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Monticello opera hosts hosts "From the Heart" music fest

Monticello’s historic opera house will be serving up a tasty musical buffet this Friday and Saturday.  Tom Flanigan reports the event will become a future “From the Heart Music Hour” on WFSU-TV.

Growing up in Pensacola during the sixties, Jim White was exposed to a surprising variety of musical influences.

“There was one radio station in town that played popular music and it played anything from schlock psychedlia to straight-up-country like Bobbi Gentry to the series of Motown artists that came out to pop, rock…it played everything.”

Years later, White moved to New York City.  There his eclectic approach to music finally attracted attention:

“I gave a tape to a friend and he passed it on to somebody and he passed it on to somebody and all of a sudden I was sitting with David Byrne talking about making a record.”

That’s David Byrne of the Talking Heads.  White has also collaborated with people from all over the musical map, such as Aimee Mann, Bill Frisell and Linda Delgado.  His choice of instruments, which run the gamut from guitar to dombek to Indian table, is also unique.  That’s made him an in-demand record producer.

“Like a good orchestrator does, I’ve learned to use instruments to make the sound that I hear in my head.  That’s become more refined and to that end, I started producing other artists and helping them get the sounds out of their brain, y’know?”

Jim White brings his offbeat but thoroughly listen-able musical sensibility to the Monticello Opera House this Friday evening.

“I’ve released six records now, from the present record that I’m just about to release and they’ll hear three or four songs from that.  And they’ll hear some stories about someone wrestling with their world and some of them spoken word…some of it straight-up hillbilly music and some of it’s more poppy/jazzy stuff.”

Also on Friday night’s bill, Galen Curry, Hot Tamale, Frank Lindamood with Chelsea Dix Kessler and the Sarah Mac Band.  Hot Tamale returns to kick off Saturday night.  They’re followed by Brook Sessions and Rick Ott, Tommy and Galen Curry and then the evening’s headliner.  Another White, this one spelled with a “Y” instead of an “I” and the first name of Bill.  He’s part of a group called “Hits and Grins”.

“Lisa Schaefer and Steve Dean, they’re the other two parts of our little trio.  And Steve’s got eight number-one songs that he’s written through the years and Lisa’s had a ton of her songs recorded, especially in the traditional and bluegrass world.  She’s a tremendous artist.  So I’m the guy that provides a little levity and because of my radio background kind of carries our trio as far as the in-between stuff and the what’s said and the funny stuff.”
And it’s the funny stuff that has become Bill Whyte’s stock-in-trade.

“And you’ll get to hear ‘I’m Going Ugly Early Tonight’, ‘What the Heck Happened to Kenny Rogers’ Face’, ‘I Ain’t Coming Back and Neither is Elvis’, so just the title of the songs sort of explain my role, so hopefully when it’s my turn to sing in the show, a lot of folks will be able to laugh and have a light-hearted moment or two.”
Whyte is also looking forward to the atmosphere, acoustics and overall vibe of the evening.

“You know it’s something you see all over Nashville, but when we take it on the road it’s a first-time experience for a lot of folks, where a gathering of songwriters will each take a turn singing one of their songs and usually you’ll get to hear the stories behind the song and in an acoustic, intimate environment, especially like the Opera House is going to be, it’s really going to be magical.  So if you haven’t gotten your tickets already, I encourage you to get your tickets and come out and be with us.”  

Visit the Monticello Opera House web site, or WFSU.org to find out more.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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