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Finally Friday With Teddy Grossman and The Wilder Blue

The Wilder Blue
The Wilder Blue

Fun fact about Nashville and Friday is that back in 1972, you could have found Rodney Crowell and Marshall Chapman working at T.G.I. Fridays’ on Elliston Place, which back then was actually one of the hipper places in town. She was a server, and he was a dishwasher, which just goes to show ya. Another fun fact about Friday is that we have this weekly series where artists from around town and around the country set aside time to perform for y’all. We call it Finally Friday, and it’s cycling back again with finely tuned soul from Teddy Grossman and the smart Texas country of The Wilder Blue.

They say our economy is adjusting to The Great Resignation, an unprecedented number of people willfully leaving their jobs to look for something more in tune with their needs and desires. ForTeddy Grossman, that meant dropping out of corporate life to take a swing at soul pop singing and songwriting. He’s a native of Philly who was touring in bands by the time he wrapped college in Michigan.

“I moved to New York City, but began spending winters in Los Angeles, feeling the gravitational pull of the thriving music community here,”he told Voyage LA. “After one fateful evening in January 2017, when Bill Withers showed up to a tribute concert I was performing at in his honor, I woke up the next morning and knew it was time to move here. This summer will mark three years in LA. Since making the move, I left my job after more than a decade in the workforce and recorded a full-length debut solo project.”

That album is called Soon Come, and it’s not just coming soon, it’s been here, as of March 11. And it’s full of original, lushly recorded songs that he’s been teasing with singles for the better part of a year. Grossman’s voice will remind Nashville music fans of Mike Farris and Chris Stapleton, and these songs are remarkably shapely and up-to-date sounding while tapping classic soul vibes for all they’re worth. Don’t put Grossman in a box - or a cubicle.

I’m really glad this impending set pushed me to listen to the eponymous new album by The Wilder Blue, because it’s varied, surprising and really well written. I remember frontman Zane Williams knocking around Nashville years ago, but it seems he’s thrived after returning to his native Texas. After years as a solo act, he joined forces a few years ago with songwriter/guitarist Paul Eason to form the band Hill Country, now rechristened as The Wilder Blue. Their album kicks off with full-on five-man harmony that recalls the band Alabama, and as we roll through a dozen tracks, there are plenty of references to soulful country from the 70s and 80s, all extremely well played and committed to analog tape as a band. But what really distinguishes the project is the lyrical craft. Williams finds the essence of each song's idea, and the band meshes it with a specific, meaningful musical treatment.

I kept thinking how this album might have been recorded at the Next Waltz studio, with its proprietor Bruce Robison nodding along with a smile. I thought of Radney Foster’s ability to fuse probing emotional truth with commercially appealing sound. And I thought of Townes Van Zandt, especially on the epic showdown song “The Kingsnake And The Rattler.” I’ll be listening to this one a lot.

As always, the music starts at noon.

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