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poems  | photography |  reviews

The West Plains area is home to a talented group of creative poets, writers, photographers and artists. The Yellow House showcases their work in such events as Poetry Eye Night and Songwriters Night. This page features selected works presented for the online public, as well as reviews of selected performers.



Bruised Fruit
by Bruce Carr

Selections from Under the Sycamore
by Dave Malone



Dennis Crider:  Close Encounters
View bio and photos from the exhibit

Cath Hopkins: Scenes of the Southwest, Close Up and Far Away
View bio and photos from the exhibit

Robert Kitt: Sfotoscuro
View photos from the exhibit


Other Exhibits




Mark Bilyeu
August 16th Performance Review

By Renee Wood, musical director of the After Hours Big Band

Mark Bilyeu is a living part of the folk tradition here in Missouri. Even his own songs have tunes derived directly from the folk tradition. His music speaks of rural and small town people, struggling to hold their own against the encroaching city and its ways. It is by turns rollicking, playful, often nostalgic.

Mr. Bilyeu is also a skilled guitarist, making excellent use of more than one tuning to make his instrument his partner. In his opening tune Like You Do, he makes use of an open tuning that allows him to imitate the sound of a mountain dulcimer. Later, on “Bull Frog“, he tunes down the low E string and uses it to create the sound of a bull frog singing.

Mark is also willing to laugh at himself as in his song Extra, a spoof of his time as an extra in a Billy Bob Thornton movie. Then, going a little further away from the folk idiom, he sings How Do You Paint? - an innocent little tune with innocent-sounding words that delivers a sophisticated commentary on contemporary life.

Yet to this reviewer, the highlights of the evening were three traditional tunes sung back to back in the second set. Bilyeu has such a strong emotional connection to this material it was almost as if the songs were using him to sing themselves. In the first, Lady Margaret, Bilyeu’s voice and guitar create an almost dream-like, eerie effect, archtypal and haunting. This is exactly as it should be since this song and its many variants are archetypal. This was followed by an unaccompanied Scottish ballad learned from the singing of Harrison Burnett. Then, a gospel song learned from J.W. Brazeal and sung with such power and conviction you could almost hear the shape note harmonies in the background.

This was a wonderful performance by a man in love with the folk tradition, at ease with himself and his audience.


Uncle Cuckleburr’s Champion Possum Carvers
by Renee Wood

Between them, Uncle Cuckleburr’s Champion Possum Carvers, also know as Adam Posnak and Blaine Whisenhint, play both six and twelve string guitar, slide guitar, kazoo, mandolin and clawhammer banjo.

Adam and Blaine’s music is a mix of old-time fiddle tunes and folk blues with a little ragtime thrown in for good measure. Their basic mix of vocals, accompanied by guitar and clawhammer banjo, is seasoned with some tasteful slide guitar work and capped off with a little kazoo.

The Possum Carvers like to say their music is already “ruint” – kind of like a good dinner gone bad, but folks, this possum is delivered to the table done just right and presented with a great deal of energy and good humor to boot.

Elliott Ranney
by Renee Wood

St. Louis singer / songwriter Elliott Ranney’s music has a nice laid back latin feel to it. His melodies carry strong echoes of the work of the great Brazilian master of the bossa nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and his vocals have the cool sweetness of Chet Baker’s singing.

Although his CD has a couple of instrumentals, most of the tunes are vocals. In all cases Elliot’s acoustic guitar work is confident, expressive, and very tasty. Using block chords to play the melodies and single-string work for contrast, this is simply wonderful guitar playing.

One of the pleasures of listening to jazz, especially vocals, is hearing a song’s tune take you somewhere you weren’t expecting to go. Ranney is good at getting you there. This music is as sweet and cool as an evening breeze in the tropics and the warmth of Ranney’s clear mellow voice invites you to just sit back, relax and share the evening.

Linda Dickson, Sept. 20, 2003
By Renee Wood

In performance, Linda Dickson presents herself in a very straightforward manner - a song, a few words, another song. She sings with a clear, vibrant alto that ranges from sultry to ironic.

Her music moves from spirited, straight-ahead rock, to songs with a more delicate, soulful, folk-like feel. One tune, Angel, even carries a strong hint of gospel. Most of her tunes, even the more folk-oriented ones, are blues inflected.

Dickson’s guitar work is consistently well-executed and strongly integrated into the music, effectively enhancing the meaning of the songs. She uses intriguing open-ended melodies and strong words-rhythms, and many of the songs have a reflective elegiac quality to them.

Dickson’s songs range in subject from Ozark rivers, to gardens, to the wild, destructive growth of kudzu, used as a metaphor for a love-relationship on its way south. Her song Twinkle, also about broken love, is filled with images taken from nursery rhymes then combined with cliched aphorisms, leading to a powerful and ironic lyric. In fact, it becomes clear, after listening to her CD, that many of the songs she sang on Saturday night are part of a song cycle which begins with Kudzu, about love going wrong, and ending at the end of the relationship, having taken the listener through heartbreak and insight to renewal, new love and a new stronger sense of self.

This is a singer who knows how to tell a story. These are intimate, personal songs delivered with depth and nuance.




All features are copyrighted by the respective authors, and used by permission.
Reviews may be quoted; please cite the source (this web site and url) and author.



The Yellow House Community Arts Center, 209 W. Cleveland, PO Box 21, West Plains, Missouri 65775
The Yellow House is a project of Ozarks Resource Center, a not-for-profit organization
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