“Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language … they still know good music when they hear it.” — Lou Rawls, (1933-2006) American singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer.
A gathering of local folks ready to enjoy some good music at the Azalea House in Center, Texas, last Thursday night brought to mind how music is in fact a communicator. It’s an indigenous magic language possessing the power to erase every care and take us to that world described in the songs we enjoy.
In the “Real Small Town” of Center, to borrow on one of singer-songwriter Adam Hood’s song titles, the crowd gathered for an evening of his music Thursday was a cross section of friends, neighbors, strangers, working people, retirees, elected officials from both the city and the state level, and more. While the common draw was music and fellowship with music lovers, it’s safe to say that it was also an opportunity for most of us to forget the pressures and demands of daily life. I know that’s what music does for me.
The roots for last week’s musical gathering were planted years ago by Dr. Danny Paul Windham, Center’s local “almost-nearly-but-not-quite-hardly-retired” dentist—a singer, songwriter, and performer himself. He and his wife, Sally have brought a number of music events to the Deep East Texas community over the years with shows at a variety of venues including their barn turned outdoor theater. And credit for those events has to belong to a 30-plus-year Thursday night tradition called “Beans and Strings” where the Windham’s open their home to musicians of all skill levels as well as anyone who just wants to enjoy the evening jam session that includes a pot of beans and homemade cornbread.
Carrying on family traditions in recent years at both Windham Family Dental on Cora Street and putting together outstanding musical events has been their son, Dr. Clayton Paul Windham and his wife, Jackie. Plus, the Azalea House—Center’ newest event venue, is their addition to the community and the fun.
The performers have always been singer-songwriter types who are talented artists connected and rooted in the business, but outside the mainstream realm of well-known big business entertainment names with bands, busses and entourages .
Reading Adam Hood’s list of accomplishments might sound like a big business entertainment name, however. He’s performed at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, was seen in a segment of “We’re An American Band” on the Documentary Channel and produced a music video ranked #5 on the Country Music Television (CMT) front page main category “Todays Top Videos.” He’s toured with and/or opened for artists such as Taylor Hicks, Pat Green, Miranda Lambert (who he wrote a song for), and Leon Russell. He’s worked in Nashville as a studio musician playing with artists like Vince Gill. In January 2015, Rolling Stone mentioned him as a “top 10 country artist listeners should know.”
But what the Opelika, Alabama, native brought to Center last week was his bluesy country style in an intimate setting, performing “unplugged’ and solo, sitting in a chair in one-room setting. He interacted with his audience telling stories about each song (many of which are stories about his life), allowing everyone there to “enjoy the healing power of music, taking people out of themselves for a few hours,” as Elton John was once quoted as saying,
“This is a real small town full of real fine folks … And, there’s a real big heart in this real small town.” Those words are from one of Hood’s song he performed last week, describing his hometown. Last Thursday night at the Azalea House, however, it could have just as easily been about Center, Texas: “A real small town full of real fine folks who love real good music.”
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