The Best News Ever

Hi everyone!  Kristine here….and I am so excited about all the wonderful activity swirling around The Sweethearts these days.  Wow…a new c.d., interviews, TV shows, playing on The Grand Ole Opry.  But nothing can compare to the glorious birth of my first baby grand-daughter.

Baby Ava

She arrived on September the 6th at Vanderbilt Hospital right here in Nashville to the proud parents Taylor and Marion Koval….Some of you might remember Marion as Mary Del Arnold.

Marion and Ava… gorgeous!

Janis and I had just performed at a show in upper state New York and while on the runway returning home, I got a text to say that we might want to come straight to the hospital, because it seemed that Ava was on her way.  Janis stayed by my side the entire time that Marion was in labor and finally after quite a long wait, she arrived safe and healthy, weighing in at 8lbs 4oz, with a head full of beautiful dark brown hair.  She’s a doll and Leonard and I could not be any prouder.

Grandpa Leonard and a relaxed Ava

Thanks to all of you for being our fans, we are so very proud of this new c.d. and  in a way, we feel like we have given birth too!  Janis, you can edit that part out if you want to…..Love, Kristine

A stitch in time…

There’s something so wonderful about sewing pieces of fabric together.  It calms me and stirs me up at the same time.  I started this quilt last year when I purchased a few quilting magazines, and was so inspired that I ran right down to “Stitcher’s Garden” in Franklin, TN.  Quickly, without over thinking my choices, I purchased an armful of fabric. I set aside whatever I was doing at the time, and dove head first into this project.

The pattern is Amy Butler‘s lovely Window To The Soul quilt and many of the fabrics are by brilliant textile artist Kaffe Fassett.  Check out the detail of the center piece.  How can you not be inspired by these colors?

There are a few more strips to add, then I’ll assemble and bind it.  These are the fabrics I’m using to complete this project.

I’m thinking of quilting with these beautiful pearl cottons.

I don’t know why I set the quilt aside, but I’ve got everything I need to finish it.  Here’s hoping it will be this year.

Danny Flowers, Gordon Kennedy, James House, et moi

I can’t think of a better way to start  2012 than to perform with my friend Danny Flowers as part of a writers night at the Bluebird Cafe here in Nashville, TN.  The evening was a benefit for Alive Hospice.   The Sweethearts of the Rodeo have played the Bluebird so many times I’ve lost count.  As a matter of fact, it’s where we landed our first recording contract with the label-formerly-known as Columbia Records.  But this was my first time ever sans sister, and in the round.   If you aren’t already familiar with writers “in the round”, it’s basically a small group of supremely talented songwriters, sitting in a circle in the center of the club, and surrounded by an extremely respectful, non-chattering audience.  They take turns performing songs around and around the circle.  The lineup for the evening included multi-grammy award winning songwriter and producer Gordon Kennedy.  He sang “Shepherd’s Voice” (recorded by Ricky Skaggs), and “Change The World” (recorded by Eric Clapton).  James House belted out  “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” (recorded by Dwight Yoakam) and “A Broken Wing” (recorded by Marina McBride).  But my heart melted when Danny Flowers performed “Before Believing”, a song from Emmylou’sPieces Of The Sky” Album.

Danny Flowers

When it was my first turn at bat I just kind of sat there…frozen… me and my very handsome Gibson J-200, which I held onto like a life-preserver.  Danny, James, and Gordon all looked at me reassuringly.   Finally I began to sing ( it sounded like a squeak to me) songs I’d written with folks like Matreca Berg,  (Como Se Dice I Love You), Wendy Waldman, (I Don’t Stay Down For Long, Don Schlitz, (Bluegrass Boy), and Danny Flowers (Too Little Too Late).  Before I knew it, I was having a blast, and feeling like I’d been initiated into a secret club.  I felt like maybe I belonged there, though perhaps a  little out of my league.  But one thing’s for sure… I was definitely having fun and wishing I could put the audience in my pocket and take them home.   One last thought here…  I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I somehow feel at one with the universe when Danny Flowers picks up a guitar and sings.

Let us entertain you

I know it’s getting hectic out there…  just six days before Christmas  and boy do I need a break from all the shopping and baking so I’m picking up my sister this Friday the 23rd and heading down to Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in Nashville to put on a show.  I’ll be wearing my expando pants because the fried chicken is to die for, and just look at the cobbler…

Downtown Nashville is especially fun and festive this time of year with no shortage of great bands and bars.   Puckett’s is located at 5th and Church, and there’s free valet parking!   The Sweethearts go on at 8:30pm.  At least drop by for dessert and say hello.

Restless musicians

Kristine and I take pride in the great musicians we’ve shared the stage with, and being the rhythm guitar-playing half of the Sweethearts Of The Rodeo makes me  especially proud because I get to be part of the band.  The line up has changed through the years but it has always been top-notch.  For example, our forthcoming CD, “Restless”, was produced by legendary bassist Dave Pomeroy.  Soulful  inside and out, he patiently let us find our direction while providing the grooves.  Kenny Vaughn‘s unique sound always stands out and we had the good luck to hook up with him early in our career.  Take a look at this clip of Kenny playing with us at a tribute to Buddy Holly on PBS in 1987.  His sound is unmistakable and sitting next to him in the studio was thrilling.

Richard Bennett‘s combined bio and discography says it all.  His knowledge, feel, soul, ability to play just the right thing is apparent on these tracks.  I love this quote from his website’s bio… “He’ll make you remember why you picked up your instrument in the first place”.   Al Perkins is another legendary musician.  I mean… this man played with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris just to name a very few.  His steel and dobro take the project to a new  level.  Rick Lonow set the pace on drums, reminding us all that country rock should rock.

The band not only sounds cool, they look cool.

From left to right, Kristine Arnold, Rick Lonow, Richard Bennett, Dave Pomeroy, Al Perkins,and Janis Oliver. Photo by Cybelle Codish

Other outstanding musicians include Jim “Moose” Brown on keyboards, Vince Santoro and Jon Randall Stewart on vocals, Steven Sheehan on guitar, Jeff Taylor on accordion and Richard Bailey on banjo.  Each put their unique stamp on this project, and made us look great.

In another post I’ll talk about the stories behind the songs, the songwriters, and the folks behind the scenes.

A Sailor And His Girls

I love Sunday afternoons.  It’s a special time put aside every week to have lunch with my dad and my sister.  My newly wed daughter Jenny, sometimes joins us with her husband Josh, and Kristine’s daughters, Annie and Marion, often join us as well.  Sometimes Kristine’s husband Leonard tags along, but I get the biggest kick seeing dad surrounded by just his girls… daughters and grand daughters all fussing and fawning over him, and hanging on to every word.

My father, Harry P. Oliver Sr.,  served aboard a destroyer called the USS Henry A. Wiley during WWII.  Dad is a good storyteller, so I just close my eyes and there he is in his sailor uniform, handsome and dashing.

Harry at the age of 21

The one story that astounds me is when a bomber was shot down.  It hit the water, bounced over the fantail of his ship, and exploded just off the port quarter.  He speaks in detail about being on deck and seeing  this happen, as if in slow motion, and wondering in that split second if they were going to be hit.

Every time I hear the story I’m reminded what a close call it was.  It’s hard to really get the gist of how it felt to be out there in the Pacific, in the Navy, and on a destroyer during WW2.  This afternoon at lunch, I get to look straight  into the eyes of one brave sailor.

The handwritten caption under this photos reads "Habana, Cuba, 3-30-43"

Those Sisters Of The Rodeo

I talk to my sister every day about lots of things.  We yak about our kids, men, food, sewing, knitting, weaving, yoga, dogs, horses  and of course our music.   We’ve been playing shows locally, here in the Nashville/Franklin TN area, and getting all our ducks lined up  for our new CD release.  Here are some of the photos we shot at my farm for the CD package.  They were taken by Detroit photographer Cybelle Codish.

Here’s Kristine in the hayloft.

I like this photo taken from upstairs in my house.  We pulled the sofa into the entryway, plopped down and started singing an Everly Brother’s song called “So Sad To Watch Good Love Go bad”.   The acoustics were great and we got so caught up in the moment that we both got tears in our eyes.  This is how we began singing, just the two of us and my guitar.  The Sweethearts of the Rodeo have always had killer bands , but nothing compares to the feeling I get when we zero in on that sister blend.

This is sort of blurry but in a cool way.  Kristine seems to like this photo.  Can you tell why?