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Finally Friday: Maya de Vitry, Kevin Gordon and Jeremy Ivey

Maya de Vitry
Laura Partain
Maya de Vitry

We need live gigs like we need water right now, so we’re pleased to let you know that we’ve got a great one for you late this week. Because WMOT is coming back with the first in-person Finally Friday since March 2020. And we’re in a new home, the Wash at Eastside Bowl, the impressive new venue and hangout in Madisonthat I just featured here on this page. We'll be toggling between live and at-home virtual shows for a while, so watch for our updates. But to kick off this new chapter of Finally Friday, it’s hard to imagine a tighter, savvier lineup of songwriters, all of whom have new work out there, in one form or another.

In Kevin Gordon’s case, it’s a covers album, not by him but of his music. Roots rock lifer and good Nashville neighbor Julie Christensen released the album 11 From Kevin in January. She imparts righteous fire to “Gloryland,” Gordon's searing portrait of power, cynicism and fanaticism. She cut “Fire At The End of the World,” his darkly humorous account of a school drug lecture followed by an LSD experience. And there’s “Down To The Well,” a song that became a Gordon calling card when it arrived as the title track of probably his best-known album in 2000, sung as a duet with Lucinda Williams.

In the 20 years since, Gordon’s been a steady, anchoring presence in roots music, keeping the fire lit in Nashville for Louisiana soul and the Southern literary tradition. Originally inspired by classic rock and roll and the regional sounds around his West Monroe hometown, Gordon also integrates influences from country and the singer/songwriter canon. He’s had his songs recorded by Keith Richards, Levon Helm and Ronnie Hawkins, which gives you a sense of his gravitas. And by the way, there is a new album of his own tunes out recently, a live recording of his four-piece band on stage at the Family Wash from the fall of 2015.

When Maya de Vitry left The Stray Birds, the band that put her on a national stage, it was a surprise. They were on a roll with great music. So it was clear the Nashville-based, Pennsylvania-raised songwriter was looking to stretch and grow, but in what direction? To what end? Well the answers came pretty fast with the striking, beautifully written and sung Adaptations of 2019. Its delicately crafted lines, like “There’s an ancient drum in love with rhyme / A prison break in the bars of time” helped me see how much more potential there was in Maya as a solo artist, collaborating with other writers and musicians on a case-by-case basis. She followed quickly with 2020’s How To Break A Fall. And now the prolific creator has arrived with her third solo effort in about as many years, Violet Light, an 11-song collection that she puts forward as “an open-hearted invitation to explore the tensions between the visible and the imagined, between love and control, and our unrelenting human desire to belong—to a home, to an environment, and to each other.” Co-produced with bass player Ethan Jodziewicz, it’s sonically enthralling, drawing on the talents of support musicians like Paul Horton on keys and Critter Eldridge on guitar. A third hit in a row, it looks like.

Jeremy Ivey’s new project isn’t out until March 11, but his first two singles “Orphan Child” and “Trial By Fire” suggest a return of his droll contemplative songwriting bolstered by more musical dynamics than his albums of 2019 and 20. Ivey came to Nashville’s attention largely in supportive roles as his wife Margo Price found her voice and rose to fame after the release of her album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter in 2016. He co-wrote with her and played guitar in her band. Then came his own 2019’s The Dream And The Dreamer, and it sounded refreshingly like nothing else in Music City, a restrained, pensive rock and roll with touches of country music and a caustic but humorous and hopeful worldview. The new one, Invisible Pictures, brings he says more elaborate, confident arrangements and more personal messages. “When you sing a melody in your head, you can either put three chords around it or nine,” Ivey says in the projects’ bio. “This time, I aimed for nine.”

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org