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Roots Culture Redefined

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Violet Bell

After seven gorgeous and lovely Rootsy Summer Sessions, we’ve reached the final installment of this series with two songs featuring Americana string duo Violet Bell. Shot overlooking the waters of the Kattegat, a bay on the North Sea, you may recognize the golden hour location from our earlier session with Emily Scott Robinson, who makes an appearance with Violet Bell after the North Carolina-rooted band appeared as guests in Robinson’s performances, as well.

Last summer, during Rootsy Summer Fest ’23, the videography team from I Know We Should captured this series of eight sessions in Falkenberg, Sweden featuring more than a dozen performers and nearly twenty individual tracks from Americana, country, and folk artists from across the genre spectrum and from both “sides” of the Atlantic.

Completing the series, Violet Bell – Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez – first perform “Fisherman’s Daughter,” a fantastic story song from their critically acclaimed 2022 album, Shapeshifter. (Read our BGS feature interview on that project here.) That record, with a strong concept album through line, plays with metaphors and analogies around the legendary selkie, an aquatic, seal-like figure from Celtic mythology that, as the title suggests, can shapeshift. The songs on the project, “Fisherman’s Daughter” being a stand-out, explore topical, political, and cultural questions through the lens of this transatlantic folklore. The track shines and is certainly in its element delivered on the edge of the North Sea.

For their second number, Ruiz-Lopez and Ross are joined by Robinson on “House,” a jubilant song of community and togetherness that feels like a more than apropos way to conclude this visually stunning and aurally first-class series of sessions. Their joyful refrain is a perfect invitation to take part in the magic made by Rootsy Music and captured in our Rootsy Summer Sessions.

From Israel Nash and Jesper Lindell to Jim Lauderdale and Caleb Caudle, we will be returning to these Rootsy Summer Sessions for a long time – and we know you will be, too.

Explore more of our Rootsy Summer Sessions and our nearly endless supply of exclusive video performances here.

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

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Jim Lauderdale

This week, we bring you a brand-new installment of our Rootsy Summer Sessions, which were shot last year in gorgeous Falkenberg, Sweden, during Rootsy Summer Fest ’23. The videography team behind I Know We Should set aside time during the summertime roots music festival with Nashville renaissance man, Americana magnate, and hit songwriter Jim Lauderdale while on his trip to Scandinavia.

For his first performance, he performs “The Road Is a River,” a song from his 2018 album, Time Flies, in an adorable local music store, Liljedahls Musik. Joined by his band, including recording artist and fiddler Lillie Mae, guitarists Craig Smith and Frank Carter Rische, Jay D. Weaver on bass, and Dave Racine on drums, they cheerfully lope through the darker tinges of the song, harmonizing in three parts on the track’s foreboding and certainly apocalyptic lyrics. “The Road Is a River” demonstrates the ease with which Lauderdale combines styles, textures, and sonics with his deep understanding of history and a literary reckoning with the machinations of the earth – natural and unnatural.

The second song selection, “Sister Horizon,” brings forward the rambling, troubadour qualities evident in Lauderdale’s work. It’s clear this ensemble is having fun, swapping smiles as often as licks and harmonies, singing in worshipful tones of “Sister Horizon” and text painting in evocative and striking tones. With a sly smile, Lauderdale makes eye contact with the lens, a fourth wall breaking that seems to draw on the fantastic, storybook qualities of the track. His vocal phrasing, iconically lazy and languid, lingers delightfully on each word in a wonky and unpredictable way – one of the most exciting and engaging parts of Lauderdale’s singing over time.

Even in this context, with a “full band” lineup, the stripped down, Tiny Desk quality of these sessions is striking. Lauderdale is comfortable in so many musical setups and that comfort comes through in both of these exclusive video performances.

Stay tuned for more Rootsy Summer Sessions coming soon right here, on BGS!

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

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Caleb Caudle

Today, we continue our Rootsy Summer Sessions series with three fresh videos and songs supplied by longtime friend of BGS, singer-songwriter Caleb Caudle. For his first selection, Caudle and his small-but-mighty trio perform a properly bluegrass rendition of “Great High Mountain,” a modern gospel-folk-bluegrass classic written by Keith Whitley and also commonly known by the title “You Don’t Have to Move That Mountain.” With bluesy Dobro and a slight growl to Caudle’s voice, they perform the number in front of the beautiful and apt background of Falkenberg Church.

Captured in Falkenberg, Sweden by the crack videography team, I Know We Should, our Rootsy Summer Sessions highlight the wide variety of roots musicians and Americana artists that performed as part of Rootsy Summer Fest ’23. Even all the way across the Atlantic, on the North Sea, by the banks of the beautiful Ätran river, world class American roots music can be found, brought to Scandinavia and northern Europe by the folks at Rootsy Music – and the community that surrounds them.

For their second song, Caudle and trio perform “Whirligigs,” a track from his 2022 album, Forsythia, which he recorded at the infamous Cash Cabin just outside of Nashville. On “Whirligigs,” the trio trades in their gospel trappings, but the result is every bit as reverent.

Forsythia is a collection of stories, songs as vignettes, and the details and affection evident in the lyrics of “Whirligigs” translates even while so greatly removed from the peoples and cultures the song speaks about. A track recorded on hallowed ground performed on hallowed ground, with the appealing architecture of the cathedral as background, demonstrates just a bit of the magic captured during our Rootsy Summer Sessions.

To conclude their mini-set, Caudle and trio offer “Crazy Wayne,” another track from Forsythia that offers an additional, fresh angle on Caudle’s penchant for microscopic stories told in broad and inviting styles. On the studio recording, Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush lend their talents to the song; in Falkenberg, bassist Karl Zerfas and resonator guitarist Carter Giegerich do the music justice and then some. It’s another gritty, bluesy number infused with heartbreak and essential advice that’s just perfect to round out the session.

Stay tuned for more Rootsy Summer Sessions coming soon right here, on BGS.

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

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Jackson Scribner

Last summer, flanked by roadside flowers and backgrounded by a softly cooing dove, singer-songwriter Jackson Scribner graced the videographers from I Know We Should with two beautiful, original songs. It’s the latest installment of our Rootsy Summer Sessions series, shot at Rootsy Summer Fest ’23 in Falkenberg, Sweden on the banks of the Ätran.

Scribner, who was born and raised in rural Texas, first performed “Front Porch Rain,” a track from his 2021 self-titled album, with backing vocals by his brother and duo partner, Levi Scribner. Jackson’s voice is soft, but confident as he sings, “Though I see it now/ watch for the weather, wanted to kill it to stay/ it’s a front porch rain…” a striking lyric beneath the summer Swedish sun. There’s certainly a familial quality to the harmonies, though Levi leaves plenty of breathing room, allowing Jackson’s lyrics to come forward.

For his second selection, Jackson performed “Train Song (Early July),” this time solo. “Met my baby on a Mississippi train,” the song begins, as Jackson brings a timeless American roots music tradition – the train song – to Scandinavia, with heaping helping of reality infused into the archetypical lyric. “I’ll be a drifter,” he declares with subdued passion, “I’ll be machinery/ called to remember/ … I’ll be your early July, you’re my late June…”

Both of Scribner’s tracks are simply stellar in their Swedish setting, captured by I Know We Should. Stay tuned for more Rootsy Summer Sessions coming soon right here, on BGS.

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

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Scott Ballew

Last summer in Falkenberg, Sweden, videographers from I Know We Should shot a series of gorgeous sessions during Rootsy Summer Fest ’23, peeling off from the festival with artists from the lineup to capture intimate recordings of fleeting live performances. For the latest in our Rootsy Summer Sessions series, singer-songwriter and filmmaker Scott Ballew performed two songs on the banks of the Ätran overlooking the historic Tullbron bridge and fly fishermen stalking their quarry in the fast flowing water.

“Alright, I’ll try a river song…” Ballew says, introducing an original with a perfect subject for the setting. The selection is “Tent Song” from his 2021 critically-acclaimed debut album, Talking to Mountains. He continues with “Blue Eyes,” from 2022’s follow up to Talking to Mountains, entitled Leisure Rodeo.

Ballew, who was born and raised in Austin, Texas, relays textures and colors of the proverbial Wild West through a modern and slightly sardonic lens. His upcoming project, Rio Bravo, will continue his subversion and celebration of cowboy and Western aesthetics through a down home, countryfied string band sound. In our sessions, Ballew’s voice is passionate and unpolished, reminding of old school, itinerant troubadours – not only of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, but of the century prior, too.

For his Rootsy Summer Sessions, Ballew brings the beauty and the dust of Texas to Sweden and the North Sea with his two solo performances in downtown Falkenberg. 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: Jamie McKeogh

It was early fall when we met with JigJam guitarist Jamie McKeogh just outside of Nashville, Tennessee to capture this brand new, exclusive Yamaha Session.

For his first selection, McKeogh picked up his gorgeous custom Yamaha acoustic guitar and performed “Streets of London,” a song written by Ralph McTell and popularized in bluegrass circles by Tony Rice. McKeogh laughs as he plays through a handful of takes of the tune, trying to remember the order of the verses and hoping he’ll do Rice and McTell justice with his slightly Celtic-infused rendition. His voice is warm and cozy, accompanied by free and tender transatlantic flatpicking that references Rice as often as it explores brand new sonic territories. “Streets of London” shines with McKeogh’s – and JigJam’s – classic treatment, processing American roots music through a Celtic and Irish bluegrass lens.

To cap his Yamaha Sessions, McKeogh picks a lovely, danceable Irish jig, “Humours of Ballyloughlin,” showcasing some of the folk and vernacular techniques that distinguish Irish guitar picking from its American and bluegrass cousins. Bright, staccato triplets and trills demonstrate how adept Yamaha guitars can be at code switching between genres, styles, and musical vocabularies. Punctuated with broad, deep strums and exciting improvisations, it’s as if McKeogh is using “Ballyloughlin” to draw a deliberate diagram that connects these musical traditions, separated by merely the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a pleasure to get to enjoy Jamie McKeogh’s stylings in a rare solo context, though we highly recommend that, after you check out these Yamaha Sessions videos, you also check out his music made with JigJam. There’s plenty to love for all fans of Irish, Celtic, bluegrass, and old-time musics.

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

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

Rootsy Summer Sessions: Violet Bell
Rootsy Summer Sessions: Violet Bell