scottymeltonA good songwriter can channel the soul of a hundred poets.

That’s the impression Scotty Melton left with me as I stood in the shadows at McGinn’s in Elizabethton last Saturday night when he sang his original song ‘The Way I’m Loving You.”

It’s been said great poetry is about economy (an economy of words at least) and Melton’s lyric and phrasing touches the soul. Here in the Tri-Cities, he keeps a low profile, but he could be one of the best songwriters on the block.

I’m not the only one to feel that way either. Several musicians have already picked up on Scotty’s gift.

I first recognized Scotty’s craft while working with Reagan Boggs . She released the ballad, “The Way I’m Loving You” on her second record and I always enjoyed playing the song. He also has songs recorded by Nashville’s ‘Les Honkies More Tonkies’ and others.

That’s why when Melton was musing over which song to play before his break this weekend, I asked to hear my favorite song and with no hesitation he spoke into the microphone, “Here’s a song about the institution of marriage, recorded by Reagan Boggs and one of the first I ever wrote.”

Playing his acoustic guitar in front of a window with traffic passing by and dressed in a well-worn Jager t-shirt, he looked up from his glasses and premature grey/white hair and sang;

I’ve got dreams that burn like fires burn
In your eyes forever blue

I’ve got feelings that shine like diamonds
and stars in heaven that remain forever true

This was my first visit to McGinn’s in Elizabethton.

I’ve passed by this pub several times across the street from Pal’s and next to the railroad tracks. It’s one of those small corner buildings that expands as the block lengthens down Elk Avenue.

A lot of people like to play darts at this local waterin’ hole and it may be the only bar in Betsytown.

It’s a small room too with barely enough room for a performer and in addition to the bar which may entertain 50 people, there are two smaller rooms with dart boards which draw regular crowds on the weekend.

Just inside the door, there was a cloud of smoke, the familiar aroma of beer and fried food and Scotty was performing with another guitarist.

Together they were playing a set of cover songs from “Copperhead Road” to “Behind Blue Eyes” and he occasionally picked up the harmonica to play Neil Young. He sings with the passion of Dylan, John Prine and Steve Earle and his subject matter reminds me of the great Darrell Scott as his topics are close to home.

Melton has his own down-home distinctions and he’s no newcomer – road worn like a good pair of shoes – there’s really nothing to hold him back as he begins to retool his act after a rocky personal life in the past several years. He’s living in Piney Flats and just starting to make his way back into the local music scene.

In fact, he may have a great opportunity soon as Justin Townes Earle (rising star and son of Steve Earle – “Copperhead Road”) may release his songs on an upcoming recording.

The younger Earle speaks about Melton’s friendship when he lived with Scotty and his family near Johnson City while he battled his addictions.

Like most artists, Scotty Melton has no hesitation talking about what’s held him back over the past several years. He’s lived a hard life cluttered with his own demons and and you can hear that in his music.

McGinn’s is a humble room for a talent like Scotty Melton, but it was also the perfect spot to revisit this humble minstrel and enjoy his music once again. I have no doubt this native son from here the Tri-Cities will continue to write great music that will attract the attention of many who know a good turn when they hear one.

Scotty Melton offers up a free Mp3 with the song ‘I Keep Your Heart’ which speaks volumes. Download here and enjoy.