Craig Havighurst

Music News Producer

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's music news producer and host of The String, a show featuring conversations on culture, media and American music. New episodes of The String air on WMOT 89.5 in Middle Tennessee on Sundays at 8 am, repeating Mondays at 9 pm.

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For one of the most successful professionals of the past thirty years in Music City, Mac McAnally rarely gets his name in lights. But if you follow country music even casually, you’ve probably heard that name called out for ten nearly consecutive years during the CMA Awards for winning its prestigious Musician of the Year award. He’s also in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s filled about every role a musician can fill on stage, in studio and on his own records, but is he famous? This is, to him, immaterial.

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About three weeks ago, Nashville’s Sadler Vaden released a statement on social media, white text on a black background. “With no touring in sight and record sales heavily declining for years, we are struggling,” he wrote on behalf of musicians. His proposal was, depending on your point of view, outmoded or radically counter-intuitive: “Enjoy music how you want to but please consider buying that song or album you love from artist merch stores or websites, Bandcamp, and even iTunes. That’s all.”

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The first time I ever saw Heidi Newfield, she was striding on the tables in a Music Row conference room. This was the winter of 2001, when her trio Trick Pony was being introduced to the media. I was relatively new to reporting on mainstream country music, which was hot and competitive. So Trick Pony left nothing backstage. They conjured an energy from an uncanny valley between a rural road house and an MTV party crib. It was either brilliant or a gimmick or a brilliant gimmick.

Songwriter Justin Townes Earle, a Nashville native and a modern blues and country artist of rare talent, has died at 38 years old. He was the son of iconic Americana artist Steve Earle and Carol Ann Hunter Earle, his third wife. Named after Steve’s troubled friend Townes Van Zandt, Justin Townes channeled no small amount of darkness into songs that brimmed with life and old-world swing.

 

Americana music was born with a contradiction at its core – one that was bound to surface in ways that would be both uncomfortable and fulfilling. As a mid 1990s initiative by an independent music sector centered in traditional country, roots rock, bluegrass and folk music, Americana inherited a century of cultural hybridizing and marginalizing that treated Black American music as a kind of open source software whose inventors had been given no options for ownership of their inventions.

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