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By Bob Bridge, Columnist

Hack & Huddy at the Rusty Gator

Nearly half a decade ago I mustered the courage to play the guitar and sing popular cover songs, plus several of my original tunes, on select small stages within Bloomington’s most patronized watering holes.

Stage fright?

In the beginning, I was tighter than a rim when IU is shooting a free throw. But, after downing a few arctic ales, I was feeling as though I was strumming in the comfort of my living room.

There was one issue I found troubling. Not all the attendees were even remotely interested in hearing me play. It’s difficult to recall lyrics when people are laughing, shouting and basically disregarding your existence.

I appreciated smaller, more intimate settings where people, who enjoyed a softer style of music, chose to sing along with meaningful lyrics.

Now, contemporary troubadours find few places where folks come to enjoy easy listening music while nibbling on appetizers and sipping a few beers.

Shorty’s in Bedford and Speakeasy Pizza in Orleans have offered local musicians an occasional opportunity to perform, but these special gigs have been few and far between.

This past Friday I hobbled into Rusty Gator’s stage just off J street which was formerly known as Court Room Sports Grill. The headliners were two old friends, golden-voiced songbird JoAnna Hackney and guitarist/photographer/drone pilot Kevin Hudson.

The acoustics were excellent and the playlist was especially appreciated by this elderly patron. The late, great John Prine would have praised the duo for its moving renditions of “Paradise” and “Angel from Montgomery.”

Hack & Huddy personally engaged the audience which was pleasant, respectful and obviously pleased by what they heard.

If my schedule is accommodating I plan to return Friday to hear Jeff Arthur, Greg Morris and Rich Kienle. Clearly, Southern Indiana is not lacking in talented troubadours.

In the next several weeks Bob Leahy, Jared Kearschner, Kent Todd, Daryl Robinson, Cody Ikerd, Corey Flick, TJ Easterday, Gary Brown and Linda Smith will have the opportunity to perform on a live stage.

I’ll be pleased as punch if this trend continues.

Columnist Bob Bridge welcomes comments at 812-276-9646 or

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