The Americana Week That Was: 3/15-3/21


The entire musical world descended upon Austin, Texas this week for the annual South by Southwest Festival. Except… a whole bunch of people didn’t.

For those of us without the means or desire to head to Austin this week, The Couch by Couchwest Festival has served as a more than adequate substitute for five years now. Billed as an online music festival, CXCW invites artists of any stature to record and submit original videos. The videos are then posted to the CXCW website during the week of SXSW. What results are hundreds of videos from unknown talents and established stars. You’re guaranteed to find a new favorite and a few surprises every day.

Rosanne Cash did a video last year. Neko Case has shown up in the past as well. I heard Aaron Lee Tasjan for the first time at last year’s CXCW. Glen Hansard even showed up this year. Ray Wylie Hubbard, Austin Lucas, Gretchen Peters, Tim Easton, Will Kimbrough, American Aquarium… I could keep going.

Of course… you know Knoxville is always well represented as well. We have a great group of artists in this town.

If you have some time, head over to Couch by Couchwest and check it out. You’ll find plenty videos from some of your favorite artists, but take the time to check out some unknowns too. I promise you’ll find something amazing… like maybe something from producer/shredder extraordinaire Eric “Roscoe” Ambel or WDVX First Friday alums Bear Medicine.

Here’s something from the first year of CXCW. It’s BJ Barham from American Aquarium debuting a (then) brand new song back in 2011. It’s something BJ has made a habit of.

This Week’s WDVX On Demand Guide:

WDVX has an average of about 15 artists per week playing live at our studio in some form or another. Those performances (along with all our programming) are archived on our website to stream for two full weeks. Each week, I give you a little guide to where and when you need to go to hear some of the week’s highlights. Simply choose the day and hour you want to listen to.

Wednesday 3/18 at 7:00 – Mic Harrison & The High Score on Tennessee Shines.

One of those Knoxville artists who always represents at CXCW is Mic Harrison & The High Score. Wednesday afternoon, Mic & the boys posted their 2015 entry to the CXCW site. Wednesday night, they blasted the stage at Boyd’s Jig & Reel with a full hour of roots rock & roll that included newer favorites alongside tunes that stretched all the way back to Harrison’s days in the V-Roys.

Wednesday 3/18 6:00-7:00PM, 8:00-11:00PM – This Week in Americana & The Americana Pulse.

My weekly turn in the WDVX dj booth kicked off with This Week in Americana at 6:00. In that hour, we streamed a few tunes from CXCW, and played some great new tracks from Ray Wylie Hubbard, MilkDrive, Asleep at the Wheel with OCMS, The Sweetback Sisters, and The Steel Wheels.

After Tennessee Shines, we kicked off The Americana Pulse with a birthday tribute to Tim O’Brien at 8:00 before getting into our Three Songs conversation with Allison Moorer at 8:30. Allison shared her favorite Leon Russell song, talked about the challenges of raising a child with autism, and basically just overflowed with joy over her new record. We also shared some tunes from our Classic Album, East Nashville Skyline, from Todd Snider. I’m particularly partial to the last hour of the show that features a rockabilly rave-up set built around Snider’s “Nashville,” and a mini musical history of the many bands of Alejandro Escovedo.

Show Spotlight: Mondays from 7:00-10:00 – The Category Stomp with Katie Cauthen

With Tennessee Shines’ move to Wednesday nights, WDVX’s Monday night shows have been bumped up an hour with Katie’s The Category Stomp now kicking off at 7:00. More than anyone else on our station, Katie routinely stretches the boundaries of Americana from its most traditional forms all the way to more eclectic and esoteric extremes. To say that another way… Dr. Dog and Doc Watson are both welcome in Katie’s world. You can expect a healthy dose of John Hartford every week as well.

sxswNew Tunes & Other Cool Stuff:

*With all the talk about CXCW, it’s easy to forget that SXSW also took place this week. I don’t want to spend too much time on the events in Austin, but this video of Courtney Barnett performing at Stubb’s BBQ for NPR Music is just too good to pass up. Courtney’s new record, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, will be released in just a few days. Barnett careened through a set of tunes from the new record with pure fire and abandon.

*We’ll stick with NPR Music for our second note this week as well. Ann Powers has the scoop on a new Buffy Sainte-Marie record that will be released in May. NPR is also streaming the lead track from that album, a remake of Sainte-Marie’s 1964 classic “It’s My Way.” Power in the Blood is the 74-year-old songwriter’s 18th record. Younger fans like me who discovered Sainte-Marie through Neko Case’s cover of “Soulful Shade of Blue” should really dig the sound and production on this track.

*Kind of like American Aquarium, William Elliott Whitmore is one of those artists I’ve been aware of for some time, but I’ve missed out on listening to because I don’t recall his records being serviced to radio in the past. Like American Aquarium’s Wolves, Whitmore’s new release, Radium Death, is the kind of album that makes me want to go back and buy some of his back catalog. “Civilizations” from the new record is streaming at The Bluegrass SituationRadium Death will be released March 31st.

*Finally, The Punch Brothers stopped by the NPR Music offices this week to perform a Tiny Desk Concert. Their new album, The Phosphorescent Blues, is full of the same adventurous acoustic stylings the Chris Thile led project has become known for. It’s always a treat to see these guys perform live.

*Let’s leave you with one more classic track from CXCW past. This Cadillac Sky video comes from the inaugural festival back in 2011. Yes, that is David Mayfield on guitar. I miss this band.

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