‘The Nashville Sound’ in Suffolk

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2016

By Frank Roberts

Here’s a wonderful idea for a seasonal gift — enjoy a “Last Date of the Year” date. The date is Dec. 3, the time is 8 p.m. Take your date to the Suffolk Center For Cultural Arts when the “Nashville Sound” also becomes the Suffolk Sound.

The 30-something performers are from families credited with introducing their own special music — music that melded the straight country sound with a pop feel. Chet Atkins led the way. Others, such as Floyd Cramer, joined in.

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Those gentlemen are no longer with us, except on a host of CDs, on You Tube and so on. But a couple of young people from their families will be in town to perform a mix of songs popularized by Cramer and Atkins, along with, of course, gospel and popular Christmas music.

Who are the talented twosome? Jason Coleman is Cramer’s grandson; Meagan Taylor is Atkins’ great-niece. If you were around a few decades ago, this duo and their band will bring back some wonderful, wonderful memories as they perform music popularized by Cramer and Atkins.

The show is informal: music, conversation, banter with the audience, an autograph session — “like being with you in the living room,” Taylor said.

Coleman, of course, plays “The 88,” and his partner-friend will show her guitar prowess. There will be some vocal harmonizing, and there probably will be a special guest. Meagan has three children, and her 7-year-old daughter will also be on stage. (Her other children are a 4-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. The legacy continues.)

Coleman is married, no youngsters yet, as of this interview.

Appropriately enough, the show is called, “A Tennessee Christmas.” The bells will jingle, the Christmas snow will be white and, the birth of Jesus will have priority. This is the sixth year the pair has left home and hearth in Nashville to hit the road at Christmas and carry on the heritage of their families.

It’s a sure bet you will recognize the music. “We have no original songs,” said Coleman, during a phone interview from Music City. And, during a similar interview from that location, Taylor said, “We stay close to the original arrangements.”

And that’s the way the fans like it.

“We offer music you don’t hear on radio any more,” Taylor said.

It’s The Nashville Sound, and here is what it’s all about: It was introduced in the late 1950s, replacing honky-tonk and straight-ahead country with a more contemporary sound. Atkins is credited with being a major force and the “Sound” jumped the musical barrier as it enticed a wider audience.

Nashville, of course, has always been country music headquarters. Now, thousands of artists flock to Music City, USA, every year, hoping to be the next musical discovery.

Thanks to the “Sound” enticing a wider country audience, it brought the genre out of a slump. Atkins played solo, backed up many of the best-known artists and produced much of the music.

As happens so regularly in show business, the younger generation, surrounded as they were by country chords and notes, plus talented family members, easily slipped into the family spotlight.

This go-’round, of course, the spotlight is on the oldies and Christmas, but the pair travel year ’round, and they have cut two CDs together.

The pair’s music covers “the era of grandpa and uncle,” Coleman said. “People will be hearing songs they may not have heard in a decade. The older and middle-aged people grew up with our music.”

But the young people who attend their shows also enjoy the music, Taylor added.

Some of their music also has symphony orchestra backgrounds. One concert featured the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra and their video shows one and all having quite a good time.

Coleman also appeared with the Grand Ole Opry, and played at the Country Music Hall Of Fame Medallion Ceremony recognizing his grandfather’s induction in the Hall Of Fame. He also backed Christian artist Greg Long.

With nearly 200 concerts under their belts, “Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the life I’ve been given,” Coleman said.

They’ll close the show with “Last Date.”

For the music-minded, this bit of information: The inventive Atkins perfected the ability to play chords and melody simultaneously, due to his distinctive “thumb-and-three-finger picking style.”

He explained it more directly: “I just had a damn guitar in my hands 16 hours a day, and I experimented all the time.”

His instrumental solo albums are noted for guitar tricks, mixing harmonics, arpeggio and pure notes with a clear tone. Fellow guitarist Duane Eddy said, “I think he influenced everybody who picked up a guitar.”

A note about that “Last Date.” It was written by Cramer and became a bigger pop than country hit. It climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard chart. No. 1 at that time? “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by Elvis Presley.

“A Tennessee Christmas” will be presented at 8 p.m. Dec. 3. Tickets are $25. You can go on line at: www.suffolkcenter.org, or visit the Suffolk Center from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday thru Friday, or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. There is a 10 percent discount for groups of 10 or more. Youth tickets are $15.