It’s not often that the blue neon of the Mercury Lounge hosts artists from the Bluegrass state, but that’s what happened one balmy, Wednesday night in June. The last few years it’s seemed like there has been an utter explosion of talent from the great state of Kentucky. Unfortunately, unless they’re a nationally touring act, most of the talent doesn’t come close to Oklahoma. Luckily, on this night, Tulsa’s favorite dive bar played host to not one, but four different groups of musicians in from Kentucky to include Josh Nolan, Luna and the Mountain Jets, Wayne Graham and Senora May. If you’re not familiar with any of these artists, you’re missing out. I’ve heard their names tossed out in music groups for the last year or two, but streaming their music online doesn’t do any of them justice. They are fantastic live and it’s been one of my favorite live shows of the year.
Up first was self-described Americana/rock and roll artist, Josh Nolan. Hair in a mohawk, pack of cigarettes rolled up in his shirtsleeves and cuffed jeans, he looked Rockabilly, but his sound was rock n roll. Nose to the microphone, his set included songs from bothhis first album, Fair City Lights from 2014, as well as his recently released, Kind Heart to Follow. With his raspy Springsteen- esque voice, Nolan took listeners through songs like, “Lady Luck” and “Revelations: Things Could Be Different”. I haven’t listened to Josh much, but after this set I’ve been digging into his albums and enjoying what this Kentucky rocker has to offer up musically.
Following Josh, was Luna and the Mountain Jets. Lead singer, Teresa Prince, also goes by Honey when she plays guitar in her husband David’s band. You may know him as the Laid Back Country Picker. Joining Teresa and David on stage were brothers, Hayden Miles on drum and Kenny on bass. Luna and the Mountain Jets brought a 70’s rock vibe to the stage, but with song titles like “Thanksgiving Day”, “Firefly” and “Walking Away”. Luna introduced songs with little funny anecdotes like, “Here’s a song I wrote about being different” (“Pepsi Girl”) or “I came all this way to talk about Thanksgiving.” The best song of the night was “It’s OK”, which featured some great solo guitar work by David Prince. I’m a fan of a band that can rock some guitar solos and do it well and there was no doubt that Luna and the Mountain Jets were masters of this.
Wayne Graham, made up of brothers Kenny and Hayden Miles (lead guitar and vocals/drums), as well as Chris Justice on bass and Lee Owen on guitar, brought their brand of Appalachian rock to the stage. The brothers describe themselves as old souls and this can be heard when you listen to their music. Songs like “Wishbone,” which has a decidedly 90’s alternative sound to it and “Fellow Man” reminds me of a song from the Eagles during their heyday.
The last artist of the night was Senora May Childers. You may recognize the last name and if you’re wondering if she’s married to Tyler, the answer is yes, but that doesn’t define her. She is so much more than that. This woman is talented, funny, down-to-earth and a force to be reckoned with. Stepping onstage in a flaming red dress and matching heels, she was backed by Josh Nolan and brothers Kenny and Hayden Miles. As soon as she sang the first note, a crowd of women who had gathered at the front began singing along and then continued for the rest of the set. I have to admit, this fact cheered me, as it’s always a gamble on who is going to show up for shows in the middle of the week, but my Tulsa crowd didn’t let me down and showed Senora, as well as the other artists in attendance, that their music is appreciated. Quipping between songs that she needed her cup of vodka refilled (it’s water y’all) the stories behind her songs (the song “Lainhart” was written about her younger brother) brought an intimate vibe to the set. Senora is someone that makes you feel like she’s sitting down with you as a friend and telling you stories of her life. In reality, she’s on stage and telling her stories to more than just you, but it’s something I’ve seen only one other artist do and do well in the last year and that was Jamie Lin Wilson. Senora sang most of the songs off her album Lainhart, “Female” is my absolute favorite off of it, but she also covered two songs, “Beaumont” by Hayes Carll and “Blue Kentucky Girl”, the song made famous by Loretta Lynn. I couldn’t help but think watching Senora sing that one day I would go back to the time that I first saw her in this small dive bar and wonder how she was ever playing in a club that small. I have no doubt that this woman is on the rise and her popularity will continue to grow.
Every one of these artists brought something unique to the stage, which is a testament to the talent coming out of the great state of Kentucky. If these artists aren’t on your radar or you haven’t seen them live yet, follow the links below and see when they’re in your town.
Luna and the Mountain Jets: