June 22, 2012
Cheley Tackett and Steff Mahan at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta, GA
I photograph concerts. Big names, national touring acts. I live a blessed life having had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite bands, take their photos, hear their music. And yet, it’s when I get to take in a night of music from singer/songwriter friends like Cheley Tackett and Steff Mahan that I realize being blessed comes in all aspects of the music world.
Cheley and Steff aren’t the biggest hit writers out there. They’re not “gene pool” clones that the major labels these days pump out in assembly line fashion. And, they’re definitely not “mainstream,” whatever that term really means. But, along with being my friends, they are exceptional live performers, outstanding lyricists and melody writers, and phenomenal singers with strong, vibrant voices.
Taking the stage at Atlanta’s premiere songwriter venue, Eddie’s Attic, Cheley and Steff performed their unique and well-crafted songs for a room full of local fans who came out to hear the duo. Tackett started the evening off with an upbeat song, belting out the lyrics in a powerful voice redolent with shades of Wynonna Judd. Mahan’s voice could be called a mix of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick at times, and yet transitions to a Sarah McLachlan tone when singing soft ballads.
Together, these two women could give alternative duos like Indigo Girls a run for their money on the national touring stage IF ONLY… I say “if only” because the one thing lacking in their performance is the two of them singing as a duo rather than two individual singer/songwriters on stage. If they took that next step and included a backup band to support them, Steff and Cheley would find themselves in an entirely new stratosphere of live performances because their voices work well together and compliment each other.
Writing from the heart, both performers draw on their personal experiences with relationships, family and the social environment to write songs that have messages which resonate with the audience. From breakups to bullying, the two talk about things that have affected them and which affect us all, making it easy to connect and relate to their music.
April 01, 2011
Cheley Tackett WHISPER ME SLOW Adroit 206 (4 stars) is a five-track EP
that not only showcases this lady’s superb songwriting talent, but also her vastly
under-appreciated vocals. Originally from Ohio, Cheley is now a fixture on Music
Row, where she writes with many of Nashville’s most notable songwriters. One
of the most powerful, soulful singers in the business, she writes with the deep
confidence and total abandon that only a true artist is capable of. She draws her
listeners in with comfortable ease and offers each and every one an original and
deep personal experience. Train Wreck is a deeply moving song about a woman
down on her luck, that even booze, anti-depressants or friends can’t help her get
back on track. Good For Me is another slow soulful ballad with lyrics and a vocal
straight out of a sawdust floor barroom. With such players as Pat Buchanan, Harry
Stinson, Mike Daly, Jen Gunderson and Steve Bailey all lending support this is top quality stuff from a singer and
songwriter who should be a whole lot better known and appreciated.
March 02, 2009
"One of the most remarkable vocalists on this first "Words & Music Nashville"
project is Cheley Tackett. Imagine All ison Moorer's blissfully soulful voice and you've got
yourself a good comparison for Cheley. Written with Nicole Witt and Rick Tiger, "Play The
Song I Like" is a truly wonderful track that showcases Tackett’s great songwriting as well."
April 01, 2009
ALBUM: Words & Music Nashville
Written by Ken Churilla
If you’ve ever wondered what the
saying ‘a diamond in the rough’ is,
then welcome to Words & Music
Nashville. The music that you hear
on this album is just that and nearly
identical to what you might hear if
you stumbled into the Bluebird Café,
Douglas Corner, or any of the other
songwriter infested bars
It’s not a new concept, an album of
songs performed by little known
songwriters instead of superstar
artists, but Words & Music Nashville
is very much a breath of fresh air.
The songs themselves are bare bones
recordings’ often featuring nothing
more than the singer and an acoustic
guitar but their sheer power is enough
to feel like you’ve been punched
directly in the gut.
Most are not well known hit songs,
but they are written and performed
by songwriters who have written
some of country music’s biggest
hits such as Lisa Carver who cowrote
Sugarland’s “County Line”
and “Everyday America” and “These
Are The Days” and Craig Monday
who helped pen songs like Kenny
Chesney’s “Got A Little Crazy.”
“Walk Away Joe” is the exception
as nearly everyone will recall the
Trisha Yearwood classic written and
performed here by Vince Melamed
(who co-wrote the songs
with Greg Barnhill).
“Play The One I Like” by remarkable
songwriter Cheley Tackett is hands
down the most chilling moment on
this album. Truth be told, it might
be the best song that I’ve heard this
year so far. Other songs to seek out
include “I’m Not Ready” is one that
would take over any writers night in
Nashville and Joshua Rush’s “I Found
Myself Dancing” is a hit waiting to happen.
Words & Music Nashville gives the listener a chance to hear songs in their infancy the same way your favorite artists hear them when they are deciding on what songs to record for their next record. Don’t be surprised one day when you hear a new song on the radio by some huge artist and start singing along wondering “…where do I know this song from?”
March 06, 2009
Tackett finds home on new Nashville label
By Andrew McGinn
Friday, March 06, 2009
SPRINGFIELD — Cheley Tackett's big break was at hand — Lee Ann Womack had placed one of her songs on hold.
"It just means they're considering it," Tackett explained. "But in their heads, it means it shouldn't be pitched to other artists."
It was one of the few love songs Tackett had written since arriving in Nashville a decade ago, and Womack would've been a good fit for it.
Or so she thought.
Womack ended up releasing an entire album of heartbreak songs.
"Go figure," Tackett said. "It's all timing."
The singer-songwriter — a 1990 Northeastern High alum and the daughter of Clark County Commissioner Roger Tackett — has had similar close calls with Montgomery Gentry, Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, Billy Currington and Diamond Rio.
She's gotten close.
Just not close enough.
"I was definitely naive when I got here, fresh from college and ready to take on the world," Tackett said. "I knew it'd be hard. I didn't know how hard it would be."
Life for Tackett — and a few other Music City songwriters — might be getting a little easier thanks to a new startup label, Adroit Records.
The label, started by L.A. transplant Jim Tract, was created to give a select group of Nashville songwriters some visibility.
Tackett was picked to be on the label's first release, the compilation "Words & Music Nashville."
On the new comp, 10 Nashville songwriters give voice to their own songs.
"He's trying to get us exposure we don't usually get," Tackett said.
But not all of them are struggling.
Vince Melamed can be heard performing his song "Walkaway Joe" — a No. 2 hit for Trisha Yearwood in 1992.
Tract spotted Tackett by accident performing at Nashville's legendary Bluebird Cafe.
"It was astonishing," he said. "There are very few people that can quiet a room. Cheley's one of those people, where glasses come down and heads turn."
For Tract, Adroit Records is something of a dream come true.
He remixed the hit version of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" back in 1984, but eventually got pigeonholed, he complained.
"What I really wanted to do was organic, true music," he said.
Same goes for Tackett.
She left Ohio for Nashville with hopes of being a singer-songwriter, and she's had promising breaks. In 2002, she followed in the footsteps of Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett by winning the New Folk award at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas.
She still writes for herself — she runs a cleaning service by day — but she also tries to write commercially for mainstream country artists.
"One of my worst fears is that I'll write some dumb song," she said, "and that'll be my biggest hit."
In 2001, Cheley released her debut CD "When We Knew It All." The track "Penny Wishes" earned the Just Plain Folks Award for Country Song of the Year in 2001, while also topping the country category of the 2002 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest. One month later, Cheley's songs "When We Knew It All" and "Feelin' A Little Lonely" helped her become a New Folk Winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, TX. Tackett hosts a hugely popular writers' night in Nashville and can often be found as an integral part of the monthly Girls With Guitars series. Her current release, "Here," is an absolute gem, showing equal parts sensitive and swampy, and cementing the idea that Cheley is the real deal.
The thing that carries the new release
from Ohio native Cheley Tackett is the
same thing that has helped her develop
and maintain such a loyal following for
her live performances: she’s a damned
fine songwriter. On her new CD
release “Here,”Tackett’s fans get a sampling
of the kind of writing that puts
her in that rare echelon of artists who
cut to the heart of the matter in ways
which speak the language of the listener
while creating poetry. The trick to
any art form is to make it so accessible
that anyone believes he or she could
create it themselves. It’s only in the trying
that one sees just how much work
and talent go into saying those "simple"
words in conversational ways, keeping a
flowing storyline, and matching it to
just the right melody to create that
seminal three and a half minutes of
Tackett’s musical style sits on the
point of the Americana landscape
where country, gospel, southern male
rock and singer/songwriter traditions
collide. In the opening number
“Homegrown.” a musical tribute to her
father, she let’s her flag of patriotism fly
as high and proudly as any Toby Keith
or Molly Hatchett number could do.
Family tradition and history are recurring
themes, whether in the more nostalgic
numbers such as “Jerusalem
Ridge” or in the playful strut of “Fried
Chicken.” The latter puts a distinctively
female spin on the age-old southern
culture balance of sin and salvation, in
this case trolling for a little excitement
while wearing the puppy-dog grin that
guarantees Sunday’s forgiveness for
Saturday night’s misadventures. The
wistful ballad “Good for Me” finds all
the weariness and resignation of a lifetime
of self-defeating behaviors sung
with the knowingness of a self-professed
alcoholic ordering a double. In a
slight departure of style if not totally of
theme,“Up Here” (co-written with Lisa
Christian) is a wonder, somehow combining
the seemingly dichotomous
themes of loss, comfort, connection,
detachment, reaching out and letting
go.Many of Tackett’s songs are meditations
on love, loss and longing and her
vocal quality only adds to the mood,
providing the ambient melancholic ache
of a distant midnight train whistle.
As an independent effort, “Here” is
one more reminder of the level of talent
that exists just under the radar of the
major labels in today’s music market.
Here’s hoping that this talented writer
gets the industry attention she so
For more information on Cheley
Tackett, check out her website at
Ever since I first met Cheley Tackett I have been captivated by
her warm spirit, heated intelligence and burning talent. It was several
years ago that I first attended a Girls With Guitars show at
Douglas Corner. She is a regular member of GwG. I was skeptical
because I am not generally a country music fan.At first glance, in
her black western shirt, denim jeans and cowboy boots, I definitely
had her pegged as yet another Nashville
Country-ite – not for me. I was wrong.Her
voice powered through the room as a noisy,
well on their way to drunk, crowd couldn’t
help but quiet themselves.
It didn’t take long to figure out that
Tackett couldn’t be boxed in to any one genre,
ranging from rock, folk,Americana and yes,
Country.You would never guess that she is
from South Vienna,Ohio as she sings songs
that any self-respecting Southerner (or
Southern transplants like myself ) can relate to
on a very real and personal level.
Apparently, those who know more about
music than me agree since Tackett has won
awards in virtually every musical category out there, including
winning Merlefest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest in the
Country category (past winners have included Gillian Welch and
Tift Merritt). Shortly thereafter, at the Kerrville Folk Festival,
Tackett won as a New Folk Winner, following in the footsteps of
Nancy Griffith, John Gorka and Lucinda Williams, to name a few.
Just last year, she was a semifinalist in the Rock category of the
International Songwriting Competition.
Tackett can be found playing around town any given week on
her own or with various combinations of a shady group of sultry
musical vixens including Lisa Carver,Annie Mosher,Tammy
Fowler and Cathey Stamps.
Set to release November 12,Tackett’s latest CD, titled “Here,”
is a beautiful follow-up to her first, leaving a lasting impression of
seasoned songwriting and storytelling with a vocal talent that is so
affecting and effusive, you’ll find yourself humming
the tunes after a single listen.When she
nails her introspective material as she does on
“Play the One I Like” and “Where Is There,” she
conjures up images of Johnny Cash and Mary
Chapin-Carpenter with her deceptively simple
but instantly engaging style of lyricism.
Elsewhere, she tries her hand at tongue-andcheek
“behind the music” writing with
“Homegrown” and “Fried Chicken,” nicely kicking
introspection in the ass with a heartfelt upbeat
passion for her home and family that most songwriters
fail at getting across without cheesing it
up. It is a mark of artistic virtuosity and range
when a singer-songwriter can make you dance in
your car one minute and then have you purposely miss your exit,
so you can compose yourself, after hearing one of her many deeply
moving songs that touch on regret, loss or hopes and dreams.
Cheley Tackett is a touchstone of authenticity in an imagedriven,
media- defined musical world. She is a beautiful singer and
songwriter, deeply refreshing.
CD Release Party: November 12th, 9:00 PM at Douglas
Corner, 2106, 8th Avenue South,Nashville.Tackett’s website:
‘Out of the blue’ mocht ik verleden jaar een cd ontvangen van Annie Mosher. Die bleek een voltreffer te zijn. Annie bracht me dan weer op het spoor van een Nashville meidencollectief dat Girls with Guitars heet, momenteel 12 vrouwelijke songwriters telt die allemaal met een gitaar overweg kunnen, en onlangs een eerste cd uitgebracht heeft. Check www.girlswithguitars.us. Benevens Annie Mosher is o.a. Cheley Tackett één van deze Girls with Guitars. Jawel, ook deze Cheley Tackett kan me uitermate bekoren. Net zoals Annie Mosher heeft ze weinig van doen met de mainstream Nashville country. Integendeel, op deze tweede cd van haar – in 2001 verscheen When We Knew It All – horen we vooral stevige Southern countryrock, r&b, rootsrock en songwriterreferenties naar Lucinda Williams en pakweg Steve Earle. Pure country is hier ver te zoeken. Haar twee belangrijkste troeven zijn haar stem, die uitstekend geschikt is voor het stevigere werk, en haar songs. Ze schrijft al haar songs zelf of gaat op zoek naar een gelijkgestemde ziel om songs mee te componeren. Op deze cd zijn dat respectievelijk Lisa Christian en Nicolle Witt. Het verbaast me niks dat ze o.a. de Kerville Folk Festival contest en de Merlefest Songwriting Contest op haar palmares heeft staan. De track Penny Wishes uit haar eerste cd leverde haar in 2001 de Just Plain Folks Award for country song of the year op. Om maar te zeggen dat deze dame knappe songs uit haar mouw schudt. Het is vooral de mix van allerlei Americana stijlen die het hem doen: country, Southern rootsrock, r&b, gospel, songwriting... In opener Homegrown is het meteen raak: een flinke dosis Southern countryrock met de nodige r&b inslag. Play The One I Like is dan weer een mooie piano ballad. Sky Is Falling gaat wederom de rootsrock toer op. In de weemoedige ballad Good For Me heeft ze het over allerlei verleidingen des levens waaronder drank en de drang daar niet aan kunnen te weerstaan. Absolute hoogtepunten zijn Jerusalem Ridge en Where Is There, beiden gezegend met een hoog Lucinda Williams/Steve Earle gehalte, en Fried Chicken, Southern rock van het zuiverste water. Deze dame is geen katje om zonder handschoenen aan te pakken. ‘One of the best kept secrets in Nashville’ staat er ergens op haar website te lezen. Daar ben ik het volledig mee eens. (BV)
July 19, 2006
Fair enternment to have local flavor
By Andrew McGinn
Up until this year, the Clark County Fair had been the place to see country stars before they became stars.
Garth and Reba were there. So were Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts.
But even though the fair has opted for local country talent over a national country act this year because of money worries, nothing’s really changed.
The two homegrown singers you’ll see in action under the Big Tent still have their sights set on that Nashville skyline.
And, yeah, when the 2006 fair opens on Friday, all music will retreat back to its old home in the Big Tent after a stint inside the Champions Center.
Singer-songwriter Cheley Tackett, who plays the fair at 8 p.m. Saturday, actually has been kicking around Music City for a while now.
The daughter of Clark County Commissioner Roger Tackett, Cheley Tackett already has a few things to brag about.
She won the 2002 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in North Carolina for her song “Penny Wishes.” She also had been named a new folk winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas.
Previous new folk winners include Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett.
Closing the fair at 8 p.m. July 28 is a guy who really doesn’t need much of an introduction anymore — Gene Bowshier.
The king of the region’s country scene, Bowshier has been working to finish a new album in Nashville.
He also opened for Billy Currington recently in Blue Ash, Ohio.
Admission to both concerts is free with the fair’s $5 gate admission (plus $2 for parking).