Nashville Notes

In addition to catching Lucas Nelson + POTR at the Ryman, we saw a bunch of other great music, here’s a run down. This doesn’t include any details about the killer guitar shops we checked out, I’ll try to write some of those notes up.

My nephew and I landed in Nashville, dropped our bags at the hotel and took an Uber downtown to see what’s what. We lucked out getting picked up by an Uber driver who was a flatpicker/bluegrasser and he dropped a lot of local knowledge on us, all of which turned out to be spot-on.

The best intel he gave us was about Robert’s Western World. Robert’s seems to be Broadway’s last true showcase for great country players.

Our first taste of this was when we walked in to Robert’s and heard a pedal steel player playing with the Paul Kramer band. Super high level of musicianship from everyone on stage.

Kelley’s Heroes/Luke McQueary

The real mindblower came the next night at Robert’s when we encountered Kelley’s Heroes. We didn’t know it at the time but the name stems from the players having all come out of Don Kelley’s band. Kelley’s band was a Nashville institution that churned out a string of amazing guitar players including folks like Brent Mason and Daniel Donato.

Luke McQueary was the guitarist we saw with Kelley’s Heroes at Robert’s. Luke was Don’s last guitar player (this video is Luke talking a lot about what he learned from Don and it is all gold if you’re a guitar player). We all recognized that we were seeing something really extraordinary in how this cat was playing his tele. Thumbpick + great blues chops + killer Tele tone. So great watching this guy play. Every note was compelling, we will all be keeping our eyes on this guy, he’s something for sure. Check him out doing Ghost Riders in the Sky to get a flavor for his sound.

Don is a fascinating guy who shaped so much of the telecaster sound that is currently associated with country/americana, this long video interview is totally worth checking out. If you’re so inclined, every player that’s come through Don Kelley’s band is worth checking out here are a few:

  • Guthrie Trapp (I took some online lessons with Guthrie. Great player.)
  • Brent Mason
  • David Byrd
  • Paul Cook
  • Sid Hudson
  • Johnny Hiland
  • Daniel Donato
  • JD Simo

Stuie French and Rory Hoffman

Wendy Newcomer’s band brought a slightly more chill vibe to the Robert’s daytime stage. The band had Stuie French on Telecaster and Rory Hoffman on everything. First, Stuie. Man, this guy was coaxing the most pedal-steel sounds out of his telecaster, working the chord voicing to mimic 6th chords and the volume swells, dude knew where it was at. We knew Stuie was a monster but it wasn’t until we got home that we realized he’d played with a whole bunch of great players like Tommy Emmanuel .

We also straight away took notice of Rory Hoffman. It was clear that Rory is blind and we were just totally blown away by his playing on accordion and singing and then when he laid a guitar across his lap he just lit us up with his chops. Here’s a video of Rory backing up Sierra Ferrell.

There’s a whole lot of material on YouTube about Rory, but this video of him playing just about every instrument you can think of at a house concert is really worth watching.

Wyatt Ellis Grand Old Opry

We went to the Grand Old Opry with the point of seeing Sierra Ferrel and Sierra Hull. Neither disappointed. But the real show stopper was this 14-year-old kid making his Opry debut. I can’t find a video of his first song, but here’s the second song he did when her called Sierra Hull up to join him on stage.

One place we didn’t get to go to was Acme Feed and Seed Next time!