Richard Houser is a Virginia based singer/songwriter Greg Smith introduced me to with Reagan’s band and last night, it was raining and nothing much was going on when I got a call from Greg to come jam with the guys at Kingsport’s new Tommy Thai bar/restaurant on East Stone Drive.

That was reason enough for me to change my plans. It was 9.52, I had 500 pounds of marble chips and garden soil in the back of the Jeep. My keys were still set at my studio and some twenty miles seperated me and the 11.00 downbeat. Surprisingly, the next time I looked at my watch, it was 10.50, both keyboards were set up and the sound check was ready to go at this chic venue now open in Kingsport’s restaurant row.

Tommy Thai is a lot like Stir Fry Cafe in Johnson City. The Stir Frye is the place where the pretty girls go and they attract a similar crowd. It’s not unusual to see Hummers, Mercedes, Lexus and the like on a Friday and Saturday night and a 20something crowd that seem way beyond their payments. Despite that, they dress nice, drink martinis and they have one of the best night clubs in the region.

Kingsport’s new Thai restaurant has great food too and if you’re into spicy cuisine, this location deserves a visit. Their decor is neo-asian and they have dreamy asian waitresses with a nice bar right inside their door. This building used to be the old Montgomery Ward in the Kingsport Mall and their front door faces Stone Drive. If they ever get a strong late-night crowd happening here, this place could easily become Kingsport’s hot spot.

Richard Houser is a miltary kid. He traveled all over the world. His father, originally from Bristol relocated the family to Germany, California, New Mexico and several other cities, but he’s content now to call Virginia home. A talented artist, Richard is a culinary expert too. He currently works in Abingdon and has been a part of many special menus throughout the region.

As an entertainer, Richard sings in a voice all his own and you’ll hear flavors like Van Morrison and Joe Cocker. His bluesy pipes are also the voice of Blue Rapture from Johnson City. This band plays all over the region and feature a horn-laced blues band playing creole and rock. Occasionally, he plays with Rapture guitarist Greg Smith solo (they are good friends) and tonight I was glad I got the call.

Jason Crawford was on bass tonight and we were both kidding each other about the rehearsal. As funny as it seems, we played two great sets without a rehearsal. From Blues to Reggae, Jazz, Funk and Rock, our little jam captured the essence of music. Unpredictable, fun and free.

These guys are a joy to play with and we created some memorable improvisational moments over some cool progressions. I was especially woozy from Greg’s wah-wah on the acoustic guitar, or it could have been the bucket of Coors, I’m not really sure, but the owners were complimentary and hospitable and seemed to like the groove. Their manager stated that this is what he’s looking for and made another date for mid-June.

I don’t know what will come with this union and not sure that it really matters. It was fun to play with these guys and I’m sure they’ll continue to encourage a open participation with this performing group and with a little luck, I’ll continue to help them because I really enjoy playing with Richard and Greg. Richard is warm, commanding vocalist with some extraordinary original songs and Greg continues to surprise me with a pandora’s box of bright licks and funky tones for a white boy.

It was about 2.30 when I packed up the Jeep. The rain had completely soaked the city and the traffic lights shimmered on the roadways as I worked my way through the valley arriving home sometime after 3.00pm.