Wednesdays have long been one of my favorite days of the week because that is the day I get to in the studio at WDVX and put Americana Pulse on the air.
Of course, Wednesdays are also often my longest day of the week too. I’m typically up around 6:30 to get my daughter ready for school, and after nine hours at the day job and five more on the air, I’m usually dragging home around midnight and too wired to sleep.
I’m used to that. Last Wednesday though, I came home to find a baby who also seemed to be too wired to sleep. Long story short… he and I were both still unhappily awake at 3:30 in the morning. By the time it was time to get up and do it all again the next day, I had logged about two-and-a-half hours of sleep. That is not ideal when your day job asks you to sit at a desk and stare at a computer screen for large chunks of the day.
That is, though, where we begin this week’s playlist.
It’s a day late after the holiday weekend, but let’s get to it.
1. Lydia Loveless – “All I Know”
2. Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles – “I’ll Show You How”
3. Caitlin Rose – “Shanghai Cigarettes”
4. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – “Nothin’ Feels Right But Doin’ Wrong”
The events of Wednesday night had left me in a such a state Thursday morning at work that coffee alone was not going to get me through the day. I needed something loud, familiar, and uptempo pumped directly into my ears to keep me moving forward. I started with Lydia Loveless’ Indestructible Machine record, and before I knew it I had plowed through a large chunk of her catalog.
That all seemed to work so well that I followed it up with a mix of Sarah Borges, Caitlin Rose, and Sarah Shook to keep things rolling. I picked a representative song from each of those artists to kick off the list this week just in case you have a long day at work in front of you on Tuesday after the holiday.
5. Caleb Caudle – “Howlin’ at the Moon”
We’re going to shift to a couple of new tunes here while still keeping things familiar with a few covers. Caleb Caudle will release a new album early next year featuring songs from recording sessions at the famed Cash Cabin from earlier this year. Caudle gave us all a taste of those sessions last week with the release of his version of Hank Williams Sr.’s “Howlin’ at the Moon.”
6. The Mavericks – “Swingin'”
Raul Malo and the Mavericks are celebrating 30 years of making music together. As part of that celebration, The Mavericks are already out on the road playing stops on an anniversary tour. If they aren’t swinging through your town on the tour, you can swing along with this new cover of John Anderson’s 1983 classic. There are no two voices in country music history that are more different than Malo and Anderson, and The Mavericks make full use of their front man’s distinctive pipes even as they add their own flavor to the song.
7. Love Canon – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Tears for Fears are an underrated powerhouse of 1980’s pop music. I heard their original version of this 1985 hit twice out in the world on Tuesday, and I knew I wanted to throw an “Americana-ized” version into this week’s mix. Love Canon is a covers only bluegrass band that primarily tackles hits from the 1980’s… the pop music “canon,” if you will. There are tons of fun tracks like this in their catalog.
8. Mustered Courage – “Kiss From a Rose”
One good bluegrass cover deserves another. This one gives us Australian band Mustered Courage’s taking on Seal’s mega-hit “Kiss From a Rose.” The original was Seal’s biggest hit in the U.S. and won three Grammys in 1996. This song may also be the only good thing that came from Joel Schumaker’s Batman movies.
9. Aubrie Sellers & Steve Earle – “My Love Will Not Change”
We still have to wait until February (Far From Home – 2/7/20) for the much anticipated follow up to Aubrie Sellers’ 2016 debut. Luckily, Sellers has been slowly dropping a few nuggets from the upcoming release. This Shawn Camp composition is already a well-traveled Americana standard (Bluegrass Situation hit on a few of the song’s incarnations last week), but Sellers is able to put her own spin on the tune by muddying things up a bit and bringing in Steve Earle on backing vocals.
2019 Americana Music Awards Song of the Year Nominees
10. Mark Erelli, Anais Mitchell, Josh Ritter, Lori McKenna, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow – “By Degrees”
11. Lori McKenna – “People Get Old”
12. John Prine – “Summer’s End”
13. Ruston Kelly – “Mockingbird”
As we mentioned last week, The Americana Music Awards will be handed out September 11 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. In an effort to get you ready for the ceremony, I’ve been taking a bit of space here to handicap some of the major awards and toss out some predictions. Last week was Emerging Act and Duo/Group of the Year. This time around, we’ll tackle the Song and Artist of the year Categories.
First is Song of the Year, and I kinda feel like John Prine comes away with this one. He’s nominated here and for Album of the Year, and I have to believe he walks away with one award… if not two. “Summer’s End,” a co-write with Pat McLaughlin, stands with some of the best work of Prine’s career, and would be a worthy recipient here.
Ruston Kelly made a huge splash with “Mockingbird” from his Dying Star album. We also talked in this space a few weeks ago about the Mark Erelli composition, “By Degrees,” that sadly continues to remain relevant. Lori McKenna is insightful as always with “People Get Old.” As someone who has experienced both birth and death in my immediate family in this calendar year, I can feel every word of this song. It would probably have my vote, if I were actually voting.
I am the guy who turns off all the lights in the house, by the way.
2019 Americana Music Awards Artist of the Year Nominees
14. Kacey Musgraves – “Slow Burn”
15. Brandi Carlile – “The Mother”
16. Our Native Daughters – “Better Get Your Learnin'”
17. Mavis Staples – “Can You Get to That”
As much as I love all of the women in this category, I think Brandi Carlile takes this in a walk. Carlile swept the Americana categories at the Grammy Awards earlier this year and continues to be an icon for activism, kindness, and inclusion within the music industry. Even with her work with The Highwomen coming after the nominating and voting period for this award was over, Carlile feels like a clear choice to me.
Of course… Kacey Musgraves, Rhiannon Giddens (represented here by Our Native Daughters), and Mavis Staples are also worthy nominees who had great years in their own rights. This award, though, seems to be tied to visibility outside of the genre, and Carlile’s Grammy wins, Grammy performance, and numerous television appearances would seem to put her over the top.
18. Son Volt – “Windfall”
19. Laura Mae Socks – “Truer Sound”
Laura Mae Socks is not an artist I was familiar with before I stumbled upon a recent article about her in American Songwriter. I was intrigued enough by her story of growing up poor in the mountains of West Virginia to check out a few of her songs. I was also intrigued by her statement that she was inspired by the Son Volt song “Windfall” in writing for her new album. The song I’m sharing here borrows it’s title from the lyrics of that Son Volt classic. I can easily imagine Socks, who also spent time living in Louisiana, listening to that same all-night station that Son Volt’s Jay Farrar sings about on his song from 1995.
20. Steep Canyon Rangers, The Asheville Symphony, & Boyz II Men – “Be Still Moses”
What happens when the High Lonesome Sound meets Cooleyhighharmony? The answer can be found in this new collaboration between The Steep Canyon Rangers and Boyz II Men that debuted last week through Billboard’s website. The track is from an upcoming album the Rangers recorded with The Ashville Symphony Orchestra.
21. R.E.M. & Q-Tip – “The Outsiders”
Speaking of odd pairings that lead to strong collaborations… This week’s R.E.M. track comes from their 2004 album Around the Sun and features a verse from Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. Tip has always been one of my favorite rappers, and this pairing with my favorite band is a definite highlight from one of R.E.M.’s weaker releases. If you ask me, this one holds up a little better today than “Radio Song,” R.E.M.’s other rap collaboration with KRS-1 from the Out of Time record.
How about we start with Amy LaVere who will be playing songs from her new release Painting Blue Thursday (9/5) on the WDVX Blue Plate Special.
Local favorites Guy Marshall are back on Tennessee Shines Wednesday night. That show takes place at Boyd’s Jig & Reel and will be broadcast live on WDVX at 7:00.
Mike and the Moonpies are in town today (9/3) for a Blue Plate slot. They’ll also be holding things down at Barley’s tonight as they tour behind their new record Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold.
25. Leah Blevins – “God, Help Me”
I’ve been trying not to read much about next week’s AmericanaFest. I’m not able to go this year, and I genuinely hate to miss out on my favorite week of the year. I did check out this article from NPR Music about new artists at the festival, though and found out about Leah Blevins. Blevins is from Sandy Hook, KY… the land of Keith Whitley, and a town I used to drive through frequently on my way home from college at Morehead State University back in the day. If you’re attending AmericanaFest this year, try to go check her out.
26. Ashley McBryde – “One Night Standards”
This is how you write a country cheating song.
Ashley McBryde is readying the follow up to her breakthrough album Girl Going Nowhere, and this is the first taste of that upcoming release. No word yet on a title or release date for the new album, so just let this one sit with you for a while.
Erin Enderlin has been releasing a series of EP’s in 2019. Her latest includes this ode to the great Emmylou Harris, and features backing vocals from Alison Krauss and Vince Gill. This song is a sort of spiritual successor to Robbie Fulks’ “The Buck Starts Here” as the narrator turns to sad songs from her favorite artist to help her make it through the night.
Speaking of Vince Gill, his new album Okie came out a couple of weeks ago and includes this song in tribute to the late Guy Clark.
29. Eric Brace & Peter Cooper – “Ancient History”
This song is here because it mentions Donnie Fritts in its opening verse, and it came back into my mind after Fritts’ passing last week. An interesting bit of trivia about this song is that Eric Brace and Peter Cooper finished writing it in a Knoxville hotel room while they were in town for a gig a few years back. I know this because they played it live for the very first time during a studio visit with me at WDVX not long after they had finished it.
30. Donnie Fritts – “Prone to Lean”
31. Neal Casal – “Day in the Sun”
As much as I hate writing eulogies and obituaries in this space, it seems as though I’ve been doing an awful lot of it lately. Last week we said goodbye to Donnie Fritts and Neal Casal, two artists who made vital contributions through their careers even if their names may be unknown to casual music fans.
Fritts was a songwriter, a longtime band mate of Kris Kristofferson, and a key figure in the Muscle Shoals music scene of the 1960’s and 70’s. He passed away on Tuesday after a time of declining health at the age of 76.
Neal Casal was an in demand side man with an extensive solo catalog to go along with stints as member of The Cardinals, The Hard Working Americans, and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood among others. Casal was found dead Monday night after an apparent suicide at the age of 50.