The world is full of people who have great ideas and say “Wouldn’t that be great?” and nothing happens. Then there is Shari Smith. A writer by trade who gave up her home in her beloved North Carolina to move to Baldwin County to surround herself with other creative spirits, Smith was the mastermind behind “The Shoe Burnin’ Show” which combines music and written words to tell stories about the South. Shoe Burnin’ is an anthology and CD of works by some of the New South’s best authors, all of whom Smith knows not just as fellow writers but as close friends who share her passion for this unique part of America.
Smith, with help from Lyons Share owner Kelley Lyons, is taking her collaborative concept a step further with the opening of Trio. Combining Southern fiction, songwriting and visual art, Trio will travel the country, with its first stop at Kudzu in Fairhope on October 22 from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Smith has selected novels by 15 writers and is sending copies to painters and songwriters who will create their art and music based on the authors’ words. “This is not a collaboration, ” Smith says. “What I want are the artists’ and songwriters’ feelings about what they just read.” Lyons added “having visual art will bring another rich dimension to the writings and I can’t wait to see what the artists pull from the novels they read.”
Among the 15 trios handpicked by Smith are songwriter Rodney Crowell and sculptor Bruce Larsen who will work from the stories in Rick Bragg’s award-winning Ava’s Man, a novel about hard-scrabble life in the foothills of North Alabama. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by New York Times bestselling author and Mississippi resident Tom Franklin will be the inspiration for music by Beth Nielson Chapman and artwork by Erin Gregory. Local author Suzanne Hudson’s novel In The Dark of the Moon will be the starting point for songs by Lisa Carver and 3D art by Shelley Smith. Other well-known local names in this show include songwriters Will Kimbrough, Laci Wright and Eric Erdman, visual artists Jennifer Nyblom, Beth Childs, Don Andrews, and Lucy Hunnicutt, and writers Jennifer Horne, Judith Richards, Joe Formichella and Marlin Barton.
Waterhole Branch, the farm that Smith and long-time companion Chris Clifton, former guitarist for the James Taylor band, share on Fish River is the site of informal gatherings throughout the year where music and writing also come together. Besides cooking some of her favorite recipes like It’s Not Quite Gumbo for anyone who shows up, Smith puts together the program by selecting excerpts from some of her favorite authors and challenging the musicians to add words and music. “We have created our own world, ” Smith says, but is quick to add that anyone who loves art and music is welcome to come. When the Trio show is launched, she will be sharing her vision and her world with art and music lovers all over America.
Click here to learn more about the Trio exhibit.
Text by Robin Fitzhugh