Stories

Pick Another One For Merle

The world lost the great Doc Watson almost two years ago. It was a solemn day for me because he was a hero at so many levels. He was my all-time favorite North Carolinian - a guy who’d made the rustic mountain side of my home state look pure and righteous and deep in the eyes of a world too quick to harbor hillbilly stereotypes. He was, in my opinion, the single greatest musician to be widely known and associated with folk music from the 60s revival through the new millennium, and that matters because Doc was a powerful ambassador, whose guitar skills, voice and wide ranging repertoire kept the music kept growing for half a century.

Ain’t No Place I’d Rather Be

In his introduction to the amazing 50-song compilation CD in the current Oxford American special music issue, curator Rick Clark wrote that “few (states) can match Tennessee’s deep roots in the blues and jazz, gospel, soul and R&B, rockabilly, rock & roll, and country – or its tremendous concentration of historic record labels and music industry visionaries.”

Tarheels

The foundations of my musical tastes and world-view were shaped in my home town of Durham, North Carolina, so I’m a softie for bands from what we Tarheels call “The Triangle” (Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill), and it’s no surprise that bluegrass music got in my bloodstream. This week, as we open our Spring 2014 Season (yay!) Roots welcomes back a fantastic band that’s become The Triangle’s most notable force in bluegrass and acoustic music since the Red Clay Ramblers decades ago. They’ve surprised and excited me with each successive album, proving they’re as dedicated to a creative journey as they are to the integrity of the tradition that first inspired them.

St. Patrick’s Day Plus Two

By now you know about our exciting trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland to stage a special Roots as part of the tenth annual Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival. But did you know that it’s a two way street? Nashville sends contingents of troubadours to our sister city in Ulster, and then they send musicians our way a few weeks after that. Having been treated so well, it’s only hospitable that we’d play host to a gang of Ireland’s finest. Four of our featured artists on Wednesday March 19 – two days after St. Patrick’s Day - are official delegates of the festival. Our show-closing act has been called Ireland’s greatest folk guitarist, and we’ll enjoy a bonus cross-continental exchange with the very American roots music of Pete Anderson, a West Coast icon.

Both Sides Now

The last time Rhonda Vincent played Roots, it was on her run of duo shows with the mighty-voiced legend Gene Watson. It was great. Soaring and blue. Deeply country. But it did leave me craving a set of her audaciously clear and powerful bluegrass music. She is, after all, a seven-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year and one of the most beloved artists in the world of classic bluegrass. But this Wednesday, after years of waiting, we’ll feature Rhonda and her band The Rage amid a diverse night at Roots. The season is winding down, but there’s nothing wound down about Vincent’s approach to roots music.

Texlahoma Hard Core

Texas and Oklahoma, which spoon together on the map like a couple of adorable brokeback cowboys, have contributed disproportionately and astoundingly to the growth and evolution of music. From Ernest Tubb and Bob Wills through George Strait to the hard-partying Red Dirt scene, something about those windswept landscapes spawned a strain of blue collar creativity and expressiveness that’s central to Americana. Two of our guests this week, Hayes Carll and Parker Millsap, are heirs to the strain of artful songwriting that’s given us Guy, Rodney, Billy Joe and more. I know you always hear how these greats of yore can’t ever be surpassed and that they just don’t write ‘em like they used to. But when you hear the work of Carll, a mid-career veteran and Millsap, a precocious youngster, you have to make a certain kind of reappraisal. This is sheer brilliance, and some time after they display that brilliance at Roots this week, it’s going to take its place in Texlahoma history.

Brothers in Bluegrass

For two consecutive years, the Roots crew has had the pleasure of filming for live webcast the amazing International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. And in those same two years, The Gibson Brothers have won the coveted, top-of-the-mountain Entertainer of the Year Award. Coincidence? You decide. I’m just saying that when Eric and Leigh Gibson get their heart-felt, sincere and wonderful selves near our cameras, amazing things happen. And I feel sure that will be true this week when this stellar duo and their band play Music City Roots. Nor are they the only bluegrass brothers featured this week. The Roland White Band is playing the show for the first time, and if you know your bluegrass history, you know he was part of a profoundly influential brother band, besides his many other accomplishments.

Here Comes The Sun

Our foreign-born daughter’s seventh grade social studies class recently took its first pass at Tennessee history, and so my saintly wife spent hours helping her sort out Andrew Jackson from Andrew Johnson, and midwifing her first encounters with slavery and the Civil War. I interjected that she ought to also know that Tennessee is where Sam Phillips opened Sun Records and helped Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis invent rock and roll. Two females stared blankly at me, nonplussed. But that’s important isn’t it? I mean, is there a Tony-Winning musical about the Nullification Crisis? I didn’t think so.

Good Folk

The 1980s and 90s were vibrant decades for the imperfectly named, blurry-edged genre of folk music and more specifically the poised, contemporary wing of it known as “singer-songwriter.” While pop and country binged their way through the end of the CD/MTV era and shoved a lot of bad music down America’s throat, a parallel musical universe took shape where a large, attentive audience followed a roster of burgeoning and emerging artists rooted in literate lyrics, attentive musicianship and an empathic relationship with an audience they could see and feel. While Garth flew over his fans and blasted them with floodlights, America’s songwriters sat in footlights and engaged their audience in something much more like a dialogue. And we got to know the enriching, luxurious and intelligent work of Shawn Colvin, John Gorka, Dar Williams, Ani DeFranco, David Wilcox, Greg Brown, Christine Lavin and many others.

Lucky Us

As soon as I heard that voice singing Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings” with its aerodynamic, rising melody I was in a familiar and contented place. It’s track two among twelve on Lucky, the new all-Haggard Suzy Bogguss album, and I’m not sure why I started listening there. Perhaps I felt that this was going to be a perfect A&R match of singer and song. I can say this: If you were searching for a poetic, two-word description of Suzy Bogguss as a vocalist, I’d say ‘silver wings’ is pretty apt. She has a glow and an uplifting quality that’s instantly recognizable. Her early albums were part of my country music education, and even in a late 80s field crowded with authentic talent, her voice stood out for its sweetness and light. I’ve loved her as an artist ever since and I’m excited as can be that she’s returning to Roots this Wednesday, just one day after the official release of this beautiful new album.

School House Rock

Music Row has often been called a “campus” for its walkable intimacy and collegial atmosphere. But in modern times, it’s more literally true, thanks to the influence of Belmont University. Belmont itself overlooks the Row from its southern terminus. And then there are outposts along the way. Belmont’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business moved into the old Sony/Columbia building on 16th Ave., where new generations are schooled in the arts of recording, songwriting and publishing. It includes a renovated and revived Quonset Hut studio, where Owen and Harold Bradley established the first music business in 1958 in what was then a residential neighborhood. And over on 17th Ave. is Belmont’s amazing Ocean Way Studio in a century-old church. Belmont, which has graduated Nashville notables Brad Paisley, Trisha Yearwood, Josh Turner and Melinda Doolittle, is perhaps more than ever central to Nashville’s new directions.

Earls And Kings

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the grand opening ceremony of the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby, NC, where it was wall to wall banjos and bluegrass. The various events and the museum itself celebrate a musician whose career should be taught in every school because he’s an icon of American ingenuity, like Henry Ford or Mark Twain. I mean don’t even get me started on Earl. So much more than the world’s greatest banjo player, he was an innovator who sought change and challenge. He helped invent bluegrass with Bill Monroe, refined and popularized it with Lester Flatt and then ushered in a newgrass revolution with his sons in the Earl Scruggs Revue. He’s most museum-worthy.

Life Changers

I’m a music journalist (whatever that means these days), but for me, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott go far deeper than the many pieces I’ve written about each since the late 90s. Music changes lives, and these two artists certainly changed mine. At one point they were just guys I never thought I’d meet whose records I bought and loved. But I wound up taking chances and making moves, most fatefully to Nashville, under their influence. And then I did wind up knowing them and drawing deeper insights about music from them than I’d ever contemplated. So when they play as a duo opening this Wednesday night’s show – a blockbuster featuring some MCR favorites and one of the biggest stars in roots/soul – there will be a lot of experience and personal passion behind the performance for me.

The Road Ahead

Every new year is a renewal and a chance to head in new directions. This year, for some reason, feels particularly auspicious. The holidays were warm and nourishing, just as they are supposed to be, and everywhere I go I feel like folks are full of ideas and energy. How to keep this torch lit? I’m resolving to consume less political news, because it’s the same old farce, less business news because it treats us like sheep and less “entertainment” news because it’s obsessed with celebrity nonentities. Let us, dear Roots community, bail on Buzzfeed, upend Upworthy and veto the viral. I’m not saying abandon Facebook and Twitter altogether (we’ll still be there heaven knows). But let’s all retune our BS meters, calm our twitchy clicker fingers and reclaim our precious TIME for the authentic and the artistic. Life’s too short for bad music, as the old saying goes. And holy smokes as I look ahead to what the booking team has assembled for our first quarter of 2014, I see no danger of a wasted set or song at our Loveless Barn Wednesday nights. Indeed our opening night is a staggering cornucopia of contemporary Americana’s finest.

An Electric Western Holiday

From the East come musicians bearing gifts. That’s a pretty good basis for a season-closing, week-before-Christmas show, as we found out last year. That’s when we featured an ensemble cast from An East Nashville Christmas, which is still out there and still raising money for the homeless. This year, we’ve fallen in with another bunch of dynamos and cool kids who are crossing the river and making a pilgrimage to the Edge of Music City.

World Boogie Is Here

One day in about the year 2000 or 2001, I received a valuable invitation. More than that, it was an education and an initiation. A musically hip friend of mine from Chicago was heading to Memphis for a show at the kind of joint you’d have a hard time finding without an insider’s guidance. For one strange and magic night, some of the core artists of North Mississippi hill country blues were playing at an out-of-the-way bar called The Madison Flame. It was the first time I experienced the late great Otha Turner’s fife-and-drum ensemble, which paraded around the room with roiling snares and marching band bass drum. Raspy, rascally T-Model Ford (deceased this year sadly) played stopmy electric original songs like “Chicken Head Man.” And capping it off was a relatively new, mixed-race band called the North Mississippi Allstars.

Field Guide

They sound like entries in a Boy Scout Survival Manual, but actually Deep Dark Woods and Deer Tick are two of the more sought-after bands in roots rock, and they’re heading for the Edge of Music City to play Roots this week. Add Tristen, beloved, darkly sparkling pop songstress, and we’re looking at a sublime and sophisticated bill that feels like midnight at Bonnaroo more than our usual back porch fare. Plus, all three have superb new album releases to share with you. Then we’ll throw in some Southern literary flair with the spoken word magic of Minton Sparks and an exciting emerging artist appearance by Sherriff Scott and the Deputies.

Give. Thanks.

Dear Friends of Music City Roots, We are excitedly preparing for our annual Thanksgiving eve show with its cast of outstanding and familiar artists who have become part of a real tradition for us. More on that in a moment, but first a word about how traditions like ours become possible.

Keep Your Hand On The Plow

Before Florida Georgia Line (those were the days), before Garth and Shania, before Alabama or Olivia Newton John, there was pop country. There was pop country almost as soon as their was country. And while there’s a contingent of complainers from every crossover era, my belief is that pop country only got queasy making when the pop part of the equation got lame and juvenile. Before the ersatz Foreigner and Backstreet Boys, country borrowed from the grown-up, sophisticated music of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. That’s why Eddy Arnold’s journey from down-home rustic balladeer from West Tennessee to smooth-crooning, Crosby-loving global pop star is something to be admired and enjoyed. Eddy Arnold could not only sing beautifully, he was a communicator. He wrapped listeners in a kind of intimate embrace they didn’t know existed and made the hearts of men and women alike skip a beat.

Fiddle Benders and Genre Blenders

Last week at Guitar Night we saw how much was possible on six strings. This week we’ll raise the degree of difficulty and spotlight some innovators on the old four-string, the Devil’s Box, the G/D/A/E, as my colleague A.J. called it this week, perhaps because she loves acronyms. Call it a fiddle in the hands of show-opener April Verch or go with the more formal moniker embraced by our guest artists Black Violin, this miraculous instrument, animated by a horse hair bow of all things, beloved by our culture for 500 years, still explodes with possibilities in the hands (and chins) of inspired musicians.

Six Strings And The Truth

My journey into and through roots music has been influenced by hundreds of people and records and historic facts and happy accidents. But none comes close to my fascination with the guitar. Here I am, more than 30 years since I first noodled around on one borrowed from a friend to see what it could offer me, and I’m more inspired by its possibilities than ever. And no matter how many guitar players I learn about and admire, there’s always room for another one with a fresh sound and approach.

Scary Good

Our show this week takes place on Halloween eve, but please don’t ask me to wear a costume. I don’t know why the idea is so foreign to my personality, and I have no trouble whatsoever with all y’all getting your Lady Gaga on and dressing up like pop culture characters and catch-phrases. It’s just not my thing. No, I’m more old school about Halloween – lighting bonfires and setting places at the table for the dead – that kind of thing. That gets me ready for All Saints’ Day when I watch a re-play of the 2009 Super Bowl and All Souls’ Day, when I listen to Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin records.

Return of Heavy Wood

How weird is it that trees basically made music possible? I suppose we could have spent all of human history just singing, but in truth, music’s cornucopia of timbres was made possible by timber. Our planet just happened to be full of this renewable natural material we can carve, bend, plane and sand into boxes, pipes, drums and sounding boards that are predictable and stable enough to last many lifetimes. The boards used in some of Stradivari’s violins and cellos were already hundreds of years old when he shaped them into his masterpieces, meaning that spruce and maple trees that waved in the breeze during the Middle Ages can still sing today. And of course most of our music at Roots is made on guitars, fiddles, basses and banjos - instruments that just couldn’t exist without good old wood.

Revelations

One of the coolest things we hear a lot from audience members at the Loveless Barn is that often their favorite artist of the night – the one they bought the CD from – is one they’d not ever heard of when they arrived. In four or five songs, some of our emerging bands can change your day and point you in a new direction. And when we return from our two-week break to launch the mighty Fall 2013 Season with our quarterly fund-raiser show for The Nature Conservancy, there are likely to be such discoveries. We’ll be closing the night with a return visit from one of Nashville’s biggest breakout bands of the past year, while the rest of the show will feature four first-timers, each on an upward arc as they win over new fans and friends. It’s a celebration of revelation.

Welcoming Our Mates

As we roar into the Fall of 2013, we at Roots are easily reminded of how our year began – with a 7,000 mile journey to the palmy, balmy, parrot-rich environment of Tamworth, Australia, Nashville’s sister city below the equator. We made some great friends and had some musical discoveries and memories that will always stay with us. Our first overseas journey validated our belief that music truly does make community and communion across gulfs of distance and culture.

Americana Dream

In early 1998, my life took a happy turn when I decided what I needed to do was submit an unsolicited freelance article to the arts page of the Wall Street Journal about the very new concept of “Americana” music. I’d never authored a music article in my life, but a friend of mine who’d written a few policy op-eds for them gave me an email way up there in New York City, and by some miracle, it got published. Though Americana was starting from a niche beginning, I was bullish on the format, partly out of sheer enthusiasm and partly because I thought my fellow Americans were growing sick of industrial cheese as its musical/cultural diet and that Americana offered a nourishing new direction. Or at least a new way to access a musical heritage and creative stream that had been there all along.

A Tribe With Vibe

America has invented and instigated many seminal beats and grooves over the musically magical past century, but one makes me want to dance above all others – like viscerally and right now. It’s the Louisiana-born backbeat of zydeco and its even rootsier forbear, Cajun music. On the surface, it’s the same dang two-and-four snare drum smack that’s in every kind of rock and roll and pop. But behind that is a zigga-zigga sixteenth note pattern that counterpoints the basic boom-chick, boom-chick. Done well, it’s weirdly rock steady and syncopated at the same time, a rhythm that loops and pulses. And lord when it comes off a the bandstands of the Louisiana prairie country or the Rock & Bowl in New Orleans, dancing is less something you do and more something that happens to you.

Our Commonwealth

Holy cats. September? It’s September? I can’t really process that. We were just having our summer barn dance and our spring season opener. Try as we might to fight against it, time and life can be a blur. We at Roots mark our year in weekly cycles of Wednesdays: twenty nine shows so far in 2013 and so many memories among them. From Leon Russell’s historic set to Todd Snider’s surprise walk-on with Great American Taxi to the stunning debut of Luella and the Sun to discovery of inspiring out of town bands like The Oh Hellos and Seryn. Woven inseparably in to that are our relationships and our community – our weekly visits with our friends, supporters, believers, super-fans and alum musicians who come and make up our commonwealth.

Speace, Love and Understanding

To prepare for this week’s prospectus, I put Amy Speace’s most recent album How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat on through my best pair of headphones and tried my best not to multi-task while enjoying it again. Enjoying is a wimpy little word for it actually. The effect is more like a therapeutic conversation with a wise friend while reclining in a hot spring. Speace has one of the richest and loveliest voices in the singer/songwriter genre (partly explaining her discovery by and collaboration with the silken-voiced Judy Collins), and her songs are luxuriously smart. Amy Speace will be performing at Roots this week, and on a night of relatively new bands and artists, I have a feeling she’ll provide the veteran’s gravitas and emotional anchor.

Bringing Something New

Last winter, singer/songwriter Tim Easton posted to his web site an open letter to a young songwriter. Distilled to its takeaway points, it urged artists to read and listen voraciously, travel widely and “bring something new to the tradition of your craft.” That’s good advice for anybody, but in music that ethos can elevate a player into an artist. It leaves traces and signatures in one’s sound that can’t be learned, isolated or transferred. By taking his own advice, Easton’s art has been enlivening Americana music for fifteen years.

Master Grass

I don’t suppose August is anybody’s favorite month, whether it’s blazing hot or damp and fetid, as it is this year here in Tennessee. But it does come with a few perks. Congress goes home where people yell at them. That’s nice. Baseball races get exciting and football gets started. And we at Roots get to throw one of our favorite happenings of the year, as we invite the bluegrass community out to the Loveless Barn for the announcements of who’s nominated to win IBMA Awards when they’re handed out on September 26 in Raleigh, NC. That special press conference, featuring Sam Bush and Jim Lauderdale, will go out over our webcast at 5 pm central time on Wednesday. Then at 7 we host our biggest bluegrass themed show of the year, with a simply stellar lineup of old friends and favorites.

Hillbilly Hardcore

A new promo video for The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band begins with a clip of Roy Acuff singing the train song “Sunshine Special” on TV in the early 70s. And that’s deeply cool, because while Acuff is an icon in serious country music circles in Nashville, out in the world at large, he’s not nearly as well known as say Johnny Cash or Hank Williams. And that’s a pity, because Acuff’s open-throat, open-heart style was so unique and tied to the very origins of the music we call country.

Hainted House

The South has its sweet tea, magnolia blossoms and tiara-encrusted homecoming queens, but our special place wouldn’t be as deep or enduring without its ghosts, or as my good buddy William Faulkner called them, its “garrulous outraged baffled ghosts.” If you’ve ever spent time down below the equator of Mississippi or in the low country swamps around Charleston, SC, you’ve felt it. The Spanish moss seems to move on its own and untraceable echoes of sin and violence haunt the wind. When you’re “in the pines,” as the old song goes, “you shiver when the cold wind blows.” It’s part of our vital yin-yang existence; the dark that makes the light possible.

Two Paths Through The Grass

This week I thought I was going be writing about John Jorgenson the world-traveling gypsy jazz guitarist who’s done as much to enlarge on the glorious tradition of Django Reinhardt style hot swing as anyone. But when I got the memo from our booking star chamber deep inside Cumberland Caverns, I learned John is actually bringing his new bluegrass band to the Barn on Wednesday evening. Which is terribly exciting, and I’ll fill you in on that shortly. But this also means we’ll be bookending the show with two exceptional and unusually creative artists who have made bluegrass their muse, at least some of the time.

Loving The Land

These days, in life as in sports, when the improbable and remarkable happens we can quite often go to the video tape. That’s what I decided I had to do for the February 2, 2011 performance at Roots by singer/songwriter Susan Werner. And sure enough, as I remembered, she delivered one of the most intelligent and well-rounded sets we’ve ever had by a solo performer. But this is in keeping with her national reputation. On guitar and piano she made a lot happen musically, and as a lyricist, she left us laughing and thinking about pompous religiosity, difficult choices and other topics. We’re pleased to say that Susan returns to the show this week, and she’ll be turning her attention to things that grow and the people who grow them.

We Like Them Both

When Peter Cooper and Eric Brace began singing together about six years ago, it was, Brace says, “a fun and friendship thing” with no plans for a formal duo. But Cooper was ratcheting up his songwriting after years of writing about said same craft for The Tennessean (something he still does), and after he toured overseas with Brace’s band Last Train Home, a partnership gelled. They cut an album that became part of the launch of Brace’s Red Beet Records called You Don’t Have To Like Them Both.

A Tall Tale

Our pal Peter Cooper - Tennessean music columnist, songwriter and frequent guest host of Roots - has added a lot to our musical life and knowledge over the years. But even before he landed the job that would bring him to Music City, he expanded my brain about American music with his too-little-known 1997 book Hub City Music Makers. It’s a survey of the surprising musical legacy of his home town, Spartanburg, SC. Before getting Cooper’s version of things, I had no idea that Spartanburg had birthed Walter Hyatt, the Marshall Tucker Band, Hank Garland and Marshall Chapman. And there are many more. But it’s Marshall Chapman who concerns us this week.

Father’s Day

The Sunday after our next show is Father’s Day. In our family, this one will be low-key, because our patriarch – my Dad – just celebrated his 80th birthday, and our whole clan got together to toast and wine and dine him. Dad, a gentleman and a scholar if ever there was one, has been bountifully influential in my life, stimulating my love of words and music. And now I’m a father myself, trying to instill curiosity and wonder in a bright kid. It’s a Dad, Dad, Dad world.

Rhymes With Romance

To dance is a wonderful – if complicated – thing. On one hand it’s nature’s physiological companion to music, a whimsical and perhaps evolutionarily important part of our operating system.

Call Me A Cab

A taxi takes you places, and America is a big place with myriad destinations. So Great American Taxi is an apt name for a band that feels like a ticket to ride. This always-moving and beloved band could pitch its tent and find an adoring, dancing crowd just about anywhere from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico. This week, we’re excited to say, they’ll be closing the show at our own Loveless Barn as part of a diverse and exciting lineup. So more on them in a moment.

Let’s Be Frank

Where is bluegrass music going? The question comes up in my life and work more often than you could believe. But it’s important because for every hard-core traditionalist who thinks a bluegrass angel dies every time Yonder Mountain String Band takes the stage, there are (by my reasonably informed guesstimate) ten or more music fans who love and appreciate the diversity of today’s scene, where The Gibson Brothers and Del McCoury can play the same festival stages as Deadly Gentlemen and Milk Drive.

Serene Surrender

Sometimes a band gets you so enthralled, puzzled and generally curious that there’s nothing else to do but to call them up. At least that’s how it goes with us journalist types. So our booking team helped me get in touch with Nathan Allen, singer and guitarist with Seryn, who’s set to close our show on Wednesday night. And my question was: How’s a band with such lush grandeur, chamber-folk complexity and tricky musical ideas making out in Denton, Texas, collegiate hub of the beer-swilling, honky-tonking Red Dirt Music movement?

In Clover

As fans of our show know so well, Nashville’s Belmont University has an impressive track record of fostering musical relationships, even ones made off campus.

Jazz Night: The Abstract Truth

Even though roots/Americana and jazz tend to be made, promoted and appreciated in different worlds, I’ve always thought of my love of both as complimentary - not contradictory. Legendary songwriter Harlan Howard famously referred to country music as “three chords and the truth.” So doesn’t that make jazz “100 chords and the truth”? Jazz may use more harmonic colors to get to its end result, but aren’t both trying to speak to the heart?

Pick One For Merle

Our lives are full of turning points and memories, and our lives in music provide some of the strongest and sweetest.

No Worries

If he truly is a Worried Man, as suggested by the title of his full-length album debut this winter, it’s safe to say that Andrew Combs has fewer troubles by the week, professionally speaking. Last year the songwriter was waiting tables and scraping the cash together to finish the recording. This year, he’s a staff writer for the groovy Razor & Tie company with festival bookings flying in. He’s on tour now with fellow Nashville rising star Caitlin Rose, following stints with Shovels & Rope and Jason Isbell this winter. He played the prestigious 30A Songwriters Festival, and he’s going to play at Newport Folk this summer. And yes, dear readers, he’s going to play a hotly anticipated 25 minutes of earthy, truthful music at Roots on Wednesday night.

Aroooo!

That’s the best howl I can manage in print. But you ought to hear me really go for it when the Howlin’ Brothers are on the Victrola - or live on stage. One of the hottest bands on the strings and things circuit is coming to grace our stage and close our show as we return from a nice spring break. Next Wednesday the Loveless Barn will ring with the sounds that keep us grounded: banjo, fiddle, upright bass and uplifted, harmonically attuned voices. It’s a night of variety, spirit and a big surprise, which I’m told I can reveal not yet but soon, perhaps as soon as the end of this column.

Fellow Travelers

To quote my good friend Rick, a roots music fan and barroom philosopher, “Suck it, Winter!” It’s something he is inclined to say or post to Facebook at this time of year, and it’s become my cathartic battle cry against March days that tease you with warmth and flowers and then spit freezing rain at you as soon as you’ve let your guard down. I think we can agree that we are OVER it. And we’re sliding into a final week of our Winter season, so it’s time for a little pause to refresh, but only after a really, really great party on Wednesday night at the Loveless Barn.

Cow Cow Boogie

John Cowan (who closes Music City Roots this coming Wednesday evening) was working at a car wash in Louisville, KY, playing in garage bands and listening to a lot of Yes in 1974. He was 21 years old and knew nothing about bluegrass music, though he did own Will The Circle Be Unbroken album. Then, almost out of the blue, came an audition with New Grass Revival, a bunch of area guys who’d made a great head start as the first big band hybridizing bluegrass and rock. Young John jumped at the opportunity, and his stellar, almost operatic voice became a fixture of that band, through the addition of Bela Fleck around 1980, a major label record deal and even hits on the radio. Cowan told me in an interview last winter that Steve Earle’s famous quip about the mid 80s being a “great credibility scare” had much truth in it, and NGR was part of that.

The Royale Treatment

Folks, we have a bunch of major announcements coming up here in the near future, and I’d like to preview just one of them here, because it’s relevant to this week’s Music City Roots.

Catch Some Sun

The DNA of Music City is recombinant. It’s entirely natural and inevitable for artists heading in one direction to fuse with others in collaborative efforts that take a new path together. We’ve enjoyed the fruits of some of these connections at Roots, including married duo Elenowen, swinging Sugar & The Hi-Lows and retro-cool Humming House. One of the most exciting new unions of Nashville stand-outs bears the name Luella And The Sun, and this highly-praised band will be a big part of this Wednesday night’s show.

Wagons and The Kid

As you may know, we were in Australia recently and if you’d asked me if I knew anyone in Australia I would have said no way, nobody. But then there I was, walking around the streets of Tamworth, New South Wales, getting the lay of the land on our first full day, and lo and behold, I run into an Australian I DID know. It was Henry Wagons! He of the unmistakable heavy glasses and shaggy visage. He of the jovial, high voltage personality. What a perfect welcome wagon, if you will. And you who follow our adventures at Roots will recall that Henry Wagons played a balls-to-the-wall solo set last February. He stomped the stage and cajoled the crowd. He bellowed an homage to Willie Nelson and climbed into the seats. It was brazen and awesome.

Torches

It may all start with a song but I think we can all agree that at some point a singer becomes somewhat crucial. And while I’m a music/sound guy more than a song/lyric guy at the end of the day, I can not deny the human truth that we’re wired to relate most powerfully the voices of our fellow men and women – be it a lullaby from our mama, a tear-jerker on Broadway, a hymn in church or a smoky monologue from Billie Holiday. It’s an aural infinity. A song well sung is the most elemental and approachable form of musical communication there is.

Bluegrass and Friends

This week’s Roots features a bluegrass heavy lineup, and where some of our past grassy shows have emphasized top flight bands and band leaders, I’d describe this week’s bill as long on bluegrass instigators. Randy Kohrs, for example, has his hand in all kinds of projects for himself and others. And Jon Weisberger has advanced the bluegrass cause as journalist, bass player, songwriter and board member of IBMA. Both are playing as leaders with “& Friends” groups, those ad hoc combos that are a feature of bluegrass music. Since Jon is a friend of mind, and since he has an expert bird’s-eye view on the music, I offer this week’s show preview in dialogue form:

Back To School

One of the better ideas anybody ever had for our show was to dedicate a night to bands that were born at or touched by Nashville’s venerable Belmont University. With a nationally respected music business program that’s graduated all kinds of famous people and its historic recording studios, Belmont has become a vital cog in the Music City machine. Almost exactly one year ago, we enjoyed the very hot Apache Relay, the very smart and fascinating Kopecky Family Band and others in a show that illustrated Belmont’s talent and impact.

The Return Of Toodle-oo

“Don’t believe if you play jazz you gotta be a stuffed shirt. You can be serious and loving. It’s all about love.” These wise and lovely words came from our guest artist Joey Morant when he visited us in the spring of 2011. It was a charged experience. The veteran trumpeter/singer/entertainer put on a joyful, captivating set. He worked the room like a master with call-and-response singing and a stroll through the crowd playing his horn. And in our interview, I felt like I was truly diving into another world when we spoke about his earliest musical experiences growing up in Charleston, SC.

A Tale Of Two Music Cities

If all goes according to an unfolding plan, by the end of 2013, Tamworth and Nashville will officially be Sister Cities. Makes sense to us. We’re both small but proud river cities in very big countries. And we both love and nurture music. So hello, sisters (and brothers) of Tamworth! The entire cast and crew of Music City Roots is as excited and proud as we can be to take our show on the road. We’ve never staged Roots outside of our home venue The Loveless Cafe Barn, but here we are, 9,100 miles away from home. And we’re very pleased to be with you.

Double Russells

If you want to learn something astonishing about American music and get all misty eyed at the same time, watch THIS VIDEO. In it, Elton John pays tribute to his hero Leon Russell as he helps induct the not-legendary-enough pianist, songwriter and musical instigator into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. It helped me put Russell into context, and it set me on a journey browsing through his albums and live recordings with a fresh ear. I realize that I didn’t adequately acknowledge Russell as one of the godfathers of Americana, but yes he is.

Stars of the East

Last week Supe Granda promised us in a song that it’s going to be a “cool, cool Yule,” and we aim to make sure of it this week with a season-closing extravaganza that features fourteen artists or bands and songs featured on the new and very wonderful CD collection An East Nashville Christmas. The brainchild of producer and recording engineer Phil Harris, the CD corrals an incredible number of participants (75 musicians by their count) into a coherent, joy-filled, sonically luxurious Christmas album. Unpretentious and real, with many standout performances, An East Nashville Christmas is bound to be a perennial favorite through the years, even as it presents a smart musical snapshot of 37206 in 2012. The motivation behind all this? Funds raised by the album go to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. So it’s no wonder the disc is flying off the shelves at shops and events around town.

The Skinny On Slim

Twelve. Twelve. Twelve. If it happens to be your lucky number (and how could it not be?) then you’ll find this week’s lineup an alignment of the planets. But isn’t that the day the world’s supposed to end? Oh no, that’s 12/21/12, so again, lucky us! We’ve got stars of folk and fingerstyle, an American Idol and a Daredevil. One of our bands claims to be cursed, but we’ll overwhelm that with the power of twelve and some of the Black Cat Oil left behind by Delta Moon last Wednesday.

Nothin’ But The Honey

You guys know Eddie Stubbs, right? The great country music DJ. An icon of broadcasting in the modern age AND a throwback in the best sense of the word. Very importantly to us, he was the first emcee of Music City Roots. For a year, we were on the legendary WSM 650 AM (near to your correspondent’s heart) and Eddie was our first man behind the podium. Of course he and our own Keith Bilbrey worked together for ages at WSM and the Grand Ole Opry. I say this because it’s important to grasp the continuity from Nashville’s first big important radio station to what we do today. Eddie is an amazing person and one of our heroes. There’s even a picture of him hanging back stage.

East Bound And Down

Your correspondent hopes you will forgive him for skipping a column and double-dosing this post with a review of last Wednesday and a forecast of next Wednesday, as we all emerge from our Thanksgiving dining halls and shopping malls. It was a busy, beautiful time, with my real extended family and our musical family all together at the barn last week. Then we cooked and ate and rambled with our moms, dads, uncles, aunts, cousins until Saturday. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Thanksgiving is the greatest American holiday. The focus on family and feast is the best of the good life, and the prescribed dinner happens to be awesome. Our Roots feast was made of music of course, but the same factors apply; it tasted great and brought everyone together.

Good Buddies

Jim and Buddy became friends in New York City in the 1980s, when both were up and coming artists and songwriters. Oft have I wished I could have seen them in those days honing their craft and backing each other up. Jim moved to Nashville first and talked Buddy and his wife Julie into taking the Music City plunge. They’ve collaborated endlessly and co-written extensively for years.

Dive Into This

Just over a year ago, with Fall in full color and the air apple crisp as it has been here of late, I spent a wonderful weekend at The Festy, the annual music throwdown hosted by the Infamous Stringdusters in a Blue Ridge valley not far from Charlottesville, Virginia. Among the many musical surprises and delights, a snappy little combo called Lake Street Dive took the stage and emphatically confirmed every bit of hype and praise I had heard about them.

Rock-A-Billy

I have to assume Billy Burnette lives in my neighborhood because I see him out walking and at the corner Kroger. It’s always a bit surreal to encounter one of Nashville’s most proven musicians (Fleetwood Mac and John Fogerty haven’t called YOU to play guitar on world tours, have they now?), not to mention a devilishly handsome cat with rockabilly hair in the produce section. Just another day in Nashville I guess. And Billy is such an approachable, unassuming guy that it’s easy to be blasé about his amazing resume and heritage. So here I am to tell you why his anchoring slot on this week’s Roots is not to be missed.

Goth, Garage and Grits

I’ll be candid with y’all because we’re friends. I scare easily. I avoid horror movies. My little girl can pop out from behind a door and go “boo” and I jump. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’m just an orderly, boring kind of fellow. So my approach to Halloween, at least since the candy free-for-all of my youth, has been to basically lay low until it passes. Not that Halloween is remotely terrifying in the you’re-gonna-die sense. I just find that adults in costumes, whether zombie, tennis pro or the latest internet meme, well, they scare the bejeezus out of me too.

Thank Williams

It’s the season of lifetime achievement awards, and I’d like to propose one for Robin and Linda Williams. They were among the first eclectic Americana acts I became aware of in my life (long before the term was applied to our music), and for 40 years, they’ve been making some of the kindest, warmest and most bountiful folk/roots music that I know of. Their vocal blend is seamless and without pretense. Their songs – written or borrowed – have long been impeccable, and they’ve been rewarded for that with covers by Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tom T. Hall and many others. As a fan and an observer of what’s right and lasting in this world of hand-made music, I’m delighted that they’ll be opening our show this Wednesday night at the Loveless.

Nothin’ But The Honey

Sometimes I get these show rosters handed to me (delivered by a messenger monkey carrying a locked briefcase) and I just stand in slack-jawed amazement. How does the booking team (working out of a hidden chamber beneath the Volcano Room in Cumberland Caverns) achieve such quality, such balance, such diversity and such skin-tingling prospects? The committee must have ears as big as dinner plates. They hear all and know all. And this Wednesday, you’ll find they’ve done it again, with a bluegrass premiere by our own Jim Lauderdale and a range of supremely interesting artists from across the roots spectrum.

Hey Hey*

I spent part of this morning working on a press release about recent doings at Music City Roots and the launch of our Fall 2012 season. And holy smokes, there’s a lot going on. Symbolically, we can point with pride (and some degree of disbelief) to the fact that next Wednesday marks the show’s third birthday. Longevity is everything in radio broadcasting, and just being able to say we’re still here is a victory. More than that, though, I told a reporter this morning that I thought we’ve filled a void in Music City and become an important platform to acknowledge excellence in Americana music, Nashville’s highest quality and most artisanal musical export. I truly believe it. Furthermore, our fall calendar has been full of great side events like webcasting the IBMA Awards and producing a really fun live webcast from the “oriental rug” before the Americana Honors & Awards with Chuck Mead.

Australiana

Now THAT’s Americana! I could say it about everything I’ve seen, heard and done over the last four days. The Americana Music Association Conference and Festival has just wrapped in Nashville. I’m tired and happy and a better informed fan and supporter of the music than I was a few days ago. Even though I’ve been a part of this event ever year since 2000, I’m more awestruck than ever at the caliber of our music and the integrity and soul of our community.

Fusion Blues

There’s a legend (which I’m making up right now) in which young bluesman Chris Thomas King visited the crossroads – and figured out a way to take all four directions at once. Perhaps no one has stood up so defiantly for the right to meddle with and adapt a revered American musical tradition than this widely-traveled, Grammy-winning artist, and he’s taken lumps for it. This comes from his own bio:

From Coal To Cool

Any artist worthy of the term evolves and adapts over a career, but it’s really special to watch one grow ever-closer to her essence, when she seems to try less but accomplish more. Something like that is going on with the marvelous Kathy Mattea. She’s paring away and simplifying. And as one might have predicted, the results are luxuriously beautiful and meaningful.

Global Grass

It’s hard to even begin to talk about the wide and weirdly named idea of “world music” without taking way too much of your time. It’s a fascinating and frustrating topic that gets into why cultures have such strong biases toward their own sounds and styles and why world music was packaged and presented for years as something super geeky rather than a sumptuous feast of sound. David Byrne, one of the greatest-ever advocates for the music of the world, wrote a must-read editorial in 1999 called “I Hate World Music,” where he teases out the problems inherent in the term (“It groups everything and anything that isn't "us" into "them,” he says) even as he extols the wonders and delights of great artists from everywhere.

Prized Bluegrass

After several months of relative banjo silence on Music City Roots, bluegrass comes rolling back this week and next. It’s kind of a coincidence, but it worked out that two of our bluegrass-heavy theme nights fit back-to-back. But that’s all right with us, because bluegrass is kind of the anchor of modern day roots music – the sun around which the other rootsy genres revolve. It’s got everything one looks for in organic, down-home, hand-made music: the virtuosity, the vocals, the harmonies, the meaningful lyrics and the ensemble cohesion. It’s not that there aren’t any bad bluegrass bands out there, but in general I know of no music scene more shot through with integrity and timelessness.

Surprises

Tradition, that loaded and lovely word, plays a big role in Music City Roots, from the roots of the music to our own ways of doing things. One tradition I enjoy is being regularly surprised by the resourcefulness of our booking team. I try to keep up with what’s up in Americana music of course, but so often names appear on our lineup that send me rummaging around the internet trying to learn something. And like our loyal fans who come very much expecting to experience the thrill of discovery, I’m almost always knocked out by the talent and originality of those who wind up on the Loveless stage.

Stars of the Guitars

Most of what we bring you on Roots (and popular music in general) is built around songs and singers. And cheers to them. Most people relate more naturally to a fellow human singing a song than pure instrumental music. But it wasn’t always this way. For most of musical historical time, instrumentalists were at the center of music, and my tastes and passions in music were shaped by music without words long before I became a lover of songs myself. And since we’re trying to reflect the best hand-made music in and passing through Nashville, I decided some time ago that we needed to spotlight the instrument that’s shaped Music City more than any other. Thus the birth of Guitar Night.

Heart Breakers

Country music is about catharsis – a walk through the valley to get to the promised land – feeling good by singing about feeling bad. When someone’s so lonesome they could cry, or cryin’ over you or crying on the shoulder of the road, they need country music, the world’s cheapest therapy. And this week, Roots features a band that built cryin’ into its name and a singer whose voice alone could break your heart, while his songs will help reassemble the pieces

The Colonel and J Wunder

This Wednesday’s show will be fascinating, historic and possibly polarizing. If you really like to stick close to good old country, folk and bluegrass, this week may not be your thing. But it’ll be cool. Because of the chemistry and lineage involved. There’s a coherent theme here, even if I wouldn’t know how to name it. The whole show was curated by our friend Jeff Mosier of the Mosier Brothers and Blueground Undergrass. The connecting thread is the profound, whimsical and largely unknown influence of our guest of honor: Col. Bruce Hampton.

Freedom Sings

Your correspondent has returned from a needed vacation, complete with sand, surf and burgers and beer on the Fourth of July. We at Roots hope you enjoyed your Independence Day as much as we did and that you’re rested and ready for the free-thinking, ultra-independent artists featured in our sweltering summer season. It all begins this week with another benefit for The Nature Conservancy featuring a troika of Americana superstars.

Top of the Pops

Pop is a mysterious and fascinating term. It’s short for popular but it includes vast amounts of music that never sold very well. That’s the musicological take: anything that’s not classical music, from dirty rural blues to vaudeville to Elvis to Katy Perry. Or it can strictly mean music that makes the sales and radio charts - the Top of the Pops, as the old BBC TV show was called. But the “pop” that’s meant the most to me is the genre– the thread of music that ties Buddy Holly to the Beatles, REM and Marshall Crenshaw to The Shins. It’s music with short songs, big melodies, snappy beats and a sonic quality that’s come to be known as jangle.

Hipsters

When Missy Raines, a seven-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Bass Player of the Year Award, formed an acoustic progressive jazz band a few years ago, I’m sure a few bluegrass purists thought it was the downfall of Western Civilization. But for myself and lots of music enthusiasts, it was a sign of all that’s right and wonderful about bluegrass music. It’s a mighty mountain unto itself, but it’s a great place to base jump from as well, and great musicians should be free to do so.

Grooves

A few of our team had a literally groovy experience this week when we visited United Record Pressing, Nashville’s bustling, noisy and amazing LP factory. There we watched – and filmed – as a decades-old press clanked and hissed and steamed while spitting out new copies of our Season One compilation album on beautiful speckled brown vinyl – one every 30 seconds. That project, which came out on CD and download some weeks ago, was a nice chance to review and debate the best performances on the inaugural season of Roots back in the Fall of 2009. For me, at least one was blindingly obvious. I vividly remember watching Holy Ghost Tent Revival out of Greensboro, NC perform “Walking Over My Grave,” which isn’t nearly as sinister as the title suggests. It is lonesome lyrically, but musically it’s a bold and tuneful delight that should be in the collection of any Mumford & Sons fan. We all fell hard for HGTR that night, and we’re pleased they’re returning to Roots this week to open a show with no theme or stylistic center except maybe artists who have clearly found their own unique grooves.

No Pigeons. No Holes

When I started digging deep into Americana and what was then called alt-country in the late 1990s, No Depression magazine was the go-to source of information and inspiration. So imagine my surprise when a cover story decreed that Alejandro Escovedo was the “Artist of the Decade” for the 1990s. WHO? I’d made a vow never to be embarrassed about not knowing an artist, but how HAD I missed the artist of the DECADE? Well it turned out the founding editors of No Depression had, like many fans of independent country and old-time, come from a punk rock background, and their passion for Escovedo dated back to his days in Austin’s Rank & File, a band of former hard core punk rockers who embraced country music and thus were pigeonholed as cowpunk. On record they sounded like a mellower and countrier version of X or The Blasters in Los Angeles, bands I knew and loved. On stage they flared with fire and distortion and had a lot in common with Jason and the Scorchers. But they were short-lived, and guitarist Escovedo lit out as a solo artist.

From The Sublime To The Meticulous

Sometimes a great song sneaks up on you over time. And sometimes they shock you and freeze the first listen in a strong snapshot memory. And in that spirit, I’ll always associate the new Gretchen Peters song “Woman On The Wheel” with Harding Road and nearby H.G. Hill School. I dropped my daughter off on a Saturday morning, and Gretchen’s new album “Hello Cruel World” had been spinning in my CD player with the volume down for some reason. So my very first impression of this impressive album came improbably from turning up the player at the start of track number six. And there suddenly was this unfolding story that jolted me like the first time I heard Shawn Camp’s “Tune of the Twenty Dollar Bill” or more recently Kevin Gordon’s “Colfax.”

Let’s Dance!

As a reporter, I’ve burrowed into some of Nashville’s deepest mysteries (Why DO they play Rascal Flatts on country radio?), but I’ve been stumped by its most perplexing paradox. Why doesn’t Music City dance more? There are certainly pockets of enthusiastic dancers in clubs and societies around town, but the industry crowd (and yes, the Americana cognoscenti are as guilty as anyone) are more inclined to listen to live music with arms crossed than with hips shaking. Last year I went to see Trombone Shorty at the Grammy Block Party. In any other city, his funky-butt hard-edged New Orleans grooves would have been gasoline on a boogie fire, but your correspondent had to dance nearly alone. Sigh.

Father’s Day

The Google tells me that Father’s Day is June 17 this year, but for us, it’s this Wednesday when we celebrate roots music fatherhood in at least two ways. We’re thrilled to welcome the great John McEuen and his two sons Jonathan and Nathan. And we’re featuring musicians from the new Pa’s Fiddle Project, a set of new recordings of some of America’s greatest old time tunes. We haven’t had a really rich old string band sound on our stage in a while, so it’ll be a welcome return to what really are our musical roots. And McEuen is one of Americana’s true founding fathers.

That Fellow With The Cello

The first time I recall seeing/hearing a cello in a roots/Americana band was Lyle Lovett’s Large Band. And then about the same time I got into the old-time duo of Norman and Nancy Blake, where she would bow or pluck to back up Norman’s exquisite picking. That was the early 90s, but these days the cello is quite popular, even fashionable, in the folk world. And a good thing too, because it may have the mellowest, warmest and most intimate tone of any instrument. Crooked Still puts the cello in service of modern bluegrass. The Bee Eaters make chamber folk with it. And The Avett Brothers have a cellist who rocks out standing up.

Return of the Upstream Swimmers

They say salmon return to their birthplace to spawn, implying a certain cycle-of-life continuity vibe among the Coho, Sockeye and Chinook sets. And having just listened to and enjoyed very much the first new Leftover Salmon album in eight years, it seems that the legendary inventors of Polyethnic Cajun Samgrass have internalized the ethos of their namesake fish. Put more simply, a genre-bending, blazingly fun band has reunited and picked up where it began in 1989 and where it left off back in 2005.

Almost Heaven

Until my sister married a Charleston, West Virginia guy and moved there, I admit I didn’t give that fair state much thought. It’s often portrayed as remote and less than hip, but that’s not fair. But browse the relatively new West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and you’ll discover how much has emerged from its misty hills and its legendary WWVA Jamboree radio show, including Little Jimmy Dickens, Hazel Dickens, Hawkshaw Hawkins and studio wizard Charlie McCoy.

Reviving Classics

One of my little tidbits of wisdom for the 21st century music business is that if you’re going to make an album and put your name on one of the 100,000 CDs released in a year, it should be more than just your latest collection of 11 songs. It should have a deeper reason to be than it was two years since your last album. It should have story and some kind of conceptual center that will help it rise above the noise. Case in point: Chuck Mead’s new Back At The Quonset Hut album. It’s a story within a story within a story. And the guy who dreamed it up and pulled it off (and who ably guest-hosted the show late last season, by the way) is playing the next Music City Roots.

Flower Flower

Some readers of this blog know that for the past year at my house we’ve been parenting a new member of our family and a new American: 12-year-old FongChong. And one of the many interesting parts of watching her adjust to her new life with us and in Music City is the music from my world that she latches on to. FongChong’s first Americana favorite was Jill Andrews singing “The Mirror,” which captivated her with its melody and bell-toned voice. But lately, her number one request has been “Flower Flower” from the new album by The Vespers.

Sisters and Brothers

Imagine growing up as a McCrary Sister, in Nashville’s first family of gospel music. When I spoke on stage in late 2010 with Ann and Regina McCrary, they made it pretty vivid.

Humming Along

Justin Wade Tam is a busy fellow. Since arriving from his San Diego hometown and studying at Belmont University, he’s helped found Harmony Republic, which evolved into Music City Unsigned, a splendid support organization for musicians and community-minded folks. He’s managed events and become a director at Musicians Corner, the wonderful outdoor concert series at Centennial Park. And, little surprise, he’s a musician. But what is surprising is that his new band, Humming House, has taken off like one of the 1930s speedsters pictured inside the debut album.

Variety Show

Folks, I’ve just returned from two remarkable days at our sister show Bluegrass Underground, watching the team shoot the show’s second season for PBS. I’ll write more about this soon, but for now suffice it to say that I was overwhelmed and moved by the experience. Todd, John and company assembled a top-of-the-world lineup and staged a pristine looking and sounding festival in the under-world, and I saw performances by the Del McCoury Band, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, The Civil Wars, Sarah Jarosz and the Time Jumpers that I’ll never forget. Our own host Jim Lauderdale played a magnificent acoustic set that also happened to be the funniest of the weekend. No surprise there.

Heavy Wood

I have a musical secret. As much as I love and cherish folk, blues and bluegrass, at my core, I’m a jazzbo. If I really was going to be abandoned on that proverbial desert island, I’d have more jazz than anything. And because I really value modern music and innovation, I’ve become a devoted fan of Medeski, Martin & Wood, a trio that’s enjoyed inspiring commercial success for a strictly instrumental and improvisational band. A lot of folks in the rootsy community have caught on to these guys over the years, and certain jamgrass bands are likely to have shared stages and audiences with MMW, who have a certain roots sensibility themselves. Keyboardist John Medeski had a side band once with Robert Randolph (pedal-steel genius) and the North Mississippi All-Stars, and I’d like to formally propose a reunion of that band on Music City Roots. Any time guys.

Better Angels

I love twang, train beats and banjers as much as anyone, so it’s cool to have Bakersfield school country troubadour Dave Gleason and the wild-a## bluegrass of The Cleverlys coming back to the Loveless stage for our Feb 15 show. But as I looked at our lineup for the week, I was particularly excited to see that in one show, we’ll be treated two of the most distinctive and intelligent female artists emerging in the US right now. Angel Snow and Samantha Crain won’t be categorized or cornered. One may tend to the elegant and the other to the earthy, but I believe both of them to be truly state of the art.

Crossing County Lines

After a week heavy on tradition and four visions of gradual change at our Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America night (see HERE for details), we felt the need to once again celebrate the transgressive and the progressive – to roll the dice and see what happens with some bands famous for hopping over fences and scaring a few folks even as they delight a hell of a lot more.

True & Blue

Folks who follow bluegrass even a little tend to know about the International Bluegrass Music Association, which holds its annual convention and Fan Fest every Fall in Music City. But many aficionados of deep, lonesome, hard-core, ultra-traditional, real-deal bluegrass have an even softer spot in their hearts for Nashville’s OTHER big bluegrass gathering – one that kicks off this week and which defines our show’s theme for Wednesday night. The Society For The Preservation of Bluegrass Music In America, abbreviated as SPBGMA (say “spigma”) is a smaller but distilled throwdown that takes place annually at the Sheraton Music City out by the airport.

Off To School

A little known fact: the first big Nashville star to attend Belmont wasn’t Brad Paisley or Trisha Yearwood (famous alums both) but Minnie Pearl. Back then (the not-so-roaring 1930s), it was called Ward-Belmont and it was a finishing school for proper Southern ladies. Young Sarah Colley really wanted to study theater in New York or at a major drama program, but the Depression had taken a toll on her family’s finances, and she found WB an affordable local option. She performed Shakespeare there and went on to run touring theater troupes before creating her famous character Minnie Pearl and taking her to the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw.

Lifelong Commitment

I will always marvel that amid the comings and goings and doings of Americans who fix cars, teach math, drive trucks, try cases, fill cavities, etc. etc. there’s this slice of the population who feel the calling of music more than anything. They are the family bands, the touring twentysomethings and the 60-year old cult figures who pound away year after year, sharing their souls with others and stoically putting up with bad gigs, endless miles and an uncertain livelihood and legacy.

Pulling Them All Together

Barry Waldrep says he never set out to be a talent scout or cultivator of the next generation, but this all-around Southern musical all-star has found himself in the appealing position of mentor. When Waldrep rounds out Roots this week with not one but two sets, it won’t be as a typical front man. He’ll be evoking the sound and spirit of his new album Live In Atlanta, with a collective known as the Band of Brothers & Sisters. And in many cases, those “siblings” are young artists he’s discovered and with whom he’s collaborated.

Like Lightning, One Hundred

We humans just LOVE to count things, and we have ten fingers and ten toes, so tens and any number divisible by ten feels important to us. And ten tens makes that juicy round number 100, a constant source of fascination. We commemorate one hundreds. Live to 100 and you’re considered smashingly lucky. Centenaries are big news. So forgive us for feeling a wee bit proud that when we return for the opening of the 2012 year and its Winter Season, Music City Roots will be staging its 100th show since going on the air in October of 2009.

Christmas on the Farm

Joey & Rory got a gift. It came a few years ago in the form of a TV show called Can You Duet? on CMT. In case you hadn’t noticed, country music isn’t exactly full of opportunities for rootsy, comforting, timeless twang to reach millions of people at once, and this made one overnight.

Big Top

In the beginning, there were fiddles and banjos, instruments with hundreds of years of tradition, radically transformed in America, before records and radio, before cars and highways. In the age of media and mobility, string band music was transformed anew and energized as something that would be called bluegrass. And in the wild, magical late 20th century, that branch became its own trunk of its own tree with many branches and stems. Out there you’ll find Yonder Mountain String Band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Chris Thile’s Punch Brothers and just a whole lot of other great music.

Complicated Genius

Late last year, I was honored to be asked to write a career/album bio for Malcolm Holcombe, one of the most interesting and shockingly powerful folk musicians of our time. I’ll never forget seeing him for the first time, after much build-up from those in-the-know, at Douglas Corner with a small acoustic band. His talent and passion simply exploded – out of his bony fingers and out of his chapped throat. After seeing many too many bards-with-guitars in the post-James Taylor mold, here was a guy who actually had the presence of the original bluesmen – the ones I thought I’d only ever get to hear on scratchy reissues. The songwriting was pure poetry and the delivery was pure expression. It wasn’t always pleasant, but it was as meaningful as anything I’ve heard coming out of a guy with a guitar.

The Book of Luke

When something works, don’t mess with it. Then it might become a tradition. And we think we’ve found one. It was two years ago that Todd The Booking Guy and Laurie The Backstage Genius conspired to invite 18 South out to play our Thanksgiving eve show, and we’re happy to say that they’ll be back for year three this week. This quintessential Americana sextet folds country, blues, gospel and soul together as well as any band in Nashville or the nation. They are part of our family and their family has gotten bigger (lead singers Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall recently had twins), and what’s Thanksgiving about if not family?

We Love

Visiting Fox Hollow is a rarified Nashville experience that relatively few people get to enjoy. I’m talking about the old world country estate that’s been owned since the late 1960s by Tom T. Hall and his wife Dixie. It’s over some hills from the hyper busy Cool Springs Mall – which wasn’t even a gleam in a developer’s eye when the Halls moved in – and you can hear an overtone of traffic white noise in the distance. But mostly what you hear is the wind, the creek, the birds and the Hall’s pet peacocks, which patrol the property and call out to each other that everything is fine.

Five Out Of Ten Out Of Tenn

Ever since the music industry blew up, I’ve believed that one good way through the confusion and fog is to look backward to go forward. After all, American music built a mighty industry and a treasure-filled catalog of magnificence between 1900 and 1980, so now that the formulas of the 90s and 00s have fallen apart, we can ask what did they do back in olden days that worked so well? We at Music City Roots took our cues from early radio, hoping that the tactile engagement of live performance, well presented on the air, would cultivate community and raise the tide in the harbor. But for me, the experiment in Nashville that has most brilliantly updated a great old idea is the touring package show known as Ten Out Of Tenn.

Loaded For Bear

Such good timing on this week’s appearance by Bearfoot at Music City Roots, because I’ve been looking for a chance/excuse to post something about their superb new album American Story. This band has been through a great deal of change, but don’t let the personnel shuffling dissuade you from checking out this Alaska-born, Nashville-based progressive bluegrass/acoustic band. Things seem to have fallen together nice and clean, because American Story is one of the most refreshing, alluring projects I’ve had in my CD player this year, and there are plenty of reasons why.

Heart-Starting

We do try to stay on the cutting edge of antique-inspired music here at Music City Roots, and in all humility, I think we’ve nailed it this week. We’ve got a superb lineup that’s going to wrap up with two acts that comprise a remarkably wide picture of what’s going on in Americana/roots/indie music. One’s a songwriter from here in Nashville who was tapped this summer to tour with the super-hot Civil Wars. The other’s an uproarious band from New York that’s leading that city’s old-time country music revival scene.

The Over Down Under

This week, in the midst of the Americana Music Association convening and good-timing, I joined several hundred AMAers at what’s become an annual tradition: the “Aussie Lunch” at the Second Fiddle, with free barbecue and a lineup of roots music artists from Australia. For the past few years, an organization called Sounds Australia has been helping Aussie artists find new audiences and distribution channels around the world. And part of that effort has been to send a contingent to AMA, led by the wild and wonderful Dobe Newton, he of the legendary Bushwackers band and double-take inducing suits.

Americana, Of Thee We Sing

Changes of season stir the blood and inspire. And all the more for nerds like me, because this is the season of musical gatherings, confabs, summits and camaraderie. Last week, the International Bluegrass Music Association held its World of Bluegrass, and Music City Roots was there, taking in the tunes and webcasting eclectic jams from our 20th floor suite. This week, I attended the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit in Washington DC, where I got to tell the Music City Roots story to an audience of music industry progressives as part of a panel on local music scenes and the power of community.

Will Power

It’s one thing to play a great set at Music City Roots; it’s another to make a searing memory. Will Hoge, Nashville’s home-town wonder rocker, did just that in January 2010 when he performed “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” in a show-closing set. In it, he conjured dreams of writing and rocking inspired by a glowing radio dial. And since we’ll always see ourselves as a radio show at our core, the message and the music fused together in a rare way, and a few of us high fived each other back stage as we recognized our heart in Will’s song. This, as we shall see, is not an uncommon thing with Will.

A Very Bristol Session

If you’re a border-straddler, Bristol is the place for you. The line dividing Tennessee and Virginia runs right down the middle of State Street. And since those legendary 1927 recording sessions where Ralph Peer recorded the Carter Family, Pop Stoneman and Jimmie Rodgers for the Victor Talking Machine Co., Bristol has been a key city in the journey of country music. And country music wouldn’t have become anything without fusion and fearless fence hopping.

For Love and Country

It sounds like a novel by David Foster Wallace or some other slightly off-kilter genius – a novel that would have been panned for being too far out. A kid from 1960s Mississippi becomes a mandolin prodigy and starts working for a major star at age 13. His first crush is on the prettiest, most golden throated gal singer of her era. Her first big hit lands when he’s six years old, and he admires her from afar like every other fan. Time passes. Both become great country music artists. Their worlds converge. They collaborate. They flirt. They marry.

A Bridge Around The World

We hope we’re not over-reaching by claiming a certain kinship to the remarkable musical and cultural events coming at us later in the week, because just 48 hours after we kick off the next edition of Music City Roots, the National Folk Festival will get underway on the Bicentennial Mall in downtown Nashville. This event traces its origins to the time of the FDR administration and indeed vocal support from the great First Lady Eleanor. As they say on the website: “Musicians and craftspeople from every state in the Union and most U.S. territories have participated in this ‘moveable feast of deeply traditional folk arts,’ which is now attracting the largest audiences in its history.”

The Raconteurs

Marshall Chapman is a great storyteller and apparently a great listener as well. Because after publishing a memoir of her journey from South Carolina debutante to Music City maven, rocking singer songwriter and confidante of outlaws (Goodbye Little Rock and Roller), she followed it up with a book of interviews, where she does only about ten percent of the talking.

The Four Stages of Bluegrass

There’s no denial, anger or bargaining involved. And I’m not talking about getting over bluegrass addiction, for which there is no cure or need of a cure. I’m talking about careers – the ones we’ve watched develop and evolve in the bluegrass universe. Our lineup this Wednesday is a picture of artists at four different stages of a life in this awesome, career-oriented music. It proves that fans stick with great artists over the long haul, and it suggests that today’s young artists have a lot to look forward to.

Serenity

Seeking inspiration for this week’s preview, I pulled out Mindy Smith’s debut album, One Moment More from the winter of 2004. I hadn’t heard it in ages, and it rolls even sweeter now than it did when it shocked people with its quality upon its debut. It kicks off with the powerful “Come To Jesus” and concludes with an epic cover of (and outrageous duet with) Dolly Parton on “Jolene.” In between are nine more timeless songs that are hard to top for folk fusion laced with beauty and heart. The music is serene, but it also snaps; no muddy lethargy here. Mindy’s limpid voice could charm and beguile singing a German technical manual, but as it happens she writes lovely, inhabitable songs too. “One Moment More” will be a melancholy standard as long as she’s willing to perform it. No wonder she’s made armies of dedicated fans who swoon for a week before she comes to town and then throw bouquets, or at least write gushing Facebook comments in her wake.

American Pickers

In the beginning, God placed six strings across a fretted plank and attached them to a resonating box of wood shaped like a woman. Good idea. Okay, actually it was the Spanish, and we here in the U.S.A. should be forever in their debt, because inadvertently some guys back in the 16th century gave America the instrument it needed to rewrite the history of music from the ground up in the 20th century. The guitar has been America’s muse and its most companionable musical friend. You can take ‘em places. You can play them solo or in a group – electric, acoustic or somewhere in between. You can pick them like Doc Watson or strum them like Dolly Parton with four-inch fingernails or stroke them with a bare thumb like Wes Montgomery. People will it seems never run out of fresh ways of playing this deceptively simple box.

Girl Power

Last week, I realized I was discriminating against our lone female act of the week, the fabulous Amy Black, when I titled my essay “Soul Men” and focused on the Bo-Keys and some of the other dudes who were getting set to play. Amy jokingly called me on it after the show, and that was fine. I apologized for the way the editorial cookie had crumbled. This week the wonderful band Frontier Ruckus is gonna be the overlooked minority in the room when they make their return. Because besides their manly selves, our lineup is made up of a bunch of talented, vivacious women. And I just gotta talk about them.

Soul Men

Well this week may be a case of almost, ALMOST too much of a good thing. We’ve got a six-act night just packed with renowned talent and legendary figures. It’s hard to know where to start, but it wasn’t hard to know where to finish. When you’ve got an eight-piece, horn-driven band from Memphis with veterans of shows and recordings by Isaac Hayes, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and other soul greats, they’re gonna close the show.

Award Winners

David Letterman used to say before Stupid Pet Tricks segments, “It’s an exhibition, not a competition, please no wagering.” And that’s true for music too. It ain’t sports. Even though we have charts and Grammy Awards, it’s safe to say that when you’re listening to a transcendent performance getting carried away, you’re not sitting there thinking “wow, she’s gonna WIN!” That said, the world of music is full of contests from American Idol down to the local high school talent show, and sometimes they can be telling.

Hers and His

The Spring 2011 season of Music City Roots comes to a close this week with a lineup that shows off as well as any we’ve had our belief in variety and quality. We have a full set in store from our super-host Jim Lauderdale. We’ll also be featuring one of Americana’s new starlets, a glowing female singer-songwriter, an acclaimed Canadian folk trio and a Nashville string band with loads of humor and harmony. I just have a very good feeling about all of this, but I want to point you to two artists who for me are evidence of why Americana music is so healthy and exciting these days.

Crazy Over Y’all

Learning about Foster & Lloyd came as a bit of a shock, because my initial impressions of late 1980s country music weren’t inspiring, what with your Lee Greenwoods and Exiles and Alabamas (apologies to big fans of same) ruling the airwaves. But there were some gems amid the chiffon and soft focus male perms, and my education on that began one day in about 1993 when I had CMT on while putzing around the house, and suddenly there was this cat who looked nothing at all like the George Strait clones singing one of those songs that could turn almost anyone into a country music fan on first listen. He was Radney Foster and the song was his solo debut “Just Call Me Lonesome,” and I was enthralled. Further investigation revealed that Radney hadn’t just materialized out of Texas. He’d apparently been part of this duo.

Old & New, Green & Blue

When Town Mountain kicks off Music City Roots this week, those with the bluegrass gene will rise up and holler. We’ve not had a big blast of ‘grass on the show in a while, but this week we’re going to dive back in hard, starting with this buzzed-about Asheville band and closing with acts that represent both sides of the newgrass/bluegrass coin. Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass will offer up their trippy, soulful take on acoustic tradition in the penultimate slot. And taking us home will be a duo of Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson, two timeless, Opry-steeped voices who have joined forces for an album, whose release we’re celebrating this week.

Family Time

Any time groups of musical people get together on a regular basis to share music among themselves and others, the metaphor of family usually comes up. The Grand Ole Opry team has been spoken of as a family for decades. Bands often refer to themselves as ‘like family’ with all the affection and/or strife that implies. And we’ve felt like family at Music City Roots since those early shows when we realized how much we depended on one another and how much love we had for each other and the overall enterprise.

Cordle Slays Em

It has come to my attention that most of you were NOT paying close attention to mainstream country music in the early 2000s (imagine that!). But I was, because it was part of my beat as a reporter at The Tennessean. And lots of strange and crazy things happened, like the surprise triumph of O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the excommunication of the Dixie Chicks for political reasons. But nothing was quite as nuts as the parable of “Murder On Music Row.” If you don’t know the story, you should. If you already know it, it’s still pretty delicious to revisit it.

Pour A Cold One

Never have we needed Blackstone Brewery more to bless our lineup of bands. Because folks, we’ve had nights of cerebral singer songwriters, and this ain’t that. We’ve had dudes with autoharps. This ain’t that. We’ve had bluegrass babes. Nor is it that. This is beer-drinking music through and through. Often there’s no easy thread tying our acts together, but there is here, at least in my fevered imagination. And it’s beer. Trucker rock, deep blues, quirky honky tonk. It all goes with a cold one or two. And so where perhaps I need to warn a few of you away until a night that will suit your more rarified tastes, I’m urging most of you to get out to the barn on Wednesday, because it’ll be the Loveless Roadhouse for sure.

Golden Age

Coming of age in the 1980s, my generation was fated to learn about music in the age of MTV. Now there’s nothing wrong with music videos per se. But make no mistake, the advent of MTV-style marketing and digital audio processing marked a fundamental shift in musical values, and it meant that if you wanted to really understand the power of the human voice and the emotional undercurrents of great singing, you were going to have to go out of your way to educate yourself, because the mainstream music business and radio were NOT going to help you. In fact, they were going to bamboozle you with auto-tuned, processed parodies of the human voice and subliminally suggest at all times that if you young folks out there spent significant time listening to Billie Holliday or Bing Crosby or Jean Shepard, you were trafficking with old fogies and were hopelessly out of step with the Mountain Dew sexy tattoo skater lifestyle that ALL your peers were into.

Breaking Up and Coming Together

Cherryholmes has been a true phenomenon in the world of bluegrass, a world that doesn’t get to use that word very often. At a time when it generally took a decade or more for bands or artists to “emerge” and even be considered for top awards and major audience mindshare, a very unusual family band from Los Angeles (of all places) appeared out of the blue and caused a major stir. They got signed to the prestigious Skaggs Family Records and after just a few years of touring and recording they were in line for Grammy Awards and they won the IBMA’s Entertainer of the Year.

Feminine Mystique

I noted a couple shows ago that our bands were especially bearded, and last week’s show was a little bit man-centric as well. But we restore balance to our yin-yang this week with a fabulous flock of females, including a duo who’s making a comeback after years on hiatus.

If You Knew Suzy

Many years ago, during my country music education, I happened to flip past some channel – probably TNN or PBS – and there was Suzy Bogguss, an artist I was already somewhat familiar with, and Jerry Jeff Walker, then to me still a mystery man, singing a lonesome duet about a cowboy. I’d find out later that the song was called “Night Rider’s Lament,” and it was one of those performances I’ll never forget, where the simple beauty and elegant expressiveness of a well-written, well-performed song just smacked me. I’d enjoyed Suzy to that point. After that I called myself a fan.

Globe Spanning

The ancient scholar Petrarch (you know all about him, right?) wrote that “sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure.” It’s as if he’d been listening to modern-day radio and dreaming of relief, maybe something on the order of a wildly eclectic live show with feeling, spontaneity and artistry from all over the map. Well brother, we have his answer and yours. Music City Roots is always full of twists and turns, but rarely do we get a smorgasbord of influences like this week’s lineup. There’s no one artist that sums up the night, so here’s a little bit about each of them.

It’s Only Natural

Music City Roots runs on renewable resources: hope, faith and passion. Sure we burn a few watts of electricity bringing the music to the people over every means available, but overall we try to get a green bang for our buck. So as we start our Spring season this week, we celebrate our long-standing partnership with the Nature Conservancy (in the form of our regular, quarterly fund-raiser show, with all proceeds going to the world’s leading conservation organization). And at the same time we’re giddy over two new partners who also value the planet: Nissan and Whole Foods. Welcome, we say! The official, press-release style announcements will come very soon, but we’ve already started doing events with both companies (including Tuesday when we’ll be at Whole Foods in Green Hills for a noon performance by Blue Mother Tupelo), and as we go forward you’ll see us helping tell the story of Nissan’s innovative LEAF all-electric, no-emissions car and the Whole Foods philosophy of local, seasonal food. These new relationships are very exciting for us and we look forward to growing together.

Blow Your Horn and Shout

Seasons come and seasons go, but I don’t think we’ve ever been so ready to say goodbye to winter as we are in Nashville this year. Cold, snowy, dark and long it was, and while we had some wonderful warm Wednesday nights in the Barn, it’s going to be a whole lot nicer with the doors open and the balmy breezes blowing in. To celebrate this transition, we’ve lined up a big time, six-act, three-hour extravaganza as we close out our 2011 winter season this week. And we could hardly have found more celebratory music to bring to the party.

Quality Coverage

First of all, Hello. Your humble scribe and Roots interview guy has returned from three weeks in a distant land, and I couldn’t be happier to be preparing my ears and soul for another Wednesday night of good times at the Barn. I missed a lot about home, but nothing more than Music City Roots. Many thanks to Jon Weisberger, Larry Nager and Jewly Hight for their inspiring and interesting blogging and interviewing in my absence.

Girls Club, Boys Allowed

Start scanning down the list of artists on this week’s bill, and you can’t help but notice something out of the ordinary—they’re almost all women. Even the guest host, freewheeling force of nature Marshall Chapman, and the guest interviewer, yours truly. Females, the lot of us. That is, until the special final act—a veteran band of brothers from different mothers.

Let The Good Times Roll!

Budgets seem to be on everyone’s minds, from our own kitchen tables to Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. So this week, I thought I’d give The Tennessean’s Ms. Cheap a run for her well-pinched pennies and write about Nashville’s biggest live-music bargain. On any given week, the Music City Roots lineup is easily worth three times the $10 admission, but this Wednesday, it’s serious sticker shock – really, really great sticker shock. For the price of a movie ticket, you get:

Folk Alliance Show

Hi, I’m Larry Nager, your Music City Roots guest interviewer and blogger for the next couple weeks, while Craig Havighurst is off to China. I’m a lifelong musician and music journalist, having started at 14 in jug bands playing washboard and washtub bass and going on to play upright and electric bass, mandolin and guitar in bluegrass bands with Red Allen, Harley Allen and now Tony Ellis, as well as blues with Big Joe Duskin. For the past 30 years, I’ve covered music for magazines and daily newspapers (remember those?), as well as written a book (Memphis Beat; St. Martin’s Press, 1998) and worked on several documentaries, most notably Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music. I also do the interviews for Bluegrass Underground at Cumberland Caverns.

Goodbye, Hello

It’s a funny kind of week at Music City Roots, as we say goodbye sadly to the legendary Charlie Louvin, whom we’d hoped to have with us for the show until pancreatic cancer took him at the end of January, and, in a happier—and temporary—way to interviewer Craig Havighurst, off to claim a new addition to his family (and ours) in the form of a daughter. Until he returns in a few weeks, his duties will be handled first by me, and then by my virtual twin, Larry Nager—both of us bluegrass bass-playing music journalists transplanted to Music City from Cincinnati, though I freely admit that Larry has a much finer head of hair than I.

“Hip, Wry, Gifted”

Not my words. Nope. I draw my headline this week from NPR’s veteran arts correspondent Susan Stamberg talking about one of our featured performers this week, Susan Werner.

Have You Herd?

Like last year’s awesome Double Rainbow guy, I sometimes just stand there astonished, meekly asking “What does it MEAN?” Case in point - studying the Music City Roots lineup for Wednesday. We’ll be visited by: A star of the singer/songwriter circuit. A semi-ironic old-school country band. A dulcet-toned newcomer with a showpiece moustache. A hot folk/rock outfit. And my favorite dance band in the world. It’s a smorgasbord. It’s musical tapas. And I’m hungry.

A Righteous Brother a First Son

Seth Walker felt like a member of the Music City Roots family from the first time we met. Tipped off by the fandom of major soul songwriter Gary Nicholson, Seth found his way to the Roots stage, where he blew us away. But even before that, we met him and got to find out what a solid guy he is. Dudes in Nashville, and I suppose elsewhere, are prone to calling other dudes “brother” upon meeting and man-shake-clutch-half-hugging. I’ve found myself dropping the b-bomb more frequently recently and wondering if it feels affected, but it actually stems from a pretty deep feeling that this community is a remarkably tight-knit family that looks out for one another. And in that context, I know we all are pleased to call him Brother Seth.

Reverent and Irreverent

It’s something my generation and those after didn’t live through, so we can only see it on archival film. A preacher thunders against the evils of rock and roll, circa 1955. While some kids party to the sounds of Elvis and Carl Perkins, others protest those records as anathema to the righteous life. It all seems a bit quaint in retrospect (though I’ve felt at times like burning more than a few records being played on radio today). But part of the wonder of American music is that it’s not only had this long-running tension between the conservative and the libertine, but it’s been better for it.

We Love A Parade

“We’ll be sincere but not pretentious,” David Mayfield told an interviewer recently about an upcoming performance by his new band. “But we also don’t mind being goofy. There will be dancing. It will be sort of Simon & Garfunkel meets Randy Newman.”

Wrapping

All good things must come to an end, or at least take a break, so this week’s show marks the end of the 2010 fall season and a great year, and we’re looking forward to a shimmering, twinkling good time.

Roses and the Snow

As I write, the first snow of the year is falling outside and the new album from Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen is on the stereo. It’s a beautiful live recording from The Edwards Barn in Nipomo, CA, and as a preview of what’s to come this week in OUR barn, it’s incredibly exciting. The performance is comprised of tight, rippling acoustic versions of songs from various chapters of these old friends’ illustrious musical careers. From the Desert Rose Band we hear “Love Reunited.” They lay into a fabulous version of “Together Again” by one of their key musical influences, Buck Owens. They strip the psychedelic paint off “Eight Miles High” from the Byrds catalog and amaze with “Sin City,” one of the classics from the Flying Burrito Brothers, which Hillman co-wrote with Gram Parsons. Clearly going to be a favorite of the year.

Masters

Tension between the old and new has always been and will always be an important part of bluegrass music. Artists who prove cutting edge and controversial in one decade become legends in the next. This week at Roots, we have two such musicians - trailblazers who have achieved iconic status as both band leaders and instrumentalists: J.D. Crowe and Jesse McReynolds.

Gratitude

I think we all remember last year's pre Thanksgiving show as one of the most transcendent nights we've had at Music City Roots. The troika of John Cowan, Shawn Camp and 18 South just hit all the right vibes and reached a spiritual place that sent us all into the holidays feeling close, loved and optimistic. So at the risk of repeating ourselves, we figured why mess with success? We tried to pull together the same combo for this year's Thanksgiving show, and everyone agreed!

The Humbler Index

I’m a bit of a statistics geek, so let me try a new musical metric out on you. Think of a musical artist and give him/her/them two scores. X is how good they are, on a scale of 1-100 (obviously subjective, but that’s okay). The other, Y, is how famous they are. One means they have no fans and no friends and they’ve never left their mother’s basement, while 100 is, oh, U2. The number to pay attention to is the difference between those ratings, or X-Y. Let’s call it their Humbler Score, after the nickname of Danny Gatton, the late great DC area guitar player who is in my estimation one of the least-known geniuses of the 20th century. His X would be in the 90s and his Y would be below 20, so Gatton would have a whopping 70+ Humbler Score. Are ya with me?

The Roots of Oates

It might not be immediately obvious listening to “Private Eyes” or “Kiss Is On My List,” but John Oates of the smash duo Hall & Oates cut his teeth on real deal folk and roots music. It wasn’t all he listened to as a young guy growing up outside of Philadelphia in the 50s and 60s, to be sure, but he says Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt were among his favorites.

Calling All Hipsters

There are few sounds as compelling in the world as the thick, warm grooviness of a really nice double bass, and it’s a pity that those who play this demanding instrument are often hidden there in the back of the band in a support role. But fans of jazz especially know never to underestimate the bass player. After all, some of the finest composers and bandleaders of all time – like my boys Charles Mingus and Dave Holland – were/are bass players. And this week at Roots, we’ll be hearing from an extraordinary bass player who earned her reputation in bluegrass but who as a bandleader has exploded the genre barriers and offered us a striking new acoustic sound.

Getting Slideways

In some ways, Jerry Douglas is the reason I moved to Nashville. Not that he personally invited me or anything, but you’ll see what I mean. During my post-college years when I really jumped down the roots music rabbit hole, there were scores of important artists and musicians living and passed who made the journey rich and rewarding. But as much as I loved the bedrock tradition and the singing/songwriting troubadours that made up most of the Americana landscape (even if we weren’t calling it that yet), I grew up as an instrumentalist with a deep love of jazz and classical music that informed how I listened to folk music. There at the center of the swirling, diverse bluegrass universe was a cadre of musicians who brought together everything I’d ever appreciated about instrumental music. They were scrawling new ideas on old blueprints and making something impeccably modern out of beautiful old archetypes. Most of them were the guys who made up the short-lived but hugely influential band Strength In Numbers and the so-called Telluride All Stars. Bela Fleck was the wizard of the banjo. Sam Bush was the mullah of the mandolin. And there were others. But something about Jerry Douglas and the sound of his icy, clear, soulful dobro cut through like nothing else.

Family Banding

Sure, you must think we’re stretching and yawning, waking up from our two-week “vacation” as we prepare to return to the Loveless Cafe Barn for the new season of Music City Roots, but nothing could be further from the truth. A lot’s been shaking here behind the scenes, and we’ve just made a big announcement to prove it: As of our Oct. 20 show, which happens to be OUR FIRST ANNIVERSARY, Music City Roots is moving to a new broadcast home, Lightning 100, WRLT at 100.1 on your FM dial. It’s a big change, but one we think will be great for getting the word out about the show, reaching new audiences and having a great stereo FM signal in our home market. Lightning 100 has a long tradition of playing progressive music in Music City, and even though we’re a 1930s style radio show, and even though we have immense reverence for the past, we’ve long known that if we weren’t out on the edge with our music, nothing else would matter. So we can’t wait to see how many new friends we make on WRLT.

Banding Together For Bluegrass

The grass is always greener someplace else, the old saying goes, but there is truly no better place to be than in Nashville during the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass. For years, this has been the top annual gathering of the tribes for bluegrass business folk and fans alike. The event’s move from Louisville to Nashville in 2005 allowed the IBMA Awards to take place at the Ryman Auditorium, where bluegrass music was fundamentally shaped if not invented by Bill Monroe’s band in the mid 1940s. This is the week one feels most connected by the common purpose of promoting and exposing this vital American music, a mission we at Roots are happy to pursue all year around.

Riches

I vividly remember discovering Kim Richey. It was 1995 and I was just starting to put it together in my brain that country music was way more diverse than “they” ever told us and that an entire movement was galvanizing around writers and artists who had nothing to do with the low-fat milky stuff that had taken over a radio format I’d once enjoyed. I was in the Tower Records in Manhattan (words to make a music fan cry) and one of the listening stations featured a kinky haired woman from Nashville who sounded like she’d been visited in turns by the muses of the Byrds, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne and Gail Davies. And there was that crystalline, emotion-laden voice. Sold. Fan for life.

The Fest Continues

I write from the middle of Americana music week, feeling surrounded by and totally immersed in amazing sounds, stories and all-around artistry. It began with this week’s Music City Roots, an official kick-off event for the Americana Music Association’s annual convention and festival, and it was an absolute blast, with Chuck Mead, Manda Mosher, Madison Violet, Corb Lund and the Steeldrivers. The next night we were treated probably the best Americana Honors & Awards show ever, with gobsmacking performances at the Ryman Auditorium by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Roseanne Cash, the Avett Brothers, Lucinda Williams, Joe Pug and many more, not to mention a 30-minute show closing set by Robert Plant and his Band of Joy.

Americana The Beautiful

There’s a lot of talk these days about ‘taking our country back,’ and while I’m not sure what folks mean by that, I do know that more than 10 years ago, a small group of music aficionados decided to take country music back from the over-fluffed, auto-tuned eye candy it had become during its 1990s explosion. Those pioneers chose as their banner the name Americana. Not so much a genre as a frame of reference, Americana embraced what was then called alt-country, folk, blues and bluegrass under a big tent. Now the trade group born of that movement, the Americana Music Association (AMA) boils the music’s many complexities down to the nice clear statement: “contemporary music that honors and/or derives from American roots music.”

It Must Mean A Thing

Because we sure have that swing. This week’s Music City Roots will celebrate that elusive and wondrous musical quality that put the snap in American music for decades, often in unexpected ways. Say “swing” to most folks and it will probably conjure up an image of dance bands from the 1940s or for country fans maybe Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, which did with fiddles what Tommy Dorsey did with horns. All that is absolutely on point, but the feeling of swing also permeates jazz, bluegrass and even some pop music, when the timing is right. It’s a heartbeat. It’s a groove. You know it when you hear it.

For Whit It’s Worth

Once upon a time not very long ago there was a band that would have been perfect for Music City Roots even if their name was calculated to give the Loveless Cafe crew a culinary heart attack. The Biscuit Burners were a neo-traditional band out of Asheville, NC, which landed in all kinds of prestigious places, from the BBC to Mountain Stage and a bunch of great festivals. Perhaps you saw them.

Say You Saw Her When

I have a good feeling about this. Music City Roots this week includes a performance by a young Nashville artist who’s made a remarkable stylistic journey and who (though I have a terrible track record at predicting this stuff) could be a big national deal by this time next year. Her name is Megan McCormick, and I’ve been driving around for the past month with her debut CD Honest Words in my car. It’s being released the day before our show, and as much as I’ve appreciated Megan in local venues and as a supporting musician to others, I had no inkling she was going to come up with something so complete, so absorbing and so beautifully crafted. This album, brimming with bold melodies, heart-torn lyrics and amazing guitar work, heralds a major arrival.

Driving

I was on work/travel this week in Western North Carolina, so unfortunately I missed my first Music City Roots since the show began last fall. Definitely a drag. My consolation was to actually hear the show on the 650 WSM-AM (the point after all), and hey, wow, I loved it, despite some lightning zap interference. The storms pursued me down the Cumberland Plateau, while ahead a psychedelic sunset played out between thunderheads, and I hope you had as epic a setting for listening. It was super to have Jim Lauderdale back on stage after a few weeks away, and I was delighted to hear the voice of my friend Peter Cooper of the Tennessean filling in for me on the Honest Abe Front Porch.

Sunny Boy

If you haven’t seen the video of Bobby Bare Jr. and his son Beckham singing Shel Silverstein’s “Daddy What If” then get thee hence to a computer (oh, wait, you likely have that covered at the moment) and check it out HERE for four minutes of endearing father-son magic. This wee recording session promotes the new tribute album of songs by the late great Silverstein, called Twistable Turnable Man, but there’s also a bunch of history packed into this unassuming little vocal duet. 

A Spectral Spectrum

Each week I look at the lineups for Music City Roots and think to myself, ‘what’s the theme?’ What’s the hidden connection between these artists who were booked on this special day, because that’s when their booking agent said they’re available? Sometimes we set out to design a show and sometimes a collection of artists falls together by happenstance and the alignment of the planets. But always, always, always, they share one thing in common, and that’s a fealty to the founding fathers and mothers of our nation’s musical life – the traditions that bind us and define us, whether plunked on a clawhammer banjo, blown on a trumpet or shredded on an electric guitar.

Summer Cool

Time off is good and necessary, especially in the summertime, when the Southern heat and humidity sap one’s strength. We’ve enjoyed our two weeks’ break, but we also find ourselves itching to get back on stage and continue our weekly exploration of the wide Americana music-scape. That happens July 14 at the Loveless Barn when Music City Roots premieres its Summer 2010 season.

True and Blue

It’s no secret whatsoever that Music City Roots loves bluegrass. The genre itself, even in its pure “traditional” form, is an embodiment of our show’s philosophy: folk and roots styles updated for modern times. Because when Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys cooked up their very original sound in 1945, it was a pretty radical left turn from the old-time string band music on which they were building. And in an amazing turn of music history, the new sound proved so popular and viable that it spread worldwide and continues to grow and evolve.

Scorching

We both love and hate to say it, but this week’s Music City Roots is SOLD OUT. Yep, like those concert t-shirts back in the day with the red letters slashed across the back. A special confluence of talent has lit up the switchboards and we’re ready for a very big Wednesday night.

Daddy and the Musician’s Daughter

Roughly composed of one part Rolling Stones, healthy doses of Dylan and John Prine, plus a whole lot of Nashville hot chicken grease, DADDY is but the latest iteration and manifestation of the long-running musical bro-mance between Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough. Their Southern pop/rock band the bis-quits in the early 1990s was short-lived but much loved. And while they’ve collaborated here and there since then, only in DADDY has the Kimbrough/Womack chemistry truly been rekindled. Add to their guitar/vocal attack the all-star rhythm section of Paul Griffith (drums), David Jacques (bass) and John Deaderick (keys) and you’re looking at a Music City supergroup with writing and playing chops second to none. They will be just back from a current swing in Europe when they play the Roots stage June 9.

Bring The Family

It could be a Nashville trivia question years from now: What band played both the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Grand Ole Opry House within two weeks of the 2010 flood that disabled both venues? That would be Cherryholmes, the acclaimed bluegrass family band that came out of nowhere a few years ago to become one of the genre’s top acts.

Couples

Music is a magic land where truly, one plus one equals more than two. When two great singers or players lock the right two melodic lines together, your brain and heart start making up more parts, filling in and forming a cosmic conversation between you and the music. We’ll get to hear that duo effect two times over at the May 26 Music City Roots, when we’re joined by one couple steeped in old-school country and another united by the blues.

Knives and Fireworks

A virtuoso acoustic guitar shredder. A Knoxville chanteuse. A Californian who mastered bluegrass and jazz. And a former truck driver with a penchant for knife throwing. Isn’t this exactly the kind of horizon-opening, unpredictable experience you’ve been looking for? We thought so. Music City Roots on May 19 should be by turns jaw-dropping, serenity-inducing and wickedly funny. But hey, we’re a variety show in a barn, so that’s how we roll.

“Now THAT’s Americana!”

As a lover of the English language I’m sensitive to the mis-use of words, as when people praise a singer/songwriter as ‘prolific’ when they mean wonderful or amazing. But all prolific means of course is that someone produces a lot. Some great artists like Guy Clark are not prolific. Some prolific artists are not fantastic. It’s hard to be both, but our buddy and musical host Jim Lauderdale has done just that for years. In fact it’s hard to point to anyone in Americana music who has recorded and written so many songs with such consistency.

East Side Pride

When I was searching for my first place to live in Nashville in 1996, a lot of signs pointed East. Historic East Nashville was said to be a good place to find an affordable home in a quirky, developing neighborhood that was becoming an arts and music enclave - with a great view of the Nashville skyline to boot. So on an early house-hunting mission, I walked into the Radio Café at the corner of 14th St. and Woodland Ave. for the first time. Not only did I get a good breakfast, I met a guy who played drums with Steve Earle at the counter. I took this as a good omen. And once I moved into the ‘hood, there were many many great nights of music at the Radio, many of them by artists who lived right there in zip code 37206.

Across The Great Divide

Bluegrass is a music of bridge-building, spanning multiple generations and styles. It’s one of the only music forms in the world that assimilates hard-edged old conservatives and youthful progressives, making it one of the last places where extremely disparate Americans can gather to jam and enjoy. That diversity has been cultivated by a handful of musicians who’ve had credibility on both sides of the cultural divide, like John Hartford, Vassar Clements and our guest next week, the great Peter Rowan.

Strong Southern Stories

We Southerners take stories seriously. They’re our conversational currency, our living history. From Faulkner and Flannery to today’s bright writing stars like Nashville’s own Ann Patchett and Tony Earley, we celebrate those who celebrate life through words, just as we celebrate the regular raconteur.

Connections

I loved that old PBS show Connections, where host James Burke would wander around the world describing how one small invention centuries ago led to this and then that and then ultimately to some earth-shattering change like, oh, the Great Depression. He was one my guides to looking beneath the layers. But I was already on board that idea thanks to my passion for music. Reading liner notes and books LONG before the internet, I built a framework on which I could hang new bits of musical knowledge. You think you know Led Zeppelin and then you find out Jimmy Page was in the Yardbirds first! You fall for Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album and find out that the piano player Bill Evans had a solo career as well, and you check that out, and life is never the same again.

The Real Deal On Your Dial

A note from Micol Davis was a reminder that Music City Roots: Live From The Loveless Cafe is about far more than just two hours of great live music on Wednesday nights. Micol is the female half of the husband and wife duo Blue Mother Tupelo. She and Ricky Davis are a bracing blues/rock team who can lay it down as a self-contained unit or scale up with a band. They’ve truly become friends of the show; we see them in the audience most weeks, hanging out and taking in the music and the atmosphere. This coming week, however, as Roots begins its Spring 2010 season, they will grace our stage for the first time as featured artists.

Green Day

From an interview I did with Maura O’Connell in 2002: “A song from any time should feel comfortable in any time. A song is a song is a song, if it has potential to live past its own time. It’s a folk song, no matter where it comes from. I do like to sing songs like ‘Down In The Sally Gardens.’ It’s such a strong song it sits right next to a Patty Griffin song. They’re equally present in our day as poetry.”

Touching The Sky

Musical innovation is a slippery, ill-defined concept. Does it live in novel melodies, or mash-ups of styles? Is it something made by fingers on frets or in the minds of the audience? I suppose it falls in the I-know-it-when-I-hear-it category. Or I could just point you to a Cadillac Sky show. Ostensibly a “bluegrass” band, the five C-Sky guys are an ever-changing ensemble of artists who absorb top flight influences but who make sure that what comes out the other end of their creative black box is always searching and never derivative.

Highly Qualified

 If this week’s show was presented like a resume, you wouldn’t believe it. You’d call a few references to check it out. “So, this bunch SAYS it wrote a massive hit for Eric Clapton, had a multi-platinum country album, fiddled with the Texas Playboys and played guitar for the legendary Sam Bush? Really?”

Where There’s a Will

He had me at THIS. And by THIS I mean that CD that Will Kimbrough released in 2000 that told the world he was more than a mere sideman or band member. THIS was a superb debut album by a seasoned artist with a vision and the first of a string of striking statements that would have encompassed confessional folk music, sharp pop rock and alt-country twang. In the meantime, Kimbrough has become one of Nashville’s musical MVPs and recipient of an Americana Music Association instrumentalist of the year award.

Playing All The Right Cards

Too many people have spent too much energy trying to find the perfect definition of Americana music, the nice catch-all for contemporary music rooted in our great traditions of folk, blues, country and gospel. But if you want an illustrative definition, Americana is what you’d find at the many festivals that book both the Greencards and Darrell Scott, a la Merlefest of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Or Music City Roots, if you’ll give us credit for being a mini-festival every week.

Hill Country Holler

If you study American music you can’t get away from the story of the Mississippi Delta, the cradle of the blues and home to pioneers like Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson. But East of there, running from northern Mississippi down the middle of the state is a stretch known as the Hill Country, and in recent years this region has at last been acknowledged as a hotbed with its own sound and traditions, perhaps most notably through the rise to fame of the North Mississippi All-Stars. This week on Roots, we’ve pulled together one of the strongest themed lineups of the year, one that draws from the Hill Country, with its strong African roots and its modern grooves.

Dobro Mojo

Dobro players are an interesting lot. As hard as all the folks work who learn guitar, fiddle, banjo or bass, the guy or gal who feels the calling of the resonator guitar, with its sliding angularity, has to work harder. It’s unbelievably demanding on the right hand with its speed and timing, and over on the left, you’re on your own for hitting the right notes, without the aid of the guitar or mandolin’s frets. It takes a certain brassiness to even try.

Classic and Fresh

Nashville remains special because if you look closely, you can see the veterans who built Music City living and working side by side with the young artists who are building on their legacy and pushing the town’s musical traditions forward. It’s what gives the place continuity and soul.

So on our next show, Music City Roots presents prime examples of that dichotomy, as our musical guests include one of Nashville’s senior senators and one of its most remarkable alt-country youngsters: Cowboy Jack Clement and Chris Scruggs.

Souther Exposure

One of my best memories of last’s fall Americana Music Association festival took place in the middle of one of the showcase nights at the Mercy Lounge. A stellar band of jazz-aware sidemen took the stage, followed by a guy who looked a little, well, unfocused. J.D. Souther looked like a rumpled poet who’d slept in.

Nashville’s Rock of Ages

In case you haven’t heard of the Music City Curse, it’s this notion that developed over the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s that no matter how awe-inspiring a Nashville rock band was, it would never get a fair shake when it reached the New York and LA power-brokers who decide who gets big-time video and radio play or major label record deals.

Nature’s Way

Of the many fortunate connections and developments that took place on the journey to getting Music City Roots on the air, few can compare to our love-at-first-sight relationship with the Nature Conservancy. This extraordinary organization signed on as a major sponsor early in the game, and it couldn’t have been a better match. We stand for integrity and authenticity in music; they protect the integrity of authentic natural spaces and resources.

The Grass Is Bluesy

It’s hard to believe, but with this next show we’ll have reached the end of the inaugural season of Music City Roots. I’ve tried to describe each show on this blog as the weeks have gone by, but it’s really hard to adequately convey the week-to-week atmosphere in the Loveless Barn when mission control counts down the top of the show, cues our theme song and hands it off to Eddie Stubbs to announce that we’re on the air.

From Texas to Colorado

If you get a chance, see Jeff Horny’s new documentary “Behind the Confessions,” a close-up portrait of Texas music icon Radney Foster that tracks the making of his new album Revival. It depicts how and why Foster came to become one of the most beloved Texas singer/songwriters of his generation, a guy who has seen success at all the levels where it counts – commercially, critically and perhaps most important, on the sawdust floors of all those Lone Star State honky tonks and arenas, where to this day, folks of all ages line up to see Radney and his band.

Voices In Ones, Twos and Threes

The International Bluegrass Music Awards, held every fall at the Ryman Auditorium, is always a fabulous event, but it can be slow to change. Rhonda Vincent, for example, took home the Female Vocalist of the Year trophy for seven consecutive years. Not that Rhonda’s not fantastic, but in 2007 when that award came up and the oft-nominated but always-a-bridesmaid Dale Ann Bradley was announced as the winner, it made for one of the happiest and charged moments at IBMA in quite a while.

Livin’, Lovin’, Louvin

When the great Charlie Louvin visited Music City Roots on October 28 to sing a Loveless Jam duet with guest artist Dex Romweber it offered just a hint of the purity and authenticity we have in store on November 18 when Charlie joins us as one of our featured artists on what promises to be an exciting, eclectic evening of live radio.

Thanks For The Music

No disrespect to Christmas or Hanukah or New Year’s, but this correspondent’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. It’s about family and food, with no bells and whistles. There’s actually time to reflect on the blessings of the year and share the good life with the ones you love.

One Fair Autumn Evening

Tony Brown, the great Nashville producer who signed a whole bunch of excellence to MCA Records in the 1980s and 90s, said he got “zapped” by Nanci Griffith when he saw her play live for the first time. And he wasn’t the only one. From her origins as an Austin-based folksinger through hear early albums with legendary Rounder Records and then during her years with major labels, Griffith climbed a tall ladder and now sits in an esteemed position as one of the finest and most seductive songwriters in that fascinating overlap between country and folk.

Country Collage

Back in the day, there wasn’t one thing called country and another called bluegrass. It was all country (or hillbilly) music then, and everybody appeared side by side on the barn dances and in the record bins. This week’s Music City Roots recalls that era with one classic country singer and two state-of-the-art bluegrass bands.

Darkness and Light

The South is deep and sometimes dark, and we love artists who aren’t afraid (or afeared as some say it) to dig down into the clay, swim in the blackest swamps and plunge into the kudzu choked forest. That might be said of the music of Dex Romweber and Scott Miller, though they sound little alike. The night promises foot-stomping, greasy grooves as well as rich characters and in-your-face ideas.

Holy Smoke: Sam Bush and Mike Farris

There are plenty of ways to burn in music, and the second show in the inaugural season of Music City Roots suggests two of them. Sam Bush is a fiery virtuoso of the mandolin and fiddle, while Mike Farris brings rock and roll fire to gospel music. Together on one stage, they’ll offer modern and very personal interpretations of two great American music traditions, which is precisely what Music City Roots is all about.

Jim Lauderdale to host Music City Roots

Americana tribal leader Jim Lauderdale has signed on to be a semi-regular host of the much-talked-about Nashville music scene showcase, Music City Roots, Live from the Loveless Café. The show will regularly feature other guest hosts, due to Jim’s extensive touring and hosting commitments, but everyone involved agreed that no one represented the heart and soul of the movement like Lauderdale. Jim is also the regular monthly host of Tennessee Shines, a monthly show airing on Knoxville’s pioneer non-profit station WDVX.

Emmylou Harris to Headline Inaugural Roots Broadcast on 10/14

American musical treasure Emmylou Harris will grace the stage in a rare, intimate performance on the inaugural broadcast of the much buzzed-about Music City Roots, Live from the Loveless Café, on Wednesday, October 14th. Airing live on legendary WSM, the show’s producers felt that as an artist, Ms. Harris embodied all that the show endeavors to deliver to its global audience.

Music City Roots Partners with The Loveless Barn

The official announcement came at the 2009 Americana Conference in Nashville, TN... Legendary WSM will carry the first new weekly live music show in over 40 years – Music City Roots, LIVE from the Loveless Cafe. The New York Times called the Americana music scene “the coolest music scene” today. Upcoming acts include a who’s who in the Americana, Bluegrass, and Alternative Country world. Loveless Cafe entrepreneur Tom Morales says, “It’s the most exciting movement we’ve seen in a long time.

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