Since the opening of Jim Pennington’s Listening Room of Mobile, we at The Southland Music Line have enjoyed an ongoing friendship and mutual love for great music with its owner. We have shared some unbelievable moments, often witnessing music new to the area. In July 2015, we published our first article featuring the room entitled: “Wes Lee: A True Disciple of the Blues – A Homecoming to a Listening Crowd”. One year later, the article “The Listening Room Takes Its Place in the Gulf Coast Music Scene” furthered outlined our appreciation for the Listening Room and Pennington’s devotion to providing a pristine environment for some the region’s best entertainment. We have been fortunate in having The Listening Room provide a setting for interviews with such music artists as Oh Jeremiah and Lilly Winwood and even interviewed Jim at “The Room” for the TV show “Music Scene” in 2016.
Listening rooms are nothing new to the American music scene but often have difficulties surviving in various markets around the country as they compete for their share. Interestingly, The Gulf Coast has become a hot bed for places stressing the importance of listening to music in a setting free from noise and distractions. The success of The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm (a forerunner to this movement in the area), Callaghan’s American Songwriter Nights, numerous house shows, and yes, The Listening Room have provided continued proof of it. All of these types of places are helping build something unique to the area. What is even more exciting is that all are doing so with their very own originality. Fortunately, for fans of music, this can only help build appreciation for the talent that performs at these endearing places. Clearly these kinds of places put emphasis on the musicians rather than a high profit for the venue. One of the most valued benefits of these kinds of settings is how its builds a community of like-minded music fans with an appetite for enjoying music in such a manner.
The Listening Room of Mobile has remained open despite the ups and downs associated with keeping such a venue manageable. As mentioned in previous articles, it truly is a labor of love.
Often musicians come to The Listening Room to test the waters in the Mobile area. Their hope is to build on each visit. Thankfully, some have seen success build over time. A big reason may stem from the fans who attend the shows. Word of mouth and inviting others to experience a listening environment builds an audience for the musicians who come to the venue.
One example is the New Orleans band Darcy Malone & The Tangle. Despite their success and notoriety in New Orleans, they first arrived to a near empty room with only four in attendance, including two from The Southland Music Line. Following that unbelievable first show, the band was encouraged to return – the next time they walked through those doors, the room was packed. They have appeared a number of times at The Listening Room since and have branched out in other southern Alabama venues including the popular Callaghan’s.
A select number of local music artists have found a sizable audience at The Listening Room. Long-time local favorite Eric Erdman has regularly filled the room with fans. Most recently “The Room” was the location for the VIP Album Release show for Erdman’s 2018 album “It’s Not Like You Don’t Know Me”. Some others who routinely pack the house are Lisa Mills, The Marlow Boys, Hannah McFarland and Chip Herrington’s Jazz Quintet.
A couple of years ago, singer-songwriter Abe Partridge made his debut at The Listening Room. Jim saw something special in Partridge when other venues would rarely book him. Two years later, Abe Partridge is now signed by Skate Mountain Records, has found success at the world famous Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival and has garnered attention from some well-known music artists from Nashville and around the country.
On Friday, January 12 of this year, Mobile’s own Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet returned to TLR (The Listening Room) for a sit down performance of their 2016 album “The Great Room” which highlighted the songs in the exact order as they appear on the album. This will become a new featured type of show at TLR.
Another popular themed show at TLR has been “The Stories & Songs: A Songwriter’s Series from Nashville” which unites Nashville songwriters with Gulf Coast locals. In 2017, comedy nights successfully came to TLR while Art Exhibits continue to be on display by such artists as Ryan Balthrop and Robby Amonett.
Some other local music artists to successfully appear at TLR: Jamell Richardson, Molly Thomas, Joe Langley, Sugarcane Jane, Ryan Balthrop, Della Memoria, Phil & Foster, Harrison McIinnis, Stereo Dogs, Laurie Anne Armour, Jimmy Lumpkin, Lauren Murphy, Grayson Capps, Johnny Hayes, The Red Clay Strays, Melissa Summersell, Fat Man Squeeze, The Bodhi Trio, Summerlyn Powers, John Cochran, The Krickets, Madison Grace, Slide Bayou, Ric McNaughton, Steve Varnes, Johnny No, Stephen Lee Veal, Brenda Bledsoe, Randy Branch, Gram Rea and MORE.
The Listening Room has attracted several music artists from as far away as Australia. Others who who have also appeared at TLR (in no particular order): Jimbo Mathus, Kristin Diable, Radney Foster, Dash Rip Rock, Tommy Womack, Charlie Mars, Edward David Anderson, Luke Winslow-King, Malcolm Holcombe, Peter Case, Kim Richey, Pegi Young & the Suvivors, Spencer Bohren, Grace Askew, Webb Wilder, Travis Meadows with Whiskey Jack, Wes Jeans Trio, Jack Pearson, Cowboy: Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton feat. NC Thurman, Rick Carter, David Olney, Amanda Shaw, Billy McLaughlin, Cary Hudson, Peter Bradley Adams, Lily Costner, Shannon Labrie, Vanessa Peters, Jackie Venson, Jimmy Robinson, Jason Eady, Esther Rose, Kris Lager Band, Ruby and the Rogues, Avi Jacob, The Grahams, Dave Jordan and the NIA, Dan Navarro, Korby Lenker, Mean Mary, Lachlan Bryan, Griffin House, Sergio and the Satin Dogs, Davis Coen, Gove Scrivenor, Shawn Williams, Jamie Lynn Vessels, Sally Barris, Hill Country Hounds, Robert Cline, Jr., And the Echo, Blue Mother Tupelo, Fort Defiance, Frankie Boots, Hussy Hicks, Carson McHone, Renshaw Davies, Russell Gulley, Paul Sanchez, Shelley King, Honeyboy and Boots, Nikki Talley & Jason Sharp, Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue, Jesse Terry, Old Memphis Kings and NUMEROUS OTHERS..
On Saturday, Jan. 20 of this year, Jim arranged for Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys to perform at The Listening Room. It was a test of the room’s ability to host an artist of whom even The Rolling Stones claim to be fans. The show’s success proved to be a positive direction for the venue. Several well-known established musicians have expressed interest in “The Room”. If fans support these types of music artists, when an opportunity becomes available – they will come.
It is vital to support The Listening Room if we want to see it prosper and attract more of such great talent. A music scene can be likened to a fruit on the vine – if we fail to water it and cultivate the soil around it (support it), we can expect it to wither on the vine and eventually die. There is nothing worse for a music scene than becoming known for its empty venues. We need to do our part to support and grow places like The Listening Room of Mobile.
Each year The Southland Music Line presents its annual year end Readers’ Choice Awards. This year the winner for Favorite Indoor Music Venue was The Listening Room of Mobile. An interesting fact: TLR received only handful of votes in 2016, but this year it was neck and neck with two or three other venues from as far away as Austin, TX. In the end it narrowly received the most votes.
Thanks Jim for providing “The Room” as a place to enjoy an unlimited supply of great entertainment. Your contributions to the Gulf Coast music scene are much appreciated. We congratulate you and “The Room” on the continued success.