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Finally Friday Matches Nashville's Tiffany Williams & Nathan Kalish

Nathan Kalish
Ryan Hartley
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It’s an especially potent Finally Friday this week because it immediately precedes Sensational Saturday, when WMOT presents its first-ever Roots On The River festival. So if you avail yourself, you can pre-party on the airwaves with exceptional new music from roots rocker Nathan Kalish and country songbird Tiffany Williams singing from home before Saturday’s outdoor lineup makes it a fabulous weekend starting at 3 pm on Aug. 27.

It’s a good sign when an artist has been part of bands with great names, so it was cool to learn that Nashville-based Nathan Kalish was a core member of alt-country legends The Deadstring Brothers, followed by a turn with The Lastcallers (wish I’d thought of that one), followed (nowadays) by his turn as leader of The Derechoes, named for the high-velocity straight line winds that can wreak as much havoc as a tornado. Kalish knows this well having survived the roof being blown off his home in the East Nashville 2020 twister and a derecho that blew his car into a ditch while he was at the wheel. Adventure is nothing new for this road warrior troubadour roots rocker. He came out of the Michigan scene that birthed Billy Strings and Greensky Bluegrass, and his various projects have been burning up road miles for the better part of a decade. The pandemic forced him to slow down and in that space he wrote his 2022 album Great Big Motel Bed In The Sky. It’s a warm, melody-forward country soul project that stands out even among the sensational projects so far this year from Nashville-based artists. As for its focus, “I wrote about the loss of friends and the loneliness I was experiencing at that time – pretty much the cornerstone of most people’s 2020,” Kalish told Michigan music zine Local Spins earlier this year. “I tried to make it funny though; a healthy dose of self-deprecation and a bit of satire.”

The state of Kentucky just keeps overflowing with moving, grounded music these days, and Tiffany Williams is one of the newcomers among distinguished company. She comes from multiple generations of coal miners, but her sound isn’t tied to the holler. A variety of music in her young life led to a college scholarship on saxophone and choral studies, but she branched off into writing award-winning fiction. Now - writing songs in Nashville - Williams brings literary sensitivity and a comforting voice to a body of work that fits what she identifies as a New Appalachia movement, alongside the likes of Dori Freeman, Tyler Childers and the Local Honeys. She worked with Lexington producer Duane Lundy on her rich debut All Those Days Of Drinking Dust, which just landed in mid August. His statement about the experience in the album’s promo material is striking: “Tiffany’s depth of writing, voice, and performance are a producer’s dream. Her material, be it the most personal of emotions, to her unique perspective on her Appalachian experience, and beyond, is done with such nuance and beauty that very few artists are able to so strongly articulate.”

The music, as always, starts at noon.

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.