Commerce, TX – When Grammy winner and guitar virtuoso introduces the first songwriter performing an original composition on third Thursdays at 7:30, Cowhill Express in downtown Commerce comes to life with some of the best vocals and vibes this side of Nashville. This past Thursday had a strong lineup of all-male songwriters presenting two compositions each in Jerald Thomas' friendly musical venue in the backroom at Cowhill Express.
With no tickets and no cover charge involved, the laidback evening is one of the best bargains for country music in the region. After his tips on "How to Break into the Music Business," Brad Davis, who owns a recording studio down the street from Cowhill Express and serves as host each week, sets a professional benchmark by performing one of his own hits requested by a songwriter or member of the audience.
Ambience of the stage area with a railing from a judge's quarters, yesterday's signs, bygone tools and implements, professional lighting, and effective sound amplification make the setting a favorite among the performers. "The audiences are wonderful," one of the songwriters remarked; "they actually listen intently to our lyrics.
One by one the regional songwriters stepped on stage, all but one accompanying himself on an amplified guitar and usually wrapping his voice around a somber, sometime sad, melody. Rick Parent began with "Hands of Time," followed by a plaintive, moving "He Was Everybody's Child." Then Johnny C. Lately engaged the audience with "Joshes' Song," adding satire with "The Price of Business Today." Jason Titus released his vagabond spirit with "Out on the Road" and "Free to Be Me."
Gary Hamilton identified with drought-stricken Texas with "I Want to Go Where It Rains" and "I'm Goin' Down." Jordan Brown injected love interests with "Mi Amor." Allen Martin demonstrated his songwriting talents with "Savannah" and "For All Mankind." Dylan Westmoreland performed "Love Song," which he wrote not long ago at age fifteen, and "Butterfly Wings."
Seth Sturgill, the only musician accompanying himself on a keyboard, opened with "Love You More" and ended with "The Hug Story," dedicated to his younger brother. Brad Davis, who sometimes identified himself as a "guitar junkie," ended the evening with a second of his requested hits, unleashing unsuspected but satisfying musical effects.
"We had strong male talent tonight," Jerald Thomas remarked, but "we missed the lady songwriters, and we hope they be back in for the August third Thursday. Next month Brad Davis will give the aspiring headliners information about the demo process in professional songwriting.