Life's a Pitch: Chickpea and Friends: Live at the Lighthouse

By Tom Flood

Have you ever bought a "sampler" record, or the soundtrack to a great movie you watched? If so, then you can appreciate the variety of original music I recently found one rainy Tuesday night at The Lighthouse on Frankfort, a new club in Crescent Hill.

After finding a perfect listening spot away from the local basketball contest, I was treated to the folky bluegrass (with just a hint of jazz) sound of Sam Hill. Diminutive standup bassist Lauren Guernsey, her voice is akin to Alison Krauss with a touch of Joni Mitchell, sang with an intimacy that hushed the crowd. Mandolinist Murrell Thixton and guitarist Kent Houchin also traded fills and leads effortlessly, like old friends on their favorite checkerboard. Later in the evening, I sojourned to a spiritual place listening to Dave Evans, whose songs of hope and tranquility warmed the crowd like a good storyteller around a campfire.

Toward the end of the night a "jam session" took center stage. Many of the previous players returned and, armed with electric guitars, bass, harmonica, drums and percussion plus a variety of singers, traded riffs, songs and laughs as the dance floor filled to capacity until closing time.

Local venues that support original material are scarce. Although there are a lot of "open mic" nights touting original music, few measure up to the task of providing artists with a venue that will facilitate performances, cater to fan support and provide a clean, comfortable, attentive environment. The Lighthouse on Frankfort Avenue qualifies.

Tuesday nights are a hard nut to crack for any club, but the Lighthouse has found a niche among local working players and listeners. Due to the prudent efforts of harmonica player and host John Thornberry, a.k.a. Chickpea, drummer/tunesmith Steve Eilers, and regular performers like Tim Krekel, Tuesday night has become successful for both club and musicians. Unlike other "open stages," Tuesdays at the Lighthouse with Chickpea and Friends brings in musicians, performers, and songwriters who have been invited to participate.

Rock, folk, country, bluegrass, new age and world beat create an eclectic mix, presented by such frequent guests as Krekel, Jak Son Renfro, Tyrone Cotton, Hunt Sidway, Hugh Hill, Dave Evans, the Sam Hill Group, (and yours truly, too) and on and on. Every Tuesday night seems to bring another player in for the first time. Support from music aficionados continues to grow, according to Lighthouse owner Bob Stack.

Located at the corner of Frankfort and Pope streets, the Lighthouse has a decent sound system, reasonable prices, a variety of food, friendly staff and, most importantly, very clean rest rooms. This is the kind of place where anyone can walk in alone and feel comfortable.

Check out Chickpea and Friends on Tuesday nights at the Lighthouse. I think this event is worth your time.

Tom Flood is a guitarist/composer who gigs around the Louisville area. He has just released "Echo From the Heart" on ear X-tacy Records. You can contact him at floodmon@aol.com.