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Country Music Group Therapy at The Deli: Rest your soul and charge your spirit

Sean Carr / Red Dirt Report
Kierston White performs with support from Camille Harp on snare.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Near the end of the workweek, there is a quaint but lively oasis of tunes, booze, and comradery that springs up in Norman, if you know just where to look.

For a couple of hours every Thursday at 7 p.m., you can stroll into The Deli on Campus Corner and take a load off with a free session of Country Music Group Therapy (CMGT), a live music series created and hosted by resident singer-songwriter Kierston White with additional help from folk specialists Brad and Laura Fielder. Though tips are always welcome, Country Music Group Therapy won’t charge you by the hour. All it asks is that you be 21 years or older.

Not strictly limited to the country genre, CMGT brings in a rotating cast of musicians who come from Americana, folk, and bluegrass backgrounds to name a few. Many, like Kyle Reid, Bryon White, and Carter Sampson, are friends from around town, but touring artists are known to drop-in as well. Whatever the lineup, the series pairs its curated talent with a loose song swap format that is inviting to regulars and newcomers alike.

The Deli, like many bar venues, tends to have disparate groups of patrons, with some attending to enjoy the music and others there to loudly mingle. However, Country Music Group Therapy is a rare time where the two do not compete but converge. Audiences keep their attention to the music amidst small bursts of chatter, and oftentimes, the musicians join in conversation with the crowd between songs. It's an atmosphere unlike any other, especially when Kierston White is hosting.

Those still unfamiliar with White can get a good idea of the sharp-witted country artist here, as she is clearly in her element. With CMGT, she is just as much an entertainer as she is a musical artist. By playing a flexible mix of covers and originals, she showcases great songwriting from both camps. While the tunes resonate with the souls of therapy session attendees, White supplements with a dose of sly, humorous banter.

All of this makes for a good time, but the more subtle art of Country Music Group Therapy's presentation lies in an empathy for the everyman. "You look awful" is its recurring, tongue-in-cheek catchphrase, and it couldn't be more suitable. In addition to keeping with the therapy theme, it embodies the straight talk of a salty friend while relaying the concern of a sensitive one. As a humorous jab, the phrase doesn't laugh at you, but with you, as if to say it understands.

The tone of CMGT implies an unspoken second half to those three words. You look awful. Join the club.

Lately, Kierston White's role as caretaker has taken a more literal form, though not necessarily for the benefit of CMGT. She started nursing school recently, and when combined with touring and other obligations, this left the series in need of a helping hand. Enter Laura Fielder, live music pioneer for Norman's Bluebonnet Bar, and her husband, blue-collar singer-songwriter Brad Fielder.

During the school semester, Brad Fielder occasionally fills in as host, albeit a more mild-mannered one. His shows tend to be more adventurous in guests, though, with a good deal of out-of-town talent falling in his lap. Some nights, there is not a host, but help from Laura Fielder behind the scenes ensures that quality therapeutic music fills the evening when White can't take on the booking. This noticeably changes the dynamic of Country Music Group Therapy, but the foundation remains firmly rooted in the togetherness and healing power of music, if not more so.

With heartbreaking news like Monday’s Las Vegas shooting and the fresh sting of Tom Petty’s death, it’s easy to be at a loss for words. This is where songwriters can be some of our greatest therapists, helping us to articulate life’s most confounding moments. Few things tend to a weary heart like a familiar melody and a verse of time-tested wisdom.

When combined with the down-to-earth environment and liberating drink selection of The Deli, this music helps to create a space where people can kick back with others and feel better for a while. Country Music Group Therapy is grown around this one universal idea, and it’s perhaps best summarized by reggae legend Bob Marley: “One good thing about music–when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

Upcoming “Therapy Sessions”

October 5 - Dan Martin

October 12 - Hog Feed

October 19 - Kierston White and Friends

October 26 - JV’s Fillin’ Station

The Deli is located at 309 White Street in Norman's Campus Corner area.

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About the Author

Evan Jarvicks

Evan Jarvicks was born in 1873 in the territory later to become Oklahoma. Since accidentally ...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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