Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a rocking chair on your Papa’s front porch drinking an ice-cold coke and watching the sunset over a wheat field on a steamy summer night. A 1979 baby blue Ford F150 is parked in the gravel driveway, keys left in the ignition and the windows are rolled down. The stereo is turned up just loud enough to be audible over the chirp of the crickets. And coming through the speakers is The Cumberland Collective… … …
Ladies and gentleman, a reminder that Eddie’s is a listening room, so please silence your cell phones. Tonight’s performance is a live recording.
The kick drum resonates bum bum-bum bum bum-bum, echoing like a heartbeat in an empty hospital hallway. The group starts the evening with an upbeat and catchy tune called “Every Beat of My Heart” and requests audience participation. A call and response scenario begins—one line sung by the band then repeated by the crowd—in an effort to teach everyone the lyrics. But the sold out room needs no instruction; all in attendance already know the words.
An all-acoustic country act based in Nashville Tennessee, the Cumberland Collective is a community of independent singer/songwriters from across the U.S. Select members tour the country as the “core” group, but each show features locally based artists, too, thus creating a constantly evolving lineup and ensuring no two shows are ever the same.
Tonight’s featured guest is a keyboardist they call “Casio” in reference to the “toy” on which he is playing. The board, provided by the house, has pre-programmed beats and keys that light up as they are struck, creating a red glow on the face of the instrumentalist. The band overflows on a stage barely larger than a king sized mattress and Casio is stuck in the corner like Baby from Dirty Dancing. The size of an Alabama lineman, he closes his eyes and plays with a passion and tenacity as if being judged by God. Being stuck in a corner does nothing to stifle his presence; it is clear he has the talent to make a child’s toy ring like a baby grand.
Instructions from the microphone command:
“Casio, take us to church!”
And the audience roars in response:
Casio isn’t the only gleaming talent on stage. Each member, who is also an independently touring musician, is given the opportunity to share his own music. As a result, the audience enjoys a diversified set of songs that entertains the emotions with laughter, tears, endearment, rage and sympathy (Check out Company for an entertaining spin on men and infidelity).
On stage, their obvious friendship creates an atmosphere of light-hearted pleasure, like they are hanging out in a basement playing music, not like they are being observed by a room full of judgmental viewers. They welcome listeners into their lives, making us feel like a part of their crew. Perhaps this is why no one took offense to them passing around empty beer pitchers like offering plates…
It seems that every time we come to Atlanta, a disaster occurs.
One time, a newly licensed teenager hit us. She was upset, so instead of calling the police, we mistakenly decided to exchange phone numbers. But when we tried calling, she never answered, and eventually, had her number changed.
Last time, it was the middle of the summer and our air-conditioning broke. Which would have been bearable if the windows in the van rolled down… but they don’t.
This time, our transmission failed.
Apparently, the life of a traveling musician isn’t quite the picture Hollywood paints. Tonight’s show was a benefit for The Children’s Hospital Network and ticket prices were only one dollar.
You can’t fix a transmission for a $1.
They repeat Every Beat of My Heart and the audience carries on the tune in delight. The sound of shifting chairs and shuffling feet fill the room as everyone eagerly reaches for their wallets. In less than three minutes time, the overflowing pitchers return to the stage as band members huddle together to take a humble bow to the crowd offering a standing ovation.
… … …As the whistles and applause fade away, the record spins to a stop. The sun has long set below the horizon and your empty coke bottle is warm in your hand. On the arm of the rocking chair, a condensation ring has dried to a stain. Looking out over the moonlit wheat field, in the chirp of the crickets you can still hear a heart beating…
Bum bum-bum. Bum Bum-bum
For more information on The Cumberland Collective, visit their website here.
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