The highlight of the day was our host, Delbert McClinton, who bolstered his rockin’ 20-song set with onstage guests. Tried-and-true hits alternated with songs from his new album with Glen Clark, Blind Crippled and Crazy, out by the pool for about two hours. McClinton’s joie de vivre evidenced itself throughout, but “Honey Can You Squeeze Me In,” “When Rita Leaves” and “Peace in the Valley Since You’ve Been Gone,” with Glen Clark reached a little higher than ten for me. The ever-clever lyricist turned earnest with the closer, “Love Ain’t No Good ‘Til You Give It Away.”
Elmore’s contest to win a cruise rested heavily on a band’s fan base; the bigger the better. Pat Grice, a Delbert McClinton and Paul Thorn fan earned herself a trip, but each band onboard has a loyal following.
Here’s Richard Nickle, front and center, at the Band of Heathens’ set, proving our point.
The next day started off with a trip to town, where some shopped, some drank, some tanned and some, like me, took to the crystal Caribbean to feed the fish. Catching the last tender back to the Pearl, we caught Leroy Parnell, who slung his country guitar with the best of them, and showed us what Jackson Browne songs would have sounded like if Browne were from Texas. We ran into Chuck Cannon in the audience at the Songwriters’ Showcase where his wife, Lari White, emceed. Cannon looked happy and well-put together, finally dressed in clean clothes from his lost luggage, delivered on day four.
Richard Thompson, again in the big room, convinced me that he is the best guitarist out there today, and possibly the best I’ve ever seen. His trio performed an extended jam that blew the house away entirely. Yesterday, at the songwriters’ session, I was sure the guitarists in the group would suffer mass neck injuries as they contorted themselves trying to see what the heck Thompson was doing during his solos.
I stopped by Lucas Nelson to see what all the girls were talking about—Willie’s heartthrob son projects well onstage and has a lovely voice in addition to his good looks.
Elizabeth Cook is more complex: a model’s looks, pure country vocals, a straight-ahead rockin’ band, singer/songwriter lyrics and wry, funny anecdotes about her songs throughout her show keep in-the-know audiences tuned in to Cook’s performances, and this was no exception.
Paul Thorn delivered a knockout punch late in the evening with a smoking set punctuated by his incomparable stories from his past and present. Thorn’s a sho’ nuff family man, and he led into one tune with a wry story about his wife, Heather, flirting with Nashville DJ Billy Block in the line to the boat. Block—who’s writing Elmore’s Good Seats column on the Ryman Auditorium for the upcoming issue— stepped onstage to dance with Heather. Thorn was almost upstaged by his 20-year-old daughter Kit, who stepped up to solo “Every Little Bit Hurts,” knocking it out of the park. That girl has talent, and a future.