When it rains it pours! At least that seems to be the case here in East Tennessee during the month of June. It’s been weeks since my adventures on the local music scene have appeared in GoTriCities and I’ve missed the opportunity to tell a good story.

Life gets hectic as we work on our dreams and it seemed that everything around me was way too busy to wrestle with the characters that it takes to build a weekly commentary. I have a new appreciation for all writers, though, and thanks to the encouragement of my good friends we step back into the melody, harmony and rhythm of our mountain home.

There’s a lot to catch up on too, but first my condolences with many in the music community for the passing of Mike Lumley, who worked at Jeff’s Morrell Music for 22 years in downtown Kingsport. Mike left us this past weekend and was one of those people who made you feel good to play an instrument. Always encouraging, he was part musician, guitar tech, curmudgeon, philosopher and a great friend to players all over the region. Many are sharing their love for Mike on the The Buzz at GoTriCities.com and this comment left by one his dearest friends says it all: “There is a new star in the sky tonight and Mike Lumley is smiling down on us all. I can’t help believe that he’s picking a six-string too.

Part of my absence over the past several weeks has been due to the ecstasy of performing with one of the area’s most talented singer/songwriters, Reagan Boggs. A few months ago she asked me to join her on stage and what a great experience this has turned out to be! I’ve met some great musicians and shared some memorable stages over the past few weeks and am certain to have many stories to share as this collaboration unfolds.

One of the most exiting things happening on the local scene is the opening of several new venues for live music here in The Tri-Cities. One of our favorite new hangouts is The Vinyard across from the Bristol Mall. This local legacy is known for good Italian food and now it serves up some of the best regional talent with what they refer to as “The Sessions” in Bristol.

It’s great to see their new effort to redefine a local business and although they’re still serving the same great food, they have transformed the restaurant to include a new stage, sound system and have even knocked down a few walls to give the room a greater ambience for the live performances they feature many nights of the week, including Monday.

I don’t know about you, but Mondays for me are great days for the blues. WETS-FM has a weekly feature called Blue Monday. It’s one of the best radio shows around and a perfect cure for a melancholy mood at the beginning of the week. However, if you want to feel the healing power of the blues up close and personal, it doesn’t get much better than The Vinyard on Monday night as they feature one of our regional treasures — Billy Crawford.

Billy works a day job at JJ’s House of Music in Bristol. At least that’s where he’s hanging out when he’s not playing. He’s moved back to town for a while after touring the planet for years with legendary blues performer Deborah Coleman. He’s planning on another tour, but in the meantime, you can catch him and his new band each Monday at The Vinyard. This Saturday (June 20th), they are planning a special party, too, as they celebrate the release of their new CD called “Memphis City Limits.”

Reaching under the counter, Billy passed along one of the new CDs that features George Hammonds on bass and Keith and Tammy Chinault on drums and vocals.

“I got used to playing with raw blues talent on the road with Debra,” he told me as I looked over the new CD that features the band’s picture on the cover. “Keith and Tammy are from Pulaski, Va., and are some of the best original blues talents that I could play with on this project.”

The CD itself was recorded inside JJ’s music store last month on State Street. That’s an ideal place to record as the new digital gear gives artists excellent control over the final project. Besides the fact that George Hammonds lays down the most solid and dependable bass line around, his recording background with WETS-FM has given him an excellent ear too. George was the engineer on this project and has turned out a fine product.

What separates Billy’s blues style from other players in the region is his chameleonic approach to the Blues. In one sense he’s a traditional blues player moving through common progressions and in another moment he’s done the shapeshifting thing and is rendering precise melodies and rhythms that stand out on every verse. Billy seems to have limitless capabilities of that moves from B.B. to Stevie Ray and Clapton to Robert Cray.

Tammy has a gutsy blues voice that’s hard to ignore on this collection of mostly original songs. She sings their music like she knows what she’s talking about and that’s always been the allure of the blues. Her husband Keith sings one of my favorite songs on the project, too, called “Cadillac Boogie” and he’s got the voice of a great growlin’ blues man in the making.

The Vinyard will be hosting the CD release party for “Memphis City Limits” this Saturday night and if you like good rockin’ blues with players that know it and feel it, you won’t go wrong with the Billy Crawford Band. Go early for dinner and stay late with friends to experience a special blend of homemade talent.

Support live music in the Tri-Cities. Complete music coverage at

  • gotricities.com/music
  • gotricities.com/thebuzz

    This week’s buzz topics…

  • Sad news for area musicians
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    This week’s best bets for live music…

  • Friday — CattleAxe at Kemmosabes
  • Saturday — CD Release party: The Billy Crawford Band at The Vinyard.


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