Soo… I realized some time ago that I don’t really have the time to keep this blog up and running the way I used to in the past, or the way I used to on my old site. Long form think pieces, in depth reviews, and multiple weekly posts just aren’t in the cards for me at this point. I even tried writing a “Best of” list at the end of last year, and never got more than about half way through it before it just kind of fell away. Kacey Musgraves would have been in my #1 slot, by the way.
Even when I haven’t been using this space, however, it’s been in the back of my mind as something I wanted to come back to. The trick, though, was finding something I both wanted to write about enough and felt like I could keep myself motivated about enough to keep things rolling week after week.
I think, maybe, I’ve found it.
You see, the thing I love to do most with music (More than just listening to it. More than writing about it.), is share it with other people through my radio show on WDVX. And what is hosting a radio show if not presenting a playlist to my listeners in real time every week?
So, what if I tried to replicate what happens on the air every week (I’m on Wednesday nights from 6-7 & 8-11. There’s live music on Tennessee Shines from 7-8) right here on the blog with a weekly playlist and some accompanying commentary? That might be just about the amount of effort I can commit to expending each week in this space. Let’s see how it goes.
What you’ll get here each week is a playlist of about 30 songs consisting of mostly new and newish tracks with some older classics mixed in. Some of the songs will be from that week’s Americana Pulse radio show. Some will be from outside the Americana genre/format entirely. Some will highlight artists who are on their way to play WDVX events in the near future. Some will just be random songs that I heard at the grocery store the week before.
This week’s list has U2 and Fiona Apple in it right next to Orville Peck and Mavis Staples… so… who knows, right?
Anyway, Let’s get to it.
1. Johnny Irion – “Never Said”
We start this week’s list with a beautiful Liz Phair cover from Johnny Irion and his wife Sarah Lee Guthrie. I honestly haven’t found much info on this release except that Johnny released this version to Spotify on Phair’s birthday. Cool tribute.
2. boygenius – “Bite the Hand”
I still can’t get enough of this 2018 EP that combined the talents of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus. This Dacus track begins the collection and is one of my favorite songs from last year.
3. Beth Bombara – “Upside Down”
This is the first single from Bombara’s upcoming album, Evergreen. It hits that mid-tempo roots-rock sweet spot for me with a great guitar hook in the chorus that perfectly counter balances Bombara’s vocal. Evergreen is out August 9.
4. Anne McCue – “Don’t Go to Texas (Without Me)”
Anne is playing the WDVX Blue Plate Special on Tuesday (7/16), and this track is from her 2010 album Broken Promise Land. Anne is an Australian-turned-Nashvillian who also hosts a weekly radio show called Songs on the Wire on WXNA in Nashville.
5. North Mississippi All Stars – “What You Gonna Do?”
Luther & Cody Dickinson are about to round out their second full decade of peddling their own special blend of jammy blues rock by releasing a new album this fall. They wisely asked Mavis Staples to contribute to the debut single. Up and Rolling will be released October 4.
6. Mavis Staples – “Stronger”
Speaking of the legend that is Mavis Staples… She celebrated her 80th birthday over the weekend by throwing out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game. She’s also still celebrating the release of her latest record, We Get By, that came out in May.
7. Orville Peck – “Queen of the Rodeo”
I’ll admit it. I was one of those people who took a minute to get into Peck’s debut album Pony. I wasn’t sure if the music would shine through what I first perceived as the gimmick of the “masked country singer.” It does, by the way. It 100% does with a bold blend of new wave and country that also defies conventions of both along the way.
8. Lillie Mae – “Terlingua Girl”
“Terlingua Girl” is the second track to be released from Lillie Mae’s upcoming sophomore album Other Girls. I’m really looking forward to hearing this full album, as Mae’s debut Forever and Then Some was one of my favorite releases of 2017. The Dave Cobb produced follow up releases August 16.
9. Joey McGee – “The Cape”
Free association time…
“Terlingua” made me think of an album my friend Joey McGee put out in 2017 called Terlingua Taproot. That, of course, reminded me that Joey also put out an album earlier this year called El Camino Real that, alongside a batch of his own Texas flavored originals, also contained this fine reading of a Guy Clark classic.
10. John Hiatt – “All Kinds of People”
11. Lilly Hiatt – “You Must Go”
These back to back tracks featuring father covering daughter and daughter covering father were originally released as a split 7″ single on Record Store Day in April. Both songs popped up in my Weekly Radar playlist on Spotify this week, so I’m also sharing them with you here.
12. Kelsey Walden – “Anyhow”
You may have heard the news that Walden recently became the first artist to sign to John Prine’s Oh Boy record label in 15 years. Now, you should probably hear the first single from her Oh Boy debut, White Noise/White Lines, which is set to release on October 4th.
13. Joseph Huber – “When the Waters Were One”
I always love it when I’m surprised by finding a new record in the mail at the radio station that I did not know was on the way. No advance singles. No emails from promoters. Just an album in the mailbox one day… and on Spotify a few days later. The quality of Huber’s new release, Moondog, shouldn’t surprise anyone, however.
14. Tellico – “Hawkeye Pierce & Honeycutt Blues”
Tellico will be popping over the mountain from Asheville to play the WDVX Blue Plate Special and do an evening set at Boyd’s Jig & Reel on Saturday (7/20). Those shows will be their last in the US before flying to France for an extended run that will take them into August. Catch them here in Knoxville while you can, folks.
15. R.E.M. – “It’s the End of the World as We Know it (And I Feel Fine)”
Here’s the thing. This list will have an R.E.M. song in it every week. Just like the Americana Pulse radio show closes with an R.E.M. song every week. And since Tellico name checked this very song in the previous tune… This is the one we’re going with this week.
16. U2 – “Bullet the Blue Sky”
17. Pat Green & Joe Ely – “Trip Through Your Wires”
We’re following classic R.E.M. with classic U2 because I dig this new cover of the The Joshua Tree staple “Trip Through Your Wires” from Texas heroes Pat Green and Joe Ely, and I really wanted to have some more heavy guitars in the mix after ITEOTWAWKI(AIFF) before we slid back into some more country territory. Also… I do love The Joshua Tree.
18. Michaela Anne – “Child of the Wind”
As Kelsey Walden is to Oh Boy… so is Michaela Anne to Yep Roc. Anne signed with the well respected roots label this spring and has so far released two tracks in advance of her label debut this fall. “Child of the Wind” should do nothing but help build anticipation for the release of Desert Dove on September 27.
19. Kaia Kater – “La Misère”
This brief interlude from Kaia Kater was adapted from a Grenadian chant the songwriter discovered in the archives of her record label, Smithsonian Folkways, and appeared on her 2018 album Grenades. It’s been in my head for a week or two since I re-heard it a few weeks ago in a recent edition of Highway Queens’ weekly playlist. That list is also what partly inspired me to start doing this.
20. Our Native Daughters – “Mama’s Cryin’ Long”
Let’s stick with Smithsonian Folkways for one more track for this super group composed of Rhainnon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allsion Russell. There’s nothing I can say about this song that wasn’t said in this linked “making of” video from NPR.
21. Bela Fleck & The Flecktones – “Bigfoot”
Bela Fleck celebrated a birthday last week on the same day as Mavis Staples. My introduction to Fleck came in the late ’90s through his work with the Flecktones rather than his time with Newgrass Revival. This live Flecktones rendition of Fleck’s Revival classic blends both of those worlds.
22. The Vandoliers – “Miles & Miles”
The Vandoliers are playing WDVX’s Tennessee Shines this Wednesday night (7/17) at 7:00 at Boyd’s Jig & Reel, and I fully expect them to blow out the doors on the intimate performance space that maybe holds 100 people. Get there if you can, or listen to the full concert live on WDVX.
23. Madison Cunningham – “Pin it Down”
Honestly. I know less about Madison Cunningham than any other artist on this list, but this song kind of had me mesmerized with it’s loping looping energy from the first time I heard it. Cunningham’s latest album Who Are You Now is set for release August 16. I’ll be checking it out.
24. Paul Cauthen – “Cocaine Country Dancing”
This song is oozing with groove… and maybe some other stuff. As someone who’s been listening to this artist since Sons of Fathers were still called Beck & Cauthen, it’s been cool to see just where Paul Cauthen’s muse has taken him through the years. I’m certainly here for the country-funk turn he’s hit of late.
25. Will Johnson – “Cornelius”
In contrast to Cauthen, Will Johnson is an artist I haven’t kept up with nearly as much. I’ve just never taken the deep dive into Centromatic for whatever reason. Johnson’s latest solo effort, Wire Mountain, is headed our way September 27. Maybe that’s where I’ll start.
26. Son Volt – “Sometimes”
Anytime I hear the kind of pulsing and plodding drumbeat that forms the heart of “Cornelius,” I always immediately connect it to Alejandro Escovedo’s “Sometimes” from With These Hands. That album isn’t on Spotify for some reason… So here’s Son Volt’s equally heavy rendition from an Escovedo tribute project.
27. The Breeders – “Cannonball”
28. Belly – “Feed the Trees”
29. Fiona Apple – “Criminal”
30. Liz Phair – “Never Said”
The first songs I added to the playlist this week were the new ones from Beth Bombara, Michaela Anne, and Kelsey Waldon. After that it was the Liz Phair cover that kicked off the list and this original version that sits here at the end. With just those songs in the hopper, Spotify suggested I add Belly and The Breeders as well. So I did.
“Criminal” from Fiona Apple was another natural add here, especially after Apple announced plans recently to donate proceeds from the song to a charity that supports refugees at the US southern border. I was a teenager in the ’90’s, and these artists were a big part of what I was in to at the time.
There you are. Thirty songs in just under two hours. A snapshot of everything I was listening to last week.