Country singer Lyle Lovett performing at the Mill & Mine in October. If you are not a country music fan, you may know him for being married to actress Julia Roberts for two years.
Country singer Lyle Lovett was in Knoxville the other day providing a concert for a small gathering of Knoxvillians at the Mill & Mine on Depot Avenue. The occasion was the annual Alexis de Tocqueville Society dinner, a “reward” for those who give $10,000 or more to the United Way of Greater Knoxville in any given year.
Jim Haslam, the chair of the Tocqueville Society, loves several of the French philosopher’s famous quotes. But one he most often cites is this one: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” As you probably know from a civics or government or world history class, Tocqueville is most famous for his seminal work, “Democracy in America,” published in 1835.
It was a treat seeing Lovett in such an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. His kind of country music really is a fusion of country and swing and jazz. He played with just two accompanists: a bass player and a fiddle player. He was chatty and funny. At one point, he called Knoxville “one of the prettiest cities in the country.” (I like that description much better than “scruffy,” of which I am growing weary.)
Dinner was catered by chef Tim Love, who earlier this year opened the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in the Old City.
Kevin and Chelly Clayton.
Ceviche featuring escolar was a passed appetizer.
Larry Martin, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Finance and Administration, and Jane Shafer, his former executive assistant when they both were at First Tennessee Bank.
The Brewington family. From left, Steve, Allie, Mary Ellen and Steven.
Rabbit-rattlesnake sausage, anyone?
Sandy and Hank Bertelkamp.
When it was time to be seated, Jim Haslam, chairman of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, welcomed everyone.
Alexis de Tocqueville.
The salad course included deviled Gulf coast blue crabs with Lonesome Dove hot sauce. Just the right amount of spicy.
Some of our fun tablemates were Robyn Askew, left, with Jon and Mintha Roach.
Haha. Tracy Warwick photobombed my shot of the other diners at our table, Susan Edwards, left, and Pam Fansler.
Amy Miles, here with her husband, Dan, is doing a great job as the chair of this year’s United Way campaign.
Here’s the rest of her table. From left, Amy and Dan Miles, Mandy Collins, Ernie Collins, Ben Collins, Holland Harvard and Lori Harvard. Mandy and Lori are Amy’s sisters.
From left, Sylvia and Jack Lacey with Robin and Brent Wilhoit.
Cynthia Gibson, left, with Joan Cronan.
Check out the entree: roasted garlic-stuffed beef tenderloin with Western “plaid hash,” grilled asparagus and Syrah demi-glace. This dish is a classic plate that has been on the menu of every restaurant Tim Love has had.
Jeff Lee, left, and Patrick Birmingham.
From left, Raja and Michelle Jubran with Jim Clayton and Michell Witt.
From left, Jennifer and Greg Dunn with Charles and Candy Brooks.
From left, Bruce and Tami Hartmann with David and Jeanne Claire Jones.
Jane and Larry Martin with Natalie Haslam, at right.
United Way of Greater Knoxville’s CEO Ben Landers and his wife, Megan.
From left, Sharon and Joe Pryse with Rhonda and Joe Landsman.
From left, Ward and Tracy Phillips with Greg and Kim Gheen.
From left, Wilson and Lynda Taylor with Sally and Bill Johnson.
From left, Jill and Chuck Griffin with Wes and Liz Stowers.
From left, Sol Holcomb, Sherri Lee and Patricia Bible.
Chef Love seemed pleased with the way the evening was progressing.
Then it was concert time. Here’s “I’ll Fly Away.”
Lyle Lovett speaking to Chef Love after the show.
Lovett chatting with Angelia and Hugh Nystrom.
Jim Clayton and Michell Witt exchange pleasantries with the singer.
After I posted a photo of Lovett on Facebook that night, I got a comment from Aram Demirjian, the new conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. “I worked with him when I was in Kansas City,” he posted. “Such a nice guy, and a real treat to collaborate with.”
I can understand how that would be true, as Lovett seemed very authentic and kind. The same, however, cannot be said for his manager who after the concert sent out the word through a United Way employee that those standing in line or watching Lovett pose for formal photos after the show (like me) could not take his picture with their cellphones. Say what? You can’t take photos of a guy posing for photos? Sheesh. A bit of a downer at the end of a lovely evening. Too bad.