By Jamie Cole and Brent Thompson
Jubilee # 3 promises to be another musical filled Alabaster afternoon into early evening. Headlined by country duo, Thompson Square, the event will begin at 2 PM on Saturday, October 28, at the green space around the old Siluria water tower, on the grounds of Alabaster’s municipal complex at 1953 Municipal Way. This event will immediately follow the Alabaster Fall Festival, on the same grounds. ADMISSION IS FREE! Just bring your lawn chairs and blankets. More info: alabasterjubilee.com
To help understand and celebrate this event we asked City Council member and musician his ownself Jamie Cole a few questions about what we can expect.
Alabaster Connection (AC): Jamie, how did you find out about Thompson Square and how would you describe their music?
Jamie Cole (JC) “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?” is the first of their songs I heard, and I was immediately hooked. Keifer and Shawna Thompson have that beautiful harmony and chemistry that all the great husband and wife acts have. Shawna is from just down the road in Chatom, Alabama. And they have a smokin’ band backing them, too!
AC: What other acts are you excited about?
JC: Bluewater Revival (BR) is more than just a supporting act. We love introducing people to new music that they may not be familiar with. I’d call BR a cross between Jason Isbell and The Eagles. Their songwriting talent is so mature; their lyrics will blow you away. And the vocals and musicianship are remarkable. They hail from the Shoals area, where I grew up, so it’s another Alabama act. I recommend checking out the song “Before My Fall” for a good example of their talents.
AC: How and when did the idea for Jubilee come about?
JC: We wanted to have a fall event and we’re excited to combine efforts with Alabaster Fall Festival and make “Jubilee #3” that event’s closing concert. Two great events, same day, same spot!
AC: What sponsors are helping with this year’s Jubilee?
JC: The City of Alabaster and Discover Shelby, along with our incredible long-time corporate sponsors, Central State Bank and Coca-Cola.
AC: Is this event free?
JC: It really is… and it wouldn’t be free without the support of the sponsors above, and the volunteer support of the Alabaster Arts Council.
AC: What else should we know about Jubilee 3?
JC: My city council colleagues are so supportive of the arts and events in our city. They have continually supported funding for events like this and the Arts Council is so grateful. We want to thank them, Mayor Scott Brakefield, and all the city departments like APD, AFD, public works, and parks and rec. They provide the needed support to make these events safe and successful!
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Fall Fest is a full day of family fun, beginning at 10 AM along the Buck Creek Trail, and including:
Arts and Crafts Vendors ($ required for purchases)
Carnival Rides for children
Food Vendors ($ required for purchases)
Trick-or-Treat Trail for children
Pumpkin Painting for children ($2 per Pumpkin required)
Pumpkin Hunt – find 20 Pumpkins hidden in trees (no prizes, just a fun challenge)
As the Fall Fest event concludes, music will begin on the stage on Municipal Green under Alabaster’s historic Silurian water tower.
2 PM Flywheel
3 PM Bluewater Revival
4 PM Thompson Square
A Nice Evolution: Catching up with Keifer Thompson of Thompson Square
by Brent Thompson
Touring musicians are accustomed to regularly saying goodbye to family, but Keifer and Shawna Thompson – the country duo known as Thompson Square – are unique in that respect.
“We haven’t said goodbye to each other in probably 20 years,” Keifer Thompson says, speaking by phone from his home in Tennessee. “It’s an interesting dynamic and it’s pretty unique. Being the only married couple in country music, you’re kind of out there on an island. There are a lot of collaborations between guys and girls, but when you’ve made a life with somebody and then you’re singing about that life, to me that’s the honesty that comes out. I can’t imagine going through the downs by myself and I know that Shawna feels the same way.”
In more than a decade of recording and performing, Thompson Square has garnered several hits including “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not,” “I Got You” and “If I Didn’t Have You.” In addition, the duo has been named Vocal Duo of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards and Country Music Association Awards.
Though the band released its debut album in 2011, Thompson Square’s recorded output has been surprisingly limited with only three albums in its catalog to date.
“Some of it was by design, but some of it wasn’t to be quite transparent with you,” Thompson admits. “We were with [label] Stoney Creek from 2011 to 2016 and only two albums came out of that time period. I would’ve liked to have had at least two more, but we were on a small label. When you’re on a big label, it’s easier because you get leverage with bigger artists and we never had any leverage. We had a great run there, but got out of our record deal because it wasn’t right for us anymore. Masterpiece – our favorite album we’ve ever done – was made independently. We’ve put together an album and we don’t know exactly when it’s going to drop, but I would imagine first quarter of next year. It’s a nice evolution of what we’ve always done. Some of our songs have leaned more on the pop side, but this album tends to lean a little more toward country.”
From a songwriting standpoint, I ask Thompson to describe the tandem’s creative process.
“Shawna writes a little bit and I write all the time – I’m an everyday kind of guy,” he says. “When we collaborate, we usually have a third party in there to break the ties. When I write alone, it’s usually about something that triggers an emotion in me and it’s a message that I want to get out. I enjoy starting the song with some sort of musical hook that moves me. In my opinion, melody is more important than lyrics. I think a musical hook is the first thing that hooks the listener. Once the emotion of the hook hits me, we’re off to the races as far as lyrics. The hardest thing in writing a song is coming up with an idea. We can write lyrics all day long, but unless you have a compelling idea it’s just a bunch of lyrics.”
Even though live music is back in full swing, it’s difficult to interview any artist these days without discussing the Covid shutdown and its effects on the music industry.
“We’re still digging out of that hole as are a lot of artists,” Thompson offers. “A lot of artists didn’t recover from it and I’m grateful that we have. I wrote a ton, started a podcast and Shawna’s solo project is done – we were pretty productive. Everyone always asks how we can be together all the time and it’s pretty easy for us. Covid was a whole new level of togetherness [laughs]. It was a test, but we got a chance to see our son every day so that was the joy of the whole thing – being able to be with him.”
With the advent of iTunes, Youtube, Spotify, satellite radio and other modern outlets, Thompson Square has forged its career in a technology-driven music industry.
“It’s true that independent artists have a vessel to get their music out globally, but the streaming services have become more like terrestrial radio in the old days where the major labels own a lot of these streaming services,” Thompson explains. “The algorithm changes on a daily basis. When our songs were being played a thousand times a week, everyone else hated that too except for me. So, you have to take the good with the bad. I’m always happy for artists that make their way out. In the Americana space, I think fans are starved for a more real listening experience and songs that have more depth to them. You’re seeing Zach Bryan, Tyler Childers and this Oliver [Anthony] thing that popped out. Someone’s mad about something and writes a song about it and it resonates with 90 million people – that should tell you all you need to know as far as what fans are wanting. Our focus right now is country radio and we’re out there visiting stations again. It makes it a little easier when you’re doing it with your partner. It’s a good time and a bad time – it just depends on where you fall in the pecking order.”
When performing live these days, I ask Thompson how the duo comprises its setlists.
“We argue a lot about that,” he laughs. “I want to do things a certain way and Shawna wants to do things a certain way. We have five big hits under our belt and we spread those out for the fans and try to introduce new songs when you can. We try to mix it up. We have a new song called ‘You Were There’ and it’s an absolute stellar song. We didn’t write it, so I can say that. I really hope it’s the next single and it’s one of those songs you don’t come across all the time.”
Once Nashville residents, The Thompson family has relocated to a rural area away from the booming city.
“We moved about an hour and a half outside of town,” Thompson says. “We moved way out in the country and bought a little piece of land and we live in a cabin on a lake. It’s awesome – I love it.”
Meet Bluewater Revival
Emerging from a cabin the the woods of a small town in north Alabama, Bluewater Revival was born into the world in 2018 amongst inspirations of the Americana, folk,and country genres. With original songs consisting of heart felt lyrics painting pictures of what it’s like growing up in a “no name town” attempting to touch the hearts of others that relate and even those who do not. Blake Bowling is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, Will Plummer backs Blake on the guitar and is a major help in the songwriting, all while him and Jolee Smith bring in harmony vocals that resembles the angels singing old time hymnals through the pines. Josh Hamm thumps on the doghouse bass helping to produce and compose the songs. To sum it up, they are genuine, blue-collar, God-fearing folks that express themselves through their music and want to share it with everyone!
Do they get compared to any Americana bands?
The ones we are mostly proud of are Zach Bryan, Chris and Morgan Stapleton.
Tell about the tour in progress or coming up?
Currently we are focusing on some studio work to prepare for next year. The New Year should bring many new things. Later this fall, we will be releas
ing a new rendition of “Before My Fall” that will be produced by Jimmie Nutt from Nuthouse Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals AL.
How do you travel?
Currently by car/truck. Since we only have 2 guitars and the upright bass, gear space hasn’t become a premium addition.
Any funny or weird stories from the road?
Well, on a trip to New York back in the summer we flew in and stayed the night before our show. On that flight we discovered Blake would rather be lost in the desert than to step foot on an airplane, that same night we were out by the fire pit having a great time and Josh went to go get a drink from the house and tried to do a ballerina kick but ended up falling like a log when he missed the step on the porch. We are still laughing about that today. Moral of the story from that trip is Blake’s feet do not leave the ground and Josh’s may leave any moment.
How did the song Before My Fall Come about?
We had a recording session scheduled for the album “Grown” and the night before Will and Blake were together and discovered they were 1 song short for the album, they put their heads together and found that Will had wrote a couple verses earlier and when he played them, Blake had wrote a chorus that matched perfectly with the song. They put it all together and fell in love with the song right then and there. They say that’s how the best ones come about, we put it together in a total of maybe 20 minutes.
Who writes the songs?
Blake and Will
Are you looking forward to playing Jubilee 3?
Absolutely!! We are excited to be branching a little further south, seeing new faces and meeting new people.
Is there music available and if so, how can we get it?
We have 2 EPs out on all streaming services titled “Grown” and “Ode To Possum Holler”
What else should we have asked?
We think it is important for folks to know where the song lyrics come from. We are all just average folks that go to work every day during the week, live in small towns in the middle of row crop fields, and go to church on Sundays. Basically the songs we write come from personal experience all leading back to the way we live this beautiful simple life. It could be comforting to some and relatable to others, either way it is how we express ourselves because it’s the only way we know how.
Flywheel is made up of Lead Vocals/Bass- Rick Glaze, Vocals/Guitar- Scott Thompson, Vocals/Drums- Randy Posey. The guys have played with several groups in the past and last year they decided to merge together for fun! The band covers from genres from the 70’s-2000’s with a focus to “engage and entertain with quality fun entertainment.” Any good stories from your band gigs we asked? “One event,” Posey says, “we started playing outside but it started to rain so they had to move us inside. The problem is when we set up we blocked the door so the crowd had no choice but to watch us! Super Awkward!