- Road to Nashville
Folk & Beyond with Aer Stephen
Thursday, November 2, 5-7PM (EST)
Aer Stephen reconnects with one of his favorite guests and entertainers,
just 5 days before the "one-of" performance of the new CD, Nashville, at the
Belcourt Theater in Nashville, the day before its release. The conversation
takes place as Solomon
is traveling across Texas on the way from L.A. to
Nashville, and the music from the new CD is showcased. Tune in for this very
special exclusive Feature, "Solomon Burke - Road to Nashville."
"If this CD doesn't bring Solomon another Grammy, the awards committee needs
to be replaced!"
- Aer Stephen
"Nashville is an experience that every musician should have," says Solomon Burke. "That's why I wanted this record to be called NASHVILLE - because that's what it's about. Nashville stirred my soul."
Almost six decades into a career that stretches back to his days as the "Wonder Boy Preacher" in his hometown of Philadelphia, the King of Rock and Soul continues to explore fresh musical territory. For his new album - the follow-up to his GRAMMYÂ®-nominated 2005 release MAKE DO WITH WHAT YOU GOT - Burke recorded, for the first time ever, in Music City, USA. But this musical giant didn't simply plug into Nashville's celebrated studio scene; instead, he joined forces with producer Buddy Miller, a longtime collaborator with such maverick artists as Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris, to create a rough-hewn, homespun collection.
NASHVILLE was recorded in eight days at Miller's house, and features some of country music's greatest female artists - Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Patty Loveless, Gillian Welch, and the incomparable Dolly Parton - all collaborating with Burke on their own compositions. "I learned so much in those eight days, it was like going to the University of Country Music!," he says. "It wasn't like going to the studio, it was like coming to Buddy's house for a jam session. We sang in the living room, the dining room, the kitchen - like an old-fashioned revival meeting, sitting on the porch and singing with your family. It felt like I didn't go to make a record, I went to have a good time, and to renew my spirit and faith in music."
Solomon Burke is truly one of popular music's larger-than-life figures. His records helped create the exhilarating celebration of pure feeling and African-American vocal expression that came to be known as soul. His songs have been covered by artists from the Rolling Stones to Tom Petty, from the Blues Brothers to Bruce Springsteen (Burke repays the favor with a raucous version of Springsteen's "Ain't Got You" on NASHVILLE). "He is Solomon the resonator," Tom Waits has said. "The golden voice of heart, wisdom, soul, and experience. He's one of the architects of American music."
Since his 2001 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Burke has enjoyed something of a renaissance as a performer (while also maintaining his parallel lives as an entrepreneur with a chain of mortuaries, a bishop in the House of God for All People, and a father of 21). His glorious 2002 album DON'T GIVE UP ON ME, produced by Joe Henry and dedicated to new songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Van Morrison, won a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Burke's introduction to Miller came last year, when both were performing at Nashville's legendary Ryman Theater, "the mother church of country music," as part of the Americana Music Awards. Miller subsequently visited Burke at home in Los Angeles last winter, when he was in town playing with Emmylou Harris.
From there, Miller says, "It all happened really fast." Once they decided to explore working together, he says, "we spoke a lot on the phone, talked about 70, 80 songs or more, and I started to get a sense of what he did and didn't feel. It was so much fun for me and my wife (singer/songwriter Julie Miller) to sit around and listen to things and say, 'Can you imagine Solomon Burke singing that song?'"
For Burke, though, the concept of making a country album represented a return to some of his earliest recordings - in the early 1960s, several of his hits for the fledgling Atlantic Records ("Just Out of Reach," "Down in the Valley") were much closer to gospel-inflected country than they were to soul music, and this was even before Ray Charles proved that such a crossover could be achieved.
"After having my first country hit in 1960, I've always had a special desire to do a country album," says Burke. "Really, it's something I've wanted to do ever since I was a kid. I loved Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, Herb Jeffries - one of the first black cowboys. When I heard Charlie Pride I was just blown away. But after we did four country songs for Atlantic, Jerry Wexler said 'We've got to stop that, got to get you back in R&B.' I'm trying to ride a horse and they were trying to put me in a Cadillac! So to connect these new songs with the songs of my past, it's really a circle I'm completing."
On NASHVILLE, Burke brings it all back home with songs from a few country giants (George Jones, Tom T. Hall) and their inheritors (Jim Lauderdale, Kevin Welch, Paul Kennerly). Miller remains thrilled by the vitality of the sessions, and by Burke's unpredictable explorations of this material. "On some songs I'd think, 'well, this one isn't gonna work out,'" he says, "but I never got to say it because suddenly, the key was turned in the most amazing vehicle there could be to take a song to its destination. He finds that magic, that deepness, in places nobody's ever gone to."
Once upon a time, Charlie Parker was asked by a shocked fan why he liked country music. "Listen to the stories," he replied. Solomon Burke, who describes NASHVILLE as "a reunion of heart, mind, and spirit," echoes that sentiment. "The songs tell a powerful story, and these stories need telling in these times," he says. "Listen to them two or three times and you really start to understand.
"And," he continues, "this is just the beginning. We want to go back and do another right away!"