Remember that time you couldn't believe you found such a great CD in the discount bin? This is like that, only it's a blog.
If you have never been to the Road to Bonnaroo competition, let me prepare you for what lays in store…
In a room packed full with the bands’ friends and family (and a few people just looking for some fun on a Friday night), Tom O’Connor seemed relaxed and easy. Strumming his acoustic guitar, he spilled his heart and soul out to the crowd as if we were all his best friends. Wearing a baseball cap, a button-down shirt and sipping on various alcoholic beverages he seemed every part the stereotypical country boy determined to make it Nashville.
O’Connor’s music, however, made it clear that he did not see himself as one of the wannabe artists that flood this city by the hundreds. Covering the song “Another Song Nobody Will Hear” by Will Hoge, O’Connor takes advantage of the lyrics to tell us that he does not want to write music that will necessarily make the Top 40 radio charts. While it is ironic that he uses someone else’s words to emphasize his desire to be different, one can understand his point. Not that O’Connor lacked original content - with songs like “Lie” and “When You Get Home”, he plays out his life story for the audience and immerses himself in his musical flashbacks. Ultimately, his songs are what most listeners hope for them to be – personal, but easily relatable and able to be interpreted to suit the listener’s needs.
When Marjory Lee took the stage, she seemed perfectly at home and in her element. Her personality is endearingly goofy. She has no problem cracking jokes and teasing the staff (“Also, be really nice to Joseph…he’s the worst bartender I have ever met in my entire life and I love him so much…He’s just not that good”).
Lee’s self-proclaimed genres include pop, soul and rock, but I would easily put her in the soul category simply due to the passion in her vocals. True to this genre, Lee performed a cover of “I Will Survive” with Clark Singleton of The Heavy Heavy Hearts and made it her own. Not even aware of what song it was until the chorus, I was struck by Lee’s reconstruction of the track. She sang the lyrics as if they were written specifically for her. This is no easy feat with a song as well known and liked as “I Will Survive.”
To say that Lee is talented would be an understatement. This is not a woman who thinks she is a good artist; this is a woman who knows she is, and she wants you to know it, too. Despite bringing Singleton up on stage with her, all eyes were on Lee as this funky girl in a brightly colored sweater belted out the lyrics to songs like “Shake It Off” and “Criminal Kinda Love.” Charismatic, talented and quirky, Marjory Lee has all the appeal that a professional artist should have.
Beau James (featuring The Heavy Heavy Hearts)
Men in their 50s wandered by me wearing Lynyrd Skynyrd hats and worn Pabst t-shirts and I thought, “Well, this will be interesting.” Beau James, dressed in a black T, jeans and sporting black hair that, while swiped to the side, hung in his face, hopped up on stage and introduced himself. Clark Singleton was to accompany him on bass, and with that they launched into the first song of the set.
James’ influences were clear during his performance. Jack White, Skynyrd, B.B. King, Eric Clapton…the list goes on of who has impacted him in some way, shape or form musically. With a voice packed full of emotion, Beau James (also known as Beau Wigington) doesn’t just sing his songs – he truly feels them, which is evident in his performance. Confidence strikes through the core of a tune about hitting on a girl at the bar; sadness drips off of each lyric describing having to sell off a beloved guitar to pay the bills. James’ voice seems to be a combination of Jack White’s pitch and Marcus Mumford’s raspy-ness thrown in with a distinct style that is all his own.
It was when James invited his band mates from The Heavy Heavy Hearts (self described as “The Rock n Roll equivalent of fighting a bear) to join him on stage, though, that the night took a truly passionate turn. While Beau James clearly has more talent in his pinky finger than most of the Nashville wannabes have in their whole body, the members of this four-piece band proved that they will blow away any crowd. With a very Mumford & Sons-styled performance, Beau James, Clark Singleton, Ralph Alexander and Anthony Mancini inspire fans to commit the band’s show schedule to memory. I know I will have their next show marked down in my calendar.
Tom O’Connor: www.tomoconnormusic.com
Marjory Lee: http://www.marjorylee.com
Beau James: https://www.facebook.com/beauwigingtonblues
The Heavy Heavy Hearts: http://theheavyheavyhearts.com