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Roots Culture Redefined

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Emily Scott Robinson

Last summer, the videographers from I Know We Should were on hand for Rootsy Summer Fest ’23 in Falkenberg, Sweden, shooting a series of Rootsy Summer Sessions featuring artists from both sides of the Atlantic. At golden hour one evening during the festival, as the waning sun gleamed over the North Sea and Skrea Strand, Colorado singer-songwriter Emily Scott Robinson performed “Old Gods” with Nashville-based North Carolinian duo Violet Bell.

Robinson’s open-tuned guitar is accompanied by Omar Ruiz-Lopez’s resonant five-string fiddle, warm shimmering tones to match the gorgeous setting. On her 2022 EP, Built on Bones, Robinson was also joined by Violet Bell – as well as Alisa Amador – on the studio version of the track. Here, the song shines in a stripped down setting, offered more as a folk song than the album’s theatrical arrangement. Robinson and Lizzy Ross harmonize, singing, “Carry my prayers on the ocean / Carry my prayers on the sea /” as if offering their own little prayer to the waters of the North Sea.

For their second performance, the trio perform a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” a hugely popular song even before the Chicks solidified it as part of the bluegrass/string band canon with their 2002 version. Robinson and Ross are intensely tuned into each other as they sing in duet, gentle fingerpicking underscoring the familiar lyric.

The beach, on the North Sea, at sunset, in beautiful Sweden is just the perfect setting for these two lovely songs by Emily Scott Robinson and Violet Bell at Rootsy Summer Fest ’23. Watch for more Rootsy Summer Sessions coming to BGS soon.

Video Credit: Brad Wagner, I Know We Should
Audio Credit: Juan Soria, I Know We Should

Yamaha Sessions: Theo MacMillan

Last fall, in the patchy autumn shade of hackberry trees beside Nashville’s Percy Priest Lake, Theo MacMillan (of Theo & Brenna) and his band set up for an exclusive Yamaha Session at Solar Cabin. MacMillan, who brought along Jed Clark (bass), Harry Clark (mandolin), and Cory Walker (banjo), pulled his Yamaha acoustic guitar out of the case and performed two original numbers.

The first, a high-energy, newgrass track entitled “The One That’s Broken,” leans forward at a breakneck pace, channeling the frustration of a messy relationship’s end with cattywampus stops artfully executed by the band, tight and together. MacMillan’s voice is brassy and warm, a perfect complement to the low-tuned banjo. “Whenever there’s a problem/ You wanna run away…” he sings, with Jed Clark on harmonies and tasteful harmonics by Walker. It’s a rollicking, excitable song that showcases MacMillan’s distinct style as a lyricist.

For his second number, he released his band members and perched atop a single stool to play another original, “Early Sign,” solo, with a technical and Tony Rice-esque, picked introduction that opens to a winsome and lonesome melody as entrancing as any Lightfoot played by Rice. Here, MacMillan places his voice more forward, tenderly caressing each word, his custom shop Yamaha the perfect accompaniment.

MacMillan and his sister, Brenna, are in-demand musicians and songwriters, together and separately, in Nashville – with enormous social media followings between the two. Watch for these tracks from Theo to be released as singles, the earliest slated for release as soon as the end of February.

Video Credit: Schuyler Howie & Robert Chavers, Solar Cabin Creative

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Jesper Lindell

This weekend, February 2 & 3, Rootsy Winter Fest ’24 will take place in Falkenberg, Sweden. For singer-songwriter Jesper Lindell, who is on the lineup in a couple of different configurations/collaborations, it won’t quite be a hometown show. Ludvika, the small Swedish town he hails from, is located nearly 500 km north of Falkenberg. Still, to the Rootsy artist, the setting will be quite familiar. Last summer, videographers and session magicians I Know We Should were on hand when Lindell performed at Rootsy Summer Fest ’23.

On the banks of the Ätran, beside Tryckhallen – Rootsy Summer & Winter Fests’ home venue – Lindell offered two songs in simple, stripped down, acoustic performances. On a balcony overlooking the rushing water and festival stage, he sings “It Ain’t Easy,” a song of long-suffering and devotion from his 2023 EP, Windows Vol. 1. Lindell’s voice is powerful and soulful, but at times it’s also tender and fragile. On Windows, his passionate vocals on “It Ain’t Easy” are joined by reverby keys and wide-pocketed percussion. Here, Lindell’s bandmate, keys player and vocalist Carl Lindvall, backgrounds instead – with a subtle assist from the river and distant birdsong.

Lindell’s second performance, “Life is Good,” begins with a fingerpicked strumming shuffle that evokes the Mississippi delta and the roots music triangle – Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, and everywhere in between. The lyrics paint a variable picture of travel and the road, of palm trees and fleeting crushes. “Life is sweet / On this dead end street,” he sings, a winking pun that acknowledges how interminable and unforgiving roaming can feel, even while life is good.

At Rootsy Winter Fest ’24, Lindell and his band will appear with Magnus Carlson and he will appear in duet with Scarlet Rivera, as well. As these Rootsy Summer Sessions illustrate, his music is not to be missed. Find more information on Rootsy Winter Fest ’24 here.

Video Credit: Brad Wagner, I Know We Should
Audio Credit: Juan Soria, I Know We Should

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Israel Nash, “Lost In America”

Last summer, in picturesque Falkenberg, Sweden, Rootsy Music held Summer Fest ’23, a gathering of twenty-some Americana, country, folk, and roots bands – many imported all the way from the United States. BGS video collaborators and contributors I Know We Should were there; they curated, directed, and shot a series of gorgeous live performances in and around the festival and scenic Falkenberg.

The first in the series features Israel Nash – a Rootsy artist, as well as a frequenter of Rootsy stages and festivals – performing an original song, “Lost in America.” Based in rural Texas, outside of Austin, Nash has found a broad fan base in Europe. The track oozes with this transatlantic perspective. With a bluesy, emotive voice clearly drawing on his rock and roll chops, Nash longs to leave society behind and “move into the wild,” perhaps referencing his own move from urban New York City to Dripping Springs.

“Lost in America” is passionate, fierce, and longing. The speaker, disenchanted by the American dream, relays a message even more striking sung from the streets of Falkenberg. Stay tuned after the song to hear Nash describing the inspirations behind its writing.

Rootsy Winter Fest ’24 will be held February 2 and 3 in Falkenberg, Sweden. Israel Nash will perform, as well as Jobi Riccio, Iron Country Sisters, the Mukherjee Development, Ward Hayden & the Outliers, Dylan Earl, Ole Kirkeng, Our Man In The Field, Lizzie No, Jesper Lindell & Scarlet Rivera, and more. More information is available here.

More Rootsy Summer Sessions will be coming soon right here, on BGS!

Video Credit: Brad Wagner, I Know We Should
Audio Credit: Juan Soria, I Know We Should

Down in the Valley Sessions: Rayland Baxter

It had been too long since we last connected with Rayland Baxter, so it was exciting to reunite for a Down in the Valley Session in gorgeous Napa, California at the Hills Family Estate earlier this year. The Head And The Heart curated the first-annual edition of this brand new festival; throughout the two-day event video crew I Know We Should whisked away a few performers to offer acoustic, bare-bones renditions of songs in a beautiful and verdant setting.

Baxter is joined by musician/model Sophia Roze on “Hoot Owl,” a song that’s now more than 10 years old – it first appeared on the now essential release, Feathers & Fishhooks. Backgrounded by California’s iconic scrubby oaks, it’s easy to imagine the song’s main character, its perch, and the loneliness it heralds, even with the opposing quality of the intimacy and closeness of Roze’s harmony entwined with Baxter’s voice. He mimes a shudder as he sings, “…The hoot owl wakes me/ and a cold shiver shakes me,” a fleeting, sly joke under the warm Napa sun.

For his second number, Baxter stands alone, singing “Rubberband Man” off his 2022 release, If I Were a Butterfly, aptly accompanied by his nylon-stringed Stella Harmony guitar. There’s an easy, laid back quality to these performances that makes viewers feel like they’re watching him simply practice an original tune at home, alone, unperturbed. That comfortability allows Baxter to infuse sincerity or humor or a (literal or figurative) wry smile into his music without ever undercutting its impact.

Watch more of our Down in the Valley Sessions here.

Video Credit: Brad Wagner, I Know We Should
Audio Credit: Juan Soria, I Know We Should

Down in the Valley Sessions: Richy Mitch & The Coal Miners

For the third edition of our Down in the Valley Sessions – shot at the first annual Down in the Valley festival hosted by The Head And The Heart in Napa, California earlier this year – we return to the verdant rolling landscape of the Hills Family Estate for an intimate performance by Mitch Cutts, frontperson and self-proclaimed “head dumbass” of Richy Mitch & the Coal Miners. Beneath the shade of a pair of willow trees, Cutts showcases his unique fingerstyle right hand – rather, left hand – approach on “Laramee.” The track feels right at home in this pastoral setting.
At times soaring and impassioned, at others tender and understated, Cutts’ solo renditions of these two numbers feel just as fully realized as the indie-folk, string-band sounds of the group’s recordings. “Lake Missoula” is right at home backgrounded by grapevines and foregrounded by palms, despite the distance from the glacial lake it references in the Coal Miners’ home state of Montana. “Lake Missoula, I’m letting you out,” Cutts sings, a poignant coda on a track that feels a bit like a musical amuse bouche. There’s a charm here, well supported by a palpable, genuine nature, that certainly illustrates why Richy Mitch & the Coal Miners enjoy tens of millions of listens each month on digital streaming platforms.

Our Down in the Valley Sessions continue next week.

Video Credit: Brad Wagner, I Know We Should
Audio Credit: Juan Soria, I Know We Should

Down in the Valley Sessions: Miya Folick

For the second edition of our Down in the Valley Sessions – shot at the first ever Down in the Valley festival in Napa, California, earlier this year – we return to the picturesque panoramas of Napa’s Hills Family Estate to hear two songs by indie- and folk-pop singer-songwriter Miya Folick. “Nothing to See” and “Get Out of My House” are both tracks on Folick’s most recent release, Roach. But here, backgrounded by Napa County’s iconic rolling, pastoral hills, she trades in the angered, energetic, and gritty rock and pop production elements for a tender guitar duo – with collaborator and bandmate Jacob Ungerleider accompanying with background vocals and guitar.

The most compelling singer-songwriters, regardless of genre, are able to command with their lyrics and melodies in any context, whether full, studio album production or quiet, simple, solo accompaniment on guitar or piano. Great songs will always shine through, no matter the musical trappings. Of course, Folick is right at home in these contexts – she’s even toured supporting Down in the Valley hosts and curators The Head and the Heart – but this setting somewhat surprisingly highlights the folk and down home underpinnings to her fully realized sonics of her albums. This is a fact she leans into in many more scenarios than our Down in the Valley Sessions – she’s even released an acoustic cut of “Get Out of My House” as a single, anticipating listeners craving a version of the above performance they can return to again and again.

Our Down in the Valley Sessions series was shot by Brad Wagner and recorded by Juan Soria of I Know We Should. Watch for a handful more weekly installments from our shoot.

Video Credit: Brad Wagner, I Know We Should
Audio Credit: Juan Soria, I Know We Should

Down in the Valley Sessions: The Head and the Heart

Last month, The Head and the Heart curated Down in the Valley, a brand new two-day music festival in downtown Napa, California. The audio and visual experts of I Know We Should were there, shooting these gorgeous sessions for BGS. It was fitting that we kicked off the series with Down in the Valley’s curators and hosts – they played three sets over the course of the festival – at the gorgeous Hills Family Estate, flanked by canary island palms and backgrounded by olive trees.

The core trio of The Head and the Heart performed two songs for BGS, both from their 2022 album, Every Shade of Blue. They began with the title track, a stripped down arrangement that centers the three-part harmonies of Matt Gervais, Charity Rose Thielen, and Jonathan Russell. The sweeping and lush strings from the studio version are swapped for tender fingerpicking on guitar and Thielen’s emotive bow.

Second, they performed the loping and energetic “Don’t Show Your Weakness,” finding power in singing in unison and in the lyrical hook as a mantra, punctuated by that tight vocal trio sprinkled throughout the verses. Gervais sings of the Adirondacks, but this music feels equally at home right here, in the lushly cultivated mountains of Napa County.

Over the two days of Down in the Valley, we captured a half dozen sessions with artists and bands from the festival’s lineup. Tune in right here on BGS each week as we unveil new Down in the Valley Sessions shot in beautiful Napa, California.

Video Credit: Brad Wagner, I Know We Should
Audio Credit: Juan Soria, I Know We Should

Jake Eddy & Jordan Tice Duet on “Orphan Annie”

Back in December of 2022 we brought together two talented flatpickers, Jake Eddy and Jordan Tice, to pick a few songs on their brand new Yamaha acoustic guitars at a shoot in Los Angeles, California. Both Eddy and Tice performed a couple of tunes solo, then they joined together on a Norman Blake-penned song that Tony Rice popularized called “Orphan Annie.” Though both of these musicians came into bluegrass and guitar-picking from seemingly disparate points of entry, their styles blend seamlessly as they swap licks inspired and influenced by Blake and Rice.

Discover more about Yamaha’s just-released FG9 model at YamahaGuitars.com.

WATCH: Black Opry Revue & Vanessa May, “Sally Over the Water” (BGS + Sixthman Sessions at Sea)

We’re sad to say goodbye to June and lose the Black Opry as our official Artist of the Month, but just as the Black Opry carries on elevating Black country artists and fans through showcases, touring, and community building, we look forward to supporting their endeavors for years to come. We have one more session up our sleeve, another communal moment from the Black Opry Revue’s time on Cayamo. Vanessa May (Rainbow Girls) led the group in her arrangement of the traditional “Sally Over the Water.” We hope you enjoy this final session from our Artist of the Month celebrations!

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Emily Scott Robinson
Rootsy Summer Sessions: Emily Scott Robinson