Making their way to a festival in New Mexico, six influential songwriters made a recent stop in the musical landmark town of Lubbock.
Downtown Lubbock in the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts’ Firehouse Theater on Jan. 21, there was a crowd of about 50, a cash bar, and a stage almost close enough to touch from the back row.
On that stage are six chairs arms-length apart, with six individual guitars standing behind them. Each guitar is embroidered with past experience of a musician. Many musicians normally will use two or more different guitars, whether they are tuned in another key or serve a separate musical purpose. But that is hardly the case for folk and country songwriters; especially, those of the red dirt scene.
The show began and one girl made her way to the dimmed stage. She sits in a chair on the far left, light filling the face of Brandy Zdan, who is better known for her songs, “Only the Sad Songs,” and “More of a Man.”
Zdan starts off the night informing the crowd that each artist drew numbers out of a bowl to see who would perform first and who would follow. After each first song, the artists would be introduced on stage, play a song, then introduce the next artist up.
After Zdan came the highlight of the night, Josh Grider. Most known for “The Getting There” and “Crazy Like You,” Grider, with the exception of Walt Wilkins’ performance of “Trains I Missed,” stole the show. His presence was captivating. His guitar playing was exceptional, and he really did a number with his accompaniment for the other artists performing.
Trailing Grider was Susan Gibson, known for her song “Wide Open Spaces,” which was made famous by the Dixie Chicks. Wilkins then performed “Trains I Missed,” followed by Kelley Mickwee performing “Beautiful Accidents,” and Drew Kennedy performing “A Picture of You.”
Other notable contributions from the night were Mickwee’s voice, which pours out a pitch that is enticing to the ear. Mickwee’s southern charm only enriches her stage presence.
Also, Gibson tells a story of the flood that took place in Wimberley, Texas, where she now lives. The event, though destructive, shed light on the community’s strength and relentless spirit. Gibson said she would never look at music the same, and the way she writes her songs has also changed.
The Festival is going on five years strong, with a number of seasoned songwriters to back its own credibility, and will soon be one to look out for as more and more artists make their way up to Red River, N.M.
I’m sure the festival will attract more followers, maybe someday reach the heights of Austin City Limits or The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. And hopefully Lubbock music fans will continue to benefit from that along the way.