Tennesses

Anna Harris, Joe B. Ingle, India Ramey, Chuck Beard, and Tom Eizonas

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the recap and recording of the 121st epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 120, I repeat … 120, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is the recap and recording of East Side Storytellin’ 121. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of the night is a United Church of Christ minister, reverend actually, respected author and public speaker. He is a leading voice in faith-based opposition to the death penalty. He is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary, has been the chaplain to dozens of people on death row over the past 40 years across the South (which is quite impressive since he is only 41 years old). It’s almost like he was born to do this. I first met him at East Side Story, where he allowed me the opportunity to promote and sell one of his books titled “Slouching Toward Tyranny: Mass Incarcerations, Death Sentences, and Racism.” As you can imagine, it is not a very light read, but I believe it is something everyone should check out. It was always an honor to talk book shop and life in general with this guy, and I knew this special night wasn’t going to be any different for everyone present. I’m talking about the man, the legend, Reverend Joe B. Ingle!

Joe took to the stage with his calm confidence, and prefaced his reading by telling everyone in the crowd about the various published books he had written on the table laid out in front of the podium so others could get a good idea about his work if they didn’t know about it already. Joe is very humble about his work and activism, but don’t think for one second that that makes him shy about sharing his mission and purpose within the cause. Instead of dabbling in each of his poignant non-fictional books about the prison system and examples of the wrongfulness of the death sentence in general, Joe took this opportunity and his time to share with us a new project that is autobiographical throughout. As mentioned in the title line to this blog, this work has been titled “Beauty & Madness: Growing Up Southern.” I, and others in the crowd, was instantly hooked from the start.

With a Shakespearian aspect of material and delivery, Joe jumped right into his intro and the first chapter of his youth. Set in the winter of 1954, about 30 miles outside of the Research Triangle of North Carolina, Joe threw us in the middle of a very personal basketball game and halftime show that involved his sister and his father predominantly. We didn’t find out the final score of the game or how his sister Kaye running on the court during play in the first half affected Joe’s play in the second. Instead, we were privy to a gut-wrenching account of a childhood and family trauma that few have experienced and that I can only imagine. I’m talking about the race to save a father who was in pain and in need of emergency help. I’m talking about the death of a patriarch in one night but also told and experienced in a childhood haze of slow motion trauma.

One, meaning I, had to wonder if this experience with death, up close and very personal, had an astounding affect on Joe to later pursue a passion of helping relieve others facing man-made death sentences in horrid prison conditions. I can only think that it didn’t hurt that inclination. That said, Joe was the utmost professional as he read from something so honest and personal that a lesser person would have been sobbing and ripping the pages out during the reading. Let’s just say, I’m not sure that I could’ve had the strength to share that with anyone had it been me at this moment, no matter how long ago it took place. I value Joe’s friendship and courage to live the story and mission that has been delivered on his plate. We are all better for having listened to Joe, that’s for sure.

Our featured music of the night is fresh off of firing on all cylinders with her magical third album and national debut, “Snake Handler.” She is the perfect combination of Americana noire and southern-gothic songwriting, with a twist of something awesome that hasn’t been labeled yet. Fitting for the post-reading tonight, her album is filled with stories of Pentecostal churches, broken households, crooked family trees, forgotten pockets of the Deep South, and domestic violence. But don’t you worry, nobody is going to get hurt by listening to her music, even if it self-proclaimed metal music that comes out country (t-shirt idea in the making). Before coming to Nashville, this lady worked as a Deputy District Attorney in Montgomery, Alabama. Recently acknowledged for her latest record by Rolling Stone as someone to know, and being accompanied by her talented friends Anna Harris and Javi Jones (East Side Storytellin’ alumni in their own right), I was more than honored and excited to welcome the always amazing India Ramey to the show family.

India is another one of those dynamite storytellers and entertainers who will sneak up on stage without trying to grab your attention and then explode your world with awesome once she starts singing and sharing her talents on a live mic (she could probably still explode your world singing unplugged too). She opened her set with the her recent title track of “Snake Handler”, prefacing the song by stating it is a literal and figurative tale of everyone dealing with the snakes in their head too. It was about facing arrogance and ignorance  while not showing any weaknesses on your journey. Playing a solid 6 chords with fierce strokes that could break any of the guitar strings at any moment and gifting us all with a voice and words that derive from somewhere inside her soul that is deeper than most will go and when it does reach you, it echoes into your own face like it’s been shot out of a cavern or cannon and crashes into your reality over and over again like waves when the tide rolls in on the shore (had to get one Roll Tide! comment for the Alabama shout out, but it’s all true).

Starting with the story about handling snakes, she then followed suit with our mutual ESS’ alumnus friend and magical storyteller Rayvon Pettis by sharing a song written about the TVA outside of Alabama and Georgia combined territory. An absolute beautifully haunting tale about the living and the dead drifting away and the relationship and respect the living have for those used and/or forgotten and misplaced in transition with a song titled “Drown Town”. You’ll hear it in the recording below, but the sheer amount of layers and personal histories packed into every one of India’s songs is both breathtaking and inspiring to anyone trying to convey meaningful material in any medium these days. You know when you can package surface with substance that is both equally wonderful and moving, that is a sure fire recipe for quality art. I know I’m starting to sound like India’s publicist, but I’m honestly just a fan and friend. She is that good. Besides, she doesn’t need a publicist, when she’s that good. Instead of tooting her own horn in between songs, she actually surprised me and everyone in the crowd and in the band when she asked Anna to step out of the backing light to lead the set with a song of her own called “Rapture City” … a song that had never seen the light of day or had been performed in public to that point in time. Like India’s songs, Anna didn’t hesitate to blow us all away with the tone and importance of every single word, melody, and message she wanted to convey in her short time there. Again, you can listen to it below, and see how shocked and surprised she was before she threw that to the side and rocked us all in this picture.

Before and after Anna did her thing, India claimed her thrown of a shining star that Nashville needs here and now by sharing two songs. One was her antithesis to Bro-Country and how those big phonies really don’t know what it’s like to find joy in small towns because they’ve never really lived in small towns and were poor (like most of their listeners who chug beer from solo cups to escape realities). It gave me the feeling of say a rapper trying to sound harder than they really know because of just trying to sell records (think comparing Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line to that of Rick Ross and you’ll see what I’m saying). Anyways, it was terrific. India and the gang finished the set with a song about a family redemption story about saying goodbye to her not so great father before his death. Again, not planning or curating any of the material from India or Joe, this is as serendipitous as life can get without misusing that term. And, again with India, she knocked it out of the park while taking one last walk off victory lap around the bases for the night. Take a listen to it all below, and let me know what you think for yourself. Prepare to be amazed.

And like every show I put together, I was able to get both Joe and India back on stage together to share some more personal stories, answers, and what ended up being shared praise for their own newfound friendship and respect for each other’s personal journey. India spoke about how important her husband letting the family uplift everything they had been working on for a decade and moving to Nashville to start a new path and friendships changed everything. Then Joe told his wife and India’s husband to stand up to be recognized for the solid teamwork for making every dream work to date for the featured artists.

Neither of these artists displaying an ego to write home about, these two artists join the ranks of people who are doing very important things for others to find their own purpose and happiness in this life, all the while doing everything they can to not waste any time or energy they can share with others while also making the most of their lives as well. It was a natural back and forth of meaningful and very relatable answers that everyone in the crowd could follow along and learn from with ease. I was merely tossing the ball on the court and letting these two professionals enjoy hitting it back and forth like a fun tennis match where nobody was counting score and there was nothing more than love. Like the majority of these show pairings, I should add that I totally could see these two doing more together in the near future, be it helping to add volume and unity with protests against a corrupt prison system and laws, or just helping others find their way back on their right paths. Point being, it was an honor to share the stage and a very special evening with these too kindred and fearless and altruistic souls. It’s very easy to smile and feel hope for humanity when around this crew.

So here it is, after writing and talking about it throughout the text above, this is the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 121 the night when Joe Ingle and India Ramey (alongside Anna Harris and Javi Jones) allowed us to explore the wonder and awe and redemption of every Southern tragedy. This was recorded at The Post East on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. Feel free to listen to this link and share it with everyone you know, over and over again. You’re welcome.

Before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Joe and India (and Anna & Javi) for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

You can listen to more of India’s music here – http://indiaramey.com

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website, www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own Words Tab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words



I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be
East Side Storytellin’ 122
Tuesday, January 2nd
at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm
reading- Christopher Pilny
singing- Abbey Moss

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 121 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there.

Much love,
mE

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