Monthly Archives: February 2012

Arlington Music Hall Country Music Revue Redux

This past Saturday night, I headed back to Arlington to feed my latest obsession and attend the weekly Arlington Music Hall Country Music Revue.  After my initial induction the week before, I couldn’t wait to see what the revue had in store for us this week.

Even before the show started, I was reminded about what it is that makes this production so unique. As I watched people greeting each other with warm hugs and broad smiles, it reaffirmed for me that this show is about much more than music, it’s about its strong sense of family.

Shortly after taking our seats, the evening’s musical intro began;  a red hot rendition of When the Saint Go Marching In, that superbly showcased the band’s collective and individual talents.

As the song ended, I knew, even just after one week of being attendance,  there were two things I could count on — the wit and energy of the show’s producer and emcee Michael Hix, and the talent of the evening’s line up. I sat back, settled in, and prepared to be fully entertained. I wasn’t disappointed.

While traditional country ruled the music hall last week, this time around there was an eclectic range of songs being showcased. John Sharp began the night with Toby Keith’s Who’s Your Daddy, followed up by Ginny Lynn who bedazzled us with an uptempo-rock version of Trisha Yearwood’s Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love.

As a traditional country music fan, I always enjoy hearing familiar songs that I haven’t heard in a long while. Patsy Andrews, a CMR regular since 1986, took to the stage next with a couple of hit songs that were a little farther back in the music catalog than the previous performers, and she breathed new life into one of my favorites, Billy Jo Spears’ Blanket on the Ground and Patsy Cline’s Life’s Railway to Heaven.

Next up was the show’s multi-talented emcee Michael Hix who joined his lovely wife, Ginny Lynn as she returned to the stage. The two of them conjured up memories of George and Tammy as they sang the Vince Gill/Patty Loveless classic You’re My Kind of Woman, You’re My Kind of Man.

Michael Hix and Ginny Lynn

The show took a little genre side trip when Michael and Ginny were finished, as regular Wayne Reed stood in the spotlight and sang Restless Heart’s Wheels and Billy Joel’s hit Just the Way You Are.

Taking the CMR stage for the first time, Cathy Lake’s strong, clear vocals took her effortlessly through Anne Murray’s timeless hit, Snowbird. She was followed on stage by 11 year old Mikayla Griffin who showed much promise, and amazing memorization skills, by tackling the perennial road song I’ve Been Everywhere.  It was the young lady’s second visit to the Music Revue and I personally hope there will be more opportunities to hear her in the future.

I found a video of Mikayla’s first Country Music Review performance from October 2011; enjoy.

At the Country Music Revue, everyone gets a chance to shine and it was the stage band’s lead guitar player, Jeff Williams, opportunity that night to stand out front to sing Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make it Through the Night.  Jeff had the crowd feeling laid back and mellow for a few minutes, but it wasn’t long before Michael Hix kicked up the energy with James Brown’s I Feel Good. The song showcased Michael’s versatility as a showman,  and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a person in the crowd without a smile on their face by the time he was done.

Krista Bailey and Mike Stewart rounded out the show’s first half. Krista sang A Little Love Goes a Long, Long Way and Mike followed with a pair of aces, singing Four Walls and Where No One Stands Alone.

After a brief intermission it was time for some more great music, and Michael Hix stopped the show in its tracks with an amazing vocal rendition of Whitney Houston’s classic I Will Always Love You, which of course was originally written by country music superstar Dolly Parton. By the final note, he had the audience on their feet.

The ladies recaptured the stage next with Krista Bailey singing Something More and Ginny Lynn performing Don’t Know Why. They were followed by John Sharp slowing things down with a smooth as glass delivery of The Beatles In My Life.

I got my wish, as young but mighty Mikayla Griffin returned to the stage to sing the Tanya Tucker classic Texas When I Die. Even at this young age, her voice holds much promise, and I’m sure we’re going to be hearing more from this young lady.

Cathy Lake returned to the stage to sing the Cajun influenced, Jo-el Sonnier classic Tear Stained Letter, and another classic Anne Murray tune, Danny’s Song.

The rest of the night’s program had the son of a country music legend performing four original songs.  Dion Pride is the son of Charley Pride, and although some may think he’s got some mighty big shoes to fill, he effortlessly stepped out from his father’s shadow and is a fine songwriter and musician in his own right.  As Michael Hix said during his introduction “he stands in the shadow of no  one.”

Dion Pride

Dion is the kind of performer that gives his audience everything he has, and leaves them wanting more. He led his song selection with Feeling Right at Home, followed by the swampy blues rock sounds of No Mississippi. He sat down at the keyboard next, to sing a romantic ballad he dedicated to his wife, titled Ripple in the Water. If swoons could be heard, the sound would have been deafening.

Dion’s last song was prophetically biographical. As he sang Might As Well Be Me, I for one was glad that he was. He could have easily taken the stage and sang covers of songs made famous by his father, but this young man has the confidence and talent to stand on his own two feet. I hope next time we’ll get to hear even more from him.

As it was last week, the three hour show seemed to fly by, and it was time to head back home. The stage lights dimmed as the house lights went up and the crowd filtered out to the lobby to mingle with the evenings performers. The music may have faded out with the last note of the night, but the memories will live on.

Next Saturday night (February 25th) is the revue’s monthly theme night. This time around it will be TV Theme Songs. It promises to be a great night.

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Keeping Up With Tradition – Arlington Music Hall Country Music Revue

A good time is waiting to be had every Saturday night at the Arlington Music Hall.

In order for any art form to survive, there must be generations willing to pass on the traditions, thankfully for country music, in Arlington, Texas in a restored theatre, there is no shortage of people willing to share the roots of country music weekly in their live country music revue show every Saturday night. The Arlington Country Music Revue, has some pretty solid roots of its own, its beginnings being established in the 1970’s a few miles away in Fort Worth, Texas with the legendary Johnnie High Country Music Revue. Johnny purchased the former movie theater in Arlington in 1994, making it the permanent home for his highly successful weekly production.

The show’s alumni includes such notable names as LeAnn Rimes, Steve Holy, Lee Ann Womack, Gary Morris, John Anderson and Box Car Willie.  Most recently Baylie Brown has been short listed on this season’s American Idol.

Seating 1200 patrons, the venue has been painstakingly restored to capture the ambiance of the venue’s heyday. A new addition to the theater, however, is the hospitality room where patrons and performers alike gather before, between and after the show to mingle or grab a bite to eat from the snack bar or Babe’s restaurant next door.

Emceed by the affable Michael Hix, the three hour revue has the feel of a small town Opry show, with the evening kicking off recognition being given to the birthdays of audience members.  It’s as if everyone is family, and the lines between performers and audience are blurred so that everyone feels right at home.

Every performer is backed by the venue’s stage band, The Superpicker Band and its no stretch to guess how they came up with their name. Each and every one of them are fine musicians and artists in their own right from Ron Jones on bass who has backed the great Charley Pride to Dale Morris. Jr who tours with Ray Price when he takes his show on the road. Steel player Maurie Anderson is in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and Kevin Bailey is a member of the Light Crust Doughboys. Ron Jones #2 (yes there are two band members with the same name) is a versatile addition to the band, and plays saxaphone, flute and guitar as needed.

I’d be hard pressed to pick only a couple of highlights from the evening, because there was one memorable performance after another taking the stage. John Sharp and Krista Bailey kicked things off respectively with Buck Owens’ Act Naturally and Patsy Cline’s Back in Baby’s Arms. Jon Rutherford performed two new original songs, including  one that contained a timely message titled Love Makes the World Go Round.  The remaining versatile cast, a mix of regulars and special guests, pay homage to some of country music’s most endearing legends. The high spirited, raw talent was obvious as sixteen year old Kaylea Harris took to the mic, making her debut on the show, belting out Loretta Lynn’s You Ain’t Woman Enough and Waylon Jennings’ Good Hearted Woman. I couldn’t help but think while I was listening to her that she’s going to go far in this business and some day she’s going to be singing these same on a much larger stage.

Jon Rutherford

Bill Brooks had audience members on their feet after a powerful and emotional performance of Alan Jackson’s I’d Love You All Over Again and Dave Keys sang standards from the back catalog of such endearing legends as George Strait and Lefty Frizzell.

Manuel, a Nashville based designer, who has been behind such notable stage costumes as Johnny Cash’ the “Man in Black suit, and Elvis’ gold lame jumpsuit, also created the white stage costume of the evening’s next performer, Burk Collins. He paid homage to Hank Williams They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me and Standing in the Shadows, a song penned by Hank Williams Jr. about his infamous father. Burk’s connection and commitment to the revue goes deeper than his on stage performances. He and his wife Jean, own and operate Center Street Station, which includes The Arlington Music Hall and the Country Music Revue and adjoining buildings.

Hailing from Sulpher Springs, Texas, Monty Tipps took the stage next. Monty works full time as a Detective Sergeant for the community’s police department and spends his off time spending time with his family and singing real country music. The Arlington Music Hall is pleased to welcome him when he’s able to fit them into his busy schedule and the reason was clear as soon as he began his song selections. He took command of Whisperin’ Bill’s Walk Out Backwards and followed up with Ronnie Milsap’s The Girl Who Wait on Tables.

Clancy Davis made his revue debut singing a couple of standards from Merle Haggard and George Jones. I am certain of two things. One – if I closed my eyes I could have sworn that the Hag and Possum were on stage themselves and secondly, gauging by the response from the audience and fellow performers, this Oklahoma native will be extended a return invitation.

You’d think that everything I’ve told you so far would have been a great evening of country music – but wait. That’s only half of it — literally. After a brief intermission there was more great music to be heard from the bluegrass twang of Krista Bailey to the polished vocals of Ginny Lynn. Mike Stewart brought many smiles to the faces in the audience with a rousing, spirited rendition of the George Jones hit I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair and captured the house’s full attention with Jack Greene’s Statue of a Fool.  The show’s emcee took his turn center stage proving that his gift for gab is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his talent. He easily made his way through Blake Shelton’s Don’t I Matter Anymore and Vince Gill’s Don’t Let Our Love Slip Away. Ginny Lynn made a second appearance and sang the Harlan Howard classic Pick Me Up on Your Way Down and Burk Collins and Monty Tipps teamed up to tackle the Jones/Haggard hit Born With the Blues.

Dave Keys

The evening ended all too soon with Clancy Davis and Dave Keys returning to the stage. Clancy had the crowd revved up with Louisiana Saturday Night and Tennessee Whiskey while Dave turned the fire down a notch, and left everyone feeling mellow, closing with Conway’s Hello Darlin’ and Josh Turner’s Your Man.

As the crowd filtered out I saw smiles on the faces of everyone from the very young, to the not so ready for the rocking chair yet set. Thanks to the Arlington Music Hall and it’s Country Music Revue, its safe to say that the tradition continues.

Upcoming shows in 2012, in addition to the regular Saturday revues:

April 13th – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
April 27th –  George Jones
May 26th – Bryan White
September – Marty Stuart

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A Little Slice of Heaven and Home – Montgomery Cafe

There is much to love and celebrate about Texas, and with my recent reintroduction to the Lone Star state I was a woman on a mission when deciding where to head first when my feet hit the ground. It was a no-brainer, really. After a day of resting up from the full day trip it took to get here, there was only one thing on my mind; breakfast at the Montgomery Cafe.

Although I’d never been graced to eat here before, walking into the the tiny corner cafe, located at the paradoxical junction of a sleepy side street and a busy main drag, was like coming home. I’d been hearing about this place for years. We arrived ten minutes before their 7 a.m. opening, to ensure we got ‘our’ table in front of the picture window that overlooked the cafe’s name sake street, with its view of the stock-show grounds and Fort Worth city skyline.

The sun was just creeping up over the horizon, as we sat ourselves down on the red-checkered clothed table. We were smiling at each other, pleased with being able to snag what we considered to be the best table, despite the rush of early risers from the annual stockyard show in search of a home-cooked meal to start their day. While the steady stream of cowboy hats and boots swaggered in, we were placing our order with the friendly waitress who seemed to refer to everyone as “Hon”. I’d have been hard pressed to identify the out-of-towners from the regulars, because everyone that walked through the door was greeted as if they ate there every morning.

Placing our order was easy.   Two-eggs over easy, hash-browns, a pork chop and biscuits and gravy. Ordering anything less would have seemed not right. This is Texas after the land of hearty breakfasts for hearty souls and hard workers; starting the day with yogurt or half a melon would have seem sacrilegious.

While waiting the short time it took for our food to arrive, I soaked up the ambiance. And trust me, there was no shortage of things to look at. Dining at the cafe is akin to taking a step back in time.  From the checkerboard floor and tables, the stools lining the counter and the memorabilia hung on the walls, everything takes you back to a simpler place and time, and and as some would successfully argue — a better place and time.

Do yourself a favor and make time to visit this cafe, especially if you’ve got a hankering for the way things used to be.

The Montgomery Cafe is open six days a week for breakfast and lunch.  Mon – Fri 6 a.m. til 2 p.m. and Saturdays for breakfast only from 7 a.m. until noon.  It is located on the corner of Montgomery Street and Dexter in the Cultural District of Fort Worth.

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