Saturday, February 11, 2012

The SoundCheck, The Valley Blend Magazine, "I Got You Babe"

The Soundcheck, February 2012, The Valley Blend
by j. Gabrielle

“People who make music together cannot be enemies, at least while the music lasts.”                                                                                      ~ Paul Hindemith

February is the month for lovers.  What better time to celebrate local musical couples!  Having “coupled” musically myself, I can tell you emotions run the gamut.  I have stood onstage singing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and felt the raw, hot rush of the realization that I absolutely wanted to “sleep in the desert tonight” (or anywhere) with the man singing next to me.  Other times, performing with your mate is kind of like having someone’s thumb on your head constantly.  I sought out some local performing couples (and surprisingly there are many of them) to get other perspectives.

Jim and Renee Oliphant are “Ragtop”.  I caught their first show of the year at the intimate Third Street Coffeehouse.  They open with Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” (oddly accompanied by a persistent alarm).  As they conclude, Renee announces that her husband failed to turn his phone volume down.  Jim protests “But that means it’s time to play!”  The couple laughs and they embark on a pleasant evening of favorites.  The two met in 1978 in high school (just before graduation) and married in November of that year.  After raising a family and just dabbling in music, they made a bold new commitment to each other in 2010.  They scaled down their comfortable lifestyle and cast their lot in the music business full time.  Judging by their very busy schedule, the move was a successful one.  Back onstage, Jim shares that after 25 years, his guitar is suffering from age and intonation problems.  He likens it back to his marriage of 33 years.  “I’ve got some things that aren’t the same after all these years; yet, she still keeps me.”

Songwriting folk duo Dan and Marian McConnell met in 1989 in Roanoke.  Their first date was a jam session at Marian’s apartment.  Married in 1993, they have been performing together (and separately) ever since.

“I believe that it is important to encourage Marian to experiment and pursue as many outlets for her creative talents as she is comfortable with.  In our 21 years together, we’ve never had an argument….We know better than to ever take each other for granted,” says Dan.

Marian lends, “He helps me balance my need to be organized with a willingness to ‘play it by ear’.  When we first started playing together, I’d put together a set list, which he promptly ignored and played what the crowd wanted to hear.  It helped me understand the philosophy of what we jokingly call ‘Semper Gumby’ (Always flexible).”

Rick Godley is the drummer for The Kind, and his wife, Wendy, is the lead singer.  Rick said, “For whatever temporary frustrations that crop up between Wendy and me as we try to balance all of this on top of keeping a home, raising two kids, the rewards, lessons, laughs, and growth remind me daily that this is where I was meant to be and what I was born to do.  I am blessed to be married to a very, VERY patient person and knowledgeable musician. She is very forgiving of my faults thankfully.”

And Wendy says, “I will add that I think that playing music with the person you share your life with adds a connection in a form other than words. No matter how difficult it may seem to be to work through the challenges we face in life, the shared moments when the music is working - when all the pieces fall into place - is a healing and strengthening salve that speaks to us in a way that is hard to reach with words. It is a connection between the band and the audience and a connection within the band, too. I feel very blessed.”

I asked Jane Powell to give me an impression of performing with husband, James Johnson, who keeps the beat on drums.  “J.J. will probably tell you I’m a pain in the butt.  Maybe we shouldn’t talk to him about me?  Poor J.J. for putting up with me.  What a jewel he is!”

I run into James accidentally some nights later drumming for Welcome to Hoonah.  He added, “We just have mutual respect for each other.  It’s just a blessing and an honor to play with her.  Jane takes everybody on a journey.”

Another Roadside Attraction has two married couples performing.  Jordan Rivers and Lucy de los Rios is one couple, and Joy Truskowski and Richard Harvey is the other.  Joy shared some impressions with me.

“I met Richard at an intentional community (basically a homesteading commune) in Floyd in 2009. I went there for a 2-month internship to learn homesteading skills, and Richard lived there. I was extremely determined to focus on learning and not get into a relationship, but Richard just knocked my socks off. He's funny, cute, thoughtful, patient, honest, kind, loving, and supportive. Starting a relationship just happened very naturally, and it was very comfortable.”

Richard is the first person I've ever been in a relationship who plays music. It's very precious and rewarding to be able to play with somebody who I'm so close to and who I love so much. We both encourage each other to play, write, and practice as much as we can. I love that support. For most of my life, I've prioritized other things over music. Seeing how dedicated he is has inspired me to prioritize music more in my life, and that has been a precious gift.”

Other couples we just couldn’t visit with this time include: Tom and Mandy Snediker of The Kind, Doug and Robin Settles, Steve and LaWanda Langston, Brian Paitt and Amanda Bocchi, Kera Moore and Bryan Martin, Walter Trexell and Thalassa McBroom, and Mary Leifkin and Tommy Meloche.

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