Singer-songwriter returns to The Lariat.
East Nashville singer-songwriter Allen Thompson returns to The Lariat for a 5:30 p.m. show Saturday, March 10. We caught up with Thompson a few days ago just up the road near Bailey, where he was enjoying the Colorado landscape with Levon Helm – not the legendary musician, of course. This Levon is Thompson’s canine cohort, a golden retriever-poodle cross with auburn curls that match Thompson’s, which does absolutely nothing to dispel the myth that dogs and their humans resemble one another.
Thompson seems to enjoy the resemblance – especially people’s reactions to the red-haired companions – almost as much as he enjoys carrying on the tradition of folk-rock songwriters like Robert Hunter and John Barlow.
“I’m a huge Deadhead,” Thompson admitted, adding that his musical influences range from the Dead and R.E.M. to Afrobeat master Fela Kuti and jazz. “If it’s good and it’s heartfelt, it speaks to me.”
Thompson’s musical path began when his granddad gave him his first guitar. “I was a nerdy kid. I wasn’t very good at sports. … I’ve been playing since I was about 12, and I’ve been trying to write songs from the beginning.” Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt anchor his early folk influences – “There wasn’t much beyond that until I started playing with Todd Snider. Now I’m pretty steeped in it because Todd has turned me on to so much stuff. He really gave me a crash course in folk music.”
In addition to Snider, Thompson has shared the stage with a variety of world-class musicians, including country music legend Loretta Lynn, which he counts among not only his best but also his most terrifying experiences as a musician. “I opened for Loretta in Augusta (Georgia). I was real excited. I got to the auditorium – I was playing solo acoustic and I was a last-minute add – and the security guy’s telling me they don’t really like solo acts in Augusta.
“Loretta was kinda sick, so I really didn’t see her much, but fortunately, everyone else in the band was really nice. It turned out to be a pretty good crowd. That was probably my most frightening moment onstage but also very cool.”
Thompson is quick to say he “had a blast” when he played The Lariat two weeks ago. “They take such good care of you there, and the crowd was really receptive.”
Playing solo for three hours is daunting for any musician, especially during dinner. “It kinda feels like when you’re a little kid and the family comes over for Thanksgiving and your grandmother says, ‘Go get your guitar and show them that thing you do,’” Thompson laughed. “But they made me feel real comfortable. It was a lot of fun.”
Thompson soaked in his first Colorado hot spring last week – Orvis – and is “definitely planning on hitting the hot springs this time. After Orvis last week, I will explore all the hot springs everywhere I go!”
As Thompson heads back to Nashville, he will shift his focus to a new band he’s assembling with Keshia Bailey. “I had a five-piece band, then I played in other bands. So when I get back, I’m starting this ’70s revue-type scene, a 13-piece band with horns and female vocalists. There aren’t a lot of folks doing that.
“It all started when I’d done a weekend run with the band. … I lost money and had to reschedule some shows. It kinda sucked so Keshia and I were watching YouTube videos of Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Parliament, and we decided to try it in Nashville, a beta test, at Music City Roots. They film for PBS and stream the shows on their website then put them on YouTube. Our first show is March 15.
Given the logistical difficulties of touring with such a large band, Thompson plans to focus on the Nashville scene. But if the shows do well in Nashville, don’t expect to see Thompson performing solo the next time he comes to town.