I'm sure I'd heard it mentioned before, and probably seem the name linked with the song in print, but until last night I never associated native Arkansan Donny Lowery with the Alabama hit song "Old Flame." As Lowery told an audienced in the packed "Big House" upstairs in the Old State House Museum, he toiled in Nashville trying to write that hit song, then came up with this one and, after it was included on an Alabama album that sold 12 million copies, "now I live on a lake."
Lowery was among five native Arkansans who moved to Nashville to pen songs and came back last night to play several of those for an on-the-road version of The Bluebird Cafe. That hangout is where you'll find many of Nashville's best songwriters and performers playing. The Old State House and the Bluebird put on a show like this two years ago at the old train station, and it was filmed for AETN.
This one seemed more intimate, the acoustics were great, and the crowd loved every minute of it. Four of the performers -- Shawn Camp, Steve Dean, Mark Alan Springer and Wood Newton -- were part of the show two years ago, while Lowery was a newcomer. And, while they are best known as songwriters, they all could play and sing quite well. Camp showed he could pick his guitar with the best on "Sis Draper," a song I heard Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder play to perfection in concert a while back. Camp about brought the house down with his solo version. Springer's voice was superb and almost made us weepy on "Bigger than the Ball," about an influential coach. Dean and Newton both have a storytelling knack that keeps the audience entranced, with Newton's "Riding with Private Malone" again hitting at the heartstrings.
Each performer would play one of their songs as they moved down the line, from Lowery on the left end to Camp on the right. Each had a really big hit to play as their fourth and last song ni the hour-and-45-minute show. While Lowery played "Old Flame," the other guys sang harmony behind him. Camp provided occasional guitar licks to back the other guys. Springer provided harmony behind some of the others on their songs. The crowd also couldn't help singing along a few times as well. After it was over, there was plenty of milling around with audience and performers. It was a terrific show.
If you missed Camp last night, he's playing in Perryville on Saturday at a weekend festival there. He said he's probably be on the back end of a truck serving as his stage late Saturday afternoon.