Expect richly crafted lyrics with fondly familiar melodies at the Explore Georgia Songwriter Series at the historic Holly Theater in Dahlonega on Sat. Nov. 19, 2016. Three veteran hit-makers will “swap” songs in this intimate venue: hometown hero Amy Ray, Savannah native Tony Arata, and Pat Alger, who grew up in LaGrange.
“This is an opportunity to hear at least 20 No. 1 records by the people who wrote them,” Alger says, estimating that his personal catalog comprises at least 1,000 songs. “We’re going to tell the stories behind the songs, so there will be a lot of laughs and humor involved. When a song becomes part of music culture, you tend to associate it more with its studio arrangement. In this setting, though, it will be stripped down to its essence, so you’ll hear the song as it was originally written—its lyrics, chords, and melody.” He adds that the show will also be unusual for its spontaneity. “We’ll start off with a couple of planned songs and then just respond to the energy of the crowd and see where that takes us.” Alger, who attended Georgia Tech and now lives in Nashville, had his first success as a songwriter in 1980 when Livingston Taylor recorded “First Time Love.” He also has written several songs for Garth Brooks, including “Unanswered Prayers,” “What She’s Doing Now,” “The Thunder Rolls” and “That Summer.” Alger also has toured with the Everly Brothers and worked with Nancy Griffith, Kathy Mattea, and Trisha Yearwood, among other marquee names. He also penned one of the great anthems of rural zip codes, inspired by his hometown: Hal Ketchum’s “Small Town Saturday Night.”
Alger will be performing with an old friend and an old hand at writing Billboard-cresting songs: Tony Arata. “We met in Nashville more than 30 years ago and we’ve collaborated ever since” says Arata, who lives in the country music capital now. “It’s important to both of us to come home and celebrate our Georgia roots. It feels good to me every time I cross the state line, back into Georgia, and it’s important to honor those musical roots here.” Arata, who grew up on Tybee Island, was inducted into The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. He is best known as the author of Garth Brooks’ legendary ballad “The Dance.” He also has written for Don Williams, Bonnie Raitt, and the powerhouse trio of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt. He penned “Here I Am,” the No. 1 single by Patty Loveless from the Country Music Association’s album of the Year When Fallen Angels Fly. “I expect that I’ll be doing several Patty Loveless cuts,” he says, “but I’ll throw some new material out there, too. There are always a few songs, with every songwriter—songs that have never been cut but remain special to the songwriter for sentimental reasons. I’ll be doing a few of those, and I suspect the others will, too.”
One half of the long-running duo the Indigo Girls, Amy Ray, an Atlanta native, has forged a solo career as a rocker with cow-punk influences, and her last album was old-school, cry-in-your-beer country. “I am totally psyched for this show,” she says. “I am always humbled and love playing with folks that know the craft of songwriting and can teach me a thing or two. I am not sure what I am going to play—sometimes it’s inspired by the other writers in the circle—but I do plan on trying a couple of new songs out. I have been writing as much as possible, hoping to do another record in the coming year, probably in the country vein again with a little more Southern rock and mountain music thrown in.” She credits her mountain-mama lifestyle in Dahlonega with influencing her current, twangy sound. One song she is tune-smithing is inspired by Appalachian poet-farmer Byron Herbert Reece. “I’m still working on it,” she says. “It’s in its third incarnation and currently called ‘Sparrow’s Boogie.’ Hopefully it’ll be finished soon, but I like for songs to brew for a long time.” With luck, it will be ready to debut in the November show.
Tickets are available here in advance for $15, and $20 at at the door, for this special evening that celebrates songwriting at its elemental, organic, and eloquent best. This is the fifth installment in the ExploreGeorgia.org Songwriter Series, which is presented by Georgia Tourism in commemoration of its 2016 Year of Georgia Music campaign promoting the state as a destination for live music and music heritage. The final concert on Dec. 2 at the Douglass Theatre in Macon convenes a summit of keyboardists who sing and write songs, including Master of the B-3 Organ, Ike Stubblefield; Lloyd Buchanan, the Columbus native who has been on tour with the Alabama Shakes for the best part of the last two years; and Atlanta’s Lola Gulley, the blues, gospel and soul queen who leads the infamous Monday Night Northside Tavern Jam.