Report: Cayamo Cruise 2010 (Day 2)

 

For
Monday, Feb. 22,, we grill the musical luminaries and take in scintillating
sets from Buddy Miller, the WPA and Emmylou Harris.

 

By Lee Zimmerman / Photos by Will Byington

 

Ed.
note: This week BLURT contributor Lee Zimmerman is on the annual Cayamo Cruise,
which as you’ll read below boasts a who’s-who of roots and Americana
artists playing for (and mingling with) fans traveling on a five-day cruise
through the Caribbean. Fittingly enough, the
event’s called Caribbean on Cayamo
2010: A Journey Through Song. Internet connection willing, Zimmerman will be
filing a report each day, so keep checking back to find out who was twanging
the loudest, who was singing the sweetest – and who Zimmerman was rubbing
shoulders with the hardest. Go here to read his report from Day 1. Incidentally,
you can also read his report from last year’s Cruise elsewhere at the BLURT
site
.

 

Okay, so I’m exhausted.

 

For good reason too. Day Two of Cayamo has consisted of both
a frantic afternoon and evening. Sure, this is a plum assignment, but being
onboard a luxury cruise liner, stuffing oneself in the buffet line and then
attempting to muster up the dexterity to dash back and forth between shows in
various venues can be demanding. For all Cayamo offers – and trust me, it
provides an abundance of riches for the true music enthusiast – it is not all
that relaxing.  Taking advantage of all
the music requires a great deal of planning and strategizing in order to catch
every performer that’s worth seeing – and frankly, that’s the great majority of
them. Consequently, the exertion in terms of sheer brainpower – something yours
truly isn’t always adept at – is enough to send one’s energy level into
overdrive.

 

Trust me on this too – providing these daily blogs means a
certain dedication to a strict work ethic, all in the name of reporting an
accurate assessment of the day’s activities. So the first order of business
this morning is meeting with our press rep/camp counselor/sometime baby sitter,
Becki Carr, who does a fantastic job of steering half a dozen befuddled
journalists through a course of action. For example, were it not for Becki and
my wife, Alisa, these blogs might not even get posted. There are technical
difficulties galore when it comes to trying to get an email connection from a
ship, including all kinds of limitations that I couldn’t begin to explain…
except to say one when one forgets his user name on his personal email account,
all the miracles of cyberspace suddenly fall by the wayside.

 

******************************************************************************

The first music of the day
comes courtesy of a special “alumni show” featuring a one-off duo acoustic
performance with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt. While the two trade songs back and
forth, it’s their natural rapport that strikes the most distinctive chord. As
someone would say later, the two may have invented an entirely new
entertainment genre called “sit-down comedy.” 
It goes something like this:

 

Hiatt: “We don’t know what
we’re going to play.”
Lovett: “I was trying to guess what you were going to play. I’ve guessed, but I
won’t be able to tell you if I’m right until later.”

 

Okay, maybe you had to be
there.

 

Nevertheless, the patter isn’t
preplanned, although having just returned from a joint European tour the two
mean have apparently sharpened their skills when it comes to trading zingers…
and complements.

 

Hiatt: “Did you have a good
time?”
Lovett: “I had a good time because of you. You’re a very nice fellow!”

 

Suffice it to say, the deadpan
sentiment likens the duo to a kind of accidental Smothers Brothers.
Consequently, as the crowd files out of the theater, most declare it to be one
of the best showcases of the cruise thus far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The afternoon is dedicated to getting up close and personal with
several of the headliners via World Café sessions that are being taped for
replay in early April, followed by mini press conferences attended by the
artists and the small contingent of journalists onboard. They provide not only
an ideal opportunity to ask probing questions like “So, Emmylou Harris, what is
your favorite item in the buffet line?” or, “Hey, John Hiatt, did you ever get
so seasick you actually barfed from the pool deck?”  I’m joking of course… it was Hiatt who was
asked the first question and Emmylou the second…

 

Nah, fooled ya again!  Blurt would never give me this big-time
assignment if they had to worry about the kind of questions I was going to ask
the headliners. Then again, my editor probably figured I’d be able to remember
my user name too. 

 

Consequently, what follows are some of the more memorable
random comments of the afternoon:

 

 Alisa (Lee’s wife):
“I’m feeling woozy… I have to get some fresh air.”

Me: “Damn it… I could swear I knew my user name!”
Alisa: “Gurgle, blurp, garoosh, blech… I may be dying here, but you’re an
idiot!”

 

Oops, I guess I turned my digital recorder on too soon.

 

Fast forward to some of the observations of the artists
involved:

Robert Earl Keen: “Coming from Austin, I had a
fear of Nashville.
But what I am today is a direct result of the experience I gained there.”

John Hiatt: “I don’t write specifically for other people.  I don’t know how. When I’m asked, I always
end up doing poor imitations of other people’s songs.”

Emmylou Harris: “I love Cayamo.  It’s such
a great opportunity to sit in with friends. It’s kind of like a cross between a
festival and a prison break.”

 

Buddy Miller: “I met my wife Julie when I was auditioning
for a band in Austin.
She said, ‘Don’t hire that guy,’ but they hired me anyway.”

Keen: “I don’t mind doing other people’s songs. After all, I didn’t invent
songwriting.  And I’m sure not the only
guy that’s doing this thing.  I just want
to do material I feel really good about.”

Hiatt: “Bring The Family was a
turning point for me. I finally had begun to get sober. I stopped drinking, I
stopped doing drugs and all of a sudden I had a lot of time on my hands. I got
out of my own way. Before, I had zigged when I should have zagged. So I figured
I’d use all that extra time to create.”

 

Harris: “I finally gave myself a raise a few years. It meant
that I could work less and spend more time at home with my dogs.”

Keen: “My favorite writers? Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright, Nick Lowe… I’d
have to throw Norman Blake in there too. 
And there’s a new guy I think is really good named Adam Carroll.”

 

Hiatt: “It’s my nature to get restless. I have the
billy-goat syndrome. I always want to know what’s on the other side of the
fence.”

 

Miller: “What makes an album a Buddy record rather than a
Buddy and Julie or simply a Julie album? The fact is, Julie’s slow.  This last record started out as her record,
then it was my record, and then ultimately it became both of our record.”

 

Harris: It’s hard for me to write. I have a terrible fear of
the blank page, but I know I have to get past it.”

 

Keen: “I think it was Emerson who once said, ‘Imitation is
suicide, but self-imitation is worse.”

 

Harris: “When I write a song, it has to pass the truth test.
If I’m writing from personal experience, it has to encompass a situation that
everyone can relate to. The lyrics have to have that truth to it.”

 

Of course, insight is one thing, but the music also has to
speak for itself. 

 

The three shows we saw later that evening provided proof of
that point. Buddy Miller with Emmylou Harris as a special guest, proved that
the man had lost none of his instrumental dexterity despite being sidelined by
a heart attack and his subsequent triple bypass surgery. “I had no idea what it
involved,” Miller remarked at one point. “I told the doctors, ‘Fine, I’ll have
the surgery, but I have to be back on the bus when it leaves in the morning.'”
Clearly a crowd favorite, Miller swayed the audience’s emotions, not only
through a superb performance, but also in giving them the joy of welcoming him
back to Cayamo after last year’s unfortunate absence. The show was further
stoked by a surprise guest appearance from Shawn Colvin, a featured performer
from last year’s cruise who wasn’t booked for any appearances this year.
Nevertheless, by gracing the stage unexpectedly with Miller and Harris, the
Three Girls and Their Buddy amalgam came just short of a complete reunion.

 

WPA’s performance followed Miller and company in the
Spinnaker Lounge, and the sight of the seven members onstage, including the
Watkins duo, Sara and Sean, and steel guitar player Greg Leisz, elevated Glen
Phillips’ already amiable presence to new heights.  The band’s mix of pop, roots and bluegrass makes
for a remarkably seamless set and yields one sure standard – “Always Have My
Love.”  It’s already a song on which they
could rest their reputation.

 

Finally, we capped our evening with Emmylou Harris’
headlining gig in the Stardust Theater. The ever-faithful Buddy Miller provided
an ethereal ambiance, with songs such as “Pancho and Lefty,” “Red Dirt Girl,”
and “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” generally enhancing the sleepy
haze we were quickly falling victim to. 
Emmylou was superb, of course, but at the end of a hectic, action-packed
day, the mellow vibe was kind of akin to the evening’s last lullaby. Encore
over, we headed straight for bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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