Wednesday, Feb. 25, we find ourselves drained but happy, checking out everyone
from Robert Earl Keen to Lyle Lovett.
By Lee Zimmerman / Photos by Will Byington
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
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, here for Day 2 and here for Day 3.
Incidentally, you can also read his report from last year’s Cruise elsewhere at
the BLURT site.
The music goes on forever and the party never ends…
This morning we wake up in Costa Maya Mexico, which, I will
later learn, is Spanish for “Land of the Tourist Souvenir and all Things
Claimed to be Made in Mexico
but really Manufactured In China.” That’s my theory anyway. Actually Costa Maya
is quite pleasant, especially due to the fact that there are no pushy taxi cab
drivers, mainly because it’s an easy walk from the boat to the public beach and
attendant shops. Consequently, it gives the impression that once the Mayans
laid their claim to this small strip of land on the Gulf Coast,
they immediately established a settlement consisting of overstocked stalls
selling ceramic ashtrays and tiny sombreros to arriving cruise ship passengers.
It ought to be noted that the most important thing to know
before attempting to barter with the natives is the value of the American
dollar versus the Mexican peso. Or more specifically, how many dollars it takes
to have your picture taken with a tiny monkey. Seriously. Tiny monkeys seem to
be among the most productive citizens of Costa Maya because practically
everywhere you turn, there’s someone offering to take your picture with a tiny
monkey. Why one would want their photo taken with a tiny monkey seems to be a
matter of conjecture, but I suppose that is in fact one of the mysteries of Mexico.
By the way, having been to the Mexican pavilion at Epcot
several times, I’ve learned that the correct pronunciation of Mexico is “Meh-hee-co.” Therefore I
knew exactly what was meant when one local entrepreneur approached me and asked
if I wanted to have “Seh-hee-co” with his sister.
Of course the coolest thing about Cayamo takes place on the
boat, specifically those close encounters with the performers. Generally, these
take place in the buffet line – proving the old adage that musicians like to
eat, just like us regular folks. This morning, we happened to spy Emmylou
Harris alone at breakfast, hair pulled back and looking inconspicuous in her
jumpsuit. I didn’t get an opportunity to catch what was on her plate but that’s
probably a good thing. I would have been mighty disappointed if she was helping
herself to an omelet and the
scrambled eggs and the eggs benedict and the French toast and the waffles and a half dozen of the other food varieties the breakfast line has
to offer. Better to pig out myself and not find any evidence that one of my
favorite singers is a glutton on the same scale as us mere mortals.
Likewise, it was a fairly commonplace occurrence to catch
Steve Earle at an early morning workout in the gym, a reassuring notion
considering his previously indulgent and addictive lifestyle, which by the way,
he’s quite candid about. “If I didn’t workout, I’d probably die,” he conceded
at a point later on.
Of course, the most common star sightings take place during guest appearances
during other artists’ sets, the exception being Robert Earl Keen’s solo show in
the Spinnaker. That was just fine too, because Keen is a legendary performer
whose humorous anecdotes and stories detailing the writing of his narrative
material provides all the entertainment necessary. Prior to launching into a selection of songs
from his latest CD, Rose Hotel —
“10,000 Chinese Walk into a Bar” and the title track among them – he shared a
story about an early attempt to get his record company to release a certain
song as a single. After writing three or four letters and receiving no answers,
he decided to go on a hunger strike.
However, three days into his effort, he was invited to an all you can
eat fish fry that boasted an unlimited cache of beer. “That, my friends, is why
you never heard that song on the radio.” Keen’s concluding song, “The Highway
Goes on Forever and the Party Never End,s” may well serve as the unofficial
anthem of Cayamo.
Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, who were up next, provided
what proved to be one of the show-stopping performances of the entire cruise. Reflecting
a populist approach that was part Springsteen, part Petty and wholly effusive
and appealing, the young band of best friends demonstrated both heart and
conviction. Songs about family provide a
major theme in their music, with the song “My Old Man” serving as an emotional
highlight. Family also gives Kellogg and
crew much to chat about, especially when it comes to Kellogg’s brother Sean’s
who somehow inspires a different story every set. Tonight’s tale had to do with their mother
finding a pair of dildos in Sean’s dresser drawer after he left for
college. Needless to say, the conjecture
as to what purpose they served and why they would be left behind drove the
audience into hysterics.
Our headliner show of the evening, Lyle Lovett and his Large
Band, didn’t disappoint either. Lovett is the consummate showman and his
natural charm never fails to come through. Soft-spoken and Texas-gracious, his
material alternated between Western swing and wistful reflection. Special guests Shawn Colvin, Robert Earl Keen
and Emmylou Harris added additional star power but Lovett’s ten piece band more
than held their own, especially considering the fact that legendary drummer
Russ Kunkel anchors the backbeat and back-up singer Arnold McCuller has graced
more sessions than one could possibly ever tally. Just like last year, Lovett’s set provided
Cayamo with another of its uncontested highlights.
We finished the evening back at the Spinnaker with a set by
Scythian, a feisty Celtic that all but insists its audience dance to their
delight. I felt compelled to clap along,
but by this point I was resigned to the fact that bedtime was nigh. Trudging off to my cabin, the rough seas
ensured that this ship would be rocking well into the night – physically as
well as figuratively.There was one more day of Cayamo remaining and though we
were still on a high, the ship itself seemed intent on taking its passengers
up… and down. Dramamine time had finally