I got back in the saddle in the WDVX studio last week for the live edition of the Americana Pulse radio show. I gotta say it felt pretty good to be back on the air after a month or so away.
I love putting these playlists together every week, but there is something to be said for that rush of being live on the radio every week. Usually, about half of what I do on the radio side is planned out each week about the same way it is here.
The other half, though? That part is often real, live, seat-of-the-pants radio that often finds me still trying to pick out the next song with less than a minute left on the current tune.
That’s the part I miss when I’m not on the air.
OK. Let’s get to it.
1. First Aid Kit – “Strange Beauty”
Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg from First Aid Kit were fans of The Silver Jews’ David Berman. Last week, in tribute to the late songwriter, First Aid Kit released a two song EP dedicated to Berman’s music and memory. This is an original tune the sisters wrote the day after his death. The second song is a Silver Jews cover that will show up at the end of this list.
2. Pieta Brown – “The Hard Way”
Pieta Brown’s new album Freeway is finalized and ready for release on September 20. Early versions of the record, however, did not include this track that Brown has now issued as a single in advance of the record. Brown says she was always a fan of the song, but felt something was missing. That’s when she reached out to her friend Mark Knopfler to see if he was interested in collaborating on the track. He was.
3. Tanya Tucker – “Mustang Ridge”
Tanya Tucker is a country music legend, and that is something that is not lost on Brandi Carlile. When Carlile was offered a chance to co-produce Tucker’s new album alongside Shooter Jennings, she jumped at the chance. The resulting album While I’m Living was released on Friday.
4. Corb Lund & Ian Tyson – “Ride On”
About a month ago, we told you about Corb Lund’s upcoming covers project and shared his take on Dr. Hook’s “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” with his friend Hayes Carll. This time, we’re sharing Lund’s collaboration with fellow Canadian Ian Tyson on AC/DC’s “Ride On” from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Lund’s Cover Your Tracks is due September 13.
5. Jesse Dayton – “Bankrobber”
Speaking of covers… Jesse Dayton’s new album is out now and finds Dayton tackling other artists songs as well. While Dayton also takes a run at an AC/DC classic (“Whole Lotta Rosie”) on Mixtape Volume 1, we’re sharing his version of The Clash’s “Bankrobber” as a way of also celebrating the late Joe Strummer’s birthday from last week.
6. Sturgill Simpson – “Sing Along”
Sturgill Simpson showed up on the stage at the San Diego Comic Con at the end of July and surprisingly announced that his next project would be a rock focused effort to serve as a companion piece to an Anime film called Sound & Fury he was producing for Netflix.
Yes. You read all of that correctly. Sound & Fury is due September 27.
Last week, Simpson released the first song from that project, alongside an accompanying music video which I’ll throw in here as well.
7. Allison Moorer – “The Rock & The Hill
While we’re on the subject of artists releasing new albums as companion pieces to other forms of media, let’s talk about the two projects announced by Allison Moorer last week. Moorer will release an album and a memoir in the same week at the end of October. Both projects are titled Blood and will deal with her childhood and the tragic murder-suicide of her parents.
8. Molly Tuttle – “Make My Mind Up”
We’re just a couple of weeks away from Molly Tuttle’s appearance in Oak Ridge at the WDVX Summer Sessions concert, and I promised to share a few more tracks from Tuttle’s new record before the September 14 concert. Here’s the title track from her latest.
9. Austin Plaine – “Lucky Ones”
Austin Plaine’s second album came out at the end of June, and I guess I could be accused of having slept on it when it was released. Regardless, I’m on board now, and I wish I could tell you that I was there from the beginning. This song features backing vocals from Soren Bryce, and is nearly perfect as a mid-tempo shuffling country love song.
10. Taylor Swift & The Dixie Chicks – “Soon You’ll Get Better”
Did you really think I’d let this week’s list go by without mentioning the return of The Dixie Chicks? The Chicks have been in the studio in recent months and have promised new music of their own at some point in the near future. Until then, a guest shot with one of the biggest pop stars on the planet will suffice. It is believed that Taylor Swift wrote this song about her mom’s recent battles with cancer.
2019 Americana Music Awards Duo/Group of the Year Nominees
11. I’m With Her – “Call My Name”
12. Our Native Daughters – “Black Myself”
13. Tedeschi Trucks Band – “Signs, Hard Times”
14. The War & Treaty – “Healing Tide”
The Americana Music Awards will be handed out September 11 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Over the next couple of weeks leading up to the show, I’ll briefly handicap the major award categories. We start here with the Duo/Group of the Year nominees. This is a loaded category containing the super groups I’m With Her and Our Native Daughters, the veteran stars of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and the relative newcomers The War and Treaty.
Michael and Tanya Trotter of The War and Treaty may have won my vote for People of the Year through a couple of wonderful interactions I had with them last year, and I’m With Her and Tedeschi Trucks Band have the star power to take this one home. Only one of these groups, though, inspired a friend of mine to get a tattoo of the band’s logo.
If I had a vote, it would go to Our Native Daughters and their “Black Girl Banjo Magic.
2019 Americana Music Awards Emerging Artist of the Year nominees
15. Yola – Rock Me Gently
16. Jade Bird – “Does Anybody Know”
17. J.S. Ondara – “Torch Song”
18. Erin Rae – “Putting On Airs”
This is a similarly stacked category. Especially when you account for the fact that The War & Treaty have a second nomination here. Their competition includes a former Americana Music Association UK Artist the Year winner in Yola and another young British sensation in Jade Bird. Kenyan immigrant J.S. Ondara has also garnered a lot of critical praise. As has Nashville songwriter Erin Rae.
The edge here probably goes to Yola based on the fact that she’s also nominated for Album of the Year (more on that category next week) for her album Walk Through Fire. Even though this is essentially a category for “new” artists, I’ll remind you here that WDVX listeners first heard Yola (then Yola Carter) a couple of years ago when we were one of the only American radio stations spinning her debut EP following her AMA-UK win.
I also would not discount The War & Treaty and their two nominations or Jade Bird and her string of Top 10 Americana Radio singles. This is a deep category, as it seems to be nearly every year.
19. Miss Tess – “Little Lola”
20. Valerie June – “Got Soul”
21. Steve Earle – “L.A. Freeway”
At this point of the list, you’re probably wondering what artists are headed to Knoxville to play some live music this week.
Well… Let’s start start with the country jazz stylings of Miss Tess on WDVX’s Tennessee Shines Wednesday night (8/28) at Boyd’s Jig & Reel downtown. That show will be broadcast live on WDVX at 7:00. Valerie June is also in town Wednesday night for a show at the Bijou Theatre.
One of this week’s coolest events will take place Friday night (8/30) at World’s Fair Park when Steve Earle & The Dukes come to town to play a benefit for Second Harvest Food Bank. The concert is part of Second Harvest’s Music Feeds series.
Drew Holcomb’s latest, Dragons, has been out for a couple of weeks now. This song features the fabulous Lori McKenna and is probably my favorite on the album.
When I mentioned Sunny War in this space a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea she was planning to release a new album last week. I was pleasantly surprised to see Shell of a Girl in my feed on Friday.
Jamie Lin Wilson released Jumping Over Rocks, her latest full length album around this time last year. “Alice” is a new stand-alone single from the Texas songwriter that debuted on line last week.
25. Sarah Jarosz – “Come On Up to the House”
When I thought I was preparing to do a full edition of Americana Pulse last week, I was looking at Sarah Jarosz’s debut as the Classic Album for the week. I can’t believe this album turned ten this year. I still remember writing about it on my old Fifty Cent Lighter blog when it was released. When the Americana Pulse radio show gets back to full strength, expect a deep dive on this one.
26. Courtney Marie Andrews – “Downtown Train”
We just heard Sarah Jarosz pay tribute to Tom Waits from a decade ago. Now allow me to share Courtney Marie Andrews’ contribution to a newly announced Waits tribute project called Come On Up to the House: Women Sing Waits. Andrews is joined on the album by Patty Griffin, Aimee Mann, Phoebe Bridgers, Rosanne Cash, and Corrinne Bailey Rae just to name a few. Women Sing Waits will be available November 22.
27. Joseph Arthur – “Streetcar”
From trains to streetcars, we transition to Joseph Arthur’s first solo release since 2016. Arthur calls his upcoming album (October 11) Come Back World a record of “rebirth and survival” that comes after a period of personal darkness. Here’s hoping for bright days ahead for Arthur, who has been a favorite artist of mine for some time now.
28. R.E.M. – “Let Me In”
29. Purple Mountains – “Nights That Won’t Happen”
30. First Aid Kit – “Random Rules”
We started the list this week with a new song from First Aid Kit in tribute to the late David Berman from The Silver Jews and Purple Mountains. We go out this week with a triptych of songs dedicated to his memory as well.
Of course, there is the darkly prophetic “Nights That Won’t Happen” from Berman’s recently issued, self-titled Purple Mountains record. We also have the second of two songs from First Aid Kit on this week’s list… a cover The Silver Jews’ “Random Rules.”
Preceding both of those, however is a song R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe wrote over 20 years ago. Not about Berman, but about his friend Kurt Cobain. Cobain and Stipe had been planning a collaboration of some sort at the time of Cobain’s death in 1994. Tragically, that project never came to pass. We did, however, get this tribute from Stipe to his friend on R.E.M.’s 1994 album Monster.
Music history is littered with stories of musicians whose lives were cut short by their own hands… Berman and Cobain included. Nuci’s Space is an organization based out of R.E.M.’s hometown of Athens, Georgia that is dedicated to preventing suicide with a focus on aiding musicians with mental illness. Please check out or pass along their website if you or someone you know is in need of assistance.