Denny Laine – Live at Red Clay Theater

There was a time when I was a sucker for anything Paul McCartney recorded.  As time moved on, I realized that not all of it was as good as I had once thought, but the remnants remain firmly as “guilty pleasures.”  Wings’ albums are a soundtrack to a period of my life in a sense.  A cool thing about albums was that they were of a size where inserting posters was possible, something McCartney did more frequently than most.  And… among other posters of album covers and rock stars, they got rotated on my wall space, such as this, from Wings’ London Town album, a guilty pleasure in its entirety.

Denny Laine live

So, that’s Paul, Linda, and who that adorned my wall?  Well, Denny Laine, a stalwart companion through most of McCartney’s 70’s output.  McCartney intended for his post-Beatles band to be a contributing band, rather than a supporting band for his lead.  As one would suppose, he selected Laine due to his credits in both songwriting and singing, most notably with The Moody Blues, who also opened for his prior band during a tour.  So as I scour the various Atlanta concert venues for potential holiday shows and beyond, there is Mr. Laine, playing three days later at Red Clay Theater in Duluth, an intimate venue with 260 capacity.  For… $15.  No brainer.

Denny Laine live

The Cryers performed as the opening act, then served as Laine’s backing band. They’re from New Jersey and feature another Wings’ alumnus, Steve Holley, on drums.  Drums are not usually my thing, but I’m always intrigued when I see one reading music as he plays.  They played a couple covers, including George Harrison’s “Horse to the Water”  and a few originals.  They’re better musicians than songwriters, it seems, but would afterwards deliver Laine’s music very capably.   Laine arrived looking a bit stiff, like he’d just woken, but once plugged in he turned to the microphone and belted out “I’ll Go Crazy,” a James Brown cover that opened the first Moody Blues album.  Laine was a founding member of the Moodies, who would later go through a major personnel change that led the band to a different musical direction and greater success.  Laine is well suited to the throwback rockers, as he would include others from the era including “Go Now,” a #1 hit in England, “Lose Your Money (but Don’t Lose Your Mind), “Say You Love Me” (later covered by the Zombies), “Boulevard de La Madeleine” (which was released just after he left the band), as well as a thankfully straightforward “I Wish You Could Love” which was a solo song from the 1980’s.  The Cryers added a good punch to each of these songs.

Denny Laine live

Laine seems to understand his audience, who, like me, came from a reverence of things Beatles, McCartney, and/or Wings material.  Helpfully, he doesn’t disappoint in conversing with the audience.  Each song gets its introduction, pointing to his successes while name dropping as appropriate.  The humor shared with the audience may be a variety of canned chatter, but it doesn’t come across that way.  Additionally, the jibing with drummer Holley let on that if you’re going to choose a band mate to share years with, Laine is probably a lot of fun to have around.   An off-topic trail of the Moodies led to a minute long attempt at “Nights in White Satin,” which.. wasn’t bad.  Notably, Holley quickly filled in perfectly with the drum piece.  The McCartney era songs were mixed, not in the quality of the songs, but in that Laine’s vocal range is better suited to those that he originally sang.  “Time to Hide,” the second song of the night, was a quick reminder that this is a guy who has belted it out in stadiums and arenas.  Where McCartney had sung the lead, well, age takes its toll, but McCartney’s not hitting those notes anymore either.

Enter Chris McKay, with whom Laine seemed visibly relieved to share the mic during the high notes.  McKay was new to me and probably everyone in the audience, but a little research shows he’s a musician, of course, and a reluctant but accomplished concert photographer.  In any case, he added a visible relish to “Live and Let Die” and “Band on the Run”  not to mention an active stage presence.  Those, as it turned out, would be the closers, as there was nothing to offer as an encore except a promise to meet people in the lobby afterwards.  I was hoping for “Richard Cory,” which was a highlight of the “Wings Over America” 1976 tour.

Denny Laine live

Otherwise, kudo’s to Eddie Owens Presents Red Clay Theater, which helpfully has been shortened to an otherwise mysterious EOP logo.  The facility is an old church owned by the City, but the venue has been upgraded since my last visit for lighting, and the sound is crystal clear.  That should prove to their benefit as Smith’s Olde Bar and The Masquerade shortly close their doors, significantly impacting the area’s available venues.

Denny Laine live


I’ll Go Crazy (James Brown)
Time to Hide
No Words
Say You Don’t Mind
Deliver Your Children
Mull of Kintyre
Listen to What the Man Said
Again and Again and Again
Lose Your Money But Don’t Lose Your Mind
Boulevard de la Madeleine
Nights in White Satin (spontaneous abbreviation)
Go Now
Spirits of Ancient Egypt
Wish You Could Love
Live and Let Die
Band on the Run

Drive-by Truckers Live at Track 29

This was the fourth time I’ve seen the Truckers, and I’m pleased to say that my confidence in them as a concert band is restored.  When last seen, they were making noise, going through the motions and without any consideration of sonic quality in a facility that allows it.  This time, they were making music in a facility that is challenged to provide it.  Track 29 provides an opportunity for Chattanooga’s music faithful to see shows, essentially in the absence of any other venue.  But it’s a skating rink.  Good things don’t happen to sound in a plain metal building.  The good news is that they’re relocating their brand to an old movie theater nearby.

Drive by Truckers concert review Track 29

The Dexateens opened, an Alabama band whose bassist, Matt Patton, is also now a full time member of DBT.  I wasn’t familiar with their songs, but could make out enough through the sound system that I’ll check more out later.  A friend remarked that Patton was the smilingest bassist he’d ever seen, and he may be.  I think though, that he’s just really enthusiastic about making music and the life he’s living.

Drive by Truckers concert review Track 29

The band dismissed their prior guitarist, and then-keyboardist Jay Gonzalez is now tasked with many of the band’s lead guitar work.  The keyboards sometimes get lost in their sound, so it makes sense that they use his talents to full effect.   He has a very unassuming stage presence, which is unfortunate because it’s easy to miss out on his contributions.

Drive by Truckers concert review Track 29

When it comes to DBT, though, it’s really all about leaders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.  Recent reviews reflect a consideration of the Paris terrorist attacks and resulting song selections, and it’s hard to imagine Hood without some sort of “peace, love and screw the f*ckers” monologue to go with it.  This night, though, it was just about the music.  It was pretty smartly selected, too.   There was an appreciated absence of the monotone narratives that Hood has gravitated to in recent releases and more of a focus on what has become anthemic fist-pumpers for the audience.

Drive by Truckers concert review Track 29

Highlights for me included the speak-along “18 Wheels of Love,” “Hell No I Ain’t Happy,” “Zip City,” and, as always, “Sinkhole.”

Drive by Truckers concert review Track 29

These were all more enthusiastically enjoyed, in part, to the wisdom of bringing ear plugs.  It’s amazing how they moderate the speaker system and even make the lyrics more intelligible.  The only song that was lost was a new one, whose title I don’t recall.  It was fairly short, aggressive and otherwise, obviously, forgettable.

Drive by Truckers concert review Track 29

The venue closes at midnight, due to its proximity to the Chattanooga Choo Choo’s motel rooms.  Given that, at 11:15, there were only 45 minutes remaining for an encore, Hood suggested that they skip the exit and return to stage for an encore.  So, the non-encore included four to five songs which happened to take the remainder of the available time.  “Zip City” was fantastic… the closer, “Grand Canyon,” aside from its personal fondness for the band, isn’t a great song for fans, but it does allow the band to stretch the piece, leaving the stage one at a time.  As a finale, it’s getting tired.  DBT has earned their fans and their career.  Here’s hoping they add some new classics to their repertoire.

Drive by Truckers concert review Track 29

Set list (not in order)
Primer Coat
Shit Shots count
English Oceans
Shut Up And Get On The Plane
Where The Devil Don't Stay
Hell No I Aint Happy
Sounds Better In A Song
Let There Be Rock
Three Dimes Down
English Oceans
18 Wheels of Love
New Song
The Righteous Path
Zip City
Grand Canyon

Wild Heaven Craft Beers

Another few months, and another Atlanta vicinity brewery visited.  I’ve liked a couple of Wild Heaven Brewery Craft Beers since they were introduced to the market, but at the time, they were made by contract by another brewery in South Carolina, I think.  Still, they’ve been in Decatur long enough that… well, you just have to wait until the time was right.


And the time was right on a recent Saturday, when it was cool and cloudy and UGA was playing football.  As a result, it was a very low key visit though done with a small group of coworkers/friends (if you can imagine those being the same).  Anyway, look at the crowd!


Wild Heaven has a slightly different take on their brewery visits, with three options.


I chose #3, which included each of their year around beers, plus an option for one of their three seasonal beers.


Except… they were out of the White Blackbird, which wasn’t likely to be a favorite anyway.  Instead, they let you swap it out for one of their three seasonal beers, from which I chose Autumn Defense, their (Oktober)Fest beer.


They generally pleased me the more I progressed from right to left.  Let There Be Light was essentially absent a desirable flavor.  Obviously, it works for some multitude or it wouldn’t be a year around beer.  Maybe people that don’t like beer but feel obligated to drink it opt for that one.

The Emergency Drinking Beer has a catchy name (and an accordingly utilitarian can design).  I admit, my curiosity has been piqued for quite a while.  I think their description is apt.  I’d have it again, but I’d probably opt for a Bud Lime first (not a compliment).

The Autumn Defense was okay – a different interpretation of an Oktoberfest, which I guess is as it should be.  If you’re thinking I don’t like their beers, understand that usually I choose which ones I know will suit my preference, rather than a “taste them all” approach.

Which brings us to Invocation, which may have been their first I tasted.  Not quite rich enough to be termed “rich,” not so bitter to be named “bitter,” and not quite spicy enough to be thought “spicy.” But it’s a pleasing Belgian styled beer all around.

Next was Ode to Mercy, dark without a sharp edge to it, a beer that doesn’t have to be taken in small sips but objects to being taken at a mouthful.  Good stuff.  In fact, I had a pint of it afterwards.

Lastly (pun intended), Eschaton, a Belgian quad, had a roasted wood smell and… well, people can make up their descriptions.  It was dark, tasty, and by it’s nature loaded with alcohol at 10%.  I liked this just as much as Ode to Mercy, but… safe driving matters.


Cask aged beers are the rage, and it looks like Wild Heaven is experimenting with a wide variety of alcohols.


One of the other seasonal options was a sour beer greatly improved with a smoked flavor.  This randomly selected couple enjoyed it greatly.


Tree House Brewing

The time frame was, shall we say, challenging?  The brewery opened at 5:00, and my flight was at 6:45.   Oh, and there’s a 50 minute return drive during rush hour, plus refueling and returning a rental car, the shuttle van to the terminal, checking a bag, and a sprint to the gate. 

It started innocently enough, calling a beer store to see if they happened to have Julius, from Tree House Brewing, in stock.  “No, they don’t sell anywhere but at their brewery, but we have lots of others blah blah blah.”  Two minutes later, he called my cell phone and said. “It’s really, really good.  You should go to the brewery.  They’re open today.”  Julius is rated a 100 on Beer Advocate, the best available objective resource on such things, and I love IPAs.


So, I’m off to Hopson, MA, a dot on the map located fairly centrally, on that given day, of perfect fall foliage in rolling hills with farms.  Hey, there’s a farmhouse.  And there’s the brewery.  As it turns out, the brewer married the farmer’s daughter.


See the people above?  They’re just hanging around.  That’s because the brewery isn’t open yet.  The guy on the phone said Thursdays are really, really busy, because it’s the first day they’re open and fans arrive with their growlers ready to be filled with fresh beer.  Eh, not so bad.


So, what I thought were markers for a suggested line to form turned out to be the coolers belonging to those lounging at the tables.  Ah.  Airplane to catch.  I best stand in line. 


By the time they opened, there were about 75 people in line; I was 17th.  Still being mindful of my flight, I admit I was more than a little worried.  But… the staff come out to take orders and pre-fill the growlers prior to the opening.  The guy behind me said, “Don’t worry.  You’ll be out of here in 10 minutes.”


Nine, actually.  6 cans of Julius to go, please.  Sadly, it was much later that I reflected that although I purchased the limit on Julius, I could have bought other varieties as well.  The limits are not mutually exclusive, and my suitcase still had available tonnage before excess weight charges would have applied.  Ah well.  Perhaps I was too distracted by the shiny vats.


And… after tasting the beer, I really should have grabbed a T-shirt.


But, I had to wait until I got home to do that.  I made the plane with about 10 minutes to spare, and… I have to figure out my next opportunity for returning my refrigerator to its happy state below.  My three favorite beers are each within a whisker of each other, and this one… might just win if I were able to compare all three at once. Oh, and yes, there’s a slight orange flavor to it.


Mark Knopfler – Live at Chastain

I last saw Mark Knopfler at the same venue sometime before 2008, else I would have a review of that show on this blog.  It was an enjoyable show, one that demonstrated his abundant guitar skills, but, like his solo albums, a fairly tepid experience.  Dire Straits songs were rare, which was not nearly often enough to offset the weight of his more American/English folk based pursuits as a solo artist.  That was then.  This is now.

Mark Knopfler Chastain Amphitheater

It’s not that Dire Straits songs are better.  They’re certainly more familiar, but there’s an irony.  Dire Straits, however he adorned the music with his sidemen, was a vehicle for Knopfler’s songwriting and his guitar.  The parts were interchangeable.  Mark Knopfler, in his solo career, is about song crafting and making the most of his band’s musical gifts.  If you buy a Mark Knopfler concert ticket expecting the former, you’ll be disappointed.  If you buy a, more properly titled, Mark Knopfler Band ticket understanding the difference, you get what you paid for.

This show started well.  The quirky “Broken Bones” led the way, and “Corned Beef City,” “Privateering,” “Hill Farmer’s Blues,” and “Skydiver”  maintained a wakeful pace, each with its highlights.  Those songs would not be confused with fiery rockers or his current preference for pastoral odes to years of old, but… they’re good songs. 

Mark Knopfler Chastain Amphitheater

Following those with several Dire Straits songs brings a lift, possibly pointing to greater heights as the evening progresses, in any case abandoning the listlessness that I recalled at the previous show.  That’s a good thing, and although he doesn’t cut loose with his guitar, his expert fingering is demonstrated, albeit with an understanding that as you watch who plays what, a good portion of the more plucky guitar heard on his CDs was probably created by one of his band members.

About those Dire Straits songs… “Your Latest Trick” was beautiful.  “Romeo and Juliet” is always welcome and a favorite of many, but with a sound system that translates his hushed delivery to muddled mumbling, the song lacked the youthful exuberance it deserved.   Curiously, the song that launched his career he chose to include midway into the set, “Sultans of Swing.”  The more I listen to his live versions of this song, the more I’m convinced that he’s sick and tired of it, not to mention tired of trying to find ways to make it sound different.  Whereas usually I prefer to hear artists take their recorded work and interpret it differently when playing live, this song merits a hands off approach, or at least one that leaves its trademark licks fully intact.  In this version, it was almost an afterthought as he closed the song.

The Mark Knopfler Band was featured on “Mighty Man,” a fine song that doesn’t deserve stage time, hence the many who opted for the restrooms.  On other tour stops, he’s inserted “Haul Away” at this point, so we fared the better.  “Postcards from Paraguay” is always welcome, and it’s a song that ably demonstrated his band’s skills as well as one with an appealing melody… a happenstance that he doesn’t necessarily seek in his solo output.   “Marbletown” starts off well enough, but then it evolves into an extended instrumental feast for his band.  They’re good.  It’s pleasant music.  And there are those with micro-bladders walking in front of you again because they’re not what they came to hear.

Mark Knopfler Chastain Amphitheater

Similarly, when I hear him announce that the closing is near, and he explains his search for a song to properly suit his saxophonist’s skills, frankly, I’m disappointed.  You just consumed an extended 10 minutes featuring your band members.  Finish large. Play your friggin’ guitar.  Loud.  “On Every Street” was the choice, and it’s an enjoyable song that I listen to once in a blue moon, which is, all things considered about the right frequency for it.  The closer of the set was, thankfully,  “Speedway to Nazareth” a song that builds until it finally unleashes Knopfler’s loud friggin’ guitar.  Good stuff.

Mark Knopfler Chastain Amphitheater

Now, on the heels of that, what to do about that encore…  “Telegraph Road?”  “Skateaway?” “Tunnel of Love?” “Once Upon a Time in the West?”  Okay, maybe he’s already played too much of the “excavated occasional historical artifacts” he promised at the beginning of the show.  Well, how about “What it Is?” “Imelda?” “Coyote?” “Boom, Like That?” Or, perhaps a shocker like “I Think I Love You Too Much?”  So many great options, never mind the obvious “Money for Nothing.”

“So Far Away.”  Followed by an instrumental yawner.  Way to end with a thud.

In short, it’s not the songs or musicianship that disappoints, but the failure to recognize that audiences, at least in the venues he chooses to play, benefit from the Dire Straits approach.  Play with a superlative band, but keep in mind people didn’t pay to hear them.  Choose your songs accordingly.

3 of 5 STARS_thumb


Set list:

Broken Bones
Corned Beef City
Father and Son (from the film “Cal”) – intro to:
Hill Farmer’s Blues
She’s Gone (from the film “Metroland”) – intro to:
Your Latest Trick
Romeo and Juliet
Sultans of Swing
Mighty Man
Postcards from Paraguay (slow build includes band intros)
On Every Street
Speedway at Nazareth


So Far Away
Going Home: Theme from Local Hero

Sycamore Brewing

Charlotte keeps adding quality breweries, and/or there’s another quality brewery to sample with every visit, it seems.  Personally, even though Asheville claims itself to be a beer capital (with some stature by Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, large craft breweries who have built regional facilities), I favor what Charlotte has going on by a wide margin.  Sycamore Brewing, like so many in Charlotte, occupies an old building that lies within convenient rich of young and the restless who are reclaiming old and worn out parts of town and making them hip.  All of which is to say that suburbia doesn’t stand a chance against pseudo in-town living when it comes to ease of access to cool places like this.


Sycamore doesn’t strive after a particular style of beer and offers a varied lineup.  Several weeks ago, they just won a bronze medal for its “Southern Girl Lager” at the insanely competitive Great American Beer Festival… which I might have tried, but I visited before the competition.


I opted for a “flight” sampler, including the Countryside IPA, Countryside IPA, Peak Farm DIPA, Foxhound American Ale,  and the Salty Coconut Red Ale.  The IPA underwhelmed but was more than made up for by the DIPA, which was excellent. This is why you try samplers, right?  The Foxhound is the redder beer, and it was good in every respect.  The Red Ale was not as black as the picture suggests, and it was my favorite of the batch, with good hops and a sweetness perhaps from coconut, but certainly not an aroma.  Really good variety here.



Like breweries everywhere, it seems, they draw a crowd on weeknights, and I’ll plan on returning again for my two favorites and to sample others.  Nice venue, good vibe.


The Reckoners

I used to really, really love comic books. Then some smart whippersnapper came along and changed the art style in a way that emphasized an uninteresting style over decades of appealingly constructed substance.  Oh,Sanderson and the price kept increasing.  And, of course, I grew up. 

Then computer generated graphics made everything once imagined possible on the big screen (Spiderman and every other Marvel since.  And a couple of DC ones), and soon after even the small screen was suitable for adequately stealing the imagination of what happened between panels in the comics and replacing it with continuous action.  And, I’m okay with that because it feeds the kid in me.

Now let’s detour to Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn trilogy, two (so far) books into another series within the same “universe” but in a future time, Elantris, and two (thick) books into The Stormlight Archive, which may turn out to be in my top two fantasy series ever.  Oh, and he rescued the overly lengthy and wearing Wheel of Time Series by wrapping it up in a comparatively speedy time by writing a three book finale after the original author passed away (14 total books by the time it was finally put to bed).  I haven’t bothered with a teen series of books, but… sheesh, he’s only 39 and continues to amaze with his cleverness and dedication to making everything in his story worlds fit together.  A really, really good author.

And so it was that my daughter accidentally left a book in my car when I visited her.  So, I’ll pat myself on the back by not being intimidated by a book that, factually, arrives from MIT.


Everyone needs to blow off steam, and.. MIT is loaded with geeks, right?  So, imagine a world where (no plot spoilers) something happens and ordinary people are suddenly granted super powers. Except… they all become super villains.  No heroes.  What’s a world to do other than to suffer the injustice of self-serving wannabe demi-gods? 

Well, two phrases.  The first comes from the book, “Sometimes, you have to help the heroes along.”  Secondly, Sanderson’s own guidance that when writing, always “err on the side of awesome.”  Sanderson consistently builds great heroes, not to mention the surrounding casts.  These books, and an intermediate novella called Mitosis, are the reader’s equivalent of junk food, professionally crafted, stir sticks of the imagination.  For anyone who enjoyed comics, I recommend these books, and read them soon, before they come to a theater near you (Steelheart’s rights are already purchased).  Oh, and a third (and hopefully not final) book in the series is due in the spring, named Calamity.  Note:  This is technically a “young adult” series.  So, so what?

5 of 5 STARS[3]