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Press Articles:  What's Being Written About Mack

 

 

 

Photo caption:  Rachel Levy and Mack Bailey, Wednesday afternoon on Aspen's Hyman Avenue Mall. The married musical partners released their debut CD as a duo, “White,” last week. Bailey is among the musicians featured in this weekend's Tribute to John Denver concerts at the Wheeler Opera House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

 

ASPEN — “Friend for Life,” a song from Mack Bailey & Rachel Levy's new album “White,” puts music up on a mighty high pedestal. Music — or more specifically in “Friend for Life,” songs — can provide comfort, spark warm memories, and tie people together.

“When you're down and out on a two-lane road/Your friend the song will be there to ease your load,” the two sing to the spare accompaniment of acoustic guitar.

Bailey and Levy can't claim credit for the song; it was written by Bill Danoff & Bryan Bowers. But the twosome stand as validation of the song's theme, that music can be something beyond a pleasant, momentary distraction, that diving into music and playing it can be life-altering. Making music is at the core of their social circle. It has provided Bailey with some of the peak experiences of his life; it has steered Levy on a road to happiness. And it has been a key bond for the married couple.

Bailey and Levy were part of Friday night's Wheeler Opera House concert, Doin' Their Own Thing, which had musicians associated with the late Aspen icon John Denver performing their own material. Bailey is featured Friday and Saturday in the Tribute to John Denver concerts, which have the same cast of players covering Denver's songs. Last week saw the release of “White,” Bailey & Levy's debut recording together, which includes original compositions, and several covers, including the Denver hit “Annie's Song.”

• • • •

Levy was raised in Aspen; her mother, Denison, still lives in the house off Cemetery Lane where Rachel grew up. Levy was a four-sport jock as a kid, and was named all-state in soccer. Her artistic high point came when, as an 11-year-old, she played the title role in Aspen Community Theatre's production of “Annie.” She liked music, but relegated it to a far-off place in her life.

“Being in ‘Annie' in Aspen when you're 11 doesn't propel you into that world,” Levy said of the notion of making music her livelihood. “It was always in the dream category. I always sang, was never shy about it. I just never took action about it to make it a career. But music was always in the back of my mind. I'd be lying if I said I didn't accept 400 Grammy Awards in my head.”

In the physical world, Levy accepted a Juris Doctorate from Portland, Oregon's Lewis & Clark Law School, got married and moved to Maryland to practice law. None of it lasted; after six months of being a dissatisfied lawyer, Levy quit and became a housewife looking for a way to occupy her time. She bought a guitar.

“I started taking lessons and thought, This is much more interesting to me,” she said. “In my head I figured I'd keep playing till ... something.” Still, Levy didn't know how to make that something happen.

• • • •

Bailey put music in the forefront early on. Growing up in Troy, a small town in the dead center of North Carolina, Bailey started with piano lessons. The piano was lost on him. But the guitar, which his brother had similarly abandoned, looked intriguing. A big part of the attraction was the style of music that could be played on the acoustic six-string: folk songs by the Limeliters and the Kingston Trio. And above all, John Denver.

“So I took his guitar and had all the John Denver songbooks laid out around me,” said Bailey, who graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts with a degree in music performance and then joined20the Hard Travelers, a folk group whose roots went back to the '50s.

Bailey said his interest in Denver's music waned some in the '80s. But clearly it didn't take much to restoke that interest. In the mid-'80s, Bailey was the in-house entertainer at a New Hampshire hotel when his childhood idol came to perform. Bailey put together a packet of his songs and threw it in Denver's limo, yelling that the materials should get to Barney Wyckoff — an Aspenite, and Denver's road manager at the time. Several weeks later, Bailey received a polite but disappointing note: “There's nothing we can use on here.”

In 1997, Bailey finally had his John Denver moment, a seminal experience in his life. The Hard Travelers — which includes part-time Snowmass resident Kenn Roberts — were presenting their annual benefit concert for cystic fibrosis, in the band's home base of Maryland. Denver was booked to headline, and asked Bailey to stand in for him at the sound check. Denver listened as Bailey sang “Thank God I'm a Country Boy” — written by Roaring Fork Valley musician John Sommers — and was impressed enough to suggest that the two of them trade verses on the song at that night's performance.

“That was as full circle as it comes — me singing with the guy who inspired me to learn guitar. I sang my butt off,” Bailey said. Three weeks later, Denver died when the plane he was flying crashed into California's Monterey Bay. “I have no regrets, but I wish I could have seen, if he had survived, if we could have sung together again, and where that would have went.”

A more enduring relationship was kicked off in 2004, in Woody Creek. Levy, divorced and spending a year back in Aspen, was bridesmaid at the wedding of her Aspen High friend, Anna Patterson, who was about to become Anna Thomson (and, eventually, the graphic designer for the “White” album). The entertainment was a burly, buoyant singer whose services had been auctioned off at the previous year's John Denver tribute concerts. Over the course of seven months, Levy and Bailey became romantically involved.

Levy was still playing around with the guitar, and one of the first topics of conversation between her and her husband-to-be was music. “She told me she played Annie,” Bailey said. “I remember asking her, ‘Did you get the bug?' She brushed it off. But a week later she said, ‘You know that question you asked me? Well, yes.' That told me she wanted to pursue it.”

Levy's entrance into the music business was on the business side. The Limeliters — the folk group that was founded in Aspen in the 1950s, and named after the Limelite Lodge, and which Bailey joined in 2003 — needed a manager.

Levy, figuring she could read and write a contract, took the job. Soon she was also overseeing Bailey's solo career, which eventually meant becoming part of the act. (They also got married, two years ago, near Reudi Reservoir.)

“We started singing together, wrote a couple songs. Then it became a show. Then we made a CD,” Levy said, giving the condensed version of her path to becoming a musician. Levy, 34, and Bailey, 49, spend more than half their time on the road, performing in coffeehouses, churches and at house concerts. (Bailey remains a member of both the Limeliters and the Hard Travelers.)

Perhaps as something of a payback to Bailey for giving her a start as a musician, Levy has helped bring her husband back to his musical essence. Bailey had made a series of solo albums, produced by Chris Nole (a former John Denver bandmate who is music director for this weekend's concerts) that veered toward a country sound. “White” finds him in the folk mode, a more comfortable fit.

“I loved the sound he gave me,” Bailey said of Nole. “But I was like a folk singer with a country sound, and it wasn't meshing.” “White,” he added, is a closer representation of what he does in performance.

Marrying Levy has also brought Bailey closer to where he wants to be geographically. The couple live in Denver, and say they'd love to find a way to settle closer to Aspen.

“I feel like I was destined to be here,” Bailey said of Colorado. “All those ties. I finally feel I am where I should be. And that's a good feeling. I definitely didn't have that feeling on20the Washington Beltway.”

If Bailey was less than content during his Maryland years, he didn't let it seep into his songs. Music, he says, should lift people up.

“I love to feel positive and that's what I focus on,” he said. “I don't play heartbreak songs, drinking songs, cheating songs. Even if it is a tougher theme, I like to put a positive spin on it.”

A fine example on “White” is “As the First Snows Fell in Colorado,” co-written by the late Buddy Renfro, a member of the Hard Travelers. The song is about John Denver and his death, but is emotionally upbeat, addressing the lasting impact a song can have on a listener: “He left us ... music treasured for all time.”

“I would much rather have John here singing, and listening to him. But what's happened in my life since his death is unbelievable — the musicians I've worked with, the places I've gone. So I want to pay all the due respect to John's music that I can,” said Bailey, who is featured on the songs “Calypso,” “Eagles and Horses,” “The Garden Song” and “My Sweet Lady” at the tribute concerts.

The main place Bailey had been led — thanks to picking up the guitar to play Denver's songs, thanks to becoming associated with Aspen through his appearances at the Denver tribute concerts — is to a partnership with Levy. It's a promising duo.

0The best thing I've seen in our growth together is how many people come up to us and tell us how well our voices go together,” Levy said. “He's got an amazing voice. I don't have that voice yet; I have a sweet, pure, innocent. But our voices really go well together.

 

 

 

I Wouldn't Want to Do Anything Else
Daily Messenger
By L. David Wheeler, staff writer
June 11, 2009

 

Mack Bailey and his wife, Rachel Levy, are longtime friends of Jim Clare. So when Clare and other musician friends started up a series of regular folk concerts in Clifton Springs, booking the folksinger couple was a natural choice.

“We’ve been getting notices — he tells me there’s an incredible musical presence especially there and ‘you gotta come up and check it out,’” Bailey said during a phone interview last week. “Unfortunately, we aren’t able to stay long — we have to turn around and go back the next day.”

But he’s hoping that next Wednesday’s concert — the “Tunes by the Tracks” show, moving from its regular library venue to the bigger room of the Spa Apartments — will be the first of many visits to the Finger Lakes.

Bailey and Levy play what’s best described as “Americana” music, infused with elements of folk, country, bluegrass and more. Lyrically, there’s an emphasis on the positive, the impetus to seize the day and move ahead on what’s right — for oneself, one’s loved ones, one’s planet.  As on “It’s Time,” a featured track on the couple’s MySpace and other Web presences, a song encouraging listeners to a greater environmental consciousness:

“We talk of how the Earth, it is our only home
And it’s running out of ways it can sustain its own
But the way our lives are changin’ every day
We ought to be more mindful in the smallest ways
... It’s time to stop thinking in red or black
It’s time to stop taking and give it back
It’s time to change the plan of attack
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time ..."

“I always feel like I want to have a message in every song,” Bailey said. “My mind always wants to find a message to put in every song — ‘this is the way it is, and this is the way it could be,’ or ‘this is the way it was, and this is the way it could be again.’

“The bottom line for me is, when I play a concert, the songs I want to play, I want the audience to feel empowered and I want me to feel empowered. I want to feel so empowered that I’m ready to take off, and I want the audience to feel that way too.”

It’s an attitude toward performing reminiscent of Bailey’s biggest musical hero, the late John Denver, a major influence on his music — the reason he learned to play guitar, in fact. Bailey actually eventually got to play with Denver, trading verses with him on “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

In addition to his work solo and with his wife — “we get to travel together, we get to perform together, we share ideas together — we really love all our time on the road” — Bailey performs with the folk group The Limeliters (more early heroes of his) and with the band The Hard Travelers. He’s shared stages with artists from Tom Paxton to Chet Atkins to Brooks & Dunn.

Bailey’s musical journey began when he was around 8, performing for his mother’s church group and the like. When he played the part of a courier in a production of “1776” while in high school, the director, from the North Carolina School for the Arts, urged him to enroll. He earned his degree there and later attended the University of North Carolina for awhile. Academically it didn’t work out that well, but it’s where he got some of his first tastes of playing in club settings with the Blue Moon Saloon Band.

“I had a lot of other jobs to help pay the bills, but music was always a given for me; I would look for every opportunity,” Bailey said. “Finally, I took the leap of faith and said, ‘that’s it, let’s go.’ There are times I would love to have a steady paycheck, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

It’s fitting, then, that he’s got a song called “Lucky Man.”

“What makes me truly lucky is that I know it,” he said. “What I try to get people to do is dwell on the good stuff."

 

 

Review of Mack and the John Denver Band in Oregon

 

From the Siuslaw News, Jan 25, 2006
 

"The FEC theater filled Sunday afternoon in anticipation of Mack Bailey and the John Denver Band.  For Mack it was old home week; he had enjoyed Florence hospitality as one of the Limeliters last year and couldn't wait to introduce his accomplished friends to our town.  His friends had all performed with or known John Denver - pianist Chris Nole, guitarist Pete Huttlinger, and petite young vocalist Mollie Weaver.


The quartet covered many of John Denver's songs including Rocky Mountain High, Sunshine On My Shoulders, Grandma's Feather Bed, and Country Roads, and each member performed their own pieces, as an expression of John's inspiration and legacy, Mack said.


Mollie's classically trained voice was impressive, especially the Italian aria.  The FEC grand piano was tickled by Chris' expertise in solo and in competition with Pete.  Their duet was a race to the finish line - Pete's fingers never left his hand! - a tour de force, even though Pete suffered sleep deprivation having performed the night before in Los Angeles.


Mack was magic; his personal warmth, gorgeous tenor, harmony singing with Mollie, and guitar playing flew with horses and eagles.  For sure, Mack will be back, in one configuration or another."

Review of Mack's New Christmas CD

By Carol Swanson,  

ChristmasReviews.com:  October, 2005

My, oh my, oh my!  This Mack Bailey can sing! Seriously, this guy has a fabulous tenor voice in so many respects--color, control, texture, emotion, tone, the whole deal!  He even articulates each lyric with polished precision so that nothing is lost in translation.  Before listening to Star Light, I was unfamiliar with this fine artist. I saw his warm and welcoming smile on the album cover and thought of Bailey as just a "regular guy" having big fun putting together a holiday album.  Then he opened his mouth, and I realized that I had solid gold on my audio system.  So cool!

Star Light is gentle folk music of the finest sort.  The CD features 11 songs that center on the night of Jesus' birth.  Although Bailey is an acclaimed songwriter, he has only one original on this album--the title track.  "Star Light" is a beautiful number, one that could easily become a holiday favorite.  The melody is memorable and easy-going, and the smart lyrics bring real meaning without being trite.  Best of all, Bailey closes the track with the loveliest a cappella final verse.  Although "Star Light" is a special piece, every track truly shines. Bailey's tender phrasing on "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" can provoke tears.  His "Silent Night" is simply presented (with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment) and similarly expressive.  It is rare and wonderful to encounter a voice with such emotional power.  The album ends appropriately with Bailey's winning "Stille Nacht."  In addition to Bailey's sensational voice, the impressive band (these folks used to play with John Denver) provides excellent support that enhances the musical endeavor and never crowds the vocals; in fact, the ensemble really takes off on the instrumental portions of the "Christmas Medley."  Superb musicianship!

Mack Bailey's Star Light would be a bright addition to anyone's holiday music collection.  This is one outstanding seasonal package!

--Carol Swanson

 

ROCK ON: Simple Pleasures
 

By Kathryn Preston

Aspen Daily News Correspondent

February 12, 2005

Promoting his new inspirational CD, "Why am I Here?," Mack Bailey said he chose to play a solo gig at Steve's Guitar's at the behest of fellow acoustic musician, Pete Huttlinger, who told him what a great room it was to play in. Both musicians are linked to John Denver. Mack Bailey's soaring tenor is stylistically very much like John Denver's, so it's fitting that he sings at many of the John Denver tribute events. (He has the perfect musical-theater voice if he were ever looking for experience in a different genre.) Bailey also sings with the legendary Limeliters, a Kingston Trio-type, folk-pop group. Mack will appear again in Aspen this fall with Chris Nole and other surprise guests at the Mountain Chalet Ballroom.

Bailey says he is more of a singer than a songwriter, and playing solo is rare for him these days. This particular solo gig revealed his knack for choosing songs that cut straight to the heart of Americana. Spending an evening with Bailey evokes a warm Garrison Keillor/Lake Wobegon feeling: one of being removed from the hustle and bustle of modern life, and being reminded of simple pleasures. The tune, "Rock Me, Grandpa," (from his days with the Blue Moon Saloon Band) written by Kevin Brown, is like a musical Norman Rockwell painting whose lyrics create a vivid portrait of a safe-haven in the arms of a kindly old father-figure: a theme that is oft repeated throughout Bailey's musical lexicon.

Bailey wrote another tune about simple pleasures, "Through Your Eyes." As he was trying to hustle his daughter into their car, in a hurry to get going, she had stopped to look at a bug. His first thought was to do something "unfatherly" and squash the bug, but he didn't. He stopped and got down on his knees with her, creating a moment, a song, and strengthening a bond that will last forever. This song also delivers another simple pleasure: Bailey's soft, gentle tones are as powerful as the strength of his tenor, and he would do well to utilize this aspect of his voice more in songs like "For One Night," and "I Didn't Come This Far."

On the CD, "Through Your Eyes," Bailey credits John Denver with teaching him how to sing a song, and Buddy Renfro for teaching him how to share one. Sharing a powerful story of the last few days spent with Renfro before his death, Bailey said that a lot of things became unimportant. For Renfro, sight and sound didn't matter much anymore, but human "touch" was most comforting. Bailey said, "in the end, we held hands for hours without saying a word." Bailey sang "how would I ever know the goodness of my soul without your loving hand?" for his friend.

An uplifting tune, "Travel light," is the musical equivalent of the phrase "don't let the turkeys get you down." For those who know about traveling light materially, this song reminds us to travel light spiritually as well. "Leave the weight of the world behind. Travel light." Traveling without physical, material weight, makes good horse sense to those who travel frequently across the country or around the world, but the message of traveling through life with a guiding "light," is often a much more elusive concept.

Tom Paxton helped Bailey write the song, "Just Because." Each listener seems to get something different out of this song depending on what he or she needs to hear, or what they are going through in life when they hear it. While Bailey says it was originally written with his daughter in mind, once again, there is a more universal "Father" theme intended as well. One concert-goer revealed to him that she had just lost her son a couple of months prior to hearing the song, and knew that her son was speaking to her through the lyrics, "Just because you can't see me, doesn't mean I'm not there. Just because you don't hear me, doesn't mean I don't care. Just because you can't make me appear out of thin air, just because you can't hold me, doesn't mean I'm not there."

A song called, "Daniel Lee," from the "Through Your Eyes" CD is a moving Pete Seeger-type tune about a homeless man. There is much truth to the lyric; "the world doesn't forgive you when you lose your way." However, a fitting follow-up to this song is, "I will Bring You Home," from the "Why Am I Here" CD. 'Though you are homeless, though you are alone, I will bring you home. Whatever's the matter, whatever's been done, I will bring you home. I will bring you home from this fearful place, I will bring you home." Words we all need to hear from time to time, and no singer croons them more compassionately than Bailey.

Finally, on Denver's song, "Eagles and Horses," Bailey whips up a fury with his tempestuous tenor, creating the perfect crescendo to a most heart-felt evening.

Kathryn Preston is a local actor, vocalist, poet and freelance writer. She can be reached at kathrynshakti@yahoo.com.

 

Mack Bailey speaks to the power of music
By Stewart Oksenhorn

 

 

 

 


 

Mack Bailey performs this week at Main Street Bakery and at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale.
 

Aspen Times
February 6, 2005
 

At times, Aspen can seem like the crossroads of the world. No doubt it seems that way to singer-songwriter Mack Bailey.

The first music to make the native North Carolinian's ears stand up and take notice was the folk songs of Aspenite John Denver.  It was Denver's early hits, like "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders" that made Bailey, as a 10-year-old, pick up the guitar.

Some 15 years later, in 1985, Bailey was first brought to Aspen by his friend and fellow East Coast musician, Kenn Roberts, for a ski trip. Roberts was a member of the Hard Travelers, a band that had just reunited after several years on the sidelines.  On the Snowmass Village mall, Roberts asked Bailey if he liked the band.  Sure, answered Bailey, a bit suspicious of the question.  Roberts stuck out his thumb, which had been injured in a skiing accident. Bailey took over as the guitarist for the Hard Travelers, and remains a part of the group today.

Last January, Bailey was drafted to become the tenor in the long-running, internationally recognized folk trio the Limeliters.  The Limeliters trace their roots to the Aspen of the late '50s, where original tenor Glenn Yarbrough and founding and current member Alex Hassilev owned the Limelite lodge and sang in the lodge's club.


"I guess all roads do at least go through Aspen," said the 44-year-old Bailey.

Bailey has been a frequent musical presence here.  Last fall, he appeared with the Fabulous Limeliters at the Wheeler Opera House. Each year since John Denver's 1997 death, Bailey has been among the friends and bandmates of the late singer who gather at the Wheeler to pay tribute to Denver in performances that raise money for Challenge Aspen.  Bailey has also performed locally with the Hard Travelers and with his own band, in an opening gig for Yarbrough on Snowmass' Fanny Hill.

This week, local audiences will get a different side of Bailey.  He appears as a solo act on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at Main Street Bakery, and Friday, Feb. 11, at Steve's Guitars in Carbondale.

While his career is split between the Hard Travelers, the Limeliters, solo recordings and performances, as well as his day job as a music therapist for ailing children and Alzheimer's patients, Bailey says his primary inspiration comes from one source: John Denver.  Bailey recalls hearing Denver in 1969, and being inspired to learn every song on every new album.

"It was something about his sound that was so pure, so honest," said Bailey.  "The thing that really drove me to him was how he did a whole lot, but didn't do anything fancy.  Just adding a note, a different chord.  He made the guitar sound like the instrument I wanted to play.  Every new song back in those years had something new."

Bailey has accomplished much since those days of driving his mother crazy, repeatedly playing the same songs ad nauseam.  He's got five solo CDs to his credit and a duo CD with singer Mollie Weaver.  Bailey has sung the national anthem multiple times at both Baltimore Orioles and Washington Capitals games.  And just a few weeks before Denver's death, Bailey traded verses with his hero on "Thank God, I'm a Country Boy" (a song written, of course, by Aspenite John Sommers).  But the original influence hasn't faded.

"I've definitely built on what I learned from him," said Bailey, who has also recorded three tributes CD of Denver's music and has toured with the Musical Tribute to John Denver show.  "I've learned more and more that the music speaks for itself; you don't have to be afraid to let the music bring out emotions. And to write words that mean something. Don't put words together just for a catchy phrase."


Bailey seems to have also been influenced by Denver's ideal of using music to do good in the world. Bailey is involved with a variety of medical and environmental causes.  But he says he doesn't need to focus his attention on making music for good ends.  The music takes care of that on its own.

"I realize the power music has," he said.  "If I'm feeling as low as I can get, and I play music and it lifts me 6 feet off the ground, other people have got to feel that way too.  If I'm giving back, that's fine.  But music is a powerful thing, and I feel blessed to have it in my life."


 

 

Benefit Concert Full of Old Favorites

Jane Elkins

The Capitol Newspaper, Annapolis, Maryalnd

September 29, 2004

 

 Folk, bluegrass and country music lovers were treated to a very special performance for a very special cause Saturday night at the fourth annual "Music from the Mountains - Tribute to John Denver."

 

Former members of Mr. Denver's band and colleagues from such groups as The Starland Vocal Band, The Hard Travelers and Limeliters came together at Maryland Hall for the popular concert that benefits Maryland Therapeutic Riding.

 

Producer / singer Kenn Roberts really knows how to put on a show.  The old-fashioned variety format featured everything from foot stompers to comedy and a string quartet that enhanced some of the more mellow ballads.  Mr. Roberts is an accomplished performer as well as founder of the MUSE foundation, an organization that produces concerts for charitable causes.  It is through his connection to local singer / guitarist Mack Bailey that MTR first came to his attention. 

 

MTR is a Crownsville-based nonprofit that puts the healing energy of horses to work for more than 160 special needs riders ranging from age 2 to 76.  Mr. Bailey has been an ardent supporter of this group ever since they adopted his stirring (version of the) ode “Eagles and Horses,” as their unofficial theme song six years ago. 

 

Mr. Bailey is a phenomenal guitarist with a full, mellow voice that is exquisitely suited to Mr. Denver’s repertoire.  He was complemented by the lovely Mollie Weaver, a velvety-toned mezzo who harmonized beautifully with him in such showstoppers as “Sweet Surrender,” “Shanghai Breezes” and “Fly Away,” to name but a few.

 

Keyboardist Chris Nole, a member of Mr. Denver’s band for three years, demonstrated an easy familiarity with this style of pop-country music, which set the tone for a relaxing and nostalgic evening of old favorites.

 

Rounding out the core band were performers who are stars in their own right: bassist Ira Gitlin, for example, who also is a former National Bluegrass Banjo champion, and the multi-talented instrumentalist, John Sommers on banjo, mandolin and fiddle.  Mr. Sommers composed “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” which was a hit for Mr. Denver and has since become the Baltimore Orioles’ seventh inning stretch theme.  It was naturally received with enthusiastic audience participation. 

 

Singer / songwriter Bill Danoff hails from Washington, D.C. and it was there that he co-wrote Mr. Denver’s first smash hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads 32 years ago.  He also penned “Afternoon Delight,” and both pieces were wildly popular with the crowd at Maryland Hall.  Another of his hits, “I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado, “ which was used extensively in tourism promotions, served as comic fodder for a hilarious monologue on his failed attempts to write a similar song touting Washington, D.C. tourism.

 

Gary Muledeer, the “clueless country boy,” slipped into his routine so smoothly that the audience didn’t realize until several jokes had passed that his fine singing and picking would only come as a complement to his wit.  His delivery was so perfect that it didn’t matter if some of his material wasn’t original.  I would hesitate to say he stole the show, because there was just so much to enjoy, but he could have if he wanted to.

 

The beauty of this venture was that all the artists worked together so perfectly to re-create music that can never again be heard live in its original context.  It has been seven years since Mr. Denver’s flying accident abruptly halted a remarkable career, but for one night it all came together again, just the way we remember.

 

 

 

Review of Mack's Performance with the Annapolis Chorale:

From "The Capital" on 10/22/03

Pops Gala had something for everyone.

By: Jane Elkin

"The star attraction of the pops portion of the program was local favorite Mack Bailey, whose folksy tenor, guitar playing and whistling are reminiscent of John Denver.  He's funny, too!  Filling Maryland Hall with vocal and human warmth, he was the consummate one-man show. His renditions of "The Nearness of You" and "Eagles and Horses" made me want to run out and buy all of his recordings.

 

 

Review of Mack's new CD "Why I'm Here"

Mack's new CD was reviewed by "Music Monthly," a music news magazine, in  the August 2003 issue.  In her column, the Wollan Report, reviewer Laurin Wollan writes:

"Mack Bailey is tellin’ us all Why I’m Here.  Some spiritual music can be found on this folksy, bluegrassy release.  It is very Christian.  He’s got a good voice.  The flute really works it for me during some moments.  . . . it sure could bring a smile to someone’s face.  He sang back up for Vince Gill and Amy Grant in the past and Mary Chapin Carpenter sang back up on his first release.  Elvis’ backing singers, the Grammy award winning Jordanaires sing on this album so if you are into that sort of thing, well there you go."

 

 

Mack's CD "On My Way" honored and featured on CD Baby's Front Page

 

For three days, Mack's CD "On My Way" was featured on the CD Baby web site, which is the online service designated for ordering Mack's CDs, among thousands of other artists' CDs.  In a memo to Mack, CD Baby's president writes: 

 

"I love your "On My Way" CD so much I'm going to feature it on the FRONT PAGE of CD Baby for a few days.  I'm REALLY picky about what goes on the front page.  We get about 40 new albums a DAY coming in here now, (about 12,000 total), and yours is one of the best I've ever heard.

It should go up at midnight, California time, on Sunday, November 10th, and stay there for three days."

- Derek Sivers, President, CD Baby

 

And it looked like this:



HEAR IT

Mack Bailey: On My Way
While summer is long past now, this fresh country folk album, evoking images of front porch swings and homemade lemonade, is a hearty dose of good natured, wholesome sweet folk from the sunny country sides for fans of artists from John Denver to Amy Grant to Randy Travis, all whom he has opened for. Who can resist such a fresh sound in any season?
 

 

 

 

The Montgomery Herald
Montgomery County, North Carolina
October 9, 2002

 

"Mack Bailey and friends"

 

By Tammy Dunn

 

Music is food for the soul . . . And feeding souls and nourishing friendships is what Mack Bailey and friends did Friday night in Montgomery County.

 

While the event was billed as a Tribute to John Denver, the crowd eagerly responded to the songs Bailey is known for locally such as "Rock Me Grandpa" and "Potter's Wheel."  Accompanying Bailey on stage were Bill Danoff, who performed and co-wrote with Denver, John Sommers, also a member of Denver's band and writer of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," and Kenn Roberts, a member of The Hard Travelers band.

 

Besides the local community that is always eager for a Bailey concert to come to town, a following has developed along the East Coast.  Those "followers" were easily recognized at Friday's concert, knowing every word to every song and eagerly joining in on occasion.  One such follower happened to be in the state on a "Haul for Justice" ride.   . . . The concert was also a reunion for one family . . . that had planned a reunion in Colorado to coincide with the annual John Denver Tribute.  For one reason or another, things just did not work out.  But as fate would have it, (they) found an opportunity to be in the area this weekend and were able to have their reunion and their concert here in Montgomery County.

 

Mack, Kenn Roberts and John Sommers perform at the Troy Rotary Club

 

Over the years, Bailey has given back to his roots and Friday night was no exception.  The concert was a benefit for the Trinity Music Academy's scholarship fund.  Through the scholarship fund, young musicians have an opportunity to experience the world of music and the magic it holds.

 

 

 

The Courier-Tribune

Asheboro, North Carolina

September 28, 2002

The following is from The Courier-Tribune Web Site

Montgomery native to lead 5th annual Tribute to John Denver

By Mary Anderson
Staff Writer, The Courier-Tribune

TROY - Mack Bailey will kick off the 5th annual Tribute to John Denver in his hometown of Troy in Montgomery County this Friday night. Coming home is always a treat for Bailey, but he says this concert will be bittersweet.

Bailey, The Hard Travelers, and two members of Denver's band will play a benefit performance for the Gerry Bailey Memorial Scholarship Fund at Trinity Music Academy. Mack is the middle son of Morgan and the late Gerry Bailey.

From Troy, the group goes to Aspen, Colo., for the annual three-day Tribute to John Denver for two performances at the Mountain Chalet Ballroom and three at the Wheeler Opera house. Vince Gill and Amy Grant will join the group for the last performance there on Oct. 13.

On Oct. 18, the tribute tour concludes at the Cellar Stage in Baltimore, Md.

Joining Bailey in Troy will be two members of John Denver's band, Bill Danoff and John Sommers. Sommers wrote "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and Danoff wrote "Take Me Home Country Roads" which became the theme song of West Virginia and "I Guess He'd Rather be in Colorado" which is the theme song of that state.

The Troy performance will include many other Bailey favorites in addition to Denver's music.

Bailey is categorized as a contemporary folk singer, but his style is hard to pin down as a musician.

At the North Carolina School of the Arts, voice coaches tried to steer him toward becoming an operatic tenor. Bailey tried.

"With opera, or rather oratorio, on one side of me and my guitar on the other, I just listened to the music and I sang and just tried to experience both of them," Bailey said in an interview last year. "The guitar won."

Bailey said he enjoys singing everything, including oratorio and choral works.

"I just love music. I love hearing music while I'm actually being a part of singing it, of hearing it live around me. I'm not very good with categorizing music. I mean, it's all just music to me."

Bailey has settled in Silver Spring, Md. He is as well known in that state and the Washington, D.C., area for his humanitarian work as his performances.

Bailey does special concerts for children and for Alzheimer's patients. One of his most touching memories is hearing an Alzheimer's patient, whom nurses said had not spoken in three months, sing along on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Bailey's song, "When I Dream," was inspired by a woman with Parkinson's Disease who told him she was healthy in her dreams.

Bailey loves to spread his love of music. In 1999, he was the Artist in Residence at the Kennedy Center.

This year, he was presented the Governor's Citation for Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award.
 

On Sept. 9, Bailey sang at the Pentagon Memorial Fund Brunch at Café Milano in Washington.

He was in the background in the picture in The Washington Post behind his wife, Lauren, and daughter, Caroline, at a stage side table.

A long supporter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, that's how he met The Hard Travelers and John Denver.

Bailey joined The Hard Travelers as a guitar player when their lead player broke in his thumb.

He met Denver when he sang, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" for the sound check at a Cystic Fibrosis benefit and Denver asked Bailey to trade verses with him during the performance.

There was a brief conversation about future appearances together, Bailey said, and some contact between agents, but three weeks later Denver died in a plane crash in Miami.

Bailey was devastated.

Then came the first tribute, The Cellar Door Remembers John Denver.

Bailey was asked to sing Denver's songs, using Denver's arrangements, with Denver's band.

"It was overwhelming. I was in awe of working with them," Bailey said.

The performance in Troy will include more than Denver's music, Bailey said.

While he sings everything from any music genre that appeals to him, Bailey is a songwriter in his own right.

Fans of the wacky "Car Talk" on NPR recognize Bailey's song, "High Gear."

Children love "Waltzing with Bears" and "Rock Me, Grandpa" on his CD for children, "Friends."

"Children make me a little nervous, because they look beyond. Kids are at face value."

Bailey composed and performed the soundtrack music for the PBS specials, "Block Island - A Gift of the Glaciers" and for "Smith Island - Land Water People Time."

He co-wrote the theme for the Johns Hopkins Children's Miracle Network telethon.

Bailey has opened for some of the country's top performers, among them Brooks & Dunn, Randy Travis, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Alabama.

With his on-stage charisma and two-octave tenor voice, critics have praised him as much as the main acts.

"With his voice from heaven and wonderful stage charisma, he moves audiences from tears to laughter," wrote Karen Tupek.

Frank Allen Philpot, Bethesda, Md., Acoustic House Concerts, wrote: "He has an absolutely gorgeous tenor voice and he knows how to combine songs to do a great program. If he performs in your area, he is not to be missed."

 

 

The Montgomery Herald
Montgomery County, North Carolina
September 25, 2002

 

"Thank God I'm a Country Boy"

 

By Linda Beaulieu

 

Rocky Mountain High comes to the Uwharrie Mountains next week.

 

Troy native Mack Bailey, Kenn Roberts and the Hard Travelers, along with two former members of John Denver's band, will bring their talents to West Montgomery High Auditorium at 7 p.m., Friday, October 4.

 

Though the names of the two Denver associates might not be familiar to the county audience, their music will be.

 

John Sommers, a former Navy pilot, stopped in Aspen for a winter before starting flight training with TWA.  He never made it to the commercial flight school.  Instead, Denver happened into the Aspen club where Sommers was playing with a band called Liberty.  Impressed with a Sommers composition, "The River of Love," Denver flew the band to New York to record the tune on a new album.

 

Sommers eventually joined Denver's band and his song, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," has become embedded in American music history.  Since his years with Denver, Sommers has continued to be a part of the Rockies music scene and a participant in the annual John Denver tribute concerts that raise funds for local and national charities.

 

Bill Danoff is the second John Denver band member in next week's show.  Among Danoff's contributions to Denver's repertoire are "Take Me Home Country Roads" and "I Guess He'd Rather Be in Colorado."  In addition to his association with Denver, Danoff was the driving force behind the Starland Vocal Band, and the author of its hit single, "Afternoon Delight."

 

Bailey's association with Denver, whom he met and performed with in Baltimore just a couple weeks before Denver's death in a plane crash, is really much longer lived.  Bailey credits Denver with "teaching me how to sing a song," and he has continued to be friends with and perform with members of the Denver band over the years.

 

The October 4 performance is a "smaller version of the big John Denver tribute in Colorado later in the month," Bailey said.  "not all the band members will be there, but the two key ones are coming."

 

In addition to Denver's music, original music from the other performers will also be featured.  "That was one good thing about John," Bailey commented.  "He liked other people's music.  Even if you're not a big John Denver fan, it will be a great show."

 

Tickets for the performance, a benefit for the Trinity Music Academy Scholarship Fund, are available at $12 for adults, $6 for students 18 and under.  Call 910-576-4186 or email tsec@mc-online.net.

 

 

 

From the Washington Post's Style Section

Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 9, 2002

 

"Out and About" by Roxanne Roberts

 

The following is from:  The Washington Post

 


 (Rebecca D'Angelo - For The Washington Post)
 

Patriotism Is On This Menu

 

Maybe it was the gorgeous sunny day: Yesterday's Pentagon Memorial Fund brunch at Cafe Milano was a quietly upbeat occasion. As patrons sipped champagne and munched on antipasto, folk singer Mack Bailey (left) performed "On the Sunny Side of the Street," the Redskins celebrated their first win and the restaurant raised more than $8,000 for a memorial to the victims of last year's attack on the Pentagon.

The Pentagon memorial, recently authorized by Congress, will be placed on the west side of the building near the impact point.  An open design competition will close this week; a jury panel will select five finalists next month and announce the winner in December. No budget has been set for the project, but the goal is have it built as soon as possible. "I would say within the next year -- probably September," said Bob Miller from the Defense Department.

 

 

The Montgomery Herald
Montgomery County, North Carolina
Friday, August 30, 2002

 

By Linda Beaulieu

 

Mack Bailey has had lots of thrilling moments in his musical career, singing with or opening for the likes of Kenny Rogers, Kathy Mattea, the Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Lee Greenwood and more.

 

For someone who grew up listening to his dad’s Limeliter and New Christy Minstrels albums, getting to sing Glenn Yarbrough’s parts with Limeliters in a Washington, D.C. concert ranks near the top. But the biggest moment came in September 1997, when John Denver, “the man who taught me how to sing a song,” invited him on stage to trade verses to one of Denver’s signature songs, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

 

Two weeks later, Denver was dead in a plane crash. Tentative plans to do more with his idol died, along with the granny glassed, tousled blond American music icon.

 

But Bailey, son of Troy residents Morgan and the late Gerri Bailey, has kept up his ties with Denver’s band members and performed with them in a series of tribute shows in Colorado and around the country, most often to the benefit of charities such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, National Dyslexia Foundation, and Challenge Aspen.

 

October 4, he’s bringing a few friends, including two of Denver’s close associates, home for a concert to benefit the Trinity Music Academy Scholarship Fund.

 

“I love to come and play at home,” Bailey said. “And I love introducing friends I work with to the people of Troy.” One of those friends is song writer and musician Bill Danoff. Danoff and then partner Taffy Nivert cowrote the song that would catapult Denver to fame in the 1960s, “Take Me Home Country Roads.” Another of the duos’ efforts, “I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado,” was recorded by Denver and became the Colorado theme song.

 

In the 70s, Danoff was a major part of the Starland Vocal Band, and his song, “Afternoon Delight,” won two Grammy Awards and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

Also appearing in the October show is John Sommers,  author of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Sommers, who also wrote “The River of Love,” said he doesn’t consider himself a songwriter. “To me a songwriter is someone who’s continually writing and I’ve never done that. I’ve just been incredibly fortunate with the ones I’ve written.”

 

Sommers, however, is a musician good enough to have played harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and guitar with Denver’s band in its heyday of the 1970s.

 

Like Danoff, Sommers has continued to be part of the Colorado and national music and annual October Denver tribute concerts in Colorado.

 

Also coming home with Bailey are several members of The Hard Travelers, with whom he has played for many years, and top Nashville bluegrass musician Mark MacGlashan. “John Denver fan or not, it’s going to be a great evening of music,” Bailey said, including plenty of John Denver material, but also original music from Bailey and the other performers.

 

Making the concert a benefit for music scholarships is typical of Bailey and his friends. “There has to be a reason to bring people together, and for the performers it feels good to know we’re doing something for the community. And they had all met mom, who was a big supporter of the academy,” he said.

 

Bailey lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland. He was named Best Male Vocalist in the Traditional Folk category in the 1992 Washington Area Music Awards, sung the national anthem numerous times at Baltimore Orioles and Washington Capitals home games, had his song “High Gear” featured on NPR’s Car Talk program, and most recently received the 2002 Governor’s Citation for Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award.

 

He composed and performed soundtracks for two PBS specials, and co wrote the theme for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Miracle Network telethon.

 

“I’m still a full-time musician, working in a variety of ways,” he said. One of the most fulfilling ways is performing for groups and one on one in nursing homes and Alzheimer units. From that experience he has recorded When I Dream, a collection of songs he’s shared with patients. “I’ve got a church gig a couple days a week, and the busy concert season is coming up,” he said. He also works with school students on songwriting.

 

“I love what I do, and I love to come and play at home,” he said.

 

Among those looking forward to Bailey and friends is musician and long time member of the local music scene Jim Callicutt. He calls Bailey “a super entertainer, that’s all there is to it. He’s very accomplished. It’s hard for me to understand why someone that good hasn’t made it bigger. There’s lots with no more talent and ability making millions.”

 

Earle Connelly, acting president of the TMA board, promises “a wonderful show. Mack and the band are very professional, and bring a lot of credentials.”

 

Tickets for the October 4 concert are $12 for adults and $6 for students (18 and under). They are available by calling Marie Andrews at Trinity United Methodist Church, 901-576-4186.

 

Info box:

 

Mack Bailey and Friends in Concert

Benefit Trinity Music Academy Scholarships

7 p.m., Friday, October 4

West Montgomery High School Auditorium

Tickets: 576- 4186

 

 

 

The Montgomery Herald

Montgomery County, North Carolina

Wednesday, March 8, 2000 

“The Entertainer” 

For singer, songwriter Mack Bailey, the show’s the thing, giving his audience their money’s worth 

Feature by Linda Beaulieu  

How do you make a folksinger a millionaire?  Give him $2 million.

Mack Bailey says he believes and understands this old joke popular amongst folk musicians.  Fortunately, the talented Bailey doesn't yearn to be a millionaire.  "I don't need to be a superstar," he says.  "I'd just like to make enough for myself, my family (wife Lauren and daughter Caroline) and our future."  He hasn't quite reached that point yet, describing himself as a "full part-time musician," but he's moving in that direction.

Mack grew up listening to all kinds of music in the Troy home of his parents Morgan and Gerri Bailey.  "There was a great respect for music in our home," he says. Mixed in with the classical and church music albums was the music of various folk groups. Mack was strongly influenced by The Limeliters' album "Folk Revival'' and the New Christy Minstrels' "Land of Giants."

“There was something about the way their voices worked that touched me," he says.  “That's how I learned to sing. I like folk music because it expresses more, it can touch people socially, environmentally."  With modern pop and rock music, he believes listeners may find themselves bobbing their heads in time to the music, "but they don't necessarily come away with something" as they do with folk music.

Mack began training for his career as a professional musician way back in third grade.  After moving to Troy with his family, he first took piano lessons with Ms. Blanche Bruton.  When it came time for music lessons in public elementary school, he studied trumpet and baritone horn.  The guitar, more appropriate for his chosen genre of folk music, he picked up when his older brother Trip tried it and decided he didn't really like it.  Later, Mack taught himself banjo.

He never minded the hours of practice to master his instrument. "I felt drawn to play and practice guitar, for hours on end," he says. "It didn't matter if I was extremely happy, mad, sad or down, I wanted to pick my guitar. I could play the same song for hours, but it was something different every time, different finger picking styles, always something new, creative. I just couldn't get enough of it.  Even now, I'm always wanting to make it better. I don't want people to get tired and feel like, oh, we've heard that."

He sang in church and school choirs through middle and early high school at West Montgomery, but his first formal voice training came during three summer music camps at what was then Pfeiffer College.

As part of the local band, The Ivory Images, he played pop songs of the mid 70s for a few dances at West Montgomery.  But he knew from an early age he wanted to be a professional performer, so he moved in the last two years of high school to the one place in this area where he could be trained to reach his goal, the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.  After high school, he went on to take a couple years of business courses at UNC Chapel Hill.

"I was still studying music there, was still active in the men's glee club, doing solo performances and working with the Blue Moon Saloon Band," he says.  He wanted to learn more about music business to help him in his planned career, but those types of classes weren't part of UNC's offering. He ended up back at the School of the Arts, from which he graduated at age 23.

After a short stint as a singing waiter at the Mt. Washington Hotel in New Hampshire, Mack headed back south, at least part way, to Annapolis, Maryland.  A former chef from Mt. Washington offered him a job as bar manager in his restaurant.  "I started playing the bar scene in Annapolis," he says.  It was a busy venue with lots of major jazz performers working in the area.  It wasn't long before a "good deed" led him to the start of a 14-year relationship that took him touring in Asia and around the United States.

Mack decided to wander over to the Millersville Inn, what he describes as a "biker type place," to do a couple numbers in a Cystic Fibrosis benefit concert being put on there.  "I was 24 years old, and I saw these four guys in their 40s on stage, doing old Kingston Trio songs. One guy was from North Carolina and we got to talking.  I asked them to stay and listen to me."  And that's how Mack Bailey started 14 years working with a group called The Hard Travelers.

"I played back up for the group and eventually worked my way up to getting a microphone," he says.  During these years, involved and performing mostly with the group, though still getting in some solo work, Mack had the opportunity to meet and perform with every major influence in his musical life.  He recalls singing tenor with The Limeliters once in Washington, D.C.  “There I was, singing Glenn Yarbrough's parts in front of thousands of people.  I remember thinking 'what in the world am I doing here.'  I had these childhood dreams of being that guy, and for one night I was that guy.”

"There's something so special about being on stage with a group like that, seeing the music being made and realizing you're a part of that picture, that music.  It's an incredible feeling and to do it with those who you grew up idolizing, . . "  and his thought trails off  recalling the memory.

For 10 years, Mack participated in the annual Cystic Fibrosis benefits, with The Hard Travelers performing as the opener for a different big name each year at the Baltimore Arena.  He lists Kenny Rogers, Kathy Mattea, the Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Lee Greenwood, Barbara Mandrell, Emmy Lou Harris, and Glenn Yarbrough.  But the biggest thrill for Mack came Sept. 20, 1997.  The date will live in his mind forever.

That was the night he got to sing with his greatest musical influence, John Denver.  He sets the scene like this. One of Denver's big hits, "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," was a regular part of every home game for the Baltimore Orioles.  The day of the benefit concert at which Denver was to headline, he went to the ball game for an appearance.  There, Mack got the chance to introduce himself.

"There I was, 37 years old, and just as nervous as I could be.  I introduced myself,  'Hi, I'm Mack Bailey with The Hard Travelers and I just want to thank you for teaching me how to sing a song.'  And he said to me, 'Wait a minute, didn't you sing 'Potter's Wheel' before I did?'  I thought it was great he'd heard my album."

Later, at the rehearsal for the concert, Mack was called on to sing a few verses of Denver's "Country Boy" for the sound check.  "I sang the verses, he liked it and suggested we trade verses on the song during the show.  When we finally got to the encore, he sang the first verse, and then said 'Take it, Mack."'

Bailey's voice drops as he continues his story. "Two weeks later, on 'Good Morning, America,' I heard the news of the crash."  Denver had been killed in the crash of a light aircraft.  "It really put me into a slump for a while," Mack says.  "It was like every bit of air had been taken out of me. After the show, we had talked about maybe doing some things together."

What got done, and has been done since then is Mack performing with members of Denver's band, in several John Denver tribute shows.  "I'm grateful to be a part of the shows, but I don't want people to think I'm capitalizing on John's death," he says.  Nor does he want to be exclusively identified with  Denver, though he names Denver "as the whole major influence on my music and style during high school and college."

What Mack is looking for is a stronger solo career after the years of association with The Hard Travelers.  He says he's got some good friends who've given him good advice in Nashville, where his most recent CD, "Through Your Eyes," was produced.  He recalls sitting in the office of one of those contacts one day, while the man listened to bits and pieces of the over 200 cassettes he gets every day from hopeful performers.

"I realized then, for every Mack Bailey from Troy, NC, there are hundreds of thousands of others out there, all trying to do the exact same thing," he says.  The agent at that time gave him this advice, which he's stuck to so far: "Stay in Annapolis and become so well known there that people who come there looking for something to do will be told, you've got to go see Mack Bailey. . . Become a big fish in a little sea."

But now, while still being sensible about not taking on overly expensive projects, he's still working to get his name out there, to find an agent to promote his solo career, and to find the right song that could put him over the top.

He's performed a number of times at The Kennedy Center, composed and performed sound tracks for two different films shown on Public Broad- casting Service, written a theme song used in fund raisers for Johns Hopkins Medical Center, done the John Denver tribute shows, as well as the 10 years of benefits for Cystic Fibrosis, and taught creative writing to summer campers for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  One of his reasons for wanting to succeed has to do with service to others, perhaps an ideal more closely associated with socially conscious folk musicians over the years than with any other genre.

"I feel like I could do so much more with my music.  Music is a powerful tool to get people involved in something, to go the extra step. What I want is to be successful enough to do more of these kinds of things and still be able to maintain for my family," he says.

Like most musicians, he's had a number of different day jobs to pay the bills while performing “full-part-time" nights and weekends: landscaping, 1990 census counting, telemarketing, driving and developing Films for a portable x-ray company, selling everything from cell phones to food, and for a while running his own culinary herb business - Herbs and Thyme.  "My wife jokes I could have a good career as a job or career counselor," he quips.

But the music, or perhaps more importantly, the performing, entertaining is what drives him.  "I want to be a good entertainer, not just a good writer or singer," he says.  "If people are paying money, I need 'to make sure they get their money's worth."  He puts a lot of thought into a show or performance and speaks with intensity about the two way street, the energy between performer and audience.  It's clear that's a big part of what he loves about what he does.

But it's also clear that what he loves can be hard to deal with.  "I've felt frustrated many times.  I've asked myself why do I enjoy this, why do I keep torturing myself."

Throughout his years as a professional, he's been classified as a folk musician, a genre that while appealing to many isn't as popular as some other styles. "I don't know how to classify it really," he says.  "It's got flavors of country and popular folk.  With this most recent CD, I tried to make it more contemporary, but the reviews so far still label it as folk.  I don't fight it anymore."

And having listened to a sampling of Mack Bailey's recorded music, one wonders why he would fight it.  Clear, tuneful and thoughtful, his music is a pleasure to hear.  And local audiences will be getting their chance to enjoy Bailey's music in Troy soon.

Along with pianist Chris Nole and guitar player Pete Huttlinger from John Denver's band, and Nashville base player Jeff Cox, Bailey will be performing, March 21, in a concert to benefit the scholarship fund of Trinity Music Academy.   For more information about the evening show at West Montgomery High School, call 576-8742.  To listen to a sampling of Mack's music, find out about upcoming performances, or to order CDs or tapes, check out his website, mackbailey.com.

Meanwhile, Mack will continue to work on what he sees as his strength, "to be able to get in front of people and let them see what I do.  I promise to show them a good time."

 

Silver Spring man goes down Denver’s country roads

 

by Daryl Khan  

Special to The Gazette

Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Mack Bailey, 39, grew up in Troy, a speck of a Southern town in the middle of North Carolina, just south of Greensboro, where the population was 2,500 on a shopping day.  There, in the bedroom of a modest house, young Bailey would shut his door, pick up his guitar and practice for hours on end, strumming and finger-picking the same song again and again until he got it right.

Bailey's artist of choice was John Denver.  He would listen to Denver albums and study Denver songbooks, at least any he could get his hands on. But in the sleepy town of Troy, it was not easy.

"There weren't that many folk groups coming through Troy.  In fact, there wasn't much of anything," Bailey says, reminiscing from his Silver Spring home.

So Bailey relied on his father's record collection.  While most of his schoolmates were busy jamming to the latest Aerosmith hits or other electrically charged rock bands, Bailey opted for the subdued, melodic songs of folk.

"Rock never really did much for me," Bailey says.  "I remember songs, not groups."

Instead, he would listen to his father's old Limeliters and New Christy Minstrel albums, enthralled with folk "back when it was a four-letter word."

Bailey had taken piano lessons, but not guitar.  He taught himself during those long hours in his room, playing on an acoustic Fender his older brother discarded.  He taught himself by emulating John Denver.  It's an influence that forms much of the playing in his latest solo CD, "Through Your Eyes."  He'll play tracks from the CD Sunday evening at the Frank Allen Philpot House Concert in Bethesda.

Denver's influence pervades Bailey's latest effort.  The CD features a Denver song, a lesser-known piece titled "Eagles and Horses" that is one of Bailey's favorites.  Along with Bailey's guitar playing and singing, the CD features the work of Denver's band and was produced by long-time Denver producer Kris O'Connor.

Even Bailey's three original songs on the CD the title track "Through Your Eyes" dedicated to his 5-year-old daughter Caroline, the instrumental " Time to Time " and “Wades Point," a song Bailey wrote for the processional at his wedding - are infused with the same mix of nostalgia and quiet yearning, of restrained power and tender harmonies that mark Denver hits like "Sunshine on My Shoulder."

Bailey had a chance to meet the artist who played such a pivotal role in his musical development at a benefit concert for Cystic Fibrosis, just three weeks before Denver’s 1997 death in an airplane accident.

The members of Bailey's former band, the Hard Travelers, went with Denver to Camden Yards to take in a Baltimore Orioles game.  During the seventh inning stretch, when "Thank God ' I'm a Country Boy" piped through the stadium speakers, Denver climbed on the dugout and started to lip-synch - much to the crowds' glee.

Denver, Bailey and the Hard Travelers performed the song in concert the next day. For Bailey, meeting and performing with his boyhood idol was an unprecedented experience.

"All of a sudden, he was a real person," Bailey recalls. "He commented that he liked my style and he wanted to know who I was.  It's something I'll never forget."

Bailey continues to pay homage to Denver on a tribute tour along with 14 other musicians and a vocalist.  The tour has gone to Aspen, Los Angeles and Fairfax.  Bailey will join the tour for two weeks in Europe in the spring.

Meanwhile, Bailey wants to concentrate on getting an agent, promoting the new CD and looking for opportunities to perform as much as possible.

"I'm really proud of "Through Your Eyes,' " Bailey says.  "To me it's one of the most accurate portrayals I have of my music.  I hear the singing on it and the choice of songs and I feel that it is really representative of me as a musician."

And by recording with Denver's band, he feels he completed a circle he started drawing decades ago in his boyhood home in Troy, when he muttered the words and played the notes that would send Bailey off on his own musical career.

"Now I get to do something just as amazing, I get to pay homage to him by playing with his band," Bailey says.  "What I hear through the monitor is what John would hear. It's an incredible opportunity to hear the sounds that he was hearing."

 

Wednesday, February 16, 2000

Community Forum (Letters to the Editor)

John Denver’s spirit lives on

I want to express my deep appreciation to The Gazette for printing the article entitled, “Silver Spring man goes down Denver’s country roads” by Daryl Khan that appeared in the Feb. 2 issue.

Mack Bailey is an incredible talent . . . one that we discovered during the benefit concert for Cystic Fibrosis Sept. 20, 1997, at the Baltimore Arena.  His clear tenor voice and guitar capabilities are unmistakable which makes his CD “Through Your Eyes” one of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.

Mr. Bailey is a true reflection of the man who is his inspiration.  He has graciously given his time and talent in support of many charitable organizations, supported / founded by John Denver as well as those that reflect his own passion.  He will once again be participating in A Musical Tribute to John Denver in October in Aspen, Colorado . . . Denver’s home.

Mr. Bailey’s talent certainly equals that of the man who inspired him.  We all look forward to the day when we can all say “we knew him when he was just a Hard Traveler.”

Mary Ledford, Montgomery Village  (Eagleshorses Productions)

 

REVIEW: Mack Bailey House Concert

The following is from http://www.folkmusic.org/archives/fm/0069.html

F Philpot (FPhilpot@aol.com)
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 17:22:01 -0400 (EDT)

I first heard Mack Bailey 10 or 12 years ago when he opened for Glenn Yarbrough at the Birchmere outside Washington, DC. I don't remember the songs he did that night, but I loved his voice from the moment I heard it and I determined to find some more chances to hear him.

That hasn't always been easy. Mack has been lead vocalist with The Hard Travelers for the last 10 years and has played many local dates, but he hasn't done a great deal of solo work. When I thought about starting a house concert series a year and a half ago, Mack was one of the first people I thought of inviting. Frankly I was tired of driving 40 to 50 miles to attend his occasional solo show and I thought maybe I could lure him into performing in my living room.

He did a very well received show last spring and returned for a repeat Sunday night. We had a full house and it was a great evening.

There are two things that I especially like about Mack: He has an absolutely gorgeous tenor voice and he knows how to combine songs to do a great program.  Sunday night he did many of his own songs, "High Gear," "Through Your Eyes," (among others) along with some songs written by friends, "Rock Me Grandpa," "Virginia When It Rains," "The Coast Is Clear" (Tim Malchak), "Eagles and Horses" (John Denver and Joe Henry.)

Mack brought his wife, Lauren, and beautiful four-year-old daughter, Caroline, to the show and he said he made a decision when Caroline was born not to tour so he could be home with her. It's a decision I understand, but Mack is one great performer and maybe when Caroline is a bit older she'll understand if her dad is gone every once in a while.

If he performs in your area, he's not to be missed.

Frank Allen Philpot
Bethesda Acoustic House Concerts
Fphilpot@aol.com

 

Mack is mentioned in this article:

Palisades Café Friendly to Folk

The Washington Post

Weekend, Friday, April 10, 1992

Nightlife Column

THE COFFEEHOUSE revival has become so widespread that a new division has begun to take shape in between the amateur/local and national circuit leagues—a sort of semi-pro venue, with an established regional-draw act serving as host and headliner.

   The Washington area is already plentifully supplied with good "minor-league" coffeehouses, hosted by popular local artists and lending exposure to talented beginners. The long-running Hard Travelers & Friends shows at the King of France Tavern in Annapolis and now Bill Danoff's new Sunday showcase at the Palisades Cafe on MacArthur Boulevard NW are just one step more prepossessing; but in the case of Fat City/Starland Vocal Band veteran Danoff, it's particularly comfortable — more like a busman's holiday than a concert. These Triple A clubs have some advantages over general acoustic "listening rooms," since a well-known performer can develop a pool of frequent if not regular patrons—thus ensuring bottom-line security and a friendly, semi-participatory atmosphere—and serve as a guarantee of quality control. (In fact, Mack Bailey has cut his Thursday night jams at King of France from weekly to monthly in part to maintain a high level; this week's show co-stars Pete  Kennedy;  call  301/263-2641.)

 Particularly for those audiences who don't follow the circuit closely enough to be familiar with guests' names, and who have limited enthusiasm for watching inexperienced performers learn the ropes, the semi-pro showcases are better musical bets than open mikes (which, to continue the baseball analogy, are where mediocre musicians get peeled of dreams).

   Also, while many Washington restaurants have a laissez-faire attitude toward performers that bends to an exuberant clientele, the coffeehouses involve at least some collaboration between club owner and entertainer, so the service and the music tend to coexist on a more friendly basis.

   The community atmosphere of the Palisades Cafe is no accident, nor is Danoff's being so at home there an affectation.  The cafe really is his neighborhood restaurant; he and his wife Joan held their wedding reception there, and Joan, who is general manager of the Occidental Grill, tends to fall into habitual host mode, shuffling chairs and friends around the dining room (a neat trick, since it's not large— 10 or 12 tables).

   The cafe itself is quite pretty, with a front dining room that looks like one of those great-homes foyers done up as an Italian piazza—half columns, hanging (but not accessorizing) greenery and lots of windows—and a pleasantly understated main room in a warm neutral mode. Being up a flight of steps from the boulevard improves the view and the exhaust level, so the veranda view is fairly pleasant.

   The food is not haute, nor particularly hot, but it is hearty without being heavy.  The menu is a mix of Greek, Italian and basic restaurant cuisine: kebabs, taramasalata, gyros, grape leaves, moussaka; veal piccata, pastas (egg noodles, in some cases) with seafood, alfredo or pesto; and mixed grills, roast, charbroiled or Dijon chicken, blackened redfish (which has risen to requisite status), calf's liver and shrimp—plus burgers, clubs, fried zukes, buffalo wings, quiche and a kid's menu.

   The wine list is short but suitable; the actual bar is a homey one with a few stools and a pleasant outlook. The major drawback is that the back room where the performers set up is a smoking area; it also opens onto a food prep area, so that the bell to announce  finished dishes sometimes provides unexpected punctuation.

   Danoff's shows have been such friendly affairs that one night it seemed at least half the crowd (including the owners of a Rockville club) was in the music business one way or another. By the end of the evening he had a mini-hootenanny going, with songwriters Doris Justis and Carey Creed, Mack Bailey (the "official" special guest), steel guitar star Danny Pendleton and Hard Traveler Kenn Roberts all crowded around the mikes singing "Country Roads."

    Danoff's own self-deprecating humor is part of the fun; he admits to harboring more affection for the songs that have made him money—"Roads," "Afternoon Delight" and "Potter's Wheel"—and dropping them into the shows allows fans with even the most limited radio knowledge of Danoff's career to hook in. (Other grades of familiarity include those who know Danoff as co-author with Emmylou Harris of the first cut off her first album, "Boulder to Birmingham"; and those who know the words to everything he sings, and sing along.)

   The acoustics are surprisingly good for a stucco shoebox (thanks to the soundman), but to be frank, that's less important than the kitchen-table atmosphere.  This Sunday, Danoff's guests are Alaska's JoAnn & Monty; the Keating Five are booked for April 19 and Kerrville Festival winner Steve Key for April 26.

   The Palisades Cafe, at 5125 MacArthur Blvd. NW, is open seven days a week; call  202/244-3106.

 

 

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