As I begin writing this week’s post over the weekend, Americanafest is wrapping up in Nashville.
Americanafest is typically my favorite week of the year. For the music, yes. But also for all the folks I’ve met there over the years. Kindred spirits of sorts who I love getting to spend time with for this one week every year. They are artists and radio folks and industry types who are all pulling in the same direction to promote music we love. I feel very much at home in Nashville during this week, and I’m very sad I didn’t get to make it this time around.
I’m happy to be home spending time with my new baby, of course. But… Yeah… Sad, too.
I read all the articles, watched all the videos, and scrolled through all the pictures the rest of you posted last week, and I promise I’ll be back there soaking it all in next year. Until then, here’s a piece I wrote a few years back that will try to explain what the festival means to me.
Anyway, just because I wasn’t in Nashville last week doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening to a bunch of new music.
Let’s get to it.
1. Brent Cobb featuring Jade Bird – “Feet Off the Ground
When Brent Cobb made his first trip to tour the UK in 2017, Jade Bird was tapped to open some of his shows. Cobb wrote this song with Bird then, on his first ever trip overseas. A few months later, Bird would record her vocals on her first ever trip to the US. Strangely enough, Cobb says the track was partly inspired by a text from actor Bradley Cooper, and was under consideration (though ultimately not chosen) for the soundtrack to A Star is Born.
2. Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Elle King, Ashley McBryde, Tennille Townes, & Caylee Hammack – “Fooled Around & Fell in Love”
Country superstar Miranda Lambert is set to release her new album Wildcard on November 1. As part of the promotional support for the album, Lambert is also embarking on an arena tour, and she’s taking the women of Nashville with her. Maren Morris, Elle King, Ashley McBryde, Tennille Townes, and Caylee Hammack are all scheduled to open on various segments of the tour, and they’ve all joined Lambert here on a rousing cover of Elvin Bishop’s 1975 hit.
3. Lucy Dacus – “Dancing in the Dark”
Lucy Dacus has been releasing a string of singles this year to commemorate various national holidays. Previous releases in the series have paid homage to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and the Fourth of July. Naturally, the next holiday on the list is the 70th birthday of Bruce Springsteen on September 23. Dacus has been covering The Boss’ 1984 hit in concert for a few years, but really takes ownership of it with this recording. Try not singing/screaming along when she cathartically belts out, “Hey baby, I’m just about starving tonight.”
4. Corb Lund – “Still Rock & Roll to Me”
Canadian country singer Corb Lund released his new album of covers on Friday. Lund went beyond the walls of country music for many of the selections on this album including taking runs at songs originally performed by Dr. Hook, AC/DC, and Nancy Sinatra. Here, he gives us his take on this 1980 Billy Joel anthem and wisely changes the climactic solo from saxophone to guitar.
5. Ruston Kelly featuring Chris Carrabba – “Screaming Infidelities”
OK. I admit it. I owned Dashboard Confessional’s The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most in college. I distinctly remember buying it at the old Cat’s Records outside of Gatlinburg. No Shame.
That probably means I am the exact person Ruston Kelly is targeting with this new cover of Dashboard Confessional’s biggest song that also features Dashboard’s distinctive lead singer Chris Carrabba. Dirt Emo Vol. 1 is set for release October 11. Ruston Kelly will perform in Knoxville Thursday night (9/19) at the Bijou Theatre.
6. Kelsey Waldon – “White Noise, White Lines”
The title track from Kelsey Waldon’s upcoming (October 4) release is the third track the Kentucky songwriter has shared from the record. We’ve talked about this record before in this space, but it bears mentioning again that Waldon is the first new artist signed to John Prine’s Oh Boy! record label in 15 years.
7. Rodney Crowell featuring Billy F. Gibbons – “56 Fury”
8. Eilen Jewell – “These Blues”
9. Beth Bombara – “Tenderhearted”
10. Jason Hawk Harris – “Blessed Interruption”
11. Paul Cauthen – “Big Velvet”
For some time now, a contingent of folks within the Americana community have been rumbling about the official Americana Music Association airplay charts. The thought is that the growth of the format has brought in some larger AAA leaning stations as reporters who are less concerned with with featuring music with origins in country, and more focused on playing artists with less twang and more crossover potential.
Very recently small group of those people started laying the groundwork for a second Americana radio chart that would focus more on airplay data from specialty shows like The Americana Pulse and others that tend to focus more on the alt-country roots of the genre. The first official version of the new Alt-Country Chart was released last week. These five songs represent the Top Five albums on the initial report.
12. Orville Peck – “Winds Change”
13. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – “Years”
Annalise Domenighini is a music writer who I’ve followed for some time. You probably read her interview with Sturgill Simpson a few years ago, or maybe you saw her more recent piece on The Highwomen. Last week, she really caught my imagination with this tweet.
thinkin abt a sarah shook + orville peck tour and salivating
— horse goth annalise 🐎🌵🤠 (@bananalise) September 4, 2019
I don’t know if this tour is actually happening, but the thought of it was enough to make me throw these two songs on the list this week. I would absolutely go to this show… more than once, probably.
14. The Meters – “Wichita Lineman”
Speaking of cool things I saw this week that led me to seek out certain songs…
Lost & Found Records in Knoxville posted this article on facebook about what makes “Wichita Lineman” such a great song. I probably listened to six or seven versions of the song after I read it, and settled on sharing this one from New Orleans band The Meters. This 1970 recording features Art Neville on vocals.
15. Allen Toussaint – “Yes We Can”
Listening to The Meters put me in a New Orleans state of mind, which immediately led me to Allen Toussaint. Here he is with his own version of a song he wrote that became a hit for The Pointer Sisters in 1973. This song always makes me want to dance.
16. Mavis Staples – “Take Us Back”
You should know by now that I’ll jump at any excuse to throw some Mavis Staples into one of these mixes. My excuse this time around is just that I think it has a similar groove to “Yes We Can.”
17. Ollabelle – “Before This Time”
September 11 was last Wednesday. There isn’t a year that goes by on that date when I don’t relive all the events of 9/11 in my mind. Similarly, on that date each year, I always find myself returning to the music of the band Ollabelle. I remember when their debut album hit in 2004 being fascinated by the story of how this group of musicians came together in New York City in the aftermath of 9/11 to play songs at a Sunday night gospel sing in the city. Amy Helm and crew pop up in my playlist on this date every year.
18. The Wood Brothers – “Happiness Jones/Express Yourself”
The Wood Brothers new live album came out on Friday. The only time I have actually gotten to see The Wood Brothers perform live was in a quiet acoustic setting, so hearing them really go full tilt on their own “Happiness Jones” while throwing in a little “Express Yourself” is a lot of fun for me.
19. R.E.M. – “Undertow”
This was a big week for R.E.M. fans. The band put out a previously unreleased song to raise money for Hurricane Dorian relief in the Bahamas, and 3/4 of the band reunited for a benefit concert in Atlanta.
On top of that, R.E.M. also released a few more songs to tease the pending 6-disc, 25th Anniversary reissue of their 1994 album Monster. This time, the release was four live tracks recorded at a 1995 Monster Tour show in Chicago. I chose to share “Undertow” because it was one of the songs R.E.M. was road testing on this tour before including it on 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi. I vividly remember hearing this song for the first time at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY when I saw this tour in 1995.
20. Fruition – “Northern Town”
21. Kacy & Clayton – “High Holiday”
22. Ana Egge – “Rise Above”
23. Jesse Dayton – “If You Could Read My Mind”
24. Mike Farris – “Snap Your Fingers”
This week coming up is another good one for live music in Knoxville. Let’s quickly run through who’s coming to see us over the next seven days.
Fruition will play Friday night (9/20) at Jackson Terminal with the Jon Stickley Trio and T.K. & The Holy Know Nothings. Kacey & Clayton will roll into town on Thursday (9/19) for a show at The Open Chord and a slot on the WDVX Blue Plate Special. Both shows are with bluegrass cover band Twisted Pine. Ana Egge will play songs from her new album Is it the Kiss Monday on the WDVX Blue Plate Special. Jesse Dayton rolls into Barley’s in the Old City Thursday night. Finally, Mike Farris is back at The Open Chord Friday night.
Get to one of these shows, if you can.
25. Mandolin Orange – “Belly of the Beast”
Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz have been making music together as Mandolin Orange since 2009. I remember hearing their name when they played some of their early shows at the Blue Plate Special and small venues in Knoxville and thinking, “Oh. That’s a clever name. I hope they do well.” Well… Mandolin Orange just completed a two night stand at The Ryman, so I guess they’ve made out alright so far. This is one side of a two-song EP Mandolin Orange released as a lead up to those Ryman shows a couple of weeks ago.
26. Esther Rose – “Handyman”
The sophomore album from New Orleans singer/songwriter Esther Rose was released last month, and I finally got around to spending some time with it over the last couple of weeks. This track from You Made it This Far rolls along with an easy southern swing that places Rose nicely in her adopted hometown.
27. Sarah Jane Scouten – “You Are the Medicine”
As Sarah Jane Scouten continues to release tracks from her upcoming album Confessions, due in November, I’ll continue to share them here. This is the second track from the multiple time Canadian Folk Music Awards nominee’s latest project.
28. Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley featuring Taj Mahal – “World Full of Blues”
This is the title track off the upcoming third album from bluegrass duo Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley (October 4). Ickes and Hensley say this time around, though, the plan is to move beyond their traditional acoustic sound structure and include elements such as Hammond organs and horn sections. This topical tune features blues legend Taj Mahal and is one of two high profile collaborations on the record. Vince Gill also joins the party on a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Brown-Eyed Woman.”
29. Lola Kirke featuring Brent Cowles – “Shoulda Cheated”
Lola Kirke is probably still best known as an actress with featured roles in the film Gone Girl and the Golden Globe winning television series Mozart in the Jungle. Kirke is also a musician, and she completely captured my attention with her 2018 album Heart Head West. Her newest project is an EP of country duets with various artists titled Friends and Foes and Friends Again. This track features songwriter Brent Cowles.
30. J.P. Harris & Elizabeth Cook – “On the Rebound”
Speaking of country duets, we’ll close out the list this week with a song from J.P. Harrris’ second collection of classic country duets, Why Don’t We Duet in the Road (Again). Harris released the first volume in this series in 2017 while featuring guest slots from Leigh Nash, Kelsey Waldon, Nikki Lane, and Kristina Murray. This time around it’s Malin Peterson, Erin Rae, Miss Tess, and Elizabeth Cook (featured here) taking their turns with Harris. Here, Harris and Cook play the roles of Del Reeves and Billie Jo Spears from the original recording.