All For The Hall

Joe Walsh played “Meadows.”

I had the world’s worst case of mononucleosis but despite the infection I decided to drive my BMW from Salt Lake City to Connecticut and I needed new tunes to get me through so I went down to Odyssey Music on State Street and bought six cassettes, including Joe Walsh’s new live album “You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind,” made to get out of his ABC contract, and although it did include a live take of “Rocky Mountain Way” it was “Meadows” that stuck out, with its iconic riff and dynamics, I vividly remember driving over Vail Pass, seeing the snow in June, listening to “Meadows.”

So Joe’s sitting on stage, strumming his axe, telling a story, about living in Massachusetts and driving through a field and seeing an old stone wall and my heart starts to palpitate. This is what happens when you know what song the artist is gonna play, when it’s one of your favorites and you never expected it. Joe’s been on the road all summer, I missed his gig at the Forum, I took solace in the fact he played mostly hits, when the people pay they expect them, I wasn’t expecting “Meadows.”

It was the opening cut on the second side of “The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get.” That was forty-odd years ago. Does anybody remember? I still do.

Almost as good was “Indian Summer,” from the 1978 smash “But Seriously, Folks,” his solo album between Eagles albums, the one with “Life’s Been Good.” I know it by heart, I thought I’d never hear it played live again.

But that’s the power of Joe Walsh. Chris Stapleton said “Hell Freezes Over” was the best show he’d ever seen. Bar none. He’d saved up his money and went with his little brother…
Stapleton got the biggest reaction, the audience came to see him, he was primed. And when Chris reached down deep and wailed…it was a REVELATION! This is a star, hiding in plain sight, makes you a believer. And Chris stated that he cowrote “When The Stars Come Out” with Dan Wilson and when the show was done Kenny MacPherson introduced me to him, Dan Wilson, that is, you know the guy who wrote “Closing Time,” the guy who cowrites with Adele, I was nearly speechless, it’s not often you’re in the presence of genius, this is a smart guy, he went to Harvard, and that means something to my east coast sensibility, if you want to know some of the history read Jacob Slichter’s “So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful Of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer’s Life,” a rock star story written by someone with a brain who gives insight on what it’s like to make it and then descend into the abyss, but Dan survived, whew!

It was one of those L.A. nights.

When the stars come out to shine.

Hosted by Vince Gill, “All For The Hall” is a fundraiser for the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s a guitar pull, with five musicians on stage, trading songs and licks, with no production, only the music and the stories.

And Vince’s story of being good friends with Arnold Palmer… Funny where music will take you.

And Vince played a new number about Merle Haggard that held my attention, that’s how you know something’s a winner, if it penetrates when you’ve never heard it before.

And Kacey Musgraves added levity. She’s a pistol. She talked about working in her parent’s print shop, badly. She sang a sad Christmas song from her yet to be released holiday LP and she finished with her breakthrough number “Merry Go ‘Round” after telling a great story about Miranda Lambert covering her “breakthrough” single, Kacey was saving it for herself, told Liz Rose, who was in attendance, that it broke her heart, but Liz said the money she was gonna make was gonna fill that hole, ha!

But the star of the show was…

James Taylor.

He opened with “Today Today Today” from his 2015 LP “Before This World,” which disappointed me, this was a bad sign, he was only gonna play new music, not the classics, not what I wanted to hear, boy was I wrong.

Meanwhile, “Today Today Today” was good because in the middle Vince started playing along, adding notes in his anti-Yngwie style, in other words it was what Vince left out that made it so good, in classic Lowell George style he was playing so little, but what he did was tasteful and added resonance.

But then James played “Something In The Way She Moves.”

Do you have the original version, from the Apple LP, it’ll blow your mind, it’s on Spotify, it starts with a musical interlude, one of the links that connected all the songs on that LP and then…

Funny how everybody can play the guitar but we all play it differently. James is picking the notes and I’m transported back to my bedroom on Farist Road in Fairfield, Connecticut, I played that record every day of the last two months of my senior year of high school as the weather got warmer and my mood got better.

Every now and then the things I lean on lose their meaning, this aging thing is putting me through the wringer, I love the future but I can’t believe the past is in the rearview mirror and then I hear JT play “Something In The Way She Moves” and it all connects, it’s one big continuum, I’m all right.

But then he played “You Can Close Your Eyes.”

Well the sun is surely sinking down
And the moon is slowly rising
And this old world must still be spinning ’round

I went to see James at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester. Me and about 75 other people who’d gotten the memo, he sat on a stool and played most of “Sweet Baby James.” It was months later that “Fire And Rain” broke through and ever since JT’s been out with a band, he’s turned into a crooner, it wasn’t quite the same until…


Tonight James Taylor was an American treasure. He survived drug abuse and the songs are still here and he can still play them. When he sang about the Berkshires being dream-like on account of that frosting I tingled. I’ve been living on the west coast for so long, but part of me is still in New England, I know that road from Stockbridge to Boston, I’ve left some blood on those tracks.

And it turns out “You’ve Got A Friend” was an answer song to “Fire And Rain,” you know he could not find a friend, Carole King wanted to provide one, James told the story, along with the making of “Two-Lane Blacktop,” he’s never seen it to this day, dating Joni Mitchell and playing a song that took less time to write than play.

That’s right, James Taylor and Joe Walsh duetted on “Steamroller,” Joe on his electric wringing out those notes that enthralled an entire generation.

It won’t be long before another day.

We gonna have a good time.

We’re gonna put on our tunes, smile as we eat up the miles, no one’s gonna take that time away, you can listen as long as you like.

Sometimes you’re brought back to where you once belonged, the thread back to why you do this is pulled tight, you understand most of life is trappings, but music is the essence, the center, the nougat.

Tonight was one of those nights.

All For The Hall – Spotify playlist

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