This past Monday evening, the sublimely talented Maggie Rose invited some of her musical friends to join her in Nashville, TN for a recreation of Bill Withers‘ seminole live recording, Live at Carnegie Hall. The live album is considered by many music critics to be one of the finest ever to put on record. Back in 2015, Rolling Stone even ranked the album 27th on its list of the “50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time.”
Rose felt compelled to pay tribute to Withers, who passed away in April, via last night’s livestream as well as with her recently released single, “20/20”. Rose indicated in recent interviews that she was actually thinking of Withers and his music when she penned “20/20” alongside co-writers Alex Haddad, Larry Florman, and Sarah Tomek.
In a previously released statement regarding how “20/20” came together Rose commented,
It started to form when those endless days under quarantine began to blur together, right around the time when all of those bread starters people had been making were ready to yield some loaves. Instead of bread making, I opted to trudge up the hill in our backyard to our shed where an old electric keyboard had been patiently waiting for someone to play it. Performing my songs on piano was the big one on my list of ‘things I will do when I have the time’ and let’s face it, I had the time and desperately needed the inspiration.
Rose had some of Nashville’s rising stars join her for this past Monday’s stream that included local singers David Gilfillian, Joy Oladukun, and Wil Merrell. The songstress also tapped a few industry veterans for the performance such as R&B and adult contemporary artist Wendy Moten, the Barber Brothers horns, as well as her long time collaborators and tourmates, Them Vibes.
Highlights from the evening of music were not hard to come by as the entire performance turned out to be brilliant from beginning to end. Rose herself may have had her best moment at the very beginning of the night with an effulgent and funky performance of the Withers’s classic, “Use Me”. The song lends itself to people coming together, embracing and even dancing with one another, thus it served as the perfect vehicle to start things off in Nashville.
When Rose reached for the high notes in “Use Me” I’m guessing the walls in many viewers’ homes began to shake, rattle, and roll to the delight of any and all of the viewers taking in the performance from the comfort of their own living rooms.
Another noteworthy performance from Monday evening came via Olakuden and Rose’s take on one of Withers’s most recognizable hits, “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The song ended up having an uptempo reggae flavor to it with the two singers trading radiant harmonies throughout. Olakudun turned out to be an excellent choice for “Ain’t No Sunshine,” as her own music is raw, passionate and breathtakingly real. Anyone who knows Rose personally must not be surprised in the least that she and Olakuden found a way to find one another in Nashville.
Another moment of brilliance from Monday night’s stream came in the form of Gilfillan’s slow burn take on Withers’s, “World Keeps Going Around”. The Nashville-based singer is an admirer of vocalists spread throughout the worlds of rock, soul, and blues thus he seemed to be the perfect choice to take a run at a song that aligns closely with his very own musical DNA. Gilfilian’s music itself has a classic sound interwoven into it, yet he’s seamlessly able to inject something new and contemporary into the equation. The singer’s performance of “World Keeps Going Around,” this past Monday in Nashville did little to alter that narrative.
Another standout from Monday evening came via Merrell’s emotive rendition of “I Can’t Write Left Handed”. Withers wrote the song for a buddy of his he served with in Vietnam who had been shot and injured at one point during the conflict. Merrell shared a personal story of his own that was tied to his brother’s similar experience in combat while serving in the Army throughout several tours of duty in the Middle East. There’s a certain kind of melancholy and darkness tied to Merrell’s own music that’s also laced with themes of hope and redemption. Thus for a number of reasons, it seemed quite apt that Rose tapped the singer to perform, “I Can’t Write Left Handed.”
Rose herself rose to the occasion throughout the evening countless times. However, the singer seemed to make a point of ensuring that all those that shared the stage with her in Nashville were equally represented with each of them having their own time to shine in the spotlight. And you know what, that may have been the whole idea or even the theme behind the live stream altogether. Unity, friendship, love and music.
If that was the mission statement Rose was seeking to represent with her recreation of Withers’s Live at Carnegie Hall, man oh man did she hit that one right out of the park and into the starlit skies Withers likely gleefully took in the performance from.
Rose has been keeping quite busy throughout the country’s seemingly never-ending quarantine. On the heels of Monday’s performance Rose will be putting out another ‘Quarantine 45’ on September 20th in the form of the B-Side for “20/20”, entitled, “Only Human (I Want to Get Out)”. To celebrate the song’s release Rose will be hosting yet another live stream this upcoming Thursday September 17th.
For all things Maggie Rose, including tickets to her upcoming live stream this week from Tweed Recording Studios in Athens, Georgia, simply head on over to her website.
Watch the full performance below.
Maggie Rose & Friends – Tribute To Bill Withers – Nashville, TN – 9/14/20
[Video: Maggie Rose]
Setlist: Maggie Rose and Friends | Undisclosed Venue | Nashville, TN | 9/14/20
Set: Use Me, Friend of Mine, Ain’t No Sunshine, Grandma’s Hands, World Keeps Going Around, Let Me in Your Life, Better Off Dead, For My Friend, I Can’t Write Left Handed, Lean on Me, Lonely Town Lonely Street, Hope She’ll Be Happier, Let Us Love, Harlem/Cold Baloney