Almost everything in life is better when it’s shared — no matter if it’s a sunset or a supposition. When kind-hearted, like-minded people come together, goodness abounds. And that’s exactly what was on the menu last night for  Ten Out of Tenn‘s four-strong performance at Nashville’s Thistle Stop Café.
First, a little background: Ten Out of Tenn is a collective of astonishingly talented, independent singer/songwriters who joined forces about 10 years ago in a ‘whole is greater than the sum’ movement. They collaborate in the studio and on the road. They support each other and help lift younger artists up, as well, through the TOT boot camp and other mentoring activities. Thistle Stop Café is an off-shoot of Thistle Farms run by women who have survived prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. They, too, have found safety, power, and healing in numbers. So, the pairing of TOT with Thistle Stop is really a no-brainer.
And so it was that k.s. Rhoads, Trent Dabbs, Amy Stroup, and Matthew Perryman Jones took to the stage to offer their heartfelt best to the packed house of like-minded souls. Rhoads started things off with “Battles,” a socio-political exploration of how much we are all alike because we all have a battle of some sort to fight. Dabbs, with a little help from his friends, stepped up next with “Mountain Song,” one of the brightest spots (of many!) on his latest release, The Way We Look at Horses. Stroup added “Just You” and Jones chimed in on “the sexy topic of sadness” with “Until the Dawn Appears” to wrap up the first round.
For the next pass, Rhoads upped the ante with his loop box for “Invincible Fortress,” from his 2013 effort, The Wilderness. This guy is a madman… across the water, across the land. He’s just a force to be reckoned with, musically and otherwise. But, no matter how high Rhoads set the bar, Dabbs, Stroup, and Jones never had any trouble clearing it. Indeed, Jones rocked the whole house back on its heels with a wondrous rendering of “O Theo,” from his Land of the Living. The performance set Rhoads off on a hilarious rant about how there’s no way to follow a voice like that. And how there must be a fiery heavy metal show happening somewhere in Nashville right at that moment to provide some universal levity for the earnest tone on display at Thistle.

Two more rounds of great song after great song, funny story after funny story, coated the Café in a sweet conviviality that is not often found at performances in cynical music towns like Nashville. (Heck, Dabbs even got the crowd ooooo-ing along with him on the lovely “Nobody’s Stranger Anymore.”) As entertaining as it all was, the songs and stories these artists offered up were drawn from conversations about sadness, ruminations on addiction, and experiences of suffering. For those who were really listening, the take-away from the evening was that every moment of every life matters… a story the Thistle Stop knows all too well.
Photo by Sarah Pearson for Thistle Stop Café.