Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Time Jumpers at the Station Inn

If you don't know anything about the reputation of The Station Inn for providing great music in an intimate setting it would be easy to drive past this building, even if you happened to be in the neighborhood.  Located at 402 12th Street South in downtown Nashville, The Station Inn hosts live music nightly in Nashville, and it's the premier bluegrass place in Music City.  From the outside, you probably wouldn't choose to stop, but go on in, pay the cover, and figure on enjoying a great evening of live music.  

The room is pretty dark with a low stage in the front, a small bar off to the side, and tables crowded in as tight as they can be.  The menu is simple: soft drinks, beer, pizza and popcorn...and that's about it.  The crowd is friendly, often the people at The Station know each other, and the music is exceptional. Here's a look at next month's schedule.  

The Bar

We had been hearing about The Time Jumpers for some time and knew that they have a regular gig at The Station Inn on Monday nights.  The band, composed of a regular core of noted Nashville studio musicians and a couple of stars from country music, plays western swing music sounding much like that pioneered by Bob Wills during the 1930's and into the 1950's.  The music is melodic, swinging dance music which entertained in dance halls, on the radio, in recordings, and on film for several decades.  This group gets together and jumps time by musically taking listeners back to a simpler time.  Wills is credited with adding electric guitar and steel guitar to country music, and his bands were wildly popular.  The audience was generally older, but a sprinkling of younger people suggested a lively audience for this classic music that grew out of Texas into a national craze.  Apparently, Wills' music lost favor when it fell between the emerging genre lines represented by Country & Western music and commercial pop.  

The Time Jumpers

The Time Jumpers build on the Texas swing tradition, singing many of the songs made famous by the swing western swing bands of the thirties and forties and creating new ones with that sound and feel.  Led on stage by Kenny Sears, the band provides listeners with the kind of tuneful, joyful music and mix of instruments not frequently heard today, creating nostalgia for older fans and a new and exciting musical experience for others. A signature element of The Time Jumpers sound is the careful use of triple fiddles, pedal steel guitar, electric guitars, and, yes, the accordion.  Brought together, it provides music ideal for dancing, even though there's none of that at the Station Inn.  

Kenny Sears

Trained as a classical violinist, Kenny Sears spent some time playing for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  Through a variety of circumstances he began playing in dance bands in Texas and eventually moved to Nashville where he spent a dozen years playing with Mel Tillis' band.  As with most of the Time Jumpers, Kenny has had extensive experience as a studio musician in Nashville and played in a number of situations both on the road and in the studio.
Dawn Sears

Hailing from Grand Forks, ND, Dawn Sears sang from childhood and met Kenny in 1987.  They married and he spent a good deal of time helping develop her career as a singer.  Her voice oozes authenticity and conviction as she sings of lost love and broken hearts with classic country simplicity.  She sang backup with Vince Gill on the road and continues to record while also pursuing other business interests.
Ranger Doug Green, Dawn Sears, Joe Spivey

Ranger Doug has had a long career as a founding member of the storied Riders in the Sky, long time members of the Grand Ol Opry and winners of numerous awards.  He toured with Bill Monroe as a member of his Blue Grass Boys during his junior and senior years at the University of Michigan, during which time he committed himself to music.  The Riders in the Sky have appeared over 5600 times during the past 35 years.  Ranger Doug writes that the appeal of the Time Jumpers, for him, is their lack of ego as the create the wonderful ensemble they are.  Joe Spivey tours with country singer John Anderson and is a sought after session player.

Vince Gill

A large, shambling man in a knit shirt, Bermuda shorts, and flip flops got up on the stage and started tuning his guitar.  Vince Gill was in the house.  Gill is a genuine member of country music royalty.  His musical life began with bluegrass, which he has neve completely left despite his huge success as a country music singer and musician,  making him a well-loved figure among bluegrass fans.  Vince Gill has sold over 22 million albums and won 20 Grammy awards, more than any other male country singer.  With the Time Jumpers, he's a member of the band.  During the two sets he took his share of vocal solos, played wonderful guitar solos, sang harmony, and played backup. It's truly interesting to see a great star function as an effective sideman. 

Jerry Krahn

Jeff Taylor
Paul Franklin

Paul Franklin began his Nashville career playing for Barbara Mandrell and toured with Mel Tillis and Jerry Reed.  He's a noted innovator on the lap and pedal steel guitars as well as having invented several variations on the instruments.  He's been given the Country Music Association award as Best Steel Guitarist several times and performed on over 500 albums in a number of genres.  He's one of the most sought after session musicians in Nashville. 
Dennis Crouch

I chatted briefly with Dennis last evening at The Station Inn.  We talked about a performance of his with Tim O'Brien we'd seen at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in New York a few years ago.  He said he'd be missing IBMA to go on tour with Elvis Costello before linking up with Elton John for a tour.  That's the kind of musical breadth found in Dennis Crouch.  He's one of the very best and most reliable bass men around.

Rick Vanaugh played drums very capably, but I was unable to get a good angle for a picture due to the dense crowd.  If you go to the Station Inn to see the Time Jumpers, be sure to get there early.  I was sorry to miss seeing Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, as he's one of the very best around and a fiddler we've seen play bluegrass, especially at Musicians Against Childhood Cancer held in Columbus, OH in late July.  If you decide to attend a Monday show of the Time Jumpers you might see several different players in the band, as at any time members might be on tour or out of town for some other reason.  Also, I'm told you never know who might show up to sit in on any given day.  The Time Jumpers provide a wonderful musical experience, and the cover charge is a mere $15.00.  The Station Inn is open seven evenings a week with some regulars and plenty of special performances.  Next time you're in Nashville, be sure to stop in to sample the music.  You'll want to come again.

Vince Gill

The Time Jumpers
Yodler's Blues