The Americana Week that Was: 3/8 – 3/14

tonyThe biggest news of the week… at least in WDVX’s corner of the world… was the announcement late Friday afternoon that Tony Lawson will be leaving WDVX at the end of this month to program a new radio station and media center in Bristol at the Brithplace of Country Music Museum.

This is a huge opportunity for Tony to move on to a new challenge in his career and once again create something special on the radio dial the way he did at WDVX. Everyone at WDVX wishes Tony nothing but the best in his new endeavor, and we all look forward to seeing what he will create. WDVX has worked closely with The Birthplace of Country Music foundation in the past, and we know we will have collaborations with Tony in the future as well.

At the same time, we also recognize that this is a huge loss for our station. WDVX would not exist without the vision and work that Tony began putting behind the station over twenty years ago. From a tiny radio station broadcasting from a camper, WDVX has grown over its 18 years on the air into a major presence in downtown Knoxville and a major voice for Americana and Bluegrass music around the world. Tony was the driving force behind much of what the station has accomplished in that time.

He put me on the air at WDVX just two days after I moved to town back in 2006, and I have greatly enjoyed my time working with him and under him over this past decade. Somehow, I think I even learned a few things from him along the way as well. He will be missed.

As Tony begins a new chapter, so does WDVX. We have a great group of volunteers, office staff, and air staff at the station, and we will continue forward with the same vision and commitment to the music that we have put on the air for 18 years now. We hope you all continue to stay on the ride with us.

Here’s a song the great Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing” “Angel of the Morning”) wrote that features a verse about his good friend, Tony Lawson.

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.

Saturday 3/14 at 10:00 AM: Kidstuff Live with Farmer Jason

Jason Ringenberg is a hero of mine due to his work with Jason & The Scorchers. My daughter may love him even more due to his alter ego of Farmer Jason. I’m writing this post after the two of us went to see him perform on WDVX Kidstuff Live. I loved hearing him talk about his days with The Scorchers with our host Sean McCollough. My daughter loved hearing his songs about farms, forests, and Santa driving a John Deere tractor. He even dedicated “Moose On the Loose” to her early in the set.

Wednesday 3/11 at Noon: Amy Speace and The Fireside Collective on The Blue Plate Special

Amy Speace is a special kind of songwriter and her new CD That Kind of Girl rates as one of the best of her career. Speace creates warm, literate landscapes with her songs and it was a treat to have her (and fiddle player Megan Palmer) play on our stage.

Wednesday 3/11 at 7:00PM: Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley on Tennessee Shines

Our second Tennessee Shines broadcast from Boyd’s Jig & Reel in the Old City featured some hot bluegrass picking from Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley. Ickes is the veteran dobro master from Blue Highway. Hensley is a young guitar whiz and vocalist who first appeared on the Grand Old Opry at the age of 11. The two of them set the Jig & Reel stage on fire Wednesday night.

Friday 3/13 at Noon: 2/3 Goat and Left Coast Country on The Blue Plate Special

A couple of weeks ago, I linked to a new track from the New York based band 2/3 Goat. Vocalist Annalyse McCoy was a member of the children’s cast at Jenny Wiley Theatre in Eastern Kentucky several years back when I was on staff there in the late 90’s. Until Friday, it had been over 15 years since the last time I heard her sing. McCoy and co-lead singer Ryan Dunn traded vocals on a set of tunes that blend bluegrass with more electric elements. The band is currently raising funds for their next project through PledgeMusic.

Wednesday 6:00-7:00PM, 8:00-11:00PM: This Week in Americana & The Americana Pulse

These are my shows on WDVX. While things were a little different this week due to the fund drive, you should still get a decent idea of where things are going with the new format. The 6:00 hour looked at the Americana Chart, shared a lot of new tunes (John Morland, The Steel Wheels, Sarah Gayle Meech, The Pine Hill Project, & more), and paid tribute to the late Billy Block. On the Americana Pulse, I played some of my favorite Three Songs segments starting in the last half of the 8:00 hour. We heard conversations and songs from Mike Farris, Sons of Bill, and Billy Joe Shaver.

1545closed_GLUENew music time…

*I posted earlier this week about the new tune from John Moreland that is available for streaming over at CMT Edge. Here it is again, in case you missed it. I can’t wait to hear this record.

*If you’re reading this, you probably are a fan of Townes Van Zandt… or Outlaw Country… or both. If you are either or both of those things, then you need to see Whitey Morgan’s video for his cover of Townes’ “Waitin’ Around to Die.” Our friend Baron at Twang Nation posted it earlier this week, and it is required viewing. Morgan’s new album, Sonic Ranch, will be released in May.

*I got my hands on the new MilkDrive CD (Places You’ve Not Been) this week, and it’s full of catchy progressive acoustic numbers. You’ll instantly be reminded of outfits like The Punch Brothers when you check in on this Austin-based band. They, however, cite fellow Austinites Spoon as a big influence on the first track from their new record. “As They Go” was released through The Bluegrass Situation on Tuesday.

*Finally, Ben Sollee went to twitter on Friday to release a few new tracks…

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This Week on The Americana Pulse

imageWe’re still in fundraising mode this week at WDVX. I’ll be back on the air tonight spinning tunes and asking for your support. I’m kicking around an idea for a special premium tonight too… so you may want to tune in. You can support WDVX by calling 865-544-1029 or 1-866-946-9389. You can also make a donation and check out our premiums on our website.

The fun starts at 6:00 with the new hour This Week in Americana. We’ll take a look at this week’s Americana Music Chart and hear new music from John Moreland, The Steel Wheels, Sarah Gayle Meech, Candi Staton, The Pine Hill Project (Richard Shindell & Lucy Kaplansky), and more.

At 7:00, we throw it from the studio down to Boyd’s Jig & Reel for an hour of live music with Tennessee Shines. This week, your host Paige Travis welcomes Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley for some killer dobro/guitar Country & Bluegrass action. Head on down to the Old City for this one if you can. These guys are the real deal.

We come back to the studio from 8:00 to 11:00 for The Americana Pulse. I’ll be featuring live tracks from our Spring Fund Drive Thumb Drive once again during our Classic Album Feature segments this week. Three Songs will also move to it’s new time in the second half of the 8:00 hour. We’ll take a look back at some of my favorite segments of 2015 with Mike Farris speaking to the healing power of “Mercy Now,” Sons of Bill discussing the questions of Southern identity posed by “Joey’s Arm,” and Billy Joe Shaver talking about the time he threatened to beat up Waylon Jennings.

I’ll throw in some more new tunes, themed sets, and other weirdness throughout the night.

I hope you can join me.

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John Moreland: High on Tulsa Heat

johnmorelandOK. So… Mumford & Sons released a new Coldplay single today… or something. Whatever.

Listen. If you only hear one new track that got released today, it should be the new one from John Moreland. It’s streaming now on the CMT Edge website and is accompanied by a nice interview with Moreland as well.

If you don’t know John Moreland, you should. The Oklahoma product blew me away with his previous record In the Throes, and the key track from that album, “Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore,” is probably one of my top five songs of the decade so far.

High on Tulsa Heat is set for release April 21, and is one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2015. This song release today is our first official taste of the new record, and it gives me no reason to pull back my expectations for this disc.

If you are a fan of songwriting, you need to be a fan of John Moreland. It’s that simple.

Go listen to the new song… then come back here and check out a couple videos of songs from Moreland’s first record.

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The Americana Week that Was: 3/1 – 3/7

wdvxfunddrive

A couple of major things happened on Wednesday at WDVX.

First and foremost, our Spring fund Drive kicked of on Wednesday. WDVX is a listener supported radio station, meaning that our primary source of funding comes from listener donations instead of commercials and other traditional revenue streams. For 18 years, our listeners and supporters have helped us keep the music going at WDVX. You can become a supporter by calling the phone numbers listed above or checking out some of our premium items on the WDVX website.

Also on Wednesday, Tennessee Shines moved to it’s new night and new location (Wednesdays at 7:00 from Boyd’s Jig & Reel) with an all Knoxville lineup featuring music from RB Morris, Greg Horne, & Jay Clark, poetry from the Appalachian Hippie Poet Bill Alexander, and a bit of history from Jack Neeley. Check out the upcoming Tennessee Shines schedule on the WDVX website.

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6 String Drag on WDVX First Friday Live

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 3/4 at Noon: Caroline Spence & Robby Hecht and Danny Brooks & Lil Miss Debbi on the Blue Plate Special

Like I said. Wednesday was big day at the station. You’ll see what I mean. Caroline Spence released her fantastic new album Somehow on Tuesday, and shared some of the tunes from that record with us on Wednesday. As a bonus, Spence has been playing some dates with Robbie Hecht of late, and the Knoxville native sat in with Spence on a few tunes. You might also remember that Spence & Hecht released a new song together a few weeks ago as well.

Wednesday 3/4 at 2:00: The Mastersons & Aaron Lee Tasjan in the studio

Fund drive week always brings a few surprises. Usually, the surprises are for the listeners, but sometimes the staff gets a shock as well. It seems as though someone (possibly me… I’m not admitting to anything) forgot to tell our DJ, Red that Tasjan and The Mastersons were planning to stop by the studio on their way to a gig in Gatlinburg that night. Either way, surprises are awesome, and we all got treated to two tunes from The Mastersons and one more from Tasjan.

Wednesday 3/4 at 7:00: RB Morris, Greg Horne, Jay Clark, Jack Neely, and Bill Alexander on Tennessee Shines

As I mentioned earlier, Tennessee Shines moved to its new night this week. In addition to celebrating the new night and venue, Shines also celebrated it’s third anniversary with a tribute to the musical history to Knoxville.

Wednesday 3/4 at 8:00 & Friday 3/6 at Noon: Tim Lee 3 & Kevin Abernathy on Americana Pulse and The Blue Plate Special

Friday saw the official release of new CD’s from Kevin Abernathy, Tim Lee 3, and Tim & Susan Lee’s new duo side project Bark. Wednesday night, Tim and Kevin spent an hour in the studio with me talking about songwriting and spinning tracks from all three new records. Susan Bauer Lee joined Tim and Kevin Friday on the Blue Plate Special for some live versions of the tunes.

Friday 3/6 at 7:00: 6 String Drag on First Friday Live

Holy Cow! What a trip it was to have the reunited 6 String Drag on our stage Friday. The band released its first new record in 18 years this February. On that record, Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll, Kenny Roby and the guys sound as though they never left. The band was on fire, and the new songs were just as joyous as the ones from two decades past. Also, my daughter tagged along with me for her first First Friday show. That’s her freaking out at the end of the hour when I mention her hero, Farmer Jason.

It was a pretty good week.

raywylieruffianNow it’s time for some new music:

*Ray Wylie Hubbard has a new record on the way in April. He already released the first track from the record (“Chick Singer, Badass Rockin’“) to Rolling Stone a few weeks back. Now, his newest track, “Hey Mama, My Time Ain’t Long,” is up as an exclusive stream over at Elmore Magazine. Both of these tracks are Ray Wylie Hubbard at his Ray Wylie Hubbardest.

*The title track from Pokey Lafarge’s new album Something in the Water has been floating around the internet for a few weeks now. Late last week, the video for the song surfaced as well. Bob Boilen from NPR’s All Songs Considered has a nice write up on the track over on that site as well.

Finally, a few links to take us out:

*I was a die hard devotee of Dr. Demento back in my younger days. I’m talking, I was the kind of guy who taped the show off the radio and waited with baited breath each week to find out who held the coveted top spot on the Funny Five. This article about novelty songs over at No Depression isn’t solely about the good Doctor, but he does play a large part in it. And yes, “Shaving Cream” was a favorite of mine. This one too…

*Ever wondered exactly where the banjo came from, and how it came to be used as it is today? The Bluegrass Situation has got you covered. As a side note, I am pro-banjo myself, but I do enjoy a good banjo joke. Feel free to leave some good ones in the comments.

*Finally… This one’s a couple weeks old, but Son Volt’s “Windfall” is one of my all-time favorite songs, and American Songwriter takes a look at it here.

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Kacey Musgraves: Style, Substance, and Why it’s OK to Have Both (A Live Concert Review & Other Musings)

kacey2

Last Friday night, my wife and I went to see Kacey Musgraves at the Tennessee Theatre here in Knoxville.

Almost immediately, I knew that this show was not like any I had been to recently. In fact, in many ways, it was unlike most shows I typically attend. Musgraves came out on stage in a flashy outfit flanked by a band decked out in matching Western suits complete with flashing Christmas light accents. The stage was decorated with giant neon cacti, plastic flamingos, and smoke machines that puffed out punctuations to certain lyrics.

It was a spectacle.

Of course, if that had been all it was, this would be a very different review.

You see, the thing about Kacey Musgraves, is that behind the glitz… the glamour… the style… there is also some serious substance. By the time she hit the first chorus of the show opening “Silver Lining,” everything else became an afterthought. The loping opener (which also leads off her album Same Trailer Different Park) is built around a series of well turned phrases and established immediately the strength of Musgraves’ pen as well as her presence.

Six songs into the set, Musgraves tackled Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” and proved her vocal prowess as well. After the first line, my wife and I shared a nod and an approving smirk. You don’t come into East Tennessee and try to cover Dolly unless you can. Musgraves could.

The rest of the night was filled with a few more well chosen covers (the reverent, show closing “Happy Trails” and the raucous “These Boots are Made for Walkin'”), a couple puzzlers (if Nickel Creek can cover Brittany Spears’ “Toxic,” so can Musgraves, I guess), and a string of killer originals. Again, it’s that latter category that separates her from most other contemporary Country artists.

The songs Musgraves crafted for her album alongside songwriters Brandy Clark, Josh Osborne, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally are smart and progressive in a Country Music landscape that increasingly embraces neither ideal. Performed live, “Follow Your Arrow” becomes even more of an anthem for love and acceptance than it is on the record. Hearing the audience merge their voices with Musgraves on that song (as they did a good portion of the night) proved those messages are being heard.

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Anyone who has listened to me on the radio for the last couple of years knows that I spent some time struggling with what to make of an artist like Kacey Musgraves. I always recognized the talent and the songwriting, and I always enjoyed the music. I listened to Musgraves’ album in my spare time even during a period when I wasn’t playing her songs regularly on my radio show. What I struggled with was that, like the show Friday night, Same Trailer Different Park had a few elements of sleekness to it that initially caused me to wonder how it would fit in an Americana setting.

What I’ve come to realize is that it doesn’t matter if there’s a neon cactus on the stage, or if the record is little more produced than what I’ve grown accustomed to. If the substance is as substantial as it is with an artist like Musgraves, the style starts to not matter as much.

What Musgraves has done with Trailer is pretty much unprecedented in the Country/Americana world as far as I can remember. She managed have a Top Ten single at Country radio (“Merry Go Round”) from an album that would also reach #11 on the Americana Album Airplay Chart. It’s a type of mainstream success and underground acclaim that doesn’t come around often (Civil Wars? The Dixie Chicks’ Home record pre-Country radio fallout?).

Recently, Musgraves announced she will be releasing a new single next week from an album that will hit later this summer. She played the new single (“Biscuits”) as well as a second track from the upcoming album (“Cup of Tea”) Friday night. Judging from the solo acoustic versions we were treated to, the songs are of a songwriting caliber that should once again connect with more discerning listeners. At least one account of an early leaked version of the studio track for “Biscuits” says the track just might have have what it takes to connect with a mainstream crowd as well.

But, whether Musgraves’ new music does or doesn’t connect with one crowd or the other seems beside the point. At least it does to Musgraves herself. When I spoke to her after the show, she said to me the one thing I want to hear most when I speak to a young songwriter like herself… that she isn’t concerned with writing songs specifically designed to climb the charts or please the latest trend. She’s going to write songs that say what she wants to say, and she’s going to write them how she wants to write them. The rest, she figures, will sort itself out.

I read a blurb today that said Dwight Yoakam is the only artist who has ever played both the Stagecoach and Coachella Festivals. Musgraves expressed a similar desire to me to be the kind of artist who would not seem out of place at either Bonnaroo or CMA Fest.

If she continues to follow her own arrow and make the music she wants to make, I have no doubt she will get there.  There’s no reason an artist like Kacey Musgraves can’t belong to us all.

P.S. – I think John Prine agrees with me.

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This Week on The Americana Pulse

image

Things are gonna be a little different on the show this week.

First off, tonight is the night Tennessee Shines moves into its new time slot at 7:00 on Wednesdays. Each week, you’ll be able to hear a full hour of live music from some of the best Americana artists around broadcast live from Boyd’s Jig & Reel Pub in downtown Knoxville. Tonight’s installment is the 3rd Anniversary of Tennessee Shines and features local favorites RB Morris, Jay Clark, Greg Horne, and the Appalachian Hippie Poet Bill Alexander. Upcoming shows in March will have Rob Ickes and Cliff Eberhardt among others.

Of course, this means some changes are on the way for The Americana Pulse as well. I’ll still be on the air on Wednesday nights. I’ll just be on from 6:00-7:00 and 8:00-11:00 instead of the full five hour block. I’ll still be doing a Classic Album and Three Songs every week, I’ll just be reformatting the rest of the show a little bit to fit everything in. I’ll know more about exactly what’s happening in two weeks after the Fund Drive. In the meantime, I’d love to hear suggestions for what direction the show should follow.

Tonight, I’ll mostly be throwing the regular show format out the window and just having a good old time on the air while raising funds for WDVX. Tim Lee, Susan Bauer Lee, and Kevin Abernathy will in the studio live at 8:00 to talk about their new records (Tim Lee 3, Bark, & Kevin all have new ones) and their upcoming CD release shows this Friday. They’ll also be playing some tunes live in the studio.

I’ll also be featuring live tracks from the new WDVX Fund Drive Thumb Drive in the Classic Album slot. The Thumb Drive features live performances from several Blue Plate, Tennessee Shines, First Friday, World Class Bluegrass, and in-studio guests from the last several months and is available for a $150 pledge of support.

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As I’ve already mentioned, tonight is the first day of the Spring Fund Drive at WDVX.

As you may know, listener support is the main thing that helps us keep the music going at the station. We pull in financial support from a variety of sources including grants, underwriting, merchandise sales, and events. Our biggest source of funding, however, is… and always has been… our listeners. You are the reason we’ve been on the air for 18 years and counting. With your support, we’ll keep on going forward as well.

Tune in and support if you can. I’d love to hear from as many of you as possible tonight and next week during my shifts. If you can’t call in to make your pledge tonight, please remember to mention The Americana Pulse when you do. I love to hear from listeners when you’re enjoying the show, and mentioning the show when you pledge lets the station know that it’s a valuable part of the program schedule as well.

You can support WDVX by calling 866-946-9389 or visiting us at wdvx.com.

Thank you all for reading, listening, and supporting.

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The Americana Week that Was: 2/22 – 2/28

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*As I begin writing this post, Brittany Howard and Alabama Shakes are performing on Saturday Night Live. After being introduced by a Joy Division t-shirt wearing Dakota Johnson, the band belted out the funky and powerful single “Don’t Wanna Fight” from their upcoming album Sound & Color. It looked a little something like this (Sorry for the quality. It’s the only one I could get to embed):

Of course, I was passed out asleep halfway through Weekend Update, so I missed their second song (and the return of Riblet, apparently.) Their new record comes out April 21.

*Also this week, Kacey Musgraves came to Knoxvile to play a sold out show at the Tennessee Theatre on Friday night. I’ll write more about that show later this week. I will tell you that I got to speak with Musgraves after the show, and I came away quite impressed. Her new record will be out this summer. More on that later in this post…

banjobabes

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.

Unfortunately, we had a few technical issues with the archive at the end of the week, but there are still some things worth checking out.

Wednesday 2/25 at Noon – Banjo Babes & The Lowest Pair on the Blue Plate Special

The Banjo Babes Calendar is in it’s second year of promoting female roots artists through a, “fun, lighthearted thematic calendar and seriously good compilation album showcasing their music.” Erin Inglish, Megan Saunders, Megan McKamey, & The Lowest Pair treated the WDVX audience to a full hour of banjo tunes on yet another snowy Knoxville day.

Wednesday 2/25 6:00-9:30 – The Americana Pulse

Speaking of snow. My show was cut short again this week due to a winter storm that moved in during my shift. Lot’s of cool stuff happened before my evacuation, however. Tim Lee and Susan Bauer Lee stopped by the studio near the end of the 6:00 hour to drop of copies of a couple new records. We chatted for a bit and then debuted tracks from the new Tim Lee 3 record (33 1/3) and the new one from their side project, Bark (self titled). Just after that at 7:00, John Cowan talked about Marty Robbins and The Allman Brothers Band on Three Songs. We also spent a good amount of time with the classic 6 String Drag album High Hat throughout the night.

News, New Tunes, Links, etc…

*As is becoming the norm, lots of new music found its way onto the internet this week. We’ll start with a song I actually got to see performed live Friday night. Kacey Musgraves announced late this week that the follow-up to her Grammy winning debut album will be released this summer. The first single, “Biscuits,” will hit radio in a couple weeks. Musgraves unveiled a live version of the song Thursday at the Country Radio Summit in Nashville as part of the announcement. After that performance, this video of the song from 2014 started making its way around the internet.


*Also announced this week is a new project from Mandolin Orange. The new CD is titled Such Jubilee and will be released May 5. The folksy first track from the record, “Old Ties & Companions,” is streaming over at NPR Music.

*Joe Pug released another track from his upcoming CD Windfall (March 10). The song is a musically upbeat, yet lyrically dour tune that has already gotten a few spins at WDVX. You can stream the track for yourself over at The Bluegrass Situation to tide you over until the album’s release next week.

*Finally, I mostly know Chris Porter through his many visits to Knoxville with is band Some Dark Holler. Porter’s new album (This Red Mountain) also comes out March 10, and was produced by Will Johnson from Centro-matic. Other contributors to Porter’s debut include Jon Dee Graham, Bonnie Whitmore, and The Mastersons (Chris Masterson, Eleanor Whitmore, & Falcon Valdez). As a bit of a double bonus, Porter has released one track via American Songwriter and another through No Depression.

Porter

 

*We’ll close out this week by touching on the comments made by Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton at the Country Radio. The main thing people took away from Overton’s remarks was the line, “If you’re not on Country radio, you don’t exist.” I could take a lot of space here to debate the validity/arrogance of that statement, but it’s already been done my many other in many different forums. Aaron Watson, Charlie Robison, Jack Ingram, Bobby Bones and The Triggerman from Saving Country Music are just a few artists and industry types who have weighed in on one side of the issue or the other.

My favorite, and possibly the most elegant, response comes from Music City Roots’ Craig Havighurst on his String Theory blog.

*I exist… as do all of the wonderfully talented artists I and my fellow DJ’s play at WDVX. Come listen to us some time.

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