Musicians Paul and Kristie Bobal ‘Looking Forward to the Gathering’  at March 4 Showcase

(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in a series on the 25th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase. Previous articles can be found here).

LENOIR, N.C. – Tall Paul and Kristie Bobal of Nashville will be playing at the 25th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase: Heroes and Friends. Old friends of Kay and Patrick Crouch with a Nashville connection, like 2020 IBMA Songwriter of the Year Milan Miller and emcee Nancy Posey, they will be serving up offerings from their latest digital album, “Whiskey & Wine”, their first original duo album. They also plan to pour out a tune or two from their previous releases and other musicians. They also appeal to Parrot Heads (fans of Jimmy Buffett) with their brand of ‘Troprock’ music common in the Key West musical scene. Kay shares, “Tall Paul and Kristie are engaging. They bring unsurpassed joy.”

The Showcase will be held on March 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir. Also performing will be the Jon Boy ‘n Lefty Band, whose members are Jonathan Doll, Kent “Lefty” Spears, Coty Robinett, Wes McCall, and Andrew Massey.

Strictly Clean and Decent
Photo Credit: David Cortner

It will be the last Showcase to be hosted by Strictly Clean and Decent – which includes Kay and Patrick along with Ron Shuffler. After the last note is played, they will hand the baton to Massey.

Paul Bobal met Patrick Crouch at Appalachian State University (ASU), where they were both studying music during the mid-1970s. Bobal shares, “We’ve never quit playing with Patrick and Kay. Maybe a couple years after college we were searching for our own ways, but at some point, Kaybob had a birthday party.” Bobal shares that the party was “a very emotional reunion.” He continues, “I don’t think we’ve missed a Christmas pickin’ for 15 years. We know most of the Caldwell County players.” 

The Bobals, Milan Miller and his wife Melanie Reeves, and Kay and Patrick travel together regularly to Ireland to play where they’ve earned the name, “The Nashville Six.” All have a role to play. Most perform, but Reeves admits to having multiple duties, including “carrying the pints.” Since she won’t have that chore during the Showcase, Reeves can just relax and enjoy the show. That includes listening to Paul Bobal play acoustic guitar and sing lead and harmony vocals, while Kristie sings harmony vocals.

Their musical backgrounds are different, but have clearly captured an audience, in particular because they stayed busy during the pandemic, making music and holding online concerts. Kristie shares, “I grew up singing in church.” While that influence is evident in her appreciation of the music of contemporary Christian artists Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, Kristie says other musical influences include Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton.

Paul, meanwhile, grew up a keyboard player. “I was a big fan of progressive rock – Genesis, Yes, Elton John.” However, admits Paul, “When I went to college I couldn’t carry a piano around to meet girls.” About that time, his father bought him a guitar. Then, as part of his freshman orientation at ASU, he was privileged to see Doc and Merle Watson perform. “They taught me you could play hot licks on the guitar, that it could be done on an acoustic guitar.” He continues, “From that moment on I knew how amazing bluegrass is. I turned that way in college and have never looked back.”

The couple met in Knoxville, Tenn. Kristi recalls, “He was playing at a bar near my college. I asked him if I could sing with him.” That was 1988. They married in 1997.

‘The Nashville Six.’ Photo courtesy of Paul Bobal

They could have said they met at the library, as Paul shares, “That bar right next to the college was called The Library. So, students could tell their parents they went to the library.” He continues, “ I did that for years. It is the most crazy, well, incredible thing anybody could have done in their musical career.”

They write together, but like all musicians, have their own method for collaborating. “Generally the creative process starts with whiskey and wine.” admits Kristie. She continues, “As long as we’ve been together, I didn’t start writing at all until 2016. One of us comes up with an idea. We talk about it with each other then go our separate ways. Then we come back together until we get it.”

Referring to writing during the pandemic, Paul recalls, “We had days and days of luxury to work together for days on end. To do that on a daily basis was an interesting time together. Not only musically, but in other ways. We’ve never spent that much time together.”

At the Showcase, those in the audience can expect a mix of new and old original tunes, as well as some covers. “It is interesting to play for people that may not know us at all,” acknowledges Paul. So, they’ll pull some old tunes from his college-era days playing for Stoney Creek, a band that opened for Hall & Oates, The Doobie Brothers and Jimmy Buffett.

Paul says, “There are those songs we sing to make people comfortable and some we wrote to introduce us. We do some cover songs that they would know. That’s what we’ll do. I think our songs of ‘Whiskey & Wine’ are universal. Our goal was to write something everyone could relate to.” Kristie adds, “They are very universal. They are personal. They’re based on personal experiences and things that people have heard.”

They are both enthused about playing in the Showcase so that they can play with their old friends, but also because they enjoy collaborating with musicians with whom they’ve never played and the generational mix that the Showcase creates.

Explains Paul, “You learn about someone playing music with someone you’ve never played with the very first time. It’s a wonderful way to meet someone. You don’t know what to expect. And it grows and it builds, so you understand a little bit about who they are. So that first time is always extra special. It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.”

And, says Paul, a musician can’t overestimate the importance of seeking out opportunities to play with others and to embrace a humble attitude. “At some point everyone is a beginner. If they are fortunate they will get to sit around and listen to people better than them. If you rise to the occasion, it will pay off. You’ll become better, talented, and good to someone else.” Recalling those early days of opening for musicians with huge followings, he shares, “To sit with people above my pay grade and be part of that made me special, proud. And now I’m passing it on. It’s like a family tree. It is very important to pass it on.”

Kristie shares, “I’m not musically trained. I just grew up in church singing. And then this tall guy let me sing with him. I can remember the first time we were in Ireland, they said we’re all going to sing. I was scared to death. They just made me feel it was ok to make mistakes. I thought that you had to be right all the time. They taught me that making mistakes teaches me.”

Paul concludes, “To have friends that long is a very special thing. Their friends accept us as part of the group. We all know each other now. Whether we come there or they come here, everybody looks forward to that gathering.”

Learn more about Tall Paul and Kristie:

Whiskey & Wine | Tall Paul & Kristie

Tall Paul and Kristi info and discography  & About Tall Paul & Kokopaulli

To learn more about the 25th Annual Caldwell Traditional Musicians Showcase: Heroes and Friends, contact the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center box office at 828-726-2407. Learn more about the meal available before the performance.

© Michael M. Barrick 2023.

Note: If you enjoy this article and want to read additional forthcoming articles about the 25th Annual Caldwell Traditional Showcase,or you wish to learn more about the arts, the environment, and vital topics affecting Appalachia, please subscribe at the top right hand corner of the page. There is no charge for subscribing.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s