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Roots Culture Redefined

The String: AmericanaFest 2018 w Cedric Burnside, Kris Truelsen and Birdtalker

Episode 69 is the first in a series of shows reporting on artists who performed at AmericanaFest 2018, the most wide-ranging and diverse convention in its 19 years. Americana continues to represent and promote classic country music, bluegrass and songwriter-driven roots music. It also has become more reflective of the blues, soul and regional folk styles. This week Craig visits with Mississippi raised blues musician Cedric Burnside, a key figure in the legacy and spread of the Hill Country blues. Also, Zach and Danielle Green, the songwriting couple at the heart of Nashville indie-folk band Birdtalker and East Tennessee’s Kris Truelsen. He’s the leader of throwback Appalachian string band Bill and the Belles and a mover/shaker with the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol TN/VA. The range is wide and the insights about where they are taking the music are profound.

The String: Brittany Haas plus Leah Blevins

At 31 years old, Brittany Haas has been in high level touring string bands more than half her life and she’s already regarded as one of the finest fiddle players in the world. As part of Crooked Still, she helped shape a new strain of traditional Americana. Of late she’s been touring with the Dave Rawlings Machine, playing as part of the house band on public radio’s Live From Here with Chris Thile and producing stunning instrumental music with her quartet Hawktail. We talk about her mentors, learning the innovative chopping technique that gives her music such propulsion and juggling a busy creative schedule. She’s nominated as one of four contenders for the Americana Instrumentalist of the Year. Rounding out the hour, a conversation with Kentucky raised singer songwriter Leah Blevins. There’s deep country in her voice and soul but a spirit of exploration and growth that she fully embraces. She is showcasing at AmericanaFest 2018 with a tour ahead of her opening for Amanda Shires.

The String: Webb Wilder plus Layman Drug Co.

Since the 1980s and a golden age of Nashville pub rock and alt-country, Webb Wilder has been The Last of the Full Grown Men, a crowd-rousing, semi-campy, always hard rocking blend of SUN Records rock and roll, surf music and hillbilly twang. He was born and raised in Hattiesburg, MS – a music freak from the get go. He and a high school friend launched themselves into music by moving to Austin in the mid 70s. But in Nashville Webb fulfilled his identity and his destiny. He’s just released Powerful Stuff! Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks: Previously Unreleased Recordings 1985-1993. It was a good chance to have a wide ranging conversation about a vibrant time in Music City that never really went away. Also, a visit with Will Greig, proprietor of the one-year old Layman Drug Co., an audio and video recording showplace in a meticulously restored 120-year-old building in a fast-changing downtown neighborhood. What does its first year in business say about the Nashville studio business environment?

The String: Steve Cropper, Live at City Winery

At 76 years old, Steve Cropper is in ideal position to reflect on an abundant, history making life in music, and he does so in this week’s show. It’s a special edition taped on stage in front of an eager audience at Nashville’s Who Knew at City Winery. The series features speakers from the local to the world famous, on matters of creativity, entrepreneurship and mission. And Steve Cropper and his history with Stax Records represent all of those in abundance. Cropper grew up in Memphis from the age of nine, getting his first guitar by mail order in 1955. He channeled the city’s sounds – blues, R&B, gospel and SUN Records rock and roll – into the band the Mar-Keys and then into the studio band at Stax. That history-making ensemble became the recording and touring band Booker T & The M.G.s. Cropper wrote masterworks of the American soul songbook: “Knock On Wood,” “In The MIdnight Hour” and “Dock of the Bay.” We talk about all that and his subsequent career with the Blues Brothers in this in-depth interview.

The String: Cordovas

To understand the unique and intricate Nashville based quintet Cordovas, you’ve got to flash back to the early 2000s when a songwriter from North Carolina named Joe Firstman was tearing it up in Los Angeles. Blazingly talented, he got signed to Atlantic Records but it was a brutal time for the music industry and he went his own way in 2005. He was the bandleader for a late night network show. Then it was time for rebuilding – and over a lot of years, Cordovas became the result. With smart guitar duo parts arranged by Lucca Soria and Toby Weaver, plus a loosely grooving rhythm section, Cordovas evokes The Band, The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead. But they defy jam band logic with tightly constructed songs on their ATO Records debut That Santa Fe Chanel. Craig visits their home/rehearsal compound in Madison TN for a full band interview.

The String: Gretchen Peters plus Ben Glover

We’re spending much of this hour with someone who’s as thoughtful and articulate about her art as the art itself. Gretchen Peters is a lover of language. She has awe and appropriate respect for the power of words and healthy fear of their misuse. And while I would place her among the most literary of songwriters – Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are among her heroes – there’s nothing aloof or unreachable in her work. Her reputation in country music was secured by recordings and hits for George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill and Martina McBride. But she set out to be a performing songwriter and recording artist, and indeed she’s built a devoted following. Peters’s new album Dancing With The Beast takes up a lot of time in the conversation ahead. It grapples with the shock of the 2016 presidential election, the tumult in the country and the #MeToo movement. Its stories are ferocious and candid, but as always the music is gorgeous and easy on the ears if not always the heart. Also, we get to know Gretchen’s friend and frequent co-writer Ben Glover, an exceptional Nashville based songwriter from the coast of N. Ireland.

The String: John Scott Sherrill and Saving Music Row

This week’s episode of The String (#63) is about a sense of place and how we stand up for the places we cherish. Nashville has thrived as the epicenter of country music songwriting in part because of its own strong sense of place. It was a mid South crossroads city that welcomed art and music from the 19th century on. It became a pioneer in radio in the 20s and 30s by reflecting and broadcasting local values and sounds. Then in the mid 1950s, music business innovators and instigators began to cluster together on the parallel streets of 16th and 17th avenues, transforming a residential neighborhood into Music Row. Compact and convivial, Music Row was like a village, where music makers and business people worked and mingled and loitered with intent. A culture evolved over the decades that still hangs on today. And yet, people are concerned. A city that used to change slowly is transforming and growing, too fast for many. Commercial interests and cultural passions are clashing. And at the vortex of that conflict is Music Row.

We’re spending this hour of radio on Music Row, 1028 16th Ave. to be precise, a little bar called Bobby’s Idle Hour. And our featured guest is a wonderful veteran songwriter who hangs out here, named John Scott Sherrill.

BGS Radio Hour – The Best of “So Long, So Wrong” by Alison Krauss & Union Station

This week on The BGS Radio Hour we rank our favorite songs on the iconic 1997 album So Long, So Wrong by Alison Krauss & Union Station, bring you a classic track off KD Lang’s Ingenue, plus a bunch of great new music including the latest from Nicki Bluhm.

The String: Erin Rae

Erin Rae came of age in Nashville and dropped out of college to get serious about music. She is a pure product of Music City’s richly rewarding community, veteran of open mics and local venues. Her first album Soon Enough turned a lot of heads. Now her follow up, the moody and gorgeous but emotionally candid Putting On Airs, is earning national acclaim. She’s one of East Nashville’s new stars, and we talk about Cafe Coco, her all-woman songwriting posse and singing alongside Margo Price at the Ryman. Also in the hour, a progress report on the remarkable National Museum of African American Music, on target to open in December of 2019.

The String: Wayne Moss at Cinderella Sound

Craig H. and sometime producer companion Gina Frary Bacon sit down with iconic Nashville Cat Wayne Moss. Raised in Charleston WV, Moss was obsessed with music and recording and made his way to Music City in 1959. He put his guitar to work with The Casuals, Nashville’s first rock and roll band. And his web of relationships – Buzz Cason, Charlie McCoy, Norbert Putnam, Mac Gayden and others – put him at the center of the recording scene. He played famous licks and solos for Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels and others. He formed the bands Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry for an extra dash of creative freedom. He built his studio Cinderella Sound in 1961 and it’s still in business, the oldest surviving indie studio in the region. Moss talked about his extensive career and his new anthology CD called Collaborations With My Guitar Heroes.

The String: AmericanaFest 2018 w Cedric Burnside, Kris Truelsen and Birdtalker
The String: AmericanaFest 2018 w Cedric Burnside, Kris Truelsen and Birdtalker