Second Fiddle, June 6, 2003:
My wife Kathy and I arrive in Nashville, Tennessee in the late afternoon of Friday, June 6. This is our very first visit to Nashville. We had little idea what we were coming into with this major country music event scheduled for this weekend, Fan Fair 2003. As Kathy and I tried to navigate through town to our hotel, we are overwhelmed at all the people and Kathy exclaims, “look at all the hats!” After checking in, we walk downtown as it starts to rain. After inquiring, we realize we have missed almost half of Fan Fair 2003. We walk around in awe and try to look in some of the totally overflowing clubs. Kathy directs me to Second Fiddle. Although the bar is filled, we can at least get inside the front door.
Second Fiddle is located at 420 Broadway. This seems to be among many bar venues to enjoy country music. Kathy and I stand near the bandstand and relax for the first time in this brand new environment. I figure this is a great place to begin my music reviews of Fan Fair 2003 club locations. Kathy has a beer and I have a soda as I start to get situated and take my notes.
Clay Canfield and his band are performing here at Second Fiddle. Clay Canfield has an immediately warm and embracing personality. He introduces the tune as an old Floyd Cramer song, “Last Date.” This instrumental song has a moderate 4/4 tempo. Clay embellishes the soothing melody with a nice melodic guitar lead on his white Telecaster. There is an excellent fiddle solo.
The next song features bassist Alan Tompkins on lead vocals, “Oh Lonesome Me.” This is an upbeat swing tempo with good harmonies and tight 2/4-time snare work by the drummer. Clay takes a tasty lead guitar break followed by an excellent fiddle solo.
Clay introduces the band:
Fiddle: Jim Unger
Drums: Chip Heart
Bass: Alan Tompkins
Vocals, Guitar: Clay Canfield.
The overflowing audience enthusiastically cheers for each musician.
The next song is a Johnny Cash tune, “Folsom Prison.” Bassist Alan Tompkins is again solid on the lead vocals with a snappy 2/4-swing tempo on the snare by Chip Heart. There is another great fiddle solo and an excellent Telecaster solo by Clay. Kathy notices Clay’s publicist nearby and gives me the heads up. I introduce myself to Polly and tell her I am doing a review of the show. Polly is immediately friendly and welcoming and gives me her card and Clay’s CD, The White House Session. Polly is engaging and positive toward me and this enables me to relax and feel at home, here in these new musical surroundings. As I continue to take notes, Polly stops by to chat and help me with information necessary to get the facts straight. Thank you Polly! This kind person is Polly Waters, Clay’s manager. Yahoo!!
The next tune is an old song by Marty Robbins, recorded on Clay's first record, “Ribbon of Darkness.” This is a bright swing tune with a happy country walkin’ bass. Clay executes nice finger style and pickin’ together on his guitar. Clay emanates genuine warmth and feeling. He is a cowboy’s cowboy being handsome, talented and gentile. Clay makes you feel comfortable and welcome. He brings you into the fold and envelops you with musical charm, tradition and wit.
The next song is a Hank Williams’ tune, “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You).” This is a soothing country serenade that is performed slow and easy with deep emotion. The fiddle solo by Jim is sweet and full. Next is a Buck Owens’ tune, “Life’s Gonna’ Live Here Again.” This is an upbeat swing. The drummer, Chip Heart, employs the reverse stick on the snare and succinct triplets on the closed hi-hat.
The next song is a Hank Williams’ tune, “Jumbalaya (On The Bayou).” This tune is powered by a groovin’ snare shuffle, it’s party time! There is a nice walkin’ bass and thoughtfully phrased fiddle accompaniment. Next is, “Bring It On Home To Me.” The drummer uses the reverse stick and hi-hat to keep the drums sharp and tight. This song has excellent lifting spirit and the band is solid and together. Clay takes an excellent solo on his guitar with nice sustain and echo effects. Jim takes two excellent heart wrenching fiddle solos.
The next song, “That’s What I Like About You,” is sung by a female vocalist who joins regularly, Linda Sue Baker. Linda’s voice is strong and clear. Clay takes a challengingly fast lead break on his guitar. This solo displays his pickin’ chops readily. “Walkin’ After Midnight” is Clay’s next choice. The tempo is slow with a nice fiddle intro. This is a sincere ballad. Jim plays an excellent fiddle solo. Linda Sue performs superior lead vocals here. “Someday Soon” is next, which is a slow 4/4 ballad. The fiddle is sweet and sincere. The band is right on the money, together, and speaks as one. Clay embellishes the melody on lead guitar. Jim’s fiddle solo demonstrates nice vibrato on the sustained melodic notes. Linda Sue’s vocal performance is powerful and confident, robust and balanced.
The next song is from Johnny Winter, called “Dallas.” This composition has a ballsy intro and strong, down 4/4 tempo. The slide guitar is tasteful, dynamic and excellent. Clay’s vocal is a tribute to Johnny and he plays an excellent guitar solo. The fiddle solo is strong and emotional. Kathy and I dance while I continue to take photographs.
A second talented female vocalist joins Clay’s band to sing three tremendous tunes. Judy Snyder sings a country ballad, “This Heart Of Mine.” Judy picks up the beat and dynamic level with Elvis’ song, “Let’s Rock.” This version is spirited and the fiddle solo is excellent. The third song from Judy is an upbeat cowboy song in the key of G, “Don’t Try To Rope A Cowboy.” Judy is from Kerryville, Texas and puts on a gutsy cameo performance with charisma and true spontaneity.
Clay resumes lead vocal duties on a Jeff Brady tune, “He’ll Have To Go.” This is a country waltz in a slow staggered ¾ tempo. Clay plays the traditional country music. Next is a Harland Harold (pretend to go to Cancun) composition, “I Fall To Pieces.” This song has an island inflection 4/4 tempo with the drummer using the reverse stick to accommodate the distinctive island style. Jim plays an excellent fiddle solo using triplets to demonstrate his experienced and accomplished chops. Clay plays a sweet and sincere guitar solo. The band boogies into a hard-edged number, “Baby What You Want Me To Do.” Clay plays a super twangy pickin’ lead on his Telecaster. Jim plays an excellent fiddle solo with melodic flourishes and arpeggio bursts. Clay plays a medley next of, “Bright Lights, Big City” that segways into, “Kansas City.”
A third female vocalist steps up to join the band. She is Laura Ford from Fort Worth, Texas. She sings, “Lovesick Texas Blues,” in the key of C. This is a shuffle with a twist. Laura employs a strong and sincere vocal style that is enhanced by a yodeling delivery that complements her singing immensely. Laura possesses an embraceable down home style that is something different and unique. It is sung from the heart and very genuine. Laura further demonstrates her talent and charm with her next song, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” This is a tune has a solid 4/4 tempo with a strong vocal delivery. Although on stage very briefly, Laura makes a huge impression. Her singing is genuine and sincere. Laura's quality vocals exude deep-rooted traditional family values that radiate from her facial gestures, body language and confident delivery.
The last song from Clay is one he wrote for Waylon Jennings, “You Seen My Face But Never Known My Name.” The drummer, Chip Heart, plays double time hi-hat and a big fat back beat on the snare. Clay plays strong slide guitar and the fiddle is spirited and lively and plays a double time solo to further demonstrate a superior proficiency on the instrument. There is a fiddle and drum feature passage with nice unison accents to the finale of the song. This is a very strong ending to a great set of music.
Clay Canfield is excellent. He is a great singer and guitarist and weaves a story with each song he sings. Clay’s band is fantastic. Each of the guest vocalists are tremendous and add a nice touch to the musical scene. I speak to Laura Ford afterwards and she is warm and lovely. I get an individual photograph of her and she will send a CD for me to listen to.
After the set is completed, I get a few moments to speak to Clay. I tell him I am from New York and he recalls a personal story for me.
Clay: “I lived in New York during 1966-1967, on 34 west 76th street. I paid $22.00 a week for my accommodations and my roommate was Herve Villechaize.”
Clay’s warm and genuine personality is keenly evident. He is a true musical cowboy in the likeness of Gene Autry. He is easy to talk to and his kindness and gentle demeanor shines through in his performance. What a tremendous introduction to Nashville. I leave the club elated, inspired and invigorated. We certainly made the right choice to finally come out to Nashville, Tennessee to experience country music first hand.
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