Greetings music lovers, and welcome to another month of navigating live music through a pandemic.
Unfortunately, live, in-person music is still hard to come by, as larger venues like the Tulsa Theater, Cain’s Ballroom and the BOK Center still have empty event calendars. Smaller venues like the Colony, Mercury Lounge and others are offering limited-capacity shows which I highly encourage you to support, but there’s no denying that our vibrant music scene is a far cry from what we’ve come to expect on a nightly basis.
That’s the bad news. The good news is what I’m going to focus on for the rest of this column.
Arts in the Air
Normally, I leave all things related to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center to my collegue Nancy Hermann, but the Arts in the Air series has a few must-see local musicians on the lineup that I feel compelled to mention.
Every Friday and Saturday evening until Nov. 14, the PAC Trust and Williams Companies are presenting local and regional entertainers at the Williams Green, located just west of the PAC.
October in Oklahoma is as good as it gets for outdoor entertainment, so I recommend attending as many Arts in the Air installments as possible. But if you can’t make them all, the Oct. 16 show featuring Casii Stephan and the Oct. 23 show with Branjae are the two nights I’m most excited about.
Casii Stephan is a soulful singer/songwriter who has been compared to Florence Welch, Fiona Apple and Carole King. Her newly released single, “Trapeze Artist,” is described on her website as “Brandi Carlile meets Adele.” Stephan is the recipient of numerous awards and songwriting contests and her music has drawn rave reviews from national publications like At Large Magazine and American Songwriter.
Branjae is an R&B, Funk, Soul goddess. Oklahoma Magazine named her “Oklahoma Best of 2018” along with Hanson and The Flaming Lips. Her energy and stage presence are reminiscent of Tina Turner or Freddie Mercury, while her voice has a fullness and strength that has inspired comparisons to the great Nina Simone.
There will be limited seating provided at Williams Green for the Arts in the Air series, but bringing your own chair is also encouraged. Social distancing will be required.
Jamie Oldaker Roots Music Series
In the three plus years that I’ve been writing Searching for the Sound, no column has gotten more reader responses than the August 2020 column eulogizing Tulsa Sound founding father Jamie Oldaker. I received numerous emails following that August issue, and they all said basically the same thing: I’ve been a Jamie Oldaker fan for x years and I just want to say thank you for expressing what a tremendous loss we suffered with his passing.
Clearly, readers felt compelled to email me not because they were inspired by my unique voice or naturally flowing prose, but because of their love for Oldaker.
One reason for Oldaker’s popularity is that he never lost his curiosity or his eagerness to tackle new musical genres, reinventing himself again and again like a musical chameleon.
That curiosity is the inspiration for OKPOP Museum’s Jamie Oldaker Roots Music Series, a program which will explore how various genres came to be.
Oldaker’s wife Mary conceived the program, which will feature artists from different genres performing music and speaking about the development and history of their genre and how it evolved over time.
According to Mary, understanding where music comes from and how it evolves was of paramount importance to Jamie, who once said, “If you want to really hear or play the music, you need to know the music.”
The Jamie Oldaker Roots Music Series will take place at the OKPOP Museum, which is under construction and scheduled to open in 2022, as well as in academic settings. Check out jamorootsmusic.com to learn more about the program.
Red Dirt Book
Red Dirt: Roots Music Born in Oklahoma, Raised in Texas, At Home Anywhere by Josh Crutchmer was released worldwide on Sept. 19. The book, written by New York Times Editor Josh Crutchmer, explores the history of Red Dirt music from campfire pickin’ at a farm in Stillwater, Oklahoma to its current place as a formidable part of the American musical landscape.
Crutchmer, an Oklahoma native and graduate of Oklahoma State University, conducted extensive interviews for the book, including an exclusive with Garth Brooks, who was part of Stillwater’s early Red Dirt scene before relocating to Nashville.
The book is available in paperback, which you can purchase by itself, or as part of numerous packages that include interview audio, artists’ quotes that didn’t make the book, photos, stickers and more. Go to reddirtbook.com to order your copy.
Best Local Band
I’d like to give a shout out to the legendary Randy Crouch and his Flying Horse band for winning Best Local Band in GTR’s Best of Greater Tulsa.
The recognition is nothing new to Crouch, who was presented with the Restless Spirit Award for songwriting in 2019 in honor of his nearly half century of songwriting and performing.
Although he’s considered one of the founding fathers of Red Dirt music, Crouch’s music, like Crouch himself, is difficult to label; too unique to fit inside any one box. His songs range from the light hearted “12-ounce Curls,” in which he sings about “retox and dehabilitation,” to profoundly deep songs like “They Took it Away,” which explores the plight of native communities.
Crouch is widely considered the world’s best rock & roll fiddle player, and his ability to switch from fiddle to guitar to pedal steel, or to somehow play all three together has elevated him to legend status. Today, the 68-year-old Crouch is content to take more of a back seat to the talented band he fronts, often deferring to musicians like Scott Evans and Mark Lyon.
Joining Evans and Lyon in the Flying Horse Band are Annie Payne on bass and David Teegarden on drums, rounding out one of the most talented ensembles in the region.
Crouch has several albums available for purchase on Amazon, which I highly recommend.
One of the disadvantages of writing for a monthly newspaper is timing. Last month, I missed the opportunity to get the word out on Tom Skinner’s Skyline Festival (A.K.A. Skinnerfest), an annual fundraiser for Red Dirt Relief Fund. The festival is happening on Oct. 2, the day this paper comes out, so chances are, you won’t be reading this until after the fourth annual Skinnerfest is in the books.
Normally held across three venues at 18th Street and Boston Avenue, this year’s Skinnerfest went virtual due to concerns over COVID-19.
While it’s probably too late to attend the streaming festival, it’s not too late to make a contribution to Red Dirt Relief Fund, which offers financial assistance to people in the music industry. Obviously, musicians have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, making Red Dirt Relief Fund more valuable than ever. And the organization is stepping up, providing a total of $145,000 to out-of-work musicians since March.
Mike Hosty, one of the 420 musicians to recieve a grant from Red Dirt Relief Fund, said, “What they did for me, I will give back to them over and over and over. It meant so much to me … and I love being a part of it. It’s just such a great thing to come together and help your fellow musicians. When you know what it’s like, it makes it all the more important.”
Visit reddirtrelieffund.org to learn more about the organization, and make a donation while you’re there if you can.
Despite some empty venues and sparse event calendars, the Tulsa music scene is finding a way to survive this pandemic. Please do whatever you can to support local music and help the industry stay afloat in these lean times. Buy an album, stream a concert, donate to Red Dirt Relief Fund; anything you can afford to keep the music playing so we can keep searching, keep listening.