I’ve been home from Nashville for just over a week now. It was my longest visit yet – almost a month, ending with the week of the Americana Music Association Festival and Conference – and I have so many memories. I’ll be writing about the music I heard in the November issue of Country Music People, but I have also been reflecting on some Dandy & Rose highlights.
This year’s AMA week was extra-special for my best customer, the singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. As usual he was everywhere – sharing wisdom on conference panels, performing his songs solo and with a fabulous band, and playing the genial host at the Honors and Award Show at the Ryman Auditorium; he was also presented with the Wagonmaster Award for Lifetime Achievement by the country star George Strait, who has recorded 14 of Jim’s songs. It was quite a moment and I was thrilled to be able to witness it.
I was surprised, when Jim took his seat, to see that he was wearing one of the first Dandy & Rose shirts he ever bought, back at the end of 2012.
It’s made from a Liberty print called ‘Dragonista’, a kind of psychedelic oriental vision, with men in traditional Chinese dress riding dragons, interspersed with random antique pots. I am specially fond of it; I feel it was the shirt that kicked Dandy & Rose into life, starting when Paste Magazine tweeted that Jim and Buddy Miller were “the two best-dressed men in Austin” during SXSW 2013. Jim told me that he got a big reaction to the shirt whenever he wore it. Later in the year, he wore it for his appearance on ABC’s ‘Nashville’. You can see that appearance here
If I made the shirt today, it would probably look a little different, but I love it and am proud of it just the same.
But my favourite thing about this shirt is that it was the subject of my only ever press review. Well, to be fair, it was Jim’s review. My work was only reviewed by association. But it still counts!
In 2014, Ann Powers opened her review of Jim’s ‘I’m A Song’ like this:
“I recently ran into Jim Lauderdale at a party in Nashville, and I couldn’t tell if his shirt was made of silk or cotton. Covered in fiery little dragons that seemed to flit around inside its piped seams, it was a beauty. Lauderdale told me it was made of breathable material and that it came from London. Its cheerfully theatrical boldness exemplified the style of the Grand Ole Opry, too, with a cosmopolitan and slightly ironic twist.
Lauderdale’s music is like that shirt: immediately charming, with flashy touches that complement smoothly executed subtleties.”
For a start, it was a brilliant piece of journalism and I wished I had written it. And then, I loved that Ann had compared my work with Jim’s music, which I have loved for so long, and even more what she had said about it. I have always admired his ability to take his vocal, musical and imaginative gifts, polish them, add a lot of technical skill, then do something wacky with them. I once heard him described as a ‘creative technician’ and the phrase immediately chimed. That’s what I, in my much less impressive way, would like to be, too. I loved Ann’s idea of flashy subtlety, as well: my shirts may be brightly coloured and boldly patterned but I aim for a refinement of taste and skill, enough to complement the detailed work of the brilliant textile designers whose work I rely on. I was so touched and amazed to read that she had seen that in the shirt I had made, that she had ‘got’ what it was about, and articulated it better than I could have myself.
So on that day in Nashville a few weeks ago, when I realised that the reason for the ‘Dragonista’ shirt’s reappearance was that the panel was to be chaired by Ann Powers, I was delighted. I made sure to go and speak with her afterwards and thank her for her words. I told her that because they meant so much to me, I had made them into a poster that I keep on the wall in the Dandy & Rose workroom.
There were three new additions to Jim’s Dandy & Rose wardrobe this year.
He was out and about in these, and in some other favourites during the week. I specially loved seeing him wear his new passion flower shirt for his 125th appearance on The Grand Ole Opry.
And of course, I took the opportunity to pose alongside him whenever I could!