Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Troubadour Wears A Derby Hat
Dennis and Brenda Kippa

By now, readers of this column know that our favorite thing to do is to go see live music and find out about the people who play it and love it like we do.

But we've been keeping a secret “favorite thing to do” since February of this year, and it's within this part of our lives that we found the jewel that we're going to share with you this week.

Every Friday, we bake cakes or cookies, and bag them up in a giant bag. And on Saturday, we make the short journey to Lindale, Texas, where we unload our bag for the fine folks who live at the Care Center there. For the first hour, we all devour the goodies we've brought, while we listen to music. The second hour is for Bingo, which we've discovered is the universally most-loved game for those who are limited in some way by their health problems. Dennis “calls” the game, and Brenda helps anyone who needs it and passes out the winnings. For this two hours each week, everyone has the opportunity to experience an attitude adjustment, if one is needed, or to dump any stress that lingers after their routine-filled week. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to find that we are the ones who experience the most profound changes and amazing joy, but surprise us it did. We adore the new friends we've made there.

What's that you say? This column is about the music? Oh yes, of course! Enter Steve Fuqua, who makes his journey each week from Alba, Texas. He's there not for money or recognition, but because he wants to be there. This singer/songwriter, art teacher, fisherman, actor and all-around good guy is affiliated with Sentimental Journey, which is a ministry of sorts that brings live music to care centers and nursing homes. We've been lucky enough to experience his music and the ever-ready twinkle in his eyes almost every week since about March or April of this year. Mixing his own songs with many of the great standards that everyone remembers, Steve often surprises us by launching in to the lesser-known songs that we have found along the way but never thought we would hear again. His delivery is always heart-felt and appropriate for the occasion and the song. This is probably not an easy task at times, with the constant distractions that are always present in this setting, but Steve keeps his “eye on the ball” and delivers the song every time. A resident thinks this is a karaoke opportunity and doesn't even know the words? No problem. Steve handles these situations with grace and calm. We were especially entertained this past weekend, when a resident began singing along with one of Steve's original songs. By now, he has performed it so often that is sounds like what it (hopefully) will be one day – an old standard.

We happened to meet up with Steve one evening when we were attending a performance by another band. It was then that we discovered that he operates as a junior-high school art teacher in his “day job”, and that his is an actor and a drummer in addition to being the accomplished guitar player and singer that we already knew about. We also learned that he has fought cancer twice in the past decade and he's still standing and still singing.

You can listen to Steve's music online, at ReverbNation/Steve Fuqua. If you're in a crowded place sometime, and you see a guy in a derby hat, check him out. If he has a special twinkle about him, chances are it's Steve Fuqua. And if it is, tell him we said hello, and remind him that he is appreciated for what he does.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

                                            The Mike McClure Band Does It Their Way

                                                          Dennis and Brenda Kippa

 Always looking for new music, we were listening to various artists on
the music player “Spotify” when we heard our first song by Mike
McClure. It was a remake of “Into The Mystic”, which is a decades-old
song by Van Morrison.  This song is what Brenda refers to as her
“all-time favorite song in the whole universe”,  and remakes of it
have fallen far short, according to her.  However, the version by Mike
McClure was as good as it gets (other than the original), and it
really won us over. We immediately sent for all three available CDs
and marked our calendar for the first chance we could find to catch
him in concert.  We knew we had found another amazing artist.

 Mike's sound is a little bit country and a whole lot of rock and
roll. The music industry puts a
label on this blend of music, calling it Red Dirt music.

Mike McClure was originally part of a band called The Great Divide.
They recorded many albums, which won rave reviews and kept them
touring heavily during the 90's.  As a front man, Mike was said to
give great performances every time they played. But as the story is
told, this is the part where the band's management company hired a new
producer to “take them to the next level”. The first thing the
producer did was change the sound of the band, which proved to be a
horrendous mistake.  As soon as the first CD was released, the fans
heard the difference in the sound and did not like it. Worse still,
Mike McClure did not like it, either.  He was not happy that the band
had given up the sound that had brought them to the dance.

The ensuing turmoil led to the breakup of The Great Divide and Mike
went out on his own.  Eventually,  he formed The Mike McClure Band and
they set off to reclaim the Red Dirt music that they and their fans
had been missing. Ironically, along the way Mike had also started to
produce music for a number of other artists, being careful not to make
the same mistakes that his old producer had made.

The band consists of Mike McClure on vocals and guitar, Tom Skinner on
bass,  and Eric Hansen on drums.  Their first album together, released
in 2005, was called “Camelot Falling”.  The previously-mentioned “Into
The Mystic” is on this one. In 2010, they released not one, but two
albums,  “Halfway Out Of The Woods” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, both of
which were produced by Joe Hardy. Hardy also contributed vocals,
keyboards and guitar to several cuts. All three albums utilized guest
musicians to give each song the full measure of McClure's vision for
the songs he penned.

Our opportunity to see the band perform came this past weekend in
Idabell, Oklahoma.  On the two hour trip to the venue, we listened to
all three CDs all the way there.  As is often the case with performers
that are new to us, we arrived still uncertain exactly what to expect.

The place was completely full of eager Mike McClure fans. Clearly,
most had been following his career for a long time. Those sitting next
to us used the extra time by telling us their favorite stories about
the band and their music.

At the appointed time,  in walks a scruffy-looking bald guy, wearing a
scruffy white t-shirt, bermuda shorts and tennis shoes. This was our
man, Mike McClure.   A fan sitting next to us leaned in and explained
with a big grin, “that's the way he always looks”.  After a
sound-check that seemed more like a part of the performance, the band
launched into a wild ride of a show.  We didn't know all of the songs,
but we didn't need to. A highlight for us was provided by bass player,
 Tom Skinner. Sitting on a stool in a darkened part of the stage,
Skinner quietly played his bass all through the show.  When it was his
turn to step up to the mike, an eruption of crazy applause welcomed
him.  We can't tell you what he sang, although it was so wonderful
that we were moved to record the performance with our video camera.
Even in listening to it again, the title escapes us; however it was so
earnestly and beautifully delivered, with lyrics so moving... well,
this is why we go to these things, folks.

We feel safe in reporting that everyone was thoroughly entertained.
There's no doubt about that at all. But when the end of the show
arrived, they simply exited the stage. No “goodbye”, no “thanks for
coming”, no nothing. The lights came on and they were gone.  No need
to shout for more;  it was over.  Hey, it was his show. He cut up and
joked with the audience all the way through.  We loved him, same as
everyone else who was there. We got the idea that this time around,
Mike McClure is doing it for the sake of the music and for those who
love it the way he does.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013



Dennis and Brenda Kippa

It's Brenda again this week, and I've been thinking.....

This week, we aren't profiling a band. We want to talk about the fans
of Americana Music – which, of course, includes ourselves.

Readers of this column over the past few weeks may have begun to
realize that a couple of things seem to be true about us. Number One:
We don't write about anyone we don't love to listen to. And (Number
Two), we are what some people refer to as “old”. Those readers are
right on both counts.

The reason you won't read a bad write-up in this column is simple. If
we don't like the music, hopefully we don't go in the first place. And
the part about being “old” gives us an attitude that we don't want to
waste any of our remaining time with any performances that we don't

Actually,“enjoy” might be an insufficient word here. My belief is that
musical talent is a gift from a higher power, and therefore it can be
either a healing experience or a damaging one when we listen to it.
(Depending on which “higher power” bestowed the gift).

I suppose that we both knew that we might not see many people who
looked like ourselves in the venues where live music is found, but we
didn't dwell on it, and we didn't expect it to be a problem.  And it
hasn't been.  However, it has been amusing at times.

Once, we were being asked for our identification by a door person who
had probably been told “no exceptions” to the policy that keeps
underage drinking from being allowed. As we fumbled for our licenses,
a manager stepped in and said “they're okay” and “right this way,
sir”, and showed us to our seats. At first, we thought we had been
mistaken for “somebody”, but on further thought we realized that we
had just been profiled on the basis of age. It was a great laugh.

Another time, we were at the door to pay our way in to a concert by a
26-year-old performer. The person at the door asked us if we didn't
mean to come the next night, when the legendary Ray Wylie Hubbard
would be performing. We explained that we had already seen Hubbard
recently (great show!), and we were halfway through the show before we
realized that we had been age-profiled again... but wait, there's
more! When writing to the venue the next morning to offer a
5-thumbs-up review, Dennis decided to share the story of what happened
at the door. Having only communicated via e-mail to that point, Dennis
was shocked when the manager told him that SHE was the person at the
door. At that point, there was a full round of laughter, and she
insisted that dinner would be on the house on our next visit.

We've found that the music world is full of exceedingly nice people.
And being the oldest ones is not so bad at all. Even though it still
holds that most people at the events we attend are 20-something and
30-something, we have discovered that a much younger audience is
waiting in the wings.

You may recall that in our first column, we told you about Uncle
Lucius, and hoped you would mark your calendar for an event in
downtown Tyler on Sept. 7th, called the East Texas All-Star Revue.
Everything about the event was beyond expectations, including the
cooler-than-usual temperatures and the gentle breeze that stayed with
us 'till the end. There were a total of 8 bands on 2 stages, plus lots
of other things going on in the blocked-off downtown area. Uncle
Lucius was the headliner, so they took the main stage from about 11:30
until the city-mandated lights-out time of 1:00 AM.

What amazed and delighted us was the extra dimension to the fans
gathered below the raised stage, right in front of the band. A large
percentage of them were young kids – ages 12 to 13 and under. And
where did they all come from? We hadn't noticed them before Lucius
took the stage.

By now, surely you know that we really, really do enjoy and admire
Lucius. In addition to being totally amazing and entertaining
musicians, they are completely decent human beings – the kind who do
good things and don't talk about it. In going to see them anytime they
are within driving distance from home, we have also come to recognize
and appreciate their fans. From the first time we saw them perform, we
were slack-jawed by the way the fans knew every word to every song and
seemed to even have certain gestures that they did in unison. At first
we thought that this was the new face of audiences in general (which
was very intimidating to imagine), but we came to understand that this
bunch of people seem to truly be a breed apart; they are Lucius fans.
After all, who lets their 12-and-under kids attend a concert until 1
AM in an outdoor area?

The answer is Uncle Lucius fans, as long as it's Lucius the kids are
listening to. The parents know that there is no danger of lewd lyrics
or behavior, yet they also know that their kids will have full
bragging rights the next day as they talk to their friends, because
Uncle Lucius is cool - that's universally understood – and so are
their fans. We imagine that the fans who are parents are betting that
Uncle Lucius' unique quality of GOODness will be sufficiently
attractive and contagious to provide a lesson while the kids aren't
even aware they're being taught.

This much is certain: we have seen the happy faces of young people who
are being totally entertained – and they were listening to “Americana”
music. Forget “country”; most of it has jumped into the gutter. We
propose a new bumper sticker: “Real Rockers Go American

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wesley Pruitt Band Revue

                                                    Rockin' With The Wesley Pruitt Band                                              
                                                         Dennis and Brenda Kippa

It's not often you go to a grocery store to listen to a band, but that's what we did.  Maybe it sounds strange, but hear me out. There is a new store called "Fresh By Brookshire's", located on Old Jacksonville Highway in Tyler.  They advertise that you can buy nearly anything exotic in the food arena. That's quite impressive, and it might even be true, but what I want to mention is what's outside, on the East side of the building. It's a huge patio with tables, chairs and a bar, where a simple food and drink menu is offered.  In the late afternoon, this area is graced with shade from the setting sun, and if you're lucky, you might catch a nice breeze, too. A place does not get much better than that... until the band arrives!

The Wesley Pruitt Band is very local, with most of the trio coming out of the Canton area.  I can best describe their music as rockin' blues
with a lot of a soul, mixed with a dab of Americana, along with a bunch of Hendricks and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Wesley’s licks are a sight to see. I've never seen hands move so fast on a six string.

The band is made up of Wesley Pruitt, Jr. on lead vocals and lead guitar, with Joe Drew on bass and vocals and Chris Oliver on drums and vocals. Occasionally, one or two more musicians are added, as was the case on the night we saw them.

Onstage, Wesley is a mover and a shaker.  He pulls you into the music with his strong vocals and outstanding guitar playing. He is clearly determined to get the audience stomping, clapping and singing along with him. This band can cover most any tune -  from Hank Williams to the Rolling Stones - and they do it with their own great style.  Just when you realize that you are being completely wowed and entertained, the trio adds some of Wesley's own songs to the mix. "Cheatin' Woman Blues", "Thief In The Night", and "Poor Man's Blues" - these are some of Wesley's songs, any they all sit comfortably with the standards he's been playing all evening.

By going to their website on ReverbNation you can listen to many of Wesley Pruitt's songs, and they have some of their videos posted there also. To find where they're playing and other information, Facebook is the best resource. They are becoming regulars at Moore's Store in Ben Wheeler.
Moore's is probably our favorite venue; the food and ambiance is great, and the drive from Wood County is full of peaceful East Texas sights. If you start your drive before the sun sets, you can take it all in and by the time you get there, you have left any stress behind and you have plenty of time for a leisurely meal before the music begins.

There's no need to go to Dallas.  We've got it all right here in East Texas. Enjoy!

If you have comments or questions, e-mail us at easttexasmusicscene1@yahoo.com.