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Finally Friday Leans Celtic With We Banjo 3 and Jessica Willis Fisher

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We Banjo 3

Like a carrot dangling from the end of a stick in those old cartoons, Friday beckons us through the week and keeps us hopping forward. And there’s no carrot more tasty than Americana music, performed by sincere and excellent artists. This week’s root vegetable medley features progressive bluegrass from We Banjo 3 and vulnerable neo-country music from Jessica Willis Fisher.

The story of how Jessica Willis Fisher’s world got blown up is too grim to describe in detail here, but let’s just say that the family America saw on The Willis Family reality show had a dark secret, and now her father is in prison. All will be revealed this fall when Jessica’s memoir Unspeakable: Surviving My Childhood And Finding My Voice comes out (the title tells you something). Given how widely known the family show, the family trials and the family band The Willis Clan all were, there should be a hungry audience for it. Part of the story is told in music on Jessica’s new album Brand New Day. “You will be the lesson I wish I never learned/Love will be the reason your reign was overturned,” she sings in “My History,” a song brimming with allusions and resilience. The sound on her expertly-crafted solo debut rides the line between polished radio and grassroots, and she’s set to play AmericanaFest this September, as well as Roots On The Rivers, hosted by WMOT, on Aug. 27.

The Celtic overtones in Fisher’s music are explicit in the power acoustic quartet We Banjo 3 from Galway, Ireland. The Scahill brothers and the Howley brothers joined forces after friendly jams more than a decade ago and hit the ground running when their 2012 debut album Roots Of The Banjo Tree was named Traditional Music Album of the Year by the Irish Times. While their latest is the lilting and luxurious newgrass project Open The Road, the band absolutely throws down live with a blend of the mod and the trad. Their force and danceability got them invited to play for President Obama and then VP Biden. They’re four guys with three banjos bringing Ireland and America together.

We Banjo 3 hits the airwaves and video-waves at noon, with Jessica Willis Fisher to follow.

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 Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. Twitter and Instagram: @chavighurst.