In the past I have griped about the pretentious hip-factor associated with East Nashville. But, if this night’s under-the-radar performance by Rayland Baxter is indicative of the things that go on there—I’m ready to pack my bags and move.
The only news of this event was to those who follow Baxter and his opening act Odessa Rose on Twitter. I got tipped off by a friend who became a Baxter fan after stumbling onto his set at this year’s Bonnaroo. Neither the artist nor the venue website made any mention of the gig, so I showed up on faith alone. Baxter put the night together reopening the Barista Parlor (after the baristas went home) to try out some new songs in a stripped-down, simple format. The event was free and attracted perhaps fifty or so followers to hear his hour-long set.
Thus far, Baxter’s recorded output is limited to his 2012 full-length debut Feathers and Fishhooks and the just-released Ashkelon digital-EP. Unable to find either before the show, I located the debut release on Spotify and found it to be a great listen. It served as a delightfully relaxing backdrop one quiet Sunday morning.
Researching, I found two musical paths leading to Baxter. The first is that his Dad is Bucky Baxter, a famous steel guitar player and one-time member of Steve Earle’s Dukes. The other was a musical collaboration with the delightful songstress and his ATO Records label mate, Miss Caitlin Rose.
This night at the Barista Parlor, I was totally enthralled with the brilliance of Baxter’s soft-spoken, introspective performance. Alongside two songs from his debut record and one from his EP were new ones penned for his next project. Starting off on an acoustic guitar, he later switched to an electric and received some violin accompaniment from opener Odessa and her band mate.
The sound was distinctively “low-fi” and provided a soft and gentle foundation for Baxter’s sensitive and delicate narratives. He is akin to the new breed of young songwriters who shy away from hooks and choruses. Fortunately, Baxter has a sweet and tender voice that perfectly fits his songs which despite their simplicity are actually quite melodic.
I question whether some of today’s new singer-songwriters employ the casual and ethereal “low-fi” approach to simply cover up the fact that they can’t play, write, or sing. None of these is true about Rayland Baxter. He is an artist worth discovering.
- Eyes of the Sun
- The Ruby Queen
- Yearning Bird
- Me and Mr. Rodriguez
- The Tower Song
- Ghost Again
- These Days
Rayland Baxter—Acoustic and Electric Guitars