Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Flashback to the Dead Reckoners, Part 1

Most Sunday mornings, I tune into CBS Sunday Morning right when it comes on the air to see what features are being run that week. One Sunday a couple of months back, the feature story on the program was on "country" superstar Keith Urban. I'm in no way a fan of Urban, or his music. But, I do find these sort of profiles interesting in most cases because I usually learn a little something more about music, even if I dislike the performer being profiled.

The Urban story was your typical rags to riches story, with the slight twist of Urban making his way to Nashville from Australia. Of course, the story included drug and alcohol abuse and the happily ever after (for now) ending with Urban marrying Nicole Kidman. Watching the Urban profile reminded that I once saw Keith Urban perform. He and his band at the time, the Ranch, opened for a very talented group of singers-songwriters-musicians known as the Dead Reckoners.

If I remember properly, the show was in late 1995 or early 1996. It was one of the last concerts I saw at the Birchmere's second location, just prior to its move to its current location in 1996. The Ranch's opening set was nothing special. I don't think anyone in the small crowd of 100 people or so left thinking Urban would be the superstar he is today. I definitely was ready for some music I liked by the time the Dead Reckoners came on stage.

After this Keith Urban bashing and by this time, you're probably wondering just who were the Dead Reckoners and why was I so interested in seeing them. The Dead Reckoners were Mike Henderson, Keiran Kane, Tammy Rogers, Harry Stinson and Kevin Welch. In the couple of years prior to this concert, this group of individuals came together to found their own record label, Dead Reckoning, in an attempt to get their music out to the public without the assistance (or hinderance) of one of Nashville's major labels. Henderson, Welch and Kane (as part of the O'Kanes) had all had major label deals in the years prior to Dead Reckoning, with varying amounts of success. But at this point in their careers, all five Dead Reckoners were more concerned about doing things their own way and performing the music they wanted to perform than pursuing stardom through the Nashville meat grinder system.

Each of the five Dead Reckoners brought a unique skill set to the label and the band. Henderson was a crack Nashville session guitarist and solid songwriter. (At the time, Henderson and Stuert Smith were the only two Nashville session guitarists who had tones that were instantly identifiable among the dozens of guitar players playing country sessions.) Keiran Kane had teamed up with fellow songwriter Jamie O'Hara as the O'Kanes. The O'Kanes had a few hits in the late 80s, before going their separate ways. Rogers got her start playing fiddle in a bluegrass band that included another future "country" superstar, Kenny Chesney. After that, she toured as part of both Patty Loveless' and Trisha Yearwood's bands. Harry Stinson played drums on the road with Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett prior to becoming one of Nashville's most in demand session drummers and harmony singers. Kevin Welch had his songs recorded by artists such as Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings and Reba McIntire before recording two CDs for Warner Brothers in the early 90s.

By the time of this show at the Birchmere, all the Dead Reckoning artists/owners, other than Stinson had released at least one CD, if not more, on the label and the group was touring as a band in support of their collabrative CD A Night of Reckoning.

(to be continued)

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