafe Live in Wilmington, Delaware, to the sold out Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland and then finally to the New Hope City Winery in Pennsylvania, Taylor and Brian managed to make more music from their two man band than many could with a full band.

Following are a few photo and audio highlights of Taylor’s acoustic Eastern tour.

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Audio: What’s Right Is Right/Tupelo Honey-Avalon Theatre, 4/23/16

Smooth, cool vocals, a little harp and Van’s Tupelo Honey tag.

Audio: Six Strings Are Hard On Diamond Rings-Avalon Theatre, 4/23/16

The best ballad for Taylor to date. Perfect anthem for a traveling soul man.

Taylor Hicks: Story Teller Tour

Audio and photos by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog

©2016 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved


And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon…

TFF_9658 (1)

Taylor Hicks returned to the Northeast last Thursday for four acoustic concerts in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  In each intimate venue, the two man band wrapped their stories into the music making the stage feel more like a living room than a concert hall.

The music and the story telling was all on Taylor and his keyboardist and musical director, Brian Less. The stories from before and after Taylor’s win on American Idol were humorously interlaced with tales from his life as an entertainer, writer and actor since his Idol win.

Taylor was first introduced to the TV viewing public singing Elton John’s ‘Levon’. Ten years later, Taylor still entertains through his songs saying “the vault is filled with music”. Letting the stories and music out one performance at a time guarantees that his story is to be continued…

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Please enjoy a recorded version of ‘Levon’ from Taylor’s April 22nd performance at World Cafe Live at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware.


OnTap Photo Focus: Flashback Friday:: Taylor Hicks at The Genesee Theatre

Photography: ©Louise Uznanski

©2015 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved

Please enjoy these photos of Taylor Hicks’ opening stint for BoDeans at the Genesee Theatre on December 28th and join with us in looking forward to all that is new for Taylor and his fans in 2015.














BoDeans and Taylor Hicks Prove Fan Favorites at Genesee Theatre: Part 1

Review contributed by Louise Uznanski and Holley Dey. Photography by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog.

©2014 OnTapBlog All Rights Reserved

Seemed an odd pairing when the show was announced, but on Sunday night at Genesee Theatre the performance bill suddenly made good sense and more importantly, made for good music.

American Idol winner Taylor Hicks opened the show. Perhaps best known for debut single “Do I Make You Proud,” Taylor’s post Idol career has also included lengthy and successful Broadway and Las Vegas runs. Now several years away from his 2006 reality show triumph, Hicks continues to work steadily with an album of new “country soul” music anticipated in 2015.

Legendary rock band the BoDeans headlined the Sunday evening show in Waukegan. The “Closer to Free” hitmakers continue to tour the country nearly thirty years after their smash debut, playing to devoted audiences who know and readily sing back the words. From roots to alternative to mainstream rock and back again, the BoDeans and their music have conquered the test of time. The band’s appropriately named twelfth album, I Can’t Stop, is targeted for a spring 2015 release.

Both Hicks and the Bodeans claim a foundation in American roots music and a sound that represents the fusion of rock, country, soul and blues influences. While the relative contribution of those influences differ between the artists, both careers reflect a dedication to craft that has found the ultimate reward – staying power.

On Sunday the audience stayed as well, and appeared to thoroughly enjoy both music sets. Hicks offered a mix of tunes and a mix of genres from his own catalog and his American Idol run, as well as a few select covers. The audience responded most strongly to a performance of “Nineteen”, the story of a young football player and fallen soldier that Hicks earnestly dedicated to first responders, police and firemen. An emotional, soul-filled rendition of the song prompted an equally heartfelt standing ovation.

Some may have remembered Taylor’s televised performance of Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto”. Sunday night the audience was treated to the Simon Cowell backstory that led to the song’s selection, and to a jazzier, updated version of the song. Other standouts from the set included a clap-along performance of Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together”, the mid tempo opener “Country Living”, and roadhouse rocker “Seven Mile Breakdown” that featured a silky smooth solo from in-demand Nashville guitarist Guthrie Trapp.

He sang with soul and played his trademark harmonica, but Hicks also showed his skill at the organ, on guitar and tambourine, surprising many. At intermission the audience poured into the lobby where “so unexpected”, “such a good voice” and “he can play that harp” were among the comments overheard. The Idol winner and band proved a fine complement to the strong musicianship of the Bodeans.

A gallery of photos from the opening set is found below. Review and photographs of the Bodeans’ headlining performance in Waukegan, Illinois will follow shortly.

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Guitarist Guthrie Trapp

Guitarist Guthrie Trapp


Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks Photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks Photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski


Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks and Band photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks and Band photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Guthrie Trapp and Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Guthrie Trapp and Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Photo by Louise Uznanski

Coming up next! Part 2, The BoDeans! 

Link to Part 2 featuring headliner BoDeans.

OnTapBlog on Tour:: The Mulligan Brothers Come Full Circle with ‘Via Portland’


By Louise Uznanski for Ontapblog. Photography by Richard Uznanski and Louise Uznanski ©2014 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved.



Gram Rea

Gram Rea

Ross Newell

Ross Newell

Greg DeLuca

Greg DeLuca

Ben Leininger

Ben Leininger


The road to the Mulligan Brothers December 10th pre-release CD show at the Joe Jefferson Playhouse in Mobile, Alabama, began  this past Fall when the tour bus, loaded with instruments and a portfolio full of new songs, took The Mulligan Brothers west from Mobile, Alabama to Portland, Oregon. Here, the work would begin on their sophomore album, ‘Via Portland’, with producer Steve Berlin. Returning to Mobile from Portland once recording was completed, the band made several tour stops and were met with familiar places and faces. But, it was their time in Portland that brought the band to the realization that the journey out west to make new music was not complete until they returned home to Mobile where their hometown friends and family could become part of moving that musical wheel a full 360º.


The Joe Jefferson Playhouse, located in residential Mobile, has stadium seating and every seat has the advantage of great acoustics and light. The capacity crowd was treated to a listening party that was the culmination of months of writing, rehearsing, traveling, and then, finally, recording. The finished product, ‘Via Portland’, is, in the words of songwriter Ross Newell, “a compilation of songs from life, a little sad and sometimes bitter but you have to hear the songs and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.” Ross introduced and described each song and after three or four song introductions,  the audience started to sense a theme. The songs are sad, but not really. Some are bitter, but they are happy, too. One member of the audience who had enough loudly suggested to Ross, ‘just sing it, we just want to hear the song!”

Greg DeLuca ©LU

Greg DeLuca

Ross Newell ©LU

Ross Newell

Gram Rea

Gram Rea

Every song was fully realized with the twists and turns in the lyrics the audience has come to expect from Newell’s writing. Sitting near Ross’s mother, she proudly revealed that he has been writing songs since he was two years old when he wrote a song about skinning his knee. The band’s incredible harmonies makes the listener’s ear focus intently to catch every phrase and nuanced word. The instrumentation on the recorded tracks is superb; at a live concert, the listener just wants to hear more of the blend of Gram’s fiddle, Ross’s voice, Greg’s light beat and Ben’s low bass tones. Ross’s mother was right: hearing her son and the band perform their recordings live is so different she sometimes cannot believe it is her son and his friends singing.

After the performance of the entirety of  ‘Via Portland’, the audience asked for more with their standing ovation. The band returned to the stage and met to discuss the encore setlist. The songs decided upon were from their freshman effort, ‘The Mulligan Brothers’. In this part of the show, every word came back to the band from the audience who enthusiastically sang along to Lay Here, Oh Susanna and Kaleidoscope. Foot stomping, clapping and whistling ensued. The best part of the show was seeing the joyous smiles on the band members faces throughout the night.  Their biggest smiles beamed across the stage from musician to musician, out to the audience and back to the band as they sang old favorites to round out the night.




‘Via Portland’ took many miles and life experiences to come to fruition. Many in the capacity audience had traveled from places all over the country to hear the new music. After the show, the band met with friends, family and the local community. The overall consensus is that once again, The Mulligan Brothers have produced a pure, honest and poetic body of work and the audience felt that as they traveled together on that musical wheel from Mobile to Portland and back to Mobile again, all by way of  ‘Via Portland’.

Gram Rea ©LU

Gram Rea

Ross Newell

Ross Newell


‘Via Portland’ will be released nationally January 20, 2015 and can be pre-ordered here.

To listen to I Don’t Want To Know from ‘Via Portland, please click here.

To listen to ‘The Mulligan Brothers’ first CD in its entirety, please click HERE

©2014 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved

The Mulligan Brothers Plan December Release for Sophomore Album

Gram Rea

Gram Rea

by Holley Dey ©2014 OnTapBlog all rights reserved

Gram was standing outside as we talked, cell phone pressed to his ear. “Hold on a minute,” he said abruptly.  An air horn announced the imminent arrival of a train that would rumble loudly through Guthrie, Oklahoma, then fade quickly and quietly into the distance.  Like the train, The Mulligan Brothers made a powerful statement in Guthrie, but would soon be on their way, headed down the highway, intent on their southern home and the end of a five week stint on the road.

On their first trip to Oklahoma the band had drawn a small crowd of about twenty-five to their eclectic mix of folk/Americana/acoustic rock music. Fans packed the venue on The Brothers’ return, and now a larger venue and second show were added to September’s busy tour schedule. Good news, but a road-weary rasp in Gram’s voice prompted concern. Would the dual stresses of touring and talking compromise that evening’s performance? “Nah, that’s alright” he laughed, “I’m always hoarse.”

His patience and work ethic seem typical of the band as a whole. When The Mulligan Brothers put together their “second chance” band in early 2013, it was with the mutual understanding that the music came first. All four agreed that “we wanted to play our original music and make a career out of it without selling (our) souls.” The band was willing to take a risk by playing their original music and slowly, methodically building a fan base, knowing that money would be tight and fame an unlikely bedfellow.

There must have been an incredible sense of awe, a deep sigh of relief, a deep-throated chuckle at the irony of their early results. The Mulligan Brothers’ eponymous debut was named “Alabama Album of 2013” by the Mod Mobilian. The band was invited to play an hour long set at the New Orleans Jazz Fest where that very same album was one of the event’s top ten sellers. The Brothers have since visited the Middle East and Africa to entertain U.S. troops, performed at Fenway Park, and attracted the interest of well known producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos)  for their sophomore record.

To what does the band attribute their near immediate success?  Fiddler Gram Rea explains, “I really think it’s hard work and communication.  We constantly regroup and ask how can we make it better.”  Everyone contributes; lead singer and guitarist Ross Newell is a prolific songwriter and works continuously on new songs.  Drummer Greg DeLuca can also play guitar; he sings harmony and handles all of the band’s social media.  Gram adds mandolin, harmonica and viola, as well as his voice to the mix.  His fiddle keeps feet moving.  His business skills keep the finances in line.  Bass player and harmony vocalist Ben Leininger also drives the tour bus.  Once a public transport shuttle, that bus has been stripped and refitted with bunk beds, flat screen TV, stocked refrigerator and four southern gentlemen, four brothers by choice.

Ben and Greg grew up together in Mobile, Alabama.  The pair were friends at school and have played music together since childhood.  Before The Brothers became a band, Ben and Greg were “The Free Agents”, an independent rhythm section available for hire.  Occasionally the Agents played as a trio with guitarist/vocalist Ross Newell.  On other nights, Ross played acoustic sets with Gram Rea who had recently moved to nearby Mississippi and often gigged in local clubs.  When The Free Agents joined the duo for a set of music it “was magical from the moment it started,” says Gram.

“We all had the same musical goal,” explains Rea. “We all loved Levon Helms, The Band, acoustic music from Bob Dylan.” There was an immediate chemistry on and off the stage leading the four to commit to a new project, one that would leverage their combined experience to build on the successes and avoid the failures of their previous bands. “Like a mulligan in golf,” says Gram, “a do-over, this was our second chance band.”

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Photos: @2014 The Mulligan Brothers

The band rehearses every Tuesday afternoon when The Mulligan Brothers rent a studio in Mobile for four hours. Every week they work on the songs – the melodies, the lyrics, the harmonies, a rare cover. “Lots of bands don’t do that,” says Gram, “they get lazy. I’ve been guilty of that – one of the lessons learned.” Many bands “get complacent”, content to book and rebook shows at the same venues. The Brothers are willing to gamble that their music will recruit fans in new markets. They are willing to lose money the first time through town to pack the house on their return. There has been more than one Guthrie, Oklahoma.

“We’re very blessed,” confirms Gram, that the band’s following continues to grow. Los Lobos member and respected producer Steve Berlin is among the fans who were impressed by the debut album. After hearing the music, Berlin made a quick call to the band’s manager to say “I want to produce their next album.” And he has.

The Mulligan Brothers’ sophomore album is planned for an early December 2014 release. The music was recently tracked in Portland, Oregon in the same studio used by indie rock band Modest Mouse. Berlin played an active role in studio through his clear vision for each song and his keen attention to detail. Not the right snare drum, try another; might need a nylon pick rather than plastic – the producer insisted on the best, the right sounds for every track. The music is now ready to be mixed; the artwork is in progress.

There are currently eleven tracks slated for the new, yet untitled acoustic album. Eleven original songs were written primarily by Ross Newell, but feature co-writes by other band members including Rea. A few of the songs may already be familiar to fans. Let Them Ring, a song about life on the road, and Bad Idea have been played at recent live shows. All four band members contribute vocals to the mix; on Bad Idea those harmonies build line by line to the end. The band’s instrumental skills shine; Gram alone plays fiddle, harmonica, mandolin and viola on the album. Producer Steve Berlin adds a few tasteful piano pieces.

“We’re doing honest music,” says Gram, “These are true and honest stories about real life experiences…honest music from the heart.” As with their first effort, the band has tried to stay way from “formulas set forth on the radio.” Confirms Rea, “We want to play our music even if it doesn’t mean a major deal. We just want a solid career that we can sustain for many, many years and a following that appreciates the music. It’s really about the music at the end of the day.” He admits that it’s a little scary to release a second album when the first was so well received, but “We’re very excited. There are some really great songs – you’re just going to have to wait and see!”

Taylor Hicks to Headline Asheville’s October 12th Country Music Super Fest

By Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog


Where else could country music fans find four outstanding examples of this genre and more on one stage in one night of performances? On October 12th, Asheville’s US Cellular Center provides the answer when the center presents American Idol winner and Broadway and Vegas veteran, Taylor Hicks, who will headline the Country Music Super Fest. Opening for Hicks will be three acts who are familiar to the local music scene. Austin Baze, a duo from Western North Carolina, Underhill Rose, a local, all-female Americana trio and Asheville songwriters Laura Michaels and Scott Raines will combine their talents before Taylor Hicks takes the stage.

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Outside

The October 12th Country Music Super Fest at Asheville’s US Cellular Center brings nationally and locally known talent to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium stage, one of four performance venues at the center. While most of the outdoor festivals held during the summer are winding down, the Country Music Super Fest maintains the flavor of the summer festivals at Asheville’s premiere community entertainment center. Holding over twenty-four hundred patrons, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is known for its premiere lighting and sound which will accentuate the voices and instrumentation heard onstage on October 12th.



Taylor Hicks will bring his soulful southern country style to the stage to end the night. One of the most beloved American Idol winners in the show’s history, Taylor went on to release two acclaimed albums, headlined solo tours in the US and Asia, starred on Broadway as Teen Angel in Grease and headlined his own show at Bally’s and the Paris casinos in Las Vegas. Preparing to soon release his new, highly anticipated country and blues album, Hicks has said of his new music that it will remind people of a mix of Zac Brown Band meets Jackson Browne. Working with Nashville songwriters and Nashville mega -producer Mickey Jack Cones on several tracks, the new album is slated to be a return to the Alabama native’s country roots.

Source: Taylor Hicks

Source: Taylor Hicks

Austin Baze is a long-time duo from the northwestern North Carolina region. Both Brian Buckner and Nick Gunter grew up with the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains influencing their music. Together since their days of singing in church as children, the duo is presently creating new music with producer Dave Fowler and cannot wait to share their new project with their fans.


Underhill Rose’s music personifies smooth harmonies, soul-touching lyrics and eye-catching stage presence and it has become synonymous with beautiful music, and, recently, increased momentum. The trio consists of Eleanor Underhill, Molly Rose, and Salley Williamson. After successfully raising funds through a crowd-funding campaign in 2013, the trio recorded their second album, the Cruz Cantreras (The Black Lillies), at Echo Mountain Recording Studios, which produced the single “Something Real”. Their music has been described as a heartfelt and fresh sound that blends their Americana, old country and rhythm and blues roots.


Laura Michaels and Scott Raines round out the opening acts at Country Music Super Fest. A songwriting team who perform separately and together in the lively Asheville music scene, Laura and Michael will entertain the Super Fest audience as a duo for this special event.


The Super Fest audience will be entertained by country musicians whose music runs the gamut from Americana to blues to old country and beyond. Plan to leave the show as a new fan of one, two, or more of the artists scheduled to perform. It’s all about country music and it’s ON at Asheville’s Country Music Super Fest on October 12th!



More information on all of the artists and where to buy tickets is at the links below:


Taylor Hicks

Austin Baze

Underhill Rose

Laura Michaels

Scott Raines

Nashville Songwriters Score a Hit with “Nashville to New York”

by Holley Dey, photography by Louise Uznanski      ©2014 On Tap Blog all rights reserved

Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman at the Cutting Room, NYC

Gary Burr & Georgia Middleman at the Cutting Room, NYC

Let’s cut right to the chase.  Kurt Vonnegut once said that a good story should start as close to the end as possible.  So here it is – The End, the take home message, the down and dirty truth, the not-so-secret skinny.  The next “Nashville to New York” show will be held on September 9, and you should be there.

You’ll earn a rare glimpse into the mechanics of songwriting and a short course in the business of music.  You’ll hear songs that were hits, and others that just missed, directly from the songwriters.  You’ll laugh, you’ll sing and you may wonder – wonder why the remarkable, clear-voiced talents seated on the stage do not own the voices that play on the radio and replay in your memory.

“Nashville to New York” is patterned after the writer-in-the-round sessions held at The Bluebird Cafe, the same venue celebrated by the ABC television series Nashville.   Singer-songwriters Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman are the hosts of the quarterly event, held at The Cutting Room in New York City.  At each show two invited guests join the hosts on stage; all four trade stories and share their original songs in intimate acoustic performances, supported by instrumentals and harmony vocals from the others.  At the most recent show on June 10, the hosts were joined by award winning songwriters Gretchen Peters and Dave Berg to play for a jam-packed room.

First up was Georgia who prefaced her performance of “I’m In” with a delightful story of patience and providence.  Co-written with Radney Foster fifteen years ago, the song found a limited audience on release.  A subsequent cover by The Kinleys was a minor hit, reaching #32 on the country charts, and that was enough for Middleman to replace her broken-down car with a used Honda CRV.  “I was so grateful,” said Georgia.  Fast forward ten years and the plate on an aging CRV would soon read RIP.  The songwriter raised an earnest prayer to the heavens, and Keith Urban recorded “I’m In”.  Can you say Toyota Prius?  Quipped Gary Burr, “I do think that the country charts shouldn’t be numbers; they should be automobiles!”

A vibrant performance followed the introduction.   Know this:  if Snow White had a brain and a song, she’d be Georgia Middleman.  Petite with dark curls, fair skin and a generous smile, Georgia’s size belies the strength of her voice and the depth of her talent.    Joined by husband Gary on backing guitar and vocals, the pair offered a spirited rendition of “I’m In”, proof positive that in this family the vocal and marital blends are equally melodic.

They share a  lived-in, homegrown repartee on stage.  “You might want to move your chair,” suggested Georgia.  “Hey, you might want to stop smothering me,” came the perfectly cheery response.  The hosts were the focus of attention, charming the audience with their good humor and storytelling.  Gary alternately played rhythm or lead guitar for his wife; each sang harmony for the other.

Gary was important to the pace and complexion of the show; he kept the jokes coming, his songs upbeat.  When Emmy winning songwriter and producer Victoria Shaw was recruited from the audience to perform, Burr was typically helpful.  As Victoria introduced her original co-write “The River”, Gary quickly stooped to pick up the name she’d dropped (Garth Brooks).

Gary’s own song selections included “To Be Loved by You”, co-written with Mike Reid and a #1 hit for singer Wynonna Judd.  It’s one of a few positive love songs that Burr has written, he says, dwarfed by the number of psycho killer love songs he’s penned.  “He loved her, he lost her, he hunted her down…”  And when the laughter died down, the song was delivered with an unanticipated tenderness and a vocal tone that left no doubt why the former electrician is also the former lead singer for Pure Prairie League, former vocalist/guitarist for Ringo Starr.

Seated to Burr’s left was singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters who owns a storyteller’s voice, beautifully expressive across a full dynamic range, delivering poetic lyrics of layered complexity.  Gretchen surprised with her introduction to “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” wondering aloud why the audience would want to hear hit songs.  “Don’t you hear those enough?!”  Ironically, the show had been billed as an evening of hit songs, but then Ms. Peters offered two highlights – a poignant performance of “The Matador” from 2012 album Hello Cruel World, and a newly recorded, yet unreleased song with a chorus that rocked lightly, “When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” that might very well be another hit.

Between the two ladies sat singer-songwriter Dave Berg.  Introduced as a rocker, Dave began his set with the low key “One Can Be a Lot,” a song that Dave says “never really stuck,” but that stuck like glue with the audience in New York.  “Just one sun lights the sky. Just one moon turns the tide. And man can change the world with just one thought. One promise made can last forever….. Yeah, sometimes one can be a lot.”  A laid-back delivery and a light rocker’s edge to his voice, Dave followed with two of his best known originals: “Stupid Boy” (Keith Urban) and “If You’re Going through Hell” (Rodney Atkins).  He also performed a tune he’d written with Mumford & Sons; Dave wasn’t quite sure if his c0-writer was Mumford or Sons…

Nearly two and a half hours of song and story, insight into songwriting and the music industry, and the opportunity to hear new music from Nashville’s most successful writers – all of this came for an advance ticket price of $15.  Guests for September’s “Nashville to New York” were not announced, but Gary and Georgia have promised “the best and brightest songwriters” at every New York show.   Two quick suggestions for the next in the series…. The titles of several songs performed and enjoyed at the June show were never shared with the audience.  Giving the product a name makes it easier for customers to later purchase that product from home. While the arrangement of chairs was likely intended to showcase their guests, seating the hosts together center stage would visually enhance the harmonies and banter.

At the audience’s insistence, “Nashville to New York” sang well beyond its scheduled finish.  If you’d like to know why, begin here and read up.  Read until you come to “The End” ; then stop.


Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman

Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman

Georgia Middleman

Georgia Middleman

Gary Burr, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman

Gary Burr, Gretchen Peters, Dave Berg, Georgia Middleman