songwriters. The Dyer Observatory is Vanderbilt University’s teaching
observatory. Put the two together and you have a unique mix of music and
astronomy, and that’s what the Bluebird Cafe at the Dyer does. Last night was
the first in the summer series and it was a choice experience.
What could be better than listening to great music and looking at the stars? Well, for my interests, not much. And last night as a gift from my wife and daughter we did just that in a series unique to Nashville. The famed Bluebird Cafe , a showcase for established and up-and-coming songwriters, and the Dyer Observatory of Vanderbilt University paired up for an evening picnic concert on the lawn. Nothing could have been more enjoyable.
Tricia Walker, Karen Staley and Ashley Cleveland entertained for two hours of solid music and funny banter. Tricia has a lovely voice and has written socially evocative lyrics that relate to her Mississippi upbringing. Her song, “The Heart of Dixie” tells of the love she had for her “second Mama,” an African-American woman who cared for her as a child and became as if a member of her family. It’s a haunting reminder of the uneasy racial tension that marked the South only a few years ago, and that continues to influence us today in subtle, unspoken ways.
Karen has written hits for Faith Hill and other big-time performers, and has a catalog of quirky, fun songs in addition to her commecial successes. In “Still a Dog,” she sings about men, “he may seem like a puppy, but puppies are still dogs just the same.” It gets her point across quite clearly.
Ashley is reminiscent of Janis Joplin. She’s an east Tennessee native and her demeanor is easy, quiet and slightly ironic. Her juiced up versions of old-time gospel and mainline hymns gave them new life and relevance, especially after hearing her hard-knock struggle with drink.
Now an active Presbyterian, she said she has found stability in her marriage and her role as a mother. Before this, she tells the crowd, her mother told her she could start a prison ministry just relating to her past boyfriends.
The three have performed as “women in the round” with the Nashville Symphony and other venues for 17 years but they manage to keep the performance fresh and engaging. They offer really solid music and deliver it with supreme skill.
Following the concert, the observatory roof was rolled back and the audience was invited to step in and view Jupiter on the 24-inch telescope. The giant red spot is visible right now as are two moons on either side of the lower quarter of the planet.
It was as near a perfect evening as you can experience and as Karen said, “If that don’t light your fire, then your wood’s wet.”