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.

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.

Less than a month after learning he had metastatic cancer of the pancreas, Steve Gulley, a widely admired bluegrass musician from East Tennessee, died Tuesday night in a Knoxville, TN hospital. Just 57 years old, Gulley had an impactful career as a founder and leader of bands, an award-winning songwriter and a commanding tenor singer.

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In his new biography of Chuck Prophet, English film professor and long-time fan Stevie Simkin writes that “one of the defining features of Prophet’s career has been his knack for keeping himself interested in what he is doing.” The book, a deserved tribute to an artist who’s loved a lot by a few rather than a little by a lot, draws a line from his ‘fringe’ stature to his artistic freedom. “Prophet has thrived on the instability that his marginal status in the industry has given him.”

The dramatic events of 2020 have foregrounded issues of race and music, and this week the conversation goes public. Several organizations have collaborated to produce Black Equity In Americana, a public online panel this Thursday at 3 pm central, featuring what organizers are calling “an honest, restorative dialogue featuring a group of Americana music’s top Black artists and creative professionals.”

Chad Windham

Glad You Made It, the sophomore album by Dallas singer-songwriter Joshua Ray Walker, starts in a subdued tone, as the song “Voices” introduces us to a guy who’s not glad to be anywhere. He’s contemplating suicide and maybe even taking steps to make it look like an accident. This all feels disorienting for an opening track, until about halfway in, Walker grounds us by sculpting the line “Lord give me peace” into a long, lonesome falsetto that breaks your heart in half. This guy can really sing.

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