Hey again, everybody.
The new baby hits the four week mark this Wednesday, and I’m thinking it might be time to get back in the WDVX studio and start doing some live Americana Pulse radio again. If everything goes well between now and than, that’s exactly where I’ll be this Wednesday night from 6-7 and again from 8-11 with a little live music in between from The East Tennessee Bluegrass Association from 7-8 on Tennessee Shines.
The six o’clock hour is when I try to share all the new tunes we’ve collected at the station during the week. The Americana Pulse kicks off in earnest at 8:00. That’s when I dive into our weekly Classic Album, throw out some theme sets, and keep bringing you more of those new tunes along with some old favorites. You’ll probably see a few of the songs I’ve been highlighting in these playlists pop up on the air each week, but I’m gonna try to make it worth your while to follow both.
Anyway… Enjoy this week’s collection of tunes, and I hope to see you on the radio on Wednesday.
Let’s get to it.
1. The Highwomen – “Highwomen”
Please, somebody tell me I don’t actually have to wait five more weeks to hear the rest of The Highwomen’s new record. This is the fourth song released from the album, and it does a brilliant job of re-working Jimmy Webb’s classic composition into a female fueled anthem that carries a bit more social relevance than the original ever did. Webb himself signed off on the new version and even helped co-write this one with Highwomen Brandi Carlile and Amanda Shires. A guest appearance from Yola as the Freedom Rider in the third verse is a definite highlight.
2. Karen & The Sorrows – “Guaranteed Broken Heart”
My first exposure to Karen & The Sorrows was through the 2017 album The Narrow Place. I fell pretty hard for the record, but my admiration for Karen Pittleman and her band only grew after reading a terrific article from Rachel Cholst on the Wide Open Country website about Brooklyn’s queer country scene and Pittleman’s place in it. This is the title track from the new Karen & The Sorrows record due October 18.
3. Sarah Jane Scouten – “Ballad of a Southern Midwife”
I feel like I discovered Sarah Jane Scouten at almost exactly the same time a couple of years ago that I stumbled on Karen & The Sorrows. And now, both artists are here releasing preview tracks for their upcoming albums in the same week. Scouten’s new album Confessions isn’t due until November, but this re-recording of a track she first released a decade ago serves as a fine preview of what is to come.
4. Lillie Mae – “At Least Three in this Room”
We’ve highlighted several songs from Lillie Mae’s new record in this space already. The difference between then and now is that the record officially released on Friday, and you can now track it down in all of its goodness for yourself.
5. David Wax Museum – “Uncover the Gold”
Charlottesville’s David Wax Museum are set to release their first album in four years on August 23. The lead single from that new record was written in the immediate aftermath of the white supremacist rally that shook their hometown in 2017. Bandmembers David Wax and Suz Slezak say the way members of their community responded to the tragedy proved to them that all darkness can reveal a little bit of light.
6. Andrew Combs – “Born without a Clue”
This is the third song I’ve featured from Andrew Combs’ upcoming (September 20) release Ideal Man. Combs says he wrote this particular song the day after Tom Petty died, and wanted to write straight from the heart as he believes Petty did. Combs also says the song is a reminder to himself and his young daughter to avoid the trap of striving to become who other people believe they should be instead of who they are.
7. Jade Bird – “Good at it”
8. Jade Jackson – “Bottle it Up”
My daughter’s two favorite albums of 2019 so far have both been made by women named Jade. I don’t know what the odds are on that particular feat happening in any given year, but I do know that these are both great records. Jade Bird’s self-titled release, especially, will show up in a fairly lofty spot on my list of best albums from this year.
9. The Rails – “Call Me When it All Goes Wrong”
Kami Thompson is the daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson.
James Walbourne has played guitar for The Pretenders and Son Volt.
Together, they have just released their third album as The Rails. On this lead single, you can definitely hear a bit of Son Volt in Walbourne’s licks… and a lot of Richard in the younger Thompson’s vocal phrasings. I’m not sure how this band has escaped my attentions until now, but I think I’m all in on this one. Listening to this record reminds me of hearing Whitehorse for the first time.
10. Dylan LeBlanc – “Bang Bang Bang”
Dylan LeBlanc’s Renegade came out back in June, but I wasn’t writing this blog back then, so I may as well share this one here now. I’ll also be honest for a moment and say that it took me a few weeks to listen to this record once it came out. Mostly, because I was the one person who was never fully on board with LeBlanc’s 2016 album Cautionary Tale. Consider me converted.
11. Robby Hecht – “Tell Me”
Robby Hecht is a former Knoxville artist who lives in Nashville these days. Hecht is releasing a series of two-song EP’s over the course of 2019 with each carrying the title Me and the Fool I’ve Been. The second release in the series came out on Friday, and three more are planned before the end of the year.
12. Caroline Spence – “Whiskey Watered Down”
The cover of the current issue of Rolling Stone boasts an article on the “Best New Artists of the Year.” One of those artists is Caroline Spence, and the honor is well deserved. Of course, if you listen to WDVX, Spence has been on your radar since around 2015 (Spence said earlier this year that WDVX was the first station to “add” her first record). This song from her first record is the one we started playing back then. It’s also the first song Spence says she felt comfortable playing around Nashville after moving there several years ago.
13. Chuck Mead – “My Baby’s Holding it Down”
I got a phone call from Chuck Mead last week. He was out west touring behind his new album Close to Home and was checking in to thank the station for spinning the record. Mead has been one of the top names in country and rockabilly music since his younger days with BR549. Decades later, Mead is still holding things down and making great music.
14. Charley Crockett – “Borrowed Time”
The latest song to hit our ears in advance of Charley Crockett’s upcoming album The Valley is a co-write with Evan Felker form the Turnpike Troubadours that features Brennen Leigh on backing vocals. When Crockett recorded the song in January, he did so not knowing if he would even see its release. One week after hitting the studio, Crockett underwent the first of two open heart surgeries to repair a faulty valve. These days, Crockett is back in good health and good spirits and ready to share his autobiographical new album on September 20.
15. Rodney Crowell with Vince Gill – “Caw Caw Blues”
Rodney Crowell’s new album, Texas, was released on Friday. I’ve talked about it before in this space and about its list of guest stars that includes Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack, Ringo Starr, Steve Earle, and Lyle Lovett among others. This track features Crowell’s old friend and Notorious Cherry Bombs band mate Vince Gill.
16. Danni Nichols & Butterfly Boucher – “A Little Redemption”
Danni Nichols is an artist I became familiar a couple of years ago after she was nominated for UK Album of the Year at the Americana Music Association UK Awards. I’ve loved Butterfly Boucher since the release of her 2004 debut Flutterby. I did not know, however, that this 2013 collaboration existed until it showed up randomly in one of my feeds this week.
17. Kate Rhudy – “I Don’t Like You or Your Band”
Kate Rhudy will hit the stage in Knoxville this week when she plays Friday night (8/23) at the Open Chord. Rhudy is a folk singer in the vein of Rachel Baiman or Vivian Leva who first hit the WDVX airwaves with her debut album Rock N’ Roll Ain’t for Me in 2017.
18. Che Apalache – “The Dreamer”
The most international act on the playlist this week is easily Che Apalache. This Latin flavored string band features members from Argentina, Mexico, and North Carolina. They understandably bring a few more sounds to the party than your typical bluegrass band. Oh yeah, did I mention that this record is produced by none other than Bela Fleck? Go check it out.
19. Carolina Chocolate Drops & Luminescent Orchestrii – “Escoutas (Diga Diga Diga)
Every so often, I find myself wondering just what members of the band Luminescent Orchestrii are up to these days. I used to make it a point to show up at the station any time this gypsy-folk outfit from New York city would play for us on the Blue Plate Special. Their sets were always high energy and a lot of fun. This 2011 collaboration with The Carolina Chocolate Drops adds Rhiannon Giddens to the mix, and the whole thing gets elevated a few extra notches.
20. Rhiannon Giddens – “Moonshiner’s Daughter”
21. Mavis Staples – “High Note”
22. Elvis Costello – “Complicated Shadows”
23. Delbert McClinton – “Let’s Get Down Like We Used To”
24. Maria Muldaur – “I’m a Woman”
25. The Ditty Bops – “Bye Bye Love”
On Tuesday of last week, The Americana Music Association released the list of honorees for special and lifetime achievement awards at this year’s Americana Awards show taking place September 11 in Nashville. Let’s take a look at them.
Rhainnon Giddens had been previously announced as the first ever winner of the Legacy of Americana Award along with the late Frank Johnson. Johnson was an early African American band leader, and an artist whose influence Giddens has worked to highlight. This track comes from Giddens’ Grammy nominated 2015 EP Factory Girl.
Mavis Staples was previously honored with the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award in 2007. She’s being brought back to this year’s awards show to be celebrated on the occasion of her 80th birthday.
Mentons of Elvis Costello most likely brings to mind British rock and New Wave of the late 70’s and early 80’s, but a string of more roots related releases over the past decade or so is enough for Costello to become the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. His 2009 album Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane was produced by T. Bone Burnett and featured appearances by Jim Lauderdale, Emmylou Harris, and Jerry Douglas among others.
Six decades on stage and on the road is enough to land Delbert McClinton this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. When I interviewed McClinton a few years ago, he spoke to me about his love for the Ray Price song “Nightlife,” and how much he identified with the life lived in that song. It’s a lifestyle that after 60 years, should earn someone an award for their time spent on stage.
Maria Muldaur gets this year’s Trailblazer Award for a career that kicked off with the folk revival of the 60’s and wound though the worlds of gospel and blues along the way. Muldaur’s career record boasts a Top 10 hit in “Midnight at the Oasis” and collaborations with a long list of artists from Jim Kweskin to Dr. John to fellow honoree Mavis Staples.
Living as I do in East Tennessee, I could safely assume that most of my neighbors would support the awarding of this year’s Lifetime Achievement for Songwriting to Felice and Boudleaux Bryant based on the fact they wrote the ubiquitous UT anthem “Rocky Top.” Of course, the husband and wife pair wrote around 6.000 other songs in their career as well, including this Everly Brothers hit performed here by The Ditty Bops.
26. Bombadil – “Pillows & Prine”
When I hosted Bombadil on Tennessee Shines earlier this year, they included John Prine’s “I Have Met My Love Today” in their set. This track, the third to be released so far from their upcoming album Beautiful Country, is just another tribute to the master.
27. Jeremy Ivey – “Diamonds Back to Coal”
You probably know Jeremy Ivey’s name already due mostly to the fact that you’ve read it in the liner notes to each of Margo Price’s first two albums. Ivey has several co-writing credits with Price and has played guitar, harmonica and bass on her recordings. He even co-produced All American Made. Now Ivey, who is also Price’s husband, is stepping out with his debut solo record due on September 13.
28. Radiohead – “Paranoid Android”
A few weeks ago, my wife turned me on to a podcast called Strong Songs. It’s one of those shows where the host does a deep dive into one particular song with special attention being given to things like chord structure and music theory. I listened to a recent episode on Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” which is a structurally complex song… and one of my top five favorites from Thom Yorke and company.
29. R.E.M. – “Leave”
This is the one song in the R.E.M. catalog that I feel most closely resembles “Paranoid Android.” Granted, it doesn’t have as many movements as the previous song, but it does break down into two very distinct segments and carries a bit of that same sprawling feel. This is another entry from New Adventures in Hi Fi.
30. The Highwaymen – “Highwayman”
Keep flying that star ship, Johnny.