Sunday, August 24, 2014

Being a Patron of the Arts

I belong to a writers’ group.  We are a diverse group creatively.  One member is working on a book about teaching, told through anecdotes about her experiences in education, but intended  to start a conversation with the reader, rather than provide hard-and-fast answers.  Another writes short stories full of mythological references and creatures that I have long forgotten from my college years as an English minor.  A third member is a poet and Haiku master; she writes consistently and tries to have 50 poems out to prospective publishers at any given time.  Another member, a young mother who homeschools her three children and writes a homeschooling blog,  is also very “crafty”—paper art and repurposing old furniture and other pieces.  A newer member is writing a novel loosely based on her teen-age years in Bulgaria. 

A few of us take a selfie one night
Then there is me.  I blog, but often inform the writing group when we state our weekly intentions, that I propose to be a “Patron of the Arts” during the upcoming week. By that, I usually mean go out and hear some good music.

Shreveport, Louisiana, has been home to many legendary musicians and serves as a mecca for great musical talent.  For my husband and me, venues to hear awesome music this summer have been just blocks away from our house.  The Fairfield Studio, a small recording studio in our neighborhood, hosts regular house concerts featuring singer/songwriters in an intimate setting.  The studio seats about 100 people, and there is no bad seat.  At intermission, there are  often CDs for sale, and a meal is served by a local restaurant, A Stone’s Throw.  If you eat, you are expected to make a contribution to pay for your meal.  Tickets for concerts are usually $20 each.

We have attended three house concerts this summer, and each has been unique.  The first of June we walked into the studio for a concert to be greeted personally by that night’s performer, 75-year-old Ronny Cox, the well-known character actor who is also a talented singer/songwriter/
musician.  Most people remember Ronny’s first movie role in Deliverance when he played the unfortunate Drew Ballinger who had the Dueling Banjos scene with the mountain boy. But he is so much more! Ronny has gone on to have a successful acting career; he has written a book and screenplays, but his lifelong love has been his music--“…nothing cuts through to the heart like music,” according to Ronny.
Ronny Cox
To read more about Ronny Cox and listen to some of his music

On the night we heard him, he greeted each of us as we walked in the door, shook our hands, said “I’m Ronny,” waited while we told him our name, then said, “I’m glad you’re here.”  He is a courteous and warm-hearted man.  Like the seasoned professional he is, he showed up on time, knew his lines and set out to entertain the audience. He played, along with two excellent musicians he is touring with, from an extensive playlist—some songs he wrote and some he covered from other songwriters.  Ricky and I ended up buying a CD he has of Mickey Newbury songs.
He interspersed his music with personal anecdotes.  He shared with us that he had been married for 46 years to his childhood sweetheart, Mary, the only girl he ever dated.  She died 7 years ago.  She was a gifted woman in her own right, earning a PhD in chemistry.  Ronny said the music helps him work through the grief process.  He now lives in the cabin behind the house he shared with Mary.  His son and family have moved into the big house.  He helps care for his granddaughter Catherine, and has written a song about her.  Even though Ricky and I have heard some Shreveport musicians play at Fairfield House Concerts,  hearing Ronny Cox’s mellow baritone and his heartfelt delivery made me determined to hear more performers.  
Our next opportunity came when a noted songwriter was scheduled at Fairfield Studios.  He had recently suffered a setback when his property was damaged in a flood, and that seemed to be impetus for the tour.  This man put out one widely acclaimed album in the seventies.  A guest we invited to this concert said a musician friend of hers described this musician to her, “He released one album and never had to do another one, because it was perfect.” 
A packed house awaited this talented man and his wife, also a singer/songwriter.  They were about 30 minutes late, and when he came on stage, he immediately asked his wife for a pain pill, then got some wine from someone in the audience.  It became apparent he may have other challenges besides his destroyed studio.  He forgot some lyrics to songs he wrote but performed others satisfactorily.  Many people left at intermission.  His wife played a brief set, and her songs are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.  We liked her.  When the songwriter came out after intermission he fell getting on stage, but managed to finish the set.  It was sad.  We hope things look up for him soon.  Our friend who is a professional photographer stayed after the show to get a picture of him.  She said she might as well get her money’s worth. 
Attending a Laurie McClain concert is like a visit with a good friend, and her songs are like conversations.  We heard this Nashville-based singer/
songwriter at the Fairfield Studio this month.  Many of her songs are based on events in her life, and she says the songs often appear to her as if someone else has written them.  Laurie sang “He Smiled Like an Angel,” a song about her brother Danny who committed suicide.  She spoke about the hurt he left behind and said the death of Robin Williams had reawakened the pain of her family's loss.  In her song Danny appears to her in a dream and smiles like an angel.  She feels he is telling her that he is okay.

Laurie McClain
For more
about Laurie and to listen to some of her songs


Laurie wrote “Somewhere in Kentucky” about a time she was on tour with another act.  She became ill and had to ride home on a Greyhound bus.  Sick with the flu, she lay across two seats and stared at the sky for hours.  Somewhere in Kentucky she saw a UFO, strange lights in the sky that danced across the sky for some minutes.  She wrote this song about it.  In her concert, she passed around a bag of tiny glow-in- the-dark space creatures.  She told members of the audience to take one if they had seen UFOs.  Ricky took one.  He swore to me that he has seen a UFO, but since it was some years back, he admits it could have been the influence of some mind-altering substance. He felt it was still fair to take a space critter home with us, so the little fellow watches me now as I type, having taken up residence on my desk.
Laurie has many more songs worth listening to--both those she wrote and those she covers of other artists.  I like her song about a whirlwind romance, her "Utopian" songs, e.g. My Heaven, and one she sang about lightning bugs.  Click here to see a limited free playlist. 

Attending concerts at the Fairfield Studios is like sitting down with true wordsmiths and having them explain their process of creation.  For me, it is an awesome way to experience music.






  1. You are an excellent Patron of the Arts, Teresa, and I thoroughly enjoyed this post about your writing group and about the concerts! Personal stories that accompany the songs give so much more meaning to both lyrics and melody.

    1. Too bad you live "across the river", you and Fee might enjoy some of these concerts.