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Emmylou Harris Saves Lives with Bonaparte's Retreat

Polished Steel spoke with Emmylou Harris last week about Bonaparte's Retreat, her independent Nashville dog rescue. Here the legendary singer tells the story behind how her organization took shape:

“I had a dog named Bonaparte, who was a rescue from a local shelter. I had never taken a dog on the road with me, but when I first got him I had to take a trip down to Birmingham. I thought, Well, I'll just take him with me. He was a great road dog. He loved to travel and was great with people and wasn't a barker. He traveled with me for ten years then he became ill and died very suddenly in 2002. I had other pets in the house, other rescue cats and rescue dogs, but he was kind of my guy who was with me all the time and slept in my room.

“I didn't really think about getting another companion dog, but I've always had an affinity for animals. I come by it naturally, I guess. My father studied veterinary medicine before he joined the marine corps. All my family are dog people. I have this big back yard and I started thinking that maybe I could have a satellite to the local (Nashville) rescue. I could take a few animals. So, Bonaparte's Retreat is in my back yard and we have about four dogs. We partner with Metro Animal Control and usually take the bigger, older dogs who have been there. We started taking the dogs next in line for euthanasia and we gradually got a few people in the community to start fostering. Bonaparte's Retreat is very small, but depending on how many fosters we have we can have a larger number of dogs.

“It's been an incredible thing for me to feel like I'm helping these animals who deserve a life. We created dogs as our companions and we depend on them for everything. We have a long way to go to take care of them. In other words, people don't spay and neuter their dogs and there are unwanted puppies and they end up on the street or they get euthanized. We're just one dog at a time.

“It's such a cause for celebration when we find a dog a home. Some dogs we might have for several years before we find the right place for them. The main thing is to get them out of danger so they won't be killed. There's no one at that moment. There are a lot of smaller rescues in Nashville and around the country. I think there's a movement on to stop basically this genocide that's happening.”


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The Late, Great Bap Kennedy on Steve Earle's Influence

Bap Kennedy, the elegant Irish singer-songwriter best known as the leader of the rock band Energy Orchard in the late 1980s and early 1990s and for his seamless Steve Earle-produced Domestic Blues in 1998, died Tuesday. He was 54. “We are devastated to announce that Bap passed away this evening,” a statement on his Facebook read today. “Bap was extremely brave until the end.”

The singer was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and had been due to perform at a festival in Co Mayo, Ireland on May 7, but instead had to be taken to the Ulster Hospital suffering from severe stomach pains, the Belfast Telegraph reports. Polished Steel spoke briefly with Kennedy about Earle's significant impact on his career last year. An excerpt from that previously unpublished interview:

“I was in a band called Energy Orchard,” Kennedy said. “We were playing in the Marquee Club in London before we had a record deal and Steve turned up because he'd heard about the band. He was instrumental in getting Energy Orchard a record contract. Steve thought the band was really good and about three days after he'd come to see us we suddenly had a lot of record companies interested in giving us a recording contract including his label, MCA.

“We decided to go with them because he was on the label and we thought it was a good idea. We ended up going on tour with him in 1989 or 1990. We went to Canada and across the US and that was our first experience with a proper tour. It's great to have validation from someone like that as a songwriter and a person.

“The band was about to split up around 1995 and Steve had disappeared. There was a rumor that he was dead. He actually was about to start working on Train A Comin'. I think a guy from the label told Steve that I was about to go solo and we ended up in communication. It was really cool to have some of the Train A Comin' band – including Peter Rowan (guitars, mandolin) and Roy Husky Jr (bass) – on Domestic Blues.

“When I heard Train A Comin', I thought I wanted to make a record just like that. I loved that record. “Angel Is the Devil” is a cool song with great lyrics, a great demonstration of the three-chord trick as we call it. I love it as a song and as a Steve Earle lyric. “Vampire” is in the same ballpark. Steve was an influence for sure. When I was writing songs for Domestic Blues I was living with Train A Comin'. More than likely it seeped into my tiny brain.

“He's great at telling a story. He can say a lot of stuff in very few lines, which is a great gift for a songwriter. He paints a picture in your mind with really simple language, the thing that Hank Williams was really good at. That's the essence of a great songwriter. He knows all about Irish music and he's got a European sensibility. Obviously, he's a big American guy and has American music in his veins but he seems to know a lot of things and you can have a good conversation with him and he's a big personality.

“He taught me a few things I didn't know. He also did the coolest version of 'Rivers of Babylon' that's ever been recorded, a pop song that I heard as a kid and I didn't realize that it could be done in the Steve Earle fashion. He's continued to be an influence on me.”

– Brian T. Atkinson


New digitally released collection due May 13 features Verlon Thompson's “Sideman's Dream,” a tribute to his longtime musical partner Guy Clark


SAN MARCOS, Texas – Americana website Polished Steel announces its debut release The Polished Steel Sessions (due May 13), a digital collection of previously unreleased original songs by the best in Central Texas and beyond. “All songwriters have songs that haven't fit older albums or new songs that may or may not make it onto a future record,” says Brian T. Atkinson, who curates the Polished Steel site and produced the new collection with Jenni Finlay. “This record gives them a home and showcases songs in their natural form, raw and acoustic and cut in just one or two takes.”

The Polished Steel Sessions features all new recordings by a dozen artists including Adam Carroll, BettySoo, Bill Chambers, Jaimee Harris, Curtis McMurtry, Verlon Thompson and Walt Wilkins, among others. The musicians found sessions an exciting opportunity to put out unrecorded songs. “It's been more than a year since I released my last record Raven Hotel and I've been writing new songs for another album,” Matt Harlan says, “but until now I haven't been in a studio to cut anything to share. Thanks to Polished Steel I'm excited to share a new tune called 'The Time Is Now' for the first time.”

Recordings for The Polished Steel Sessions were held at the Cheatham Street Woodshed, the recording studio founded by legendary Texas music figure Kent Finlay and now owned by Jenni Finlay, Russell Tanner and Atkinson. Tanner engineered each session and mixed and mastered the album, which serves as a fundraiser for improvements and renovations at the studio.

Track listing for The Polished Steel Sessions: 
• Adam Carroll, “Crescent City Angels”
• Matt Harlan, “The Time Is Now”
• Bill Chambers, “I'll Never Let You Go”
• Walt Wilkins, “Take a Look at Me”
• Randy Weeks, “Sunny”
• Blue Water Highway, “Bird on a Wire”
• Verlon Thompson, “Sideman's Dream”
• Jaimee Harris, “Where Are You Going Now?”
• Curtis McMurtry, “Bayonet”
• BettySoo, “Wake Up to the World”
• Noel McKay, “I See Brown People”
• Graham Weber, “Love Don't Quit”​​​​​

Polished Steel Song Premiere: Tim Easton's 'One for the Ditch'

Tim Easton recently completed his 100 Songs/100 Days project in which he posted an original song every day for one hundred. The East Nashville resident now offers a bonus 101st song premiere with “One for the Ditch.” “Austinite Keith Hanna and I wrote 'One for the Ditch' after an expression that an old Irish man used to say at a bar in Cleveland,” Easton says. “It would up as the closing song and title track for Easton, Stagger, Phillips' (2009 debut) LP. This version was done on January 7 after taking my daughter to school.” Check it out.

​​Polished Steel's Top 10 Albums of 2015​

CLICK HERE for Polished Steel's Top 10 Albums of 2015, and stay tuned to Polished Steel for great tunes in 2016. Thanks for reading. ​​