Four Savannah songwriters have been tapped to pay tribute to four legendary singer/songwriters this weekend at the Tybee Post Theater.
Jason Bible, frontman for The Train Wrecks, singer/songwriter Thomas Oliver, Aaron Zimmer of City Hotel, and Stacey ‘Stace’ Mattox Pandya will honor Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and Carole King on July 28.
Local singer/songwriter Tom Cooler produced the tribute show, calling on some of the area’s best songwriters for the unique showcase.
Bible, originally from Texas. recalls hearing “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on cassette around a campfire in his home state, an experience that galvanized his love for Dylan and helped shape his songwriting career.
“It was a sermon,” Bible said of the experience. “I was 13 years old and was performing it a year later. The topical songs really hit me. I liked all of the songs I heard, but stuff like ‘Ballad Of Hollis Brown’ or ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol, changed the way I looked at the world and all the chaos in it. I began to study and learn Bob Dylan songs in 1991. I still play many of them weekly and they are always ear opening and fun to interpret.”
For his solo set, Bible has narrowed down a setlist of over 20 songs to just seven. Although he’ll solidify his final setlist closer to the show, included in that mix will most likely be “Visions of Johanna,” “Seven Curses” and “Blind Willie McTell.” He’ll be bringing in some special guitars to use, as well, and might have a piano tune.
“There are so many great tunes that cut right to the point,” Bible said of Dylan’s discography. “I’m closing the night with ‘Anicca.’ It’s the title track and the last song on my new solo record. It’s a book about the opioid problem in this country and love.”
Outside of his work with bluegrass favorites City Hotel, Zimmer has been performing Prine songs in his solo set for years. Heavily influenced by the legendary songwriter, Zimmer draws inspiration from the lyrically sonorous Prine library.
“He’s such a good writer,” Zimmer said of Prine. “That’s his main focus. He’s not a showy guy. He’s just a lyrical genius. That’s why he appeals to me so much. He might not write songs that are technically difficult to play, it’s just the way he writes songs. It’s so brilliant. The verbiage, I guess. That’s what speaks to me the most about him. That’s what I aspire to do.”
For his setlist, Zimmer simply needed to draw from his regular rotation of songs, which will probably include “Grandpa Was a Carpenter,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “I Hate It When That Happens to Me” and “Dear Abby.”
“I am doing songs I’ve been doing for years,” Zimmer said. “I got four or five in the rotation that I keep pretty much constantly in my solo set. There just kind of my personal favorites. I didn’t have to do a lot rehearsing, because I’ve already picked these out years ago. Just ones that kind of spoke to me.”
In contrast to Bible and Zimmer, this show opened up a new world of music for Stace. When asked to be part of the event, she initially wanted to do songs by Aretha Franklin, but Cooler insisted on Carole King. It ended up being an advantageous suggestion.
“He (Cooler) came to me and was like, I really want you to come and represent the legendary songwriter Carole King,” Stace said. “I said, can we think about maybe somebody like Aretha Franklin, like a soul thing. He said, no it’s got to be Carole. The irony is, in my ignorance, I went and dug up the album and she wrote ‘Natural Woman.’ Aretha Franklin made the song. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs. As soon as I saw that, the artist in me welded up with tears. I am such a fan. Little did I know there was a whole treasure trove under there. I think it might be one of my greatest inspirations of all time.”
The pianist and singer who recently won an American Songwriting Award for her original track “Unraveling” dug deep into King’s discography only to emerge with a fresh perspective on not only King, but her own music. Stace will tackle great tunes like “Locomotion,” "You’ve Got a Friend,” "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Natural Woman” for the showcase.
“Her stuff is really hard,” Stace said. “I am not going to lie. This has been one of the hardest things I’ve done, to be honest. I really enjoyed working on it. I am writing my second album. I am going to list Carole King as one of my top inspirations for the entire record.”
“The irony of the whole thing is that last October, I got into this late '60s, early '70s vibe.' I was already in this space and I just think it’s interesting how the universe decides what ideas are going to come into your scope. Low and behold this Carole King thing. That just sealed the deal for the direction I was supposed to be going. It feels like so, like chilling almost that this has happened. I am obsessed now.”
Oliver, a former journalist for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, moved to Tybee Island a number of years ago. He’s become embedded in the local scene, helping to curate the Savannah Songwriters Series. Oliver will handle songs by Kristofferson.
“I love playing with people from out of town, but it’s much more meaningful when it’s someone I’ve known for years and done stuff with,” Zimmer said of the event. “It’s nice to have a purely Savannah songwriter night. It’s something I want to be part of, too.”
“Aaron Zimmer is one of my favorite songwriters in town,” Bible said. “Thomas has a great delivery and Stace can really sing. Should be a night of great songs by the greatest writers in American Music.”