June 3, 2007
Shameless self promotion time. Don't normally like to post articles about the show but I thought this kid did an incredible job and wanted to share it with you. The article isn't up online yet (www.porticomag.com) but when it is, I implore you to check out the photos. I don't know if I will ever release my old skool hip-hop record but my album cover is done.
Thanks to all of you out there that make it possible for me to turn people on to new music week in and week out. You are Reg's Coffee House.
"Radio, Can You Hear Me?"
Go into the studio with Birmingham's native Coffee House song-spinner Reg
By Taylor Bruce
Reg moves around really fast, especially for a show with such chill music, as he describes it. He's a bit twitchy, shuffling stacks of papers, sorting envelopes with tickets to give away, tearing open new discs. He seems agitated. It worries me, his nerves, because the song playing, something by the band Bright Eyes, nears the final repeat of its chorus, and Reg seems flustered.
"That's the problem with the radio," says Reg, the creator and namesake of Reg's Coffee House. His real name is Scott Register, but most everyone else in his life call's him Reg. "The problem with the radio is people don't screw up anymore."
It is Sunday morning. Reg pulls down the black shade screen in his radio studio off Red Mountain, a surprisingly plain space, fitted, yes, with the technological bells and whistles, more knobs and tuners and dials and switches than a small space shuttle, but lacking even the slightest touch of Reg. The room is boring. It's grey-walled, except for the apple red spiky foam, attached to three walls to buffer and trap his radio sound. Three guitars hang on the wall, but even they look fairly unelaborated. The studio looks nothing at all like his office east of downtown, which, much more Reg, looks like a Rolling Stone editor lives there.
This morning, a rainy one, perfect for lying in bed past noon, Reg hauls in about 200 cd's. They stack up next to him at mission control.
This is where Reg makes his Coffee House program every Sunday, a four-hour fifty-song pastiche of good music- folk, Americana, alternative, rock 'n roll, singer-songwriter, blues, roots, and even pop - music that, simply put, is uncommon to most people and rarely heard on the radio. The show, now syndicated to stations from North Carolina to Wyoming, has an opening tagline, and it tells the truth: Reg's Coffee House, building your music library one song at a time.
"How are these guys not huge," Reg says about an Australian trio. The angsty rhetorical quip sounds recurring. "Another Sunday show. People, are you with me?"
It's early in the show. Prince just covered a Joni Mitchell tune, and the Decemberists, who play a show at the Alabama the following Tuesday, sing a smart song. Wilco is after them with a twangy piece, "What Light," that stirs something in me. I sit in the corner thinking.
As a kid, I slept with the radio on. Every night, I flipped on Star 94, a station out of Atlanta, where the DJ on duty spun early 90's chart-toppers- Sheryl Crow's first record, the Chili Peppers, Boyz to Men, the Fugees, REM. On some nights, a kind woman from Seattle named Delilah listened to peoples' problems, told them things would get better, and played them sad love songs, something I figured was nice but not very helpful for her already teary listeners.
I always wanted to meet Delilah. Her voice was very warm, she let people talk to her, and you could feel her nodding along, understanding them and reassuring them. I pictured her with curly brown hair and really nice hands.
If Delilah was the warm, apple pie on the windowsill neighbor-next-door, Reg was her punk son. Truth be told, before I knew him, Reg intimidated me.
He looks like a man from the mountains who now plays drums for Pearl Jam. His hair, a messy mop of wild black intense curls, hangs down into his eyes and nearly touches his full black beard. He dresses like the musicians he spins: black Chuck Taylors, rock band tee's, big city jeans. He drives this sleek black sports car that looks new. And he's tall.
The first time I saw Reg, he was eating caf? lunch at Bottega with Paul Finebaum, the sports talk guy. Finebaum looked like Reg's accountant. The place has never seen a more opposite-looking pair. Forking some grits into my mouth, I noticed something of the two: they spoke to one another by leaning forward, like they were passing secrets, like they knew important information, details of Birmingham unbeknownst to a nobody like me.
So, I conjured: Reg is too cool for this town.
There, the question first nestled into my city psyche of who this guy Reg was and why he lives in mid-sized Birmingham. The guy flies to New York and LA monthly. He spends chunks of time in cool places like Austin and Nashville and Seattle.
Talking to him, I notice, he's explicitly mum on whom he knows in the music and film world - and I know he knows folks, famous people like Lyle Lovett, Patty Griffin, and Cameron Crowe - and I sense that, should he desire, he could move to any of those music metropolises tomorrow.
But, I sit in the studio, watching him do the Birmingham show, a solo endeavor, and I sense absolutely no pretense or hype or smugness. He's more big geek than bigheaded guru (though Reg does, like I said, have an enormous and rowdy head of hair). Someone too cool sticks to himself, or inside his small inner circle: Reg invites the whole city over every Sunday to his place for a roundtable of good music.
"The show to me," he says, "puts me in your living room with a pile of records." He's coming out of his sullen state. He's waking up.
You seemed tired earlier, I ask.
"I was out late, "he says. "I hosted this function for a charity event. Then, I went to a show until about 2."
He opens a disc - Brandy Carlile's new record The Story - and talks into the microphone briefly to recap the last couple songs and to announce another set of free tickets.
"And coming up, a real treat. We have Tommy Womack, for those long lost Government Cheese fans, the songwriter from East Nashville will be joining us in studio, so stick around."
Square red lights blink on the phone, and Reg takes the first five calls, the last which wins the Morrissey tickets. It surprises me that he does all this: putting cd's in the player, announcing sponsors, answering the phones. The building is deserted, and Reg, true to his show's name, is running the Coffee House by himself. And, though it's hectic, like a quarterback audibling every play, Reg seems right at home in the scribbled, sketchy, loosely planned format.
"The music I play is sort of rough, not all shiny and pretty. My city has some bangs and bruises. It's not all polished," he says. "Why should this show be?"
This Nashvillian, Tommy Womack sits across from Reg, and he is rounding minute seven of a long homily about the last couple years leading up to his recent record, There I Said It. Tommy wears white running sneakers, a boy's striped rugby shirt, and a dangling topaz gem earring. He's incredibly well-spoken, in a Haight-Ashbury speak, and he's talking really fast.
"I was destined to be forty and poor," Tommy says. "I was drinking two beers on the highway to work and eating Zanex like Pez. And I just flipped out."
It's hour three of the Sunday show, and I am unsure if such an extended conversation, an especially one-sided conversation, is the norm or what. I wonder also if Reg's guests usually answer questions in so raw a fashion. Tommy holds nothing back.
"I flipped out man," he says. "And then I just got this skillet of white light truth. And I started writing about how bad it was getting and things settled out some. And I broke the Nashville unwritten rule: Don't let them see you sweat."
Reg sits still. I look over and I realize he's been completely quiet. He's said nothing while the ragged musician told his street stories. No music has been spun for about ten or fifteen minutes. It seemed good for Tommy to just talk for a while.
In that moment, Reg showed his true self: he's a listener. The songs he brings every Sunday are songs he loves to listen to and songs he loves to play for his friends. He's the guy who comes to your house and opens his bag and an hour later you've heard a dozen incredible songs that feel like gifts. The kind of music that helps you rest.
"You know what I mean man," Tommy says to Reg.
Reg nods. "Yeah, I feel you."
"The song says it better," Tommy says. "Why don't I play it."
Reg's Personal Birmingham Playlist:
1. It's early. We've pushed two canoes into the Cahaba River for a long morning paddle. - Beth Orton "Central Reservation" off of Central Reservation
2. Bottega Cafe is packed on a Saturday night. It's celebratory. - Bob Marley And The Wailers "Trenchtown Rock" live version off of Bob Marley And The Wailers Live At The Roxy
3. Raining cats and dogs. You are stuck under a tiny umbrella in Five Points. - Paul Westerberg "Good Day" off of Eventually
4. Sharing a bottle of wine on a red mountain patio. You look onto the city. It's dusk. - Zero 7 "Destiny" off of Simple Things
5. Iron Bowl tailgate. High noon. Crowd's getting a wee bit rowdy. - ACDC "Let's Get It Up" off of For Those About To Rock
6. Near midnight, downtown is deserted and you are walking along Morris Avenue. -The Mars Volta "Televators" off of De-Loused In The Comatorium
Week of 6/04/07
|Cake - Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town
|Crowded House - Don't Stop Now
|Lavender Diamond - Open Your Heart
|Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Ain't No Time
|Rocky Votolato - Red Dragon Wishes
|Marc Broussard - If I Could Build My Whole World Around You
|El Cantador - No Surprise
|Andi Starr - Driving For The Sun
|Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions Band - If I Should Fall Behind
|Augie March - Mother Greer
|Mark Olson - Tears From Above
|A Fine Frenzy - Come On, Come Out
|Mike Farris - Sit Down Servant
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