Ahh … autumn in the mountains of East Tennessee. There’s nothing quite like this time of year anywhere. Orange and purple sunsets, long shadows and the smell of fire places turn our mountain home into a storybook from days gone by. Those were my thoughts as I drove the back roads through Beech Creek this past Saturday to hear Blue Mother Tupelo at Rogersville’s historic Crockett Park.

Crockett Park is the resting place for Davy Crockett’s grandparents and like many landmarks in our region, this park stands as a memorial to our history and ancestors. The Rogersville Arts Council selected this location in downtown to present concerts this year and plans many more next summer. A Saturday concert was the last of the season, and featured one of the best female voices and most original music that you are likely to hear on a small stage.

This summer, I received an e-mail from Amanda Reeves and her schedule for the Rogersville Arts Council featuring Blue Mother Tupelo. She had read my column complaining about the lack of live music in Kingsport and invited me to Rogersville.

When I arrived at the park, it was cool. Lots of sweaters, kettle fires ready for marshmallows and hot apple cider served under a willow tree with kids peering like Cheshire cats from the branches. Beside the gazebo, Blue Mother Tupelo — the band’s gear unpacked from a Chevy Suburban and a U-haul — was getting ready for its performance. Their instruments were onstage and the lead singer was fixing her makeup in the truck.

Micol Davis and her husband Ricky are the heart and soul of Blue Mother Tupelo. When I first visited their Web site, it was a treat to see two people who fit so well together. Both are great singers and together they produce great music that sounds like the swampy sounds of a French Quarter backbeat to down and dirty blues from the Delta. Some like to call it “Swampadelic.”

Last week, PBS ran a series featuring Martin Scorsese and seven film directors’ documentaries on Blues in America. Once again I was mystified by the history of this musical culture and I guess that’s why I was glad to be in Rogersville, listening to a group that had recently been nominated as best Acoustic Blues act by the 2003 Music City Blues Awards in Nashville.

I spoke to Micol — singer, keyboardist and percussionist — before the set. I bought two CDs and introduced myself to this young woman with striking blue eyes. We shared stories about music and our Tennessee home.

She and her husband are from Knoxville and recently moved to Hendersonville. I know these two places well, having lived in both areas and she was delightful to talk to. She is also obviously passion ate about her music too, and talked more about the band — Ricky on vocals and guitar, John Richardson on drums and Ronnie James on Acoustic Bass.

Blue Mother Tupelo began its set a little past 6.30 with a pastel sunset behind the gazebo … and what a sound! With Ricky playing a resonator guitar with slide and Micol on tambourine, it was like a Pentecostal testimony night.

Their music is music was the most honest, original performances of any group I’ve heard lately. Too many places serve up the blues that sounds like a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn, but this couple’s down-to-earth style is more than guitar; it’s about the music. They sing about family, the mountains, work, church and above all, their love. As an added bonus, they played an old blues song that I thought I would never hear again, that my brother and I used to sing when we were kids called, “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.” Other memorable songs included; “I’ll Make Love to You Any Old Time” and ‘Further Down The Road.”

I can’t say enough about the voice of Micol Davis. Tennessee has given birth to many distinctive female voices, and here is another gem. Her voice has an original style that reminds me of the passion of Janis Joplin and the honesty of Dolly Parton; she’s got a seductive coo like Norah Jones, too. The East Tennessee hills may have an other legend in the making.

Blue Mother Tupelo is one-of-a-kind blues act. Its songs are terrific and with a little more stage presence, Micol and Ricky will surely find themselves at bigger venues in the future. Their recent nominations as best Acoustic Blues and Best Female Blues Vocalist are well deserved. I feel lucky to have both original CDs and invite you to explore this great music online at their Web site at bluemothertupelo.com.

It was a great October night in downtown Rogersville and things will only get better this weekend as Heritage Days kicks off the final outdoor festival of the region.

The Buzz News

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    This week:

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    Related links:

    bluemothertupelo.com

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    David Cate is new media director for the GoTriCities network. E-mail him at dcate@gotricities.net.